Irish Setter

Irish Setter

This large, muscular gundog's outstanding attribute is his rich, chestnut to mahogany coloured coat. It is a silky, flat coat with feathering at the legs, ears and on the tail. Balanced and elegant, the breed strides out with his head held high. The average adult dog stands at 65cm and weighs 30.5kg; adult females are around 61cm and weigh 26kg.

Irish Setter
  • Category size: Large
  • Grooming requirements: Daily
Irish Setter
  • Shedding: Little
  • Allergies: No
  • Noise: Not too noisy
  • Dog Group Kennel Club: Gundog
Irish Setter
  • Alone: 1 to 3 hours
  • Other pets: Medium
  • Stability as a guard: Low


Irish Setter dogs are the oldest of the setter group, preceding Gordon and English Setters. It is believed the breed developed from old spaniels, setting spaniels and a Scottish setter. It was in 1882 that the Irish Red Setter Club was formed in Dublin, prompted by the breeding programme of The Earl of Enniskillen, who developed the signature solid red coat. In the 1940s the breed was nearly decimated by the eye disease progressive retinal atrophy, better known as PRA. Due to the development of a DNA test to identify carriers, the breed has recovered and the incidence of PRA has dropped dramatically.


The well-bred, well-socialised and well-trained Irish Setter dog is extraordinarily sweet and makes an affectionate family pet. Early exposure to cats and careful supervision is essential if they are to share a home with a feline. Being terribly friendly, this is not a good guard dog, though he will announce the presence of a visitor. The Irish Setter remains quite playful throughout his life - one of his more endearing traits.


As with many breeds the Irish Setter dog can suffer from various hereditary eye disorders, and hip dysplasia (a condition that can lead to mobility problems). Eye testing and hip scoring of dogs prior to breeding is therefore important. They can also be prone to gastrointestinal disorders.


The Irish Setter was bred to hunt birds and is very active and needs a lot of exercise – two-plus hours daily for an adult. Being a hunter, although an easily distracted one, he will follow scents all over if not trained to come back to his owner.


Large breed dogs, as well as having large appetites, benefit from a different balance of nutrients including minerals and vitamins compared to smaller-breed dogs. Irish Setters are prone to bloating and stomach problems; smaller, more frequent meals can help minimise this risk.


The Irish Setter dog's crowning glory is, of course, the coat. Daily brushing is essential to keep the feathers from tangling. Occasionally, the owner will need to trim between the pads and behind the ears to prevent mats. A professional groomer may be needed for extensive trimming once in a while. However, for show, the coat needs a great deal of careful attention in order for the dog to be competitive. One essential grooming chore that cannot be ignored is careful and regular cleaning of the ears. As they are drop ears, very little air circulation is able to get inside the ear and thus it is a breeding ground for bacteria, making ear infections common.

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What to Consider next


It is incredibly fulfilling to adopt a dog from an animal shelter or rescue organization. It often means offering them a second chance in life. There are many dogs waiting for a loving family, a forever home. Reputable centers will be very careful about matching the right people with the right dogs. Staff learns all they can about the dogs they take in, and will spend time getting to know you, your family and your lifestyle, before they match you with any of their dogs. They’ll also be happy to give you advice and answer any questions you might have before and after the adoption.

Finding a good breeder

If your heart is set on a pedigree puppy, then your best bet is to find a reputable breeder. Contact The Kennel Club or a breed-club secretary who may have a list of litters available, or should be able to put you in contact with breeders in your area. Try to choose a breeder who is part of the Kennel Club’s assured breeder scheme.Visit dog shows to meet breeders in person and inquire about availability of pups of your chosen breed.

Welcoming your dog home

Whether you’re bringing home a tiny puppy or rehoming an adult dog, this is a hugely exciting time for everyone. While you’re waiting for the big day you might need to distract yourself, so luckily there are a few things you need to sort out before you welcome your new arrival. Click here for more information