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The Irish Setter comes from Ireland and is a widespread hunting and family dog there. He is also very well known and loved outside of Ireland. Its task when hunting is primarily to point, but it can be used in many different ways. The large friendly dog is highly valued for its family-friendly nature. In the FCI, the Irish Setter can be found in the FCI Group 7 Pointers, Section 2 British and Irish Pointers with Working Trial, and the standard number 120.

Irish Setter Dog Breed Information

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Size: 55-67cm
Weight: 24-32kg
FCI group: 7: pointing dogs
Section: 2: British and Irish Pointers
Country of origin: Ireland
Colours: red, mahogany, chestnut, red-white, white-auburn
Life expectancy: 12-15 years
Suitable as: Hunting. Show, family and companion dog
Sports: agility, dummy training
Personality: Independent, Lively, Affectionate, Playful, Companionate, Energetic
Leaving requirements: high
Drooling potential: rather low
The thickness of hair: rather high
Maintenance effort: medium
Coat texture: moderate length, lying flat, without curls or waves
Child friendly: yes
Family dog: yes
Social: yes

Origin and breed history

The origin of the Irish Setter is very closely linked to the breed history of the other Setter breeds. They have the same ancestors. The Gordon Setter, Irish Red, and White Setter, as well as the English Setter, are all reliable pointers and companions for their owners. As for pointing dogs, they must track down the game and point it reliably by stopping and pointing stubbornly in the direction of the game with a raised paw and muzzle. This calm display does not startle the game and the hunter can calmly aim the rifle for a good shot. In addition to the classic indication by standing still, the setter also indicates the wild by sitting down. The name was also developed through this peculiarity among the pointing dogs because the setter stands for the dismounting of the dog. The Irish Setter is particularly popular here. The Irish Red Setter is primarily bred and used for hunting snipe, ducks, and other waterfowl.

The actual breeding of Irish Setters began at the beginning of the 19th century. By this time there were already native setters in Ireland that were bred to French spaniels and British pointers. The aim was to create a friendly and willing to work pointer that should stand out visually from the other setters. In breeding, the red and the rarer red and white coat colors of the setter were initially combined in one breed. Both variants were presented for the first time in 1874 at an international exhibition in Dublin. As early as 1882 it was decided that the colors of the Irish Setter should be separated for the breed standard. This is how the Irish Red Setter breed was born. The first official breed standard for the Irish Setter was established in 1886. In addition to the very active and challenging working line, a somewhat more balanced show line is now being bred as a companion dog. The show line has, on average, a longer coat and a significantly calmer temperament. Both lines are run under the same breed standard, so it is very important to look for the right breeder.

Irish Setter: nature and temperament

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The character of the Irish Setter is very balanced. Although he is also an active athlete, in everyday life he remains mostly quiet and rather reserved. He is easy to lead and a very obedient dog. When hunting, he is highly concentrated and shows his sporting potential. The hunting instinct is very pronounced in the Irish Setter and it needs very good training and an experienced dog handler so that it does not follow the tracks of game in the forest. With good socialization and anti-hunting training, a handler can control the hunt instinct, while novice dogs are better off only allowing the Irish Setter to roam in fenced-in areas.

With the exception of the hunting instinct, the Irish Setter is a very pleasant companion who reacts to strangers with open-minded vigilance. However, once he has met a new person, he is friendly and affectionate. The Irish Setter tends to get along very well with other dogs, especially if they have had good socialization from puppyhood. He enjoys the attention of his owners and can be affectionate and cuddly after enough activity. He’s also a very smart dog who learns quickly, but is also quick to spot when he’s taking advantage of his owner. He has an above-average need for employment and encourages his owner. It is actually only suitable for people with sporting ambitions who have experience with dogs. If he is not used for hunting, at least one dog sport should be carried out. The elegant dog is suitable for many sports, it is particularly good at retrieving and nose work.

