The Affectionate and Playful Irish Setter: A Complete Guide

Irish Setters are lively and loving dogs who maintain their puppy-like qualities long into adulthood. Read on to learn all about this affectionate and playful breed.

Jun 13, 2024byKatie Wickliff
the irish setter complete guide

The Irish Setter is an energetic and outgoing dog, with a sweet temperament and natural grace. Originally bred as a gundog, the Irish Setter is still popular as a hunting companion but makes an equally excellent pet for active families.

If you’re looking to welcome a new into your family, you can’t go wrong with these gentle, loyal dogs. You can learn everything about Irish Setters here!

Irish Setters Are an Active, Medium-Sized Dog

drawing of a setter
Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

Here are some “fast stats” about Irish Setters, one of many dog breeds native to Ireland:

  • Adult Height: 25 inches (female) to 27 inches (male)
  • Adult Weight: 60 pounds (female) to 70 pounds (male)
  • Life Expectancy: 12-15 years
  • Coat Length: Medium
  • Coat Texture: Silky
  • Coat Color: Red, Chestnut, Mahogany
  • Exercise Needs: Very Active
  • Affection Level: High
  • Shedding: Yes
  • Origin: Ireland

Irish Setters Originated in 1800s Ireland

close up of irish setter
Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

In the early 1800s, hunters in Ireland looked for a specific dog to help them flush out birds. This dog needed to possess patience, intelligence, and the athletic ability to move swiftly across the fields. The Irish Setter was likely developed from a variety of spaniels, pointers, English Setters, and Gordon Setters.

The first Irish Setters had red and white coats, but gradually, breeders focused on producing a dog with the solid red coat seen today. One of the reasons for this shift was that the late-1800s, the Irish Setter’s gorgeous red coat became preferred in dog shows. The breed quickly gained popularity in the United States, receiving American Kennel Club (AKC) recognition in 1878.

irish setter in a field
Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

In the early 1960’s, the Irish Setter’s popularity exploded. Walt Disney released a movie called “Big Red”, based on a novel of the same name. The movie starred an Irish Setter, and shortly after, AKC Irish Setter registrations skyrocketed. Prior to 1963, the AKC registered about 4,000 Irish Setter puppies per year. Between 1963 and 1974, the number of Irish Setters registered with the AKC jumped to 60,000 each year. That’s a growth of 1,500%! The Irish Setter quickly became the number three most popular dog in America.

The excitement over Irish Setters has settled down, making this breed a bit more unusual today. However, these playful and affectionate dogs still make wonderful companions.

The Irish Setter Is a Gentle, Family-Oriented Breed

irish setter against picket gence
Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

Standing over two feet tall at the shoulder, the Irish Setter is a medium-sized dog with an elegant coat. Its glossy locks come in rich shades of red, chestnut, or mahogany. These dogs come in a solid coat color.

Irish Setters are an extremely friendly breed, welcoming everyone into their home with exuberance. Therefore, if you’re looking for a watchdog, an Irish Setter is probably not the right choice. They are big tail waggers, and love playing with children and other dogs.

In addition to their rollicking personality, the Irish Setter has an incredibly sweet and affectionate temperament. They have a strong desire to please their owners, and love being pet and cuddled.

The Irish Setter is highly intelligent and very inquisitive, two characteristics that can lead to mischief if they get bored. Luckily, these dogs are well-suited for many different activities, and make great running partners, therapy dogs, and hunting companions.

Caring for and Training the Irish Setter 101

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

Irish Setters are hearty dogs with relatively few health problems. A few common health concerns these dogs experience include certain eye disorders, hip dysplasia, and autoimmune diseases. This breed is also prone to bloat, like other large, deep-chested dogs. To prevent bloat, veterinarians suggest feeding the Irish Setter a few small meals per day.

They are smart and eager to please, and this combination makes the breed relatively easy to train. These dogs respond best with firm but positive training methods, and love when their owners make a “game” out of training. Have patience and be consistent with your training and remember that dogs have a short attention span. Split training periods into short sessions, and you’ll find the Irish Setter engaged and motivated for the next challenge.

etching of irish setter
Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

Irish Setters become very attached to their families and can develop separation anxiety if left alone for too long. This anxiety can lead to destructive behaviors, so this breed needs people who are able to provide the dog with lots of attention. As much as they love the outdoors, Irish Setters need to live inside with their people.

Grooming the Irish Setter is straightforward. This breed’s flowing coat needs to be brushed weekly during much of the year to avoid tangles and mats. The Irish Setter will shed some of their winter coat in the spring, so plan to add a few extra brushing sessions.

Bathing frequency depends on your individual dog’s activities. If yours swims or spends a great deal of time in the field, you’ll want to bathe them more often than a dog who romps in a landscaped backyard.

Katie Wickliff
byKatie Wickliff

Katie is a Colorado-based writer, educator, and animal lover who firmly believes life is better with a pet by your side. She currently shares her home with various creatures. In her free time, Katie loves to explore the mountains with her family and their Rough Collie, Story.