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What Is an Irish Setter?

By Anna B. Smith
Updated May 17, 2024
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An Irish setter is a type of large breed dog that is suitable for hunting or for training at home to be a family pet and companion. It has a sweet-natured temperament, and possesses a great deal of energy. This type of dog does require daily exercise and room to run within boundaries.

In appearance, the setter tends to measure just over two feet (0.6 meters) at the shoulder when standing. It is recognizable for its long, silky red and auburn coat, which tends to hang longer around the ears, breast, and back of the legs. The length of the setter's head is often double that of its width, and ends in a fine, thin tapered muzzle. Most setters weigh between 60 and 70 pounds (27 to 32 kilograms).

The Irish setter typically possesses a fun loving and independent personality. Though these dogs are known to occasionally cause mischief, and make some small or large messes, they are also intensely loyal and eager to please their masters. Many setters, when confronted with wrongdoing, such as relieving themselves in the house or destroying a beloved family piece of furniture, will display remorse and a desire to reconcile themselves to the master they have wronged.

This breed of dog tends to remain in its puppy phase of mental and emotional development longer than other large breeds. Once the Irish setter has reached full maturity, many of its habits are set for life. For this reason, new owners can benefit from attending training classes with their puppies and encouraging them to learn good behaviors from a new age. Setter puppies are very intelligent, and are capable of learning and obeying most commands. These dogs flourish under a loving and nurturing environment, and tend to respond negatively to physical forms of punishment and verbal abuse.

Many hunters prefer to use the Irish setter above other hunting dogs for locating and retrieving small game kills. This dog has an excellent nose, and can follow the scent trail of small animals to their hiding holes and trees. Once a quarry has been located and cornered, the setter will remain with it until the hunter arrives.

Their natural hunting instincts tend to make this breed unsuitable for open roaming. The Irish setter needs a great deal of physical exercise and can maintain high energy levels throughout the day. Homes with large, fenced yards and owners who enjoy taking their dogs on long walks or runs, make the best type of environment for this dog.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the origin of the Irish Setter?

The Irish Setter, known for its distinctive mahogany or rich chestnut coat, originated in Ireland in the 18th century. Initially bred for hunting, specifically for setting or locating gamebirds, they have a keen sense of smell and are classified as a gun dog. Their lineage is believed to include a mix of spaniels, pointers, and other setters.

What are the typical characteristics of an Irish Setter?

Irish Setters are renowned for their friendly and outgoing nature. They are energetic, intelligent, and have a playful spirit, making them excellent family pets. Physically, they are elegant and athletic, standing about 25 to 27 inches tall at the shoulder and weighing between 60 to 70 pounds, with a life expectancy of around 12 to 15 years.

How much exercise does an Irish Setter need?

Irish Setters are high-energy dogs that require ample exercise to maintain their health and happiness. They thrive on being active and enjoy long walks, runs, and playtime. It's recommended that they get at least two hours of physical activity per day to satisfy their exercise needs and to prevent potential behavioral issues.

Are Irish Setters good with children and other pets?

Yes, Irish Setters are generally very good with children, displaying a gentle and affectionate demeanor. They are also known to get along well with other dogs and pets, especially when socialized from a young age. Their playful and sociable nature makes them an ideal companion for an active family with kids.

What are the grooming requirements for an Irish Setter?

Irish Setters have a beautiful, flowing coat that requires regular maintenance. They should be brushed several times a week to prevent tangles and mats, and may need professional grooming every few months. Additionally, their ears should be checked regularly to avoid infections, and they may require more frequent brushing during shedding seasons.

What health issues are Irish Setters prone to?

Irish Setters are generally healthy, but like many purebred dogs, they can be prone to certain health conditions. These may include hip dysplasia, eye conditions such as progressive retinal atrophy, and gastric issues like bloat. Responsible breeding practices and regular veterinary check-ups can help mitigate the risk of these health problems.

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