The appearance of the Irish Setter

The Irish Setter has a distinctive appearance. His beautiful long and silky coat is the hallmark of the breed, glowing a chestnut red and complemented by the setter’s dark lovable eyes. His physique is graceful and designed for athletic performance. He is always ready to go hunting. Its head is long and slender with a muscular long neck. The long hanging ears also have very long fur, which visually stretches the ears even further. The Irish Setter’s tail should sit rather low on the body and is very long with a nice coat of fur. He is long-legged and very slim, despite a height at the withers of 58-67 cm for males and 55-62 cm for females, he usually weighs just under 30 kg. The fur of the show line is again significantly longer than that of the working line, but the fur of both lines should be shiny and straight or slightly wavy.

What does an Irish Setter look like?

The Irish Setter’s trademark is its chestnut-colored coat. That is why the Irish Setter is also officially referred to as the Irish Red Setter. He has long, silky fur, which is very dense but has hardly any undercoat. His physique is elegant and slim, he should be long-legged and have an alert, friendly look.

Upbringing & keeping the Irish Setter – this is important to note

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The Irish Setter is a hunting dog and as such is not a novice dog. Due to its active hunting instinct, beginners usually cannot experience free running with the dog and they often underestimate the effort it takes to train such a dog and keep it busy. He needs an experienced dog handler who can also deal with his sensitive nature. Because the Irish Setter is quite a sensitive dog that reacts quickly with fear and reserve to a too hard hand from its owner. This destroys the bond with the dog and training is very difficult.
A hard hand in training is absolutely unnecessary. The Irish Setter is easily motivated and enjoys working with his human. In connection with a feed bag or a dummy, it is usually best to train with the active dog. However, he also needs a lot of dog experience to be able to see early on whether a prey animal has spotted or scented it. Only with early intervention and a clear command can he be stopped from hunting.

In addition to the actual training, it is essential to keep the Irish Setter busy and busy. Because only if his energy and urge to move is satisfied every day can he really focus on a workout and will he be able to resist the temptation to hunt. A dog sport and regular walks and hikes are essential for a species-appropriate attitude of the Irish Setter. Unfortunately, many novice dogs are tempted by the dog’s very beautiful coat and loyal and calm eyes and are unable to do the animal justice. Behavioral problems, problems in everyday life and uncontrolled hunting are usually the result. Therefore, the purchase of an Irish Setter should always be considered very carefully.

How expensive is an Irish Setter?

Depending on which line the Irish Setter belongs to, a puppy can easily cost $1600 or $1800. If the parent animals are particularly excellent or the dogs have achieved great hunting successes, a puppy can also cost $2000.

Diet of the Irish Setter

The Irish Setter has a high energy expenditure, especially when their talents are being nurtured and they are engaged in a fulfilling sport. The main component of the diet should be meat. This is easily recognized by the fact that it is mentioned as the first item in the list of ingredients. The animal proteins in the meat give the dog strength and a diet with a lot of meat comes closest to the natural diet of the wolf. Other additives that do not correspond to the natural feed should be avoided. These include grain, sugar, salt, and flavorings in particular. Grain, in particular, can harm the Irish Setter, because the breed is almost always intolerant to grain or to the gluten contained in the grain. Apart from the intolerance to grain, Irish Setters rarely have allergies, but they do not tolerate sudden changes in food well, which is why the dog’s food should only be changed very slowly if necessary.

Regardless of what type of feeding the owner chooses, it is important that the dog food meets the dog’s needs. This also means that the feed should be adjusted to the age of the animal. A puppy needs puppy food to grow and it should be fed at least until it is 6 months old. From the age of seven months, he can be given normal food for large dogs and from the age of eight, he should slowly be switched to senior food. This provides the older dog with exactly the right nutrients and supports the functions of the internal organs.

When feeding, the amount of food is also important. With a lack of exercise, the Irish Setter tends to become overweight, so the food should always be tailored to the current condition of the dog. Being overweight can quickly lead to health problems. Otherwise, it is still important that the Irish Setter comes to rest after the meal, it should never be played directly after the meal and also no walk immediately after eating. Because the Irish Setter tends to twist his stomach when he actively moves and frolics after eating.

How big does an Irish Setter get?

The Irish Setter is a large dog that can grow up to 70 cm in individual cases. In the breed standard, males are 58-67 cm tall and females 55-62 cm tall.

