The Irish Setter, sometimes referred to as a Red Setter or Sotar Rua (Irish for Red Setter), is a gorgeous gundog with an active and sweet personality. Irish Setters are ranked 77th out of 193 breeds by the American Kennel Club.
Setters were first bred in the 1700s by Irish hunters to have a strong sense of smell to better locate gamebirds. Before guns became prevalent, Setters worked together with trained falcons and net-wielding hunters to hunt birds. These days, they are more often used in tandem with a hunter using a rifle.
The name “Setter” comes from their method for showing their owner that they’ve caught a bird – they would “set” down on their bellies on the birds to trap them so that the hunter could come toss a net over both of them.
CHARACTERISTICS OF THE IRISH SETTER
The Irish Setter is a very distinct breed. Here is some additional information regarding their appearance and temperament.
The Irish Setter can come in two different types – the show dog and the field dog. The show dog is larger and heavier, with a thicker coat. Setters can reach up to 27 inches in height and 70 pounds in weight. They are strong dogs, but dignified and elegant. Their bodies are longer than they are tall, and they have long, muscled legs and explosive rear-drive, making them incredibly quick among sporting dogs.
Their most distinguishing feature is their coat. Although short around the head, it is much longer around the ears, chest, and on the back of their legs. It is long and straight, fine and shiny. Their coats can come in colors ranging from mahogany to chestnut red. Younger setters can sometimes have a silvery color behind their ears and legs, but that almost always fades away as they reach adulthood.
The Irish Setter’s brilliant red coat requires a moderate amount of upkeep to maintain its beauty. They should be brushed twice a week with a soft-bristled brush. Long-toothed metal combs can help remove excess hairs and get out any tangles. Occasional bathing is recommended with a gentle dog shampoo to keep their fur and skin clean and healthy. Occasional grooming is also recommended and makes for a good time to check their skin for lumps or skin problems that may be forming. Nails should be trimmed monthly as needed.
The Irish Setter is high-spirited, outgoing, and friendly. Even though they were bred to be bird hunters, they make for excellent family dogs. They are sweet-tempered and love making new friends, and are on cloud nine when running around in the yard and playing fetch with the kids. Setters themselves are just big kids at heart. They are great with strangers and love meeting new people.
Setters love to be the center of attention. They get very attached to their families, and if left alone often can develop serious separation anxiety and become destructive when bored. Their high-energy nature is great for children, but they can be too rambunctious for toddlers at times.
They can also be a bit stubborn – they tend to enjoy doing things their own way. Even so, they are generally very eager to please and respond well to calm, patient training. Their alertness makes them great choices for watchdogs, and though they are generally not aggressive, they will protect their family when needed.
Setters are a lot of fun, but their kidlike mentality means they often take a bit longer to mature. They require patient owners who are willing to set and enforce rules and boundaries. They can be mischievous, but they are good-natured at heart and very trainable. Setters have an average lifespan of 12 to 15 years, so they make a great choice for a growing family. They are great with other dogs and cats, especially if they grow up with them; however, they may see pet birds as prey.
CARING FOR AN IRISH SETTER
Irish Setters, like any breed, have their own specific needs. Here is some information regarding their nutrition, exercise, training, and health needs, to help you ensure that your Setter maintains a happy, healthy life.
Setters should be fed a high-quality dog food, appropriate for their age (puppy, adult, senior) and activity level. The more active the dog, the more food they require. Keep your Setter in good shape by measuring out how much you should feed them and splitting it up into two meals a day. As always, be sure to consult with your vet to find which food best fits your dog’s lifestyle and needs.
As a sporting dog, your Irish Setter will require a good amount of exercise to stay happy. Long daily walks or jogs are great, as are runs through the yard, hikes, and activities like hunting and tracking. In addition, daily training sessions are great mental and physical exercise – Setters love doing everything with their loved ones, and they will respond better if you are the one doing the training, instead of a professional. They are also excellent competitors in canine sports like agility, tracking, rally, and others – especially those enjoyed by both dog and owner.
As previously mentioned, Setters are fun-loving and eager to please. They can be stubborn, but that is helped by starting them in puppy training and obedience classes from an early age. Keep training sessions short, interesting, and varied to ensure that your Setter doesn’t get bored. They respond best to positive, reward-based training, so be sure to keep treats on-hand.
Setters are also excellent at swimming, dock diving, flyball, hunting, and many other canine sports that train them mentally as well as physically. In addition, they also make for great therapy and assistance dogs, thanks to their perceptive nature.
Irish Setters, like most breeds, are generally healthy. Be sure to select a reputable breeder who screens for common health problems such as hip dysplasia, eye problems, and Osteochondrosis Dissecans (OCD). Setters can also suffer from bloat, so learn to recognize the symptoms so you can detect it early on if it occurs.