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Irish Setter Breed Info: Pictures, Personality & Facts

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By Nicole Cosgrove

irish setter in mountains

Height: 22 – 26 inches
Weight: 60 – 70 pounds
Lifespan: 12 – 15 years
Colors: Chestnut red, mahogany
Suitable for: Active families looking for a playful dog
Temperament: Energetic, loyal, independent, outgoing

Few breeds command the attention that the Irish Setter receives. He is a handsome dog with a storied past, both in and outside of the show ring. He is a sporting canine used by hunters to find birds and other upland game. This pooch has the boundless energy and persistence to succeed in this job. He is a born gundog.

However, that doesn’t mean that he can’t win your heart as an excellent family pet. This pup is exceedingly friendly with a keen sense of playfulness. He is always a little puppy inside, ready for a game of fetch. He’ll do best in a home that can satisfy his need to run and stay active. The Irish Setter is a loyal pet, even leaning toward the protective side. He’ll make a fine guardian for the kids.

This pooch is sometimes a handful. While eager to please, the Irish Setter has an independent streak that matches his energetic ways. His hunting background accounts for these personality traits. It also speaks to the breed’s intelligence. Let’s delve more into the characteristics and history of this sometimes-mischievous pup.

divider 10Irish Setter Puppies

Irish Setter puppy

The background of the Irish Setter provides some valuable clues about what to expect when you have one as a pet. Spirited is the operative word. This pooch needs daily exercise. It’s worth mentioning that he has a strong prey drive, given his history. He will pursue an animal that runs from him, giving the pooch a high wanderlust potential.

The Irish Setter is something of a commitment, whether it’s to training, grooming, or socialization. He is sometimes nippy, especially as a puppy. You must teach him proper canine manners so that he doesn’t pick up bad habits like barking or chewing. His size makes it necessary. However, he responds well to guidance. He just needs to know what you expect of him.

3 Little-Known Facts About the Irish Setter

1. There’s a good reason for the Irish Setter’s Name.

Historically, the Irish Setter is a bird dog. That was his original role in the countryside of his native country, Ireland. When he spots his quarry, he sets down—literally! This behavior alerts the hunter that there is upland game in the area, and he doesn’t tip off the birds in the process.

2. The Irish Setter has a Presidential connection.

The Irish Setter has caught the fancy of many people, including some important individuals. The breed has a famous one as the pet of President Richard Nixon. He took his heritage seriously. That’s why he named his pup after the town of his ancestors, King Timahoe.

3. An Irish Setter inspired a song.

It’s easy to see why the Irish Setter has endeared himself to so many people. He also was the inspiration for a song by the Beach Boys, no less. Guitarist-singer Carl Wilson owned a pup named Shannon, who was the subject of the song of the same name. The tune caught on and hit gold.

Irish Setter smiling
Image Credit: Pikist

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Temperament & Intelligence of the Irish Setter 🧠

The Irish Setter has many traits that make him an excellent choice as a pet, albeit with some contrasts thrown into the mix, too. He is an intelligent dog that needs mental stimulation, lest, he gets bored. He wants to learn new commands and tricks. However, he is sometimes willful, which can make it a challenge. This pup has a loving nature that makes it worth the effort.

Are These Dogs Good for Families? 🏡

The Irish Setter makes an excellent family pet. He is affectionate and friendly with everyone he meets. He also is kid-friendly, although, he may forget how big he is compared to smaller children. This pup craves attention. If he doesn’t get enough love, he can suffer from separation anxiety. It can also result in some undesirable behaviors that you must correct.

Does This Breed Get Along with Other Pets? 🐶 😽

You’re in luck if you have other pets—to a degree. The Irish Setter would often hunt with other dogs in the field. That fact gives him tolerance when around other canines in your home. As we mentioned earlier, there is also the prey drive, which can make life with pets other than pups a concern. As with other breeds, raising cats and dogs together is a viable option to head off problems down the road.

Irish Setter wet dog
Image credit: Pixabay

Divider 4Things to Know When Owning an Irish Setter:

As you’ve learned, owning an Irish Setter has its challenges. He needs discipline out of the gate. Getting along with everyone in the household is a guarantee for humans, but not necessarily other pets. There is also a time and attention commitment. The last two are the most critical. If you can’t be sure that you can provide them consistently, then this breed isn’t the best choice for your lifestyle.

Food & Diet Requirements 🦴

The activity level of the Irish Setter helps to ensure that he’ll stay trim. He is not a couch potato. That said, he must have a diet formulated for dogs of his size. They mature more slowly than smaller breeds. In this case, it is both physically and mentally. Base the proportions you give him based on his appearance. The info on the food label isn’t the final word. That is the privilege of your pet.

Exercise 🐕

We’ve talked a lot about the activity level of the Irish Setter. That’s a deciding factor for both your and your pet’s happiness in your home. Remember that this dog had the run in the field during the hunt. He expects that even today. A large backyard to explore is an excellent way to keep him satisfied. However, he’ll also need the regular run in the doggie park or a bracing walk to work off his energy.

Irish Setter outdoor
Image By: Yurkap, Pixabay

Training 🦮

The Irish Setter makes it easy to train. He is intelligent and can learn quickly. On the other hand, he has a stubborn streak that will likely show up when you’re trying to teach him something he views as boring. This dog needs mental stimulation. That was an integral part of his life, back in the day. Bear in mind that this pup is also sensitive. Positive reinforcement, instead of harsh reprimands, is the key to success.

Grooming ✂️

Grooming is a commitment with the Irish Setter. His long and fine coat needs daily attention to keep it from matting. That’s especially true if you plan to make him a hunting companion. His fur is a burr-magnet. A pair of rounded-tip scissors is a must-have to keep his coat looking neat and trim. That advice also applies to his paws and ears.

Irish Setters are prone to dental issues. You should brush his teeth regularly to keep his gums healthy. You should also keep an eye on his nails. His ears will need some attention to prevent ear infections. A healthy diet will go a long way toward making him look his best.

Health and Conditions ❤️

The popularity of a breed often works against a dog. That is also the case with the Irish Setter. While they are not as common as they once were, the health issues persist. Some of them what you’d expect with any larger canine. Joint problems are always a bane with these pups. The critical thing to understand is that some of these conditions appear later in life, so that means subsequent testing.

Minor Conditions
  • Gum disease
  • Cataracts
  • Hypothyroidism
Serious Conditions

Divider 5Male vs Female

There is a small variation in size between the sexes. It also exists with dogs that go in the field or stick to the show ring. The difference boils down to breeding. If you have a pup that you want to mate, get a puppy from a decent bloodline. If not, neuter the dog. It’s the responsible thing to do. Bear in mind that it’s a cheaper and easier process with females versus males.

Divider 3Final Thoughts

The Irish Setter is a dog that you can’t ignore. His gorgeous coat and stately manner are enough to capture your interest. It helps that he is so good-natured and friendly, which makes him an ideal family pet. He loves his tribe, almost to a fault. He adores people and wants to spend every moment with them. His intelligence is both a godsend and a challenge.

As long as you can keep up with his energy, the Irish Setter is an excellent choice for a family pet. He’ll keep up with the kids and get along with the neighborhood dogs. This pup ticks off all the boxes for everything you can want from a canine buddy. If you have the time to devote to his needs, this breed is a canine worth considering.

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Featured Image Credit: Kseniia Kolesnikova, Shutterstock

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