Health – life expectancy & common diseases

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The Irish Setter is a very popular hunting and companion dog around the world. The breed is particularly valued for its beautiful appearance. However, this also meant that less attention was paid to the health of the animals during breeding and more to the supposed ideal of beauty. As a result, some hereditary diseases have appeared in the breed. With thorough breeder selection, potential puppy disease can be minimized. Because good breeders check the health of the parent animals and attach more importance to healthy puppies than breeders who only care about profit or the recognition of beautiful dogs.

Hip dysplasia, also known as HD, is one of the most common diseases in Irish Setters, which can lead to massive limitations in the rear limbs and causes severe pain in the dog. Good breeders make sure that the parent animals have perfect hips and can prove this with medical certificates.

Furthermore, some animals suffer from progressive retinal atrophy (PRA), this is a disease of the retina that can lead to blindness in the animal. This is also a hereditary disease and there is a reliable genetic test that can be used to rule out that the parent animals suffer from the disease and cannot pass it on. Problems such as skin diseases and ear infections are less common. Nevertheless, a conscientious owner should regularly check the dog’s ears and groom the coat.

With good health and care, Irish Setters can have a long lifespan, living up to 12 and even 14 years.

How old do Irish Setters get?

Despite the size of the dog, the Irish Setter can have a long life expectancy as long as you keep them healthy and choose a good breeder. The Irish Setter can live between 12 and 14 years.

Care of the Irish Setter

The Irish Setter’s beautiful long coat needs to be cared for, of course. It should be brushed daily to keep it from becoming matted and after a walk, the dog needs to be cleaned of small twigs or other debris caught in the coat. After a walk in the forest, you should also look for ticks, as they cannot otherwise be found in the long, dense fur.

In addition to the coat, the dog’s ears also need regular care. The lop-eared ears with the long fur are breeding grounds for inflammation and parasite infestation due to the warm, humid climate that prevails in the ear. The claws will need to be trimmed if they are too long, with dogs typically walking off the claws themselves if given sufficient exercise.

Irish Setter – Activities and Training

The Irish Setter is not only a very beautiful dog, he is an active sportsman and a passionate hunting dog. Accordingly, he also needs activity and exercise. He has to go for a walk at least three times a day for an hour each time. But it’s not enough just to go for a walk. He needs to be spoken to and occupied on the way. In addition to the daily walks, he also needs real physical challenges, such as regular jogging or cycling. But he is also a good companion on the horse. Nosework, retrieval, and trickdogging are ideal sports for intellectual pursuits. He can also master agility and hopers. In short: He definitely needs an occupation that keeps him busy in order to be happy and balanced.

Good to know: Peculiarities of the Irish Setter

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The Irish Setter is a very handsome hunting dog that is valued equally for its hunting skills and its elegant appearance. But he is also a very active dog that should definitely be in experienced hands.

His beautiful chestnut coat has also made him appear in commercials, films and television, such as in the 1962 adventure “My Friend Red”. An Irish Setter can also be seen in the film “The Lonely Cougar”.

The dog breed is almost considered a symbol dog for the classic hunter, everyone knows the image of an older hunter in hunter’s gear with his chestnut-red dog at his side, who looks alertly into the forest.

When is the Irish Setter fully grown?

The Irish Setter is fully grown at about seven to eight months. At this age he is still a young dog and therefore still needs a lot of training and guidance from his owner. Mentally, he is really mature at about two to three years old.

Disadvantages of the Irish Setter

Probably the biggest disadvantage of the Irish Setter is his love of hunting and his enormous urge to move. Even with a good upbringing, the owner must always keep a close eye on his dog when he is outside so that he does not suddenly follow a wild trail. In addition, the Irish Setter takes up a lot of the owner’s time and must be sufficiently utilized. He is a very athletic and smart dog who makes enormous demands on his owner.

Is the Irish Setter right for me?

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The Irish Setter is an active hunting dog that demands a lot from its owner, yet is a sensitive and affectionate dog. He not only has an elegant appearance but also has a calm nature and a friendly and sensitive character. Nevertheless, he is not a classic family dog, he needs a lot of exercises and a substitute for hunting behavior. He is only suitable for dog beginners to a very limited extent and due to his high drive to move, he is not suitable for seniors.

He is in the best of hands with families with dog experience and sporting ambitions. They should be able to spend enough time with the dog every day and give it the attention and care it needs.