Irish Setter dog breed is known for its enthusiasm for life, as well as its good looks. They were originally used as ‘setting dogs’ that stalked birds silently and set them up for the hunters’ nets. Today these dogs make great companion dogs for people with active lifestyles. They are delightful family pets too, because of their love for life and their human family.
Setters were bird-hunting dogs used for a specific purpose. Unlike other gundogs and pointers that helped hunters by actively tracking the prey and running it down or indicating their location with barks, the setters worked stealthily. These dogs would go in search of birds that did not immediately take to their wings on seeing the dog, but try to hide instead. The dogs would stalk the birds quietly and wait for the hunter to trap them with nets.
Setters have their origin in land spaniels which were popular with hunters in England. The first mention of setter type dogs is in the De Canibus Britannicus, by Caius published in 1570. By the 18th century, the setter type dogs were recognized as separate breeds, and the Irish developed their own setters which were mainly red in color, with or without white patches. They were highly favored by the Irish gentry, and many bloodlines were established by the end of the 18th century.
The Irish Setters were introduced into the United States in the 19th century, and were included in the Field Dog Stud Book in 1874. They were distinguished from the English Setters by the color and texture of their coat, among other differences.
Irish Setters are large dogs measuring 25 to 27 inches at the withers and weighing up to 70 pounds. The dogs employed in the field are commonly referred to as Red Setters, and they may differ slightly from those groomed for the show circle. The field dogs are generally smaller in stature than the show dogs.
The Irish Setter dog breed has a more bony body than the English Setters. The muzzle is longer too. The coat is straighter with a bit of feathering on the ears, at the back of the limbs and tail. It is predominantly red with some white on the chest, around the neck or between the eyes. The ears are long and pendant, and the tail is plume-like.
Irish Setter dog breed is a very active breed that absolutely loves to be on the move. These dogs are easy-going as long as they get their daily quota of exercise and excitement. They may become destructive otherwise. These dogs should have plenty of off-leash time in the yard, but they don’t like to be alone for extended periods. They need human company, and are very demonstrative of their affection for their family.
Irish Setters are very friendly to all people and animals. But small pets may trigger their hunting instincts. They are good with children too, but may be too boisterous for very young children.
Grooming and exercise
The long silky coat of Irish Setter dog breed requires regular grooming. Besides daily brushing, the coat needs trimming once or twice a year.
The Irish Setter dog breed is very high on exercise requirements. These dogs are known to work tirelessly all through the day, and love nothing better than having some strenuous work to do. They need minimum an hour of hard running or vigorous exercise to expend their energy reserves. It is ideal if the dog can have frequent opportunities for fast-paced running, but it is not advisable to let it off the leash unless it is well-trained and compliant with recalls.
Irish Setters can live outdoors day and night in mild or relatively warm weather, but they cannot tolerate cold. Whether living indoors or outdoors, these dogs should have access to a large, secure yard during the day. They are not suitable for apartment living.
Common health issues of Irish Setter dog breed
The Irish Setter dog breed is known to have a number of health issues which include Canine Hip Dysplasia and Progressive Retinal Atrophy. They are at risk of developing a potentially life threatening condition called gastric torsion or bloat which requires immediate medical attention. Other disorders such as megaesophagus, cardiac problems and hypothyroidism are occasionally seen in this breed.
As in the case of many large dog breeds, Panosteitis may affect Irish Setter puppies during the phase of fast bone growth. Hypertrophic Osteodystrophy is another degenerative disorder that may occasionally affect young dogs. Bone cancer is also relatively common. Regular health checkups may help detect and treat potential problems early. The breed has an average life expectancy of 11-12 years, but many healthy dogs may live for 14 years.