The Irish Setter is sometimes also known as the Irish Red Setter. The Setter is thought to have been established as a bird dog by the beginning of the eighteenth century. Brought to the USA in the early 19th century, the Irish Setter was specifically bred for hunting – locating and ‘pointing’ to game birds. They have an excellent sense of smell and a lot of stamina, making them great hunting dogs. They are not suited to living in apartments or flats, and ideally would do best in a big home with access to a decent amount of outdoor space (preferably an enclosed, private yard).
Trainability & Hunting Style
Due to their high level of stamina, Irish Setters are wide-ranging hunters, and perform well in moorlands or fields, on both wet and dry terrain. They use their superior sense of smell to locate their target (usually game birds such as grouse) and will then hold themselves in a ‘point’ position, in the direction where the bird is hidden in the undergrowth. They need a long, brisk walk every day to prevent them from becoming difficult, restless and hard to manage. It is not recommended that they be allowed to ‘lead’ when out walking; make the bird dog heel or walk level with the person holding the leash. They have a leadership mentality, and in the mind of the gun dog the leader goes first – so it is important to establish the right hierarchy from an early age. They are very spirited hunting dogs, so will not listen to commands or direction if their trainer doesn’t have an air of calm authority. They need firm handling, but do not do so well with harsh discipline. Clear rules and consistency are key to training these particular hunting dogs.
The Irish Setter is a mahogany or rich chestnut red color, and may sometimes have a very small amount of white either on the throat, chest, toes or in a very narrow streak across the head. The head itself is long and slim, with a chiselled appearance and elegant muzzle. The ears are long and lie flat against the head, and the eyes are dark and are often described as ‘intelligent’ or ‘sharp’. Male Irish setters will typically reach a height of between twenty-six to twenty-eight inches, and weigh between sixty-five to seventy-five pounds once fully grown. Female Irish setters are usually slightly smaller, ranging from twenty-four to twenty-six inches in height, and fifty-five to sixty-five pounds in weight.
Irish Setters are a very affectionate hunting dogs. They are fun-loving, high-spirited and sometimes excitable. They are also a very intelligent gun dog, so may well become reckless and destructive if they are deprived of the proper amount of both mental and physical stimulation to keep their mind and body active. They do have a tendency towards a ‘leadership’ mentality, so it is important to be consistent in their training and remind them who is boss. They can be impulsive, so it is also important that owners maintain an air of authority when speaking to there hunting dog – as they are sensitive and intelligent enough to pick up on indecision and lack of confidence in their handlers.
The problems that have been noted to appear in Irish Setter is cancer, hip dysplasia, epilepsy and eye problems such as progressive retinal atrophy. They have also been known to be prone to hyperthyroidism and skin allergies, as well as elbow dysplasia. Also it is recommended that owners be vigilant for signs of infections or inflammation in the ears, as this is a condition that is also known to affect Irish Setters. This bird dog also tends to be prone to bloating, so it is not recommended that they eat large meals but rather two or three smaller sized meals daily so as to avoid discomfort. The Irish Setter has a average life expectancy of eleven to fifteen years.