Irish Setter Dog Breed Guide | Gundog Journal
Irish Setter

Irish Setter

Main sporting role:
Hunting, Pointing, Flushing
Over 10 years
More than 2 hours a day
Coat length:
Vulnerable status:

The Irish setter, sometimes also referred to as the red setter, descends from ‘setting’ spaniels that were originally developed in Ireland to quest and indicate game birds on mountains, bogs, farmland, and forest.

There were originally three Irish setter strains, but the solid red setters grew in popularity in the 1800s when some outcrossing was carried out for a racier build and a leaner head.

In the UK, red setters are used for classic dog work, including hunting and pointing both wild and reared game birds on moors, on stubble, and in woodland. Some Irish setters are also used as therapy dogs.

Irish Setters: Key Characteristics

The Irish red setter is a strikingly handsome dog with a feathered, silky red-chestnut coat and an athletic build with a deep chest and long legs.

Irish setters are considered excellent companions in the home, as they’re friendly with children, visitors, and other dogs, and they don’t have natural guarding instincts.

This breed is also highly energetic with an enduring, fast, free-flowing gallop.

Owning An Irish Red Setter: Pros And Cons

Irish Setter Pros

  • Gorgeous feathered coat
  • Friendly nature
  • Highly intelligent
  • Good with other animals

Irish Setter Cons

  • Can be very stubborn
  • High energy levels mean a lot of outdoor exercise is needed
  • Can experience separation anxiety
  • Can be an exuberant jumper, especially when young
  • Feathered coat requires a lot of brushing and combing
  • May be susceptible to eye conditions, such as progressive retinal atrophy (PRA), and other health conditions including hip dysplasia and autoimmune thyroiditis

Are Irish Setters Easy To Train?

Irish setters require structured training from an early age; they’re highly intelligent but also naturally stubborn and independent, so they need firm training to establish authority from the start.

How Much Exercise Does An Irish Setter Need?

The Irish setter is considered to be more playful and more exuberant than other setter breeds, and therefore requires plenty of exercise and space to run.

As the breed has high energy levels, setters need regular access to open spaces to stretch their legs, meaning they benefit hugely from a home with a garden. 

Read about other setter breeds, including the English setter, Gordon setter, and Irish red and white setter.

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