An Irish Setter is a handsome and good looking gun dog with a characteristic mahogany, chestnut, or red coat. It is also known as the Red Setter and makes an excellent pet as a family member. Let us study the temperament, characteristics, and everything else you need to know when raising an Irish Setter.
Cool facts about the Irish Setter
- The Irish setter breed is steeped in ancient lore and has a history of hundreds of years of working as a gun dog. Ireland, the breed’s homeland, is where they developed a foothold and later spread to the UK and the USA.
- Another breed called the Red and White Setter is also considered as the Irish setter; however, this breed is actually even older than the Irish. Spaniel type dogs may be the breed’s ancestors.
- Setter dogs point their body towards the birds and that helps hunters find them. The Irish is the most common among the setter type dogs and the other popular varieties are the English Setter and the Gordon Setter.
- Although the Irish Red setter was popular during the 1890s, their numbers dwindled to just 25 after WWI. Today, the AKC registers about 2300 Irish setters a year and the Canadian Kennel Club registers about 200-300 setters per year.
- Author Anna Redlich’s book – The Dogs of Ireland tells a remarkable tale of an Irish setter’s skeleton that was discovered still on point over a year after the owner had lost him in the bog.
- Being hunting dogs, these red-coated beauties were often considered to be ‘game’ and shot accidentally in the field. So owners had to tie a white scarf around their necks to distinguish them as dogs.
- Today, many setter owners enter their pets in shows and several Setters compete against each other in competitions to hunt for birds. They also make great family pets.
Male Irish setter’s stand at 27 inches or 69 cm. Females are about 25 inches. Males weigh about 70 lb and bitches about 60 lb. They are tall, slender dogs with a distinguishing red, silky coat. Colors are red-brown, deep tan, or mahogany. A small white spot may be present on the head, feet, or neck.
Irish setters are prized for their hunting abilities but they also make great family pets. They have a keen sense of smell and can easily detect birds. The Irish setter is a playful dog that can get along with kids and other pets. Naturally, one must still socialize their dogs from an early age in order to get them used to other humans and domestic pets. The only thing you want to be concerned about is that Irish setters are inherently predisposed to flushing out small birds and animals. So make sure your Irish is socialized to smaller animals as well.
The breed makes great therapy dogs. Many Irish setters have been used as ‘reading buddies’ for kids where the child reads to a Setter that sits patiently in front of him. This is why you might see Irish setters as therapy pets in children’s wards in hospitals.
They make great watchdogs and can scare an intruder away with their loud barks. However, you must not look at a Setter as a guarding dog because he might actually lick the intruder’s face and even bring him home! Indeed, this lovable playful dog is good with humans and gets along with strangers as well. They love to be part of all family activities and especially love being around the water as well.
Your Irish will need plenty of activity. This is an energetic dog and if you are planning to simply leave him tied up in the yard, it just wouldn’t do. He is bound to get bored and might even find some destructive activity to indulge in. So exercise your pet for at least 30-60 minutes a day. You can walk, swim, bike, or hike with your pet. This intelligent dog also needs mental stimulation. So set up an obstacle course for him in the yard, or better yet; enroll him in agility or dog obedience classes. This way, he can also interact and socialize with other dogs.
Never let your dog loose outdoors; he could bolt into traffic. It is best to keep him on a leash or let him run around a fenced yard. Irish setters walk fast and tend to pull on the leash; most owners solve this problem by running or jogging with their pet.
Training an Irish Setter
While they make very good family pets, your Irish setter puppy needs plenty of early training and socialization. An untrained Irish could be troublesome to manage so start training him from early on. In fact; training should begin the day you bring your puppy home. Start by showing him where it is okay to void. If you have a yard, let him outside several times; a young puppy needs to pee a lot through the day. You can also start crate training.
Crate training and house training should ideally go hand in hand. A puppy won’t soil his sleeping quarters and a crate also gives him a safe place to sleep for the night. For the first few days, your puppy will whine and cry. He will miss his littermates and his mother. It is a good idea to give him a rag or a t-shirt with the dam’s scent on it so he can get some solace. Do not worry, this phase shall soon pass and soon your Irish will be a happy, loving part of your household.
As your pet grows, you can teach him basic commands like ‘Sit’, ‘Stay’, etc. If needed, enroll your pet in obedience classes or puppy kindergarten near you. With consistent, reward-based training your pet will soon be a well-behaved, and loving member of your family.
Grooming your Irish Setter
The Irish’s coat is its most distinguishing feature. It should be silky and smooth and free from mats and tangles. Groom and brush your pet regularly to maintain the coat’s health. You must shampoo your pet once a month with a vet-approved shampoo. If your pet swims often, check its ears and make sure you dry them. If there is a foul odor, get it checked by your vet. Clip your pet’s toenails and brush his teeth once or twice each week.
Most common, documented Irish setter diseases are hip dysplasia, cataracts, epilepsy, and cardiomyopathy. The average lifespan of the Setter is 11-13 years.
Where to find an Irish Setter
It is always a good idea to adopt a puppy rather than buy one, so check out animal shelters for Irish setter rescue near you. You can also contact some reputed breeders registered with the Irish Setter Club of America. Ethical breeders will not hesitate to show you the OFA and CERF papers to prove that the puppies’ parents have been tested for various hereditary diseases. Fortunately, the majority of the Irish setter breeders are devoted to the breed so you shouldn’t have trouble finding a healthy puppy.