Irish Setter

The Irish Setter became popular in Ireland and the British Isles in the18th Century. There are two types of Irish Setters—the Bench Setter and the Red Setter. The Bench Setter is recognized by the American Kennel Club as a show dog. The Red Setter is a popular field dog that has made its appearance in the Field Dog Stud Book.

Common Characteristics

  • Size: 51 to 100 pounds
  • Lifespan: 6 to 15 years
  • Pet purchase cost: $501 to $1000
  • Allergies: Moderate
  • Shedding: Moderate
  • Primarily suited for indoors


Common Reasons for Surrender

Rescuers say that dogs with health issues are being surrendered because in today’s economy people are losing their homes and jobs and cannot afford the cost of keeping a dog. A second reason is that the Irish Setter gets bored easily, especially if their people put them in the back yard and leave them there. Because they’re not yard dogs, the next step is to surrender the dog.


Setters are people oriented, outgoing, and live life to the fullest to the day they die! An Irish Setter would rather be with its person than anyone else, whether you are on the couch watching the game, hunting birds, going swimming, out for a drive, or hanging out at the kids’ soccer game. The Setter is extremely loyal and loves to be with her people.


For most people, an Irish setter requires more upkeep than usual. Grooming takes a lot of time, but more importantly the Setter needs a job—something to keep them busy. Today you’ll see Irish Setters in obedience, agility, nose scent work, field trials, or hunt tests, and they love it. If you don’t find something to keep them busy, they’re known to dig up lawn sprinklers, tear your bed apart, or dig out your garden. Some Irish Setters have a reputation for drooling or at least like to get a mouthful of water from their feeding dish and shake their heads, spraying anyone standing nearby.


Irish setters are often allergic to wheat products and can develop a hypothyroid problem. Any good dog food with high calorie content is good as long as dog is getting exercise. Some people feed raw food, but a good quality wheat-free kibble is good.


An Irish Setter needs at least 30 to 45 minutes of exercise a day. That exercise can be a long walk or rollicking in a dog park, but they need exercise to keep them busy and to release pent-up energy.

Possible Health Issues

Besides food sensitivities, the Irish Setter can develop hypothyroidism, irritable bowel syndrome, epilepsy, hip dysplasia, bone cancer, and Cushings Disease. Because their ears hang down, they’re at a higher risk of ear infection. Irish Setters tend to have a disease called Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) that causes the dog to go blind by age two.


The Irish Setter can live anywhere as long as their family gets them outdoors to exercise every day. And it’s important to train your puppy to enjoy her crate, which is very much like a comfortable den that dogs enjoyed hundreds of years ago.  


Because their coats are so long, Irish Setters need to be brushed once a week and bathed and groomed every four to six weeks. It is possible to learn how to groom your own dog and that can be a money saver.


Setters love to go to training classes, especially rally and agility. Setters learn quickly, never forget, and get bored with tons of repetition. So while some dogs, such as the Golden Retriever, will retrieve continuously just to please her people, the Setter prefers to move on to a new game.


This dog loves to retrieve and throw a Frisbee or ball and take walks. Like obedience training, whatever you do with this breed has to be fun for them. If an Irish Setter entertains herself, it may be on the leg of your dining room chair!  

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES                                                                                                               

We want to thank the NorCal Irish Setter Rescue, Inc.for help with this profile.

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