Irish Setter

Published: Updated:

Gorgeous, intelligent and with a mischievous streak, Irish Setters are a family-friendly dog breed.

Breed Snapshot

Life Expectancy:
12 to 15 years
Size:

Large

Maintenance Level:

High

Shed Level:

Medium

Temperament:
LovingGoofyCurious
Coat Color:
MahoganyRich ChestnutRed

Best For

Irish Setters are best for pet parents with an active lifestyle and a home with a large yard. They like being kept busy and are great with kids and other animals.

Irish Setter Traits

What makes the Irish Setter an Irish Setter? Let's find out how they stack up.

Irish Setter Temperament

The Irish Setter breed is known for being energetic and friendly. You’d be hard-pressed to find an Irish Setter who’s shy and withdrawn or one who’s aggressive and hostile. (Hurray! If you’re the positive and outgoing type yourself, you just found your match!) This breed is happy-go-lucky, ready to romp with your kids in the backyard or keep you company in the house. The Irish Setter wants to be by your side at all times. Their gentle, loving and playful personality makes them a great fit for families. Because of these traits, they’re also wonderful therapy dogs who can brighten up a hospital room or nursing home.

Irish Setters love children, and their goofy nature will keep your kids entertained. These fiery redheads are also very comfortable with strangers (hello, life of the party!) and good with other pets, especially other dogs or cats. Just be careful with pet birds—since Irish Setters were bred to hunt birds, their prey drive might get them in trouble.

Affectionate, playful and devoted are some of their main characteristics. But Irish Setter dogs also have a mischievous streak: they’re fun-loving and curious, and definitely not above getting into a little trouble! The breed is slow to mature, meaning their playful puppy personality stays around a little longer than most dogs. At the end of the day, though, an Irish Setter’s temperament is sweet and loving—and their desire to please their pup parent is one of the best qualities Irish Setters possess.

How to Care for a Irish Setter

Bringing an Irish Setter into your family requires a significant time commitment. Between grooming them multiple times a week, wearing them out with walks and games and providing enough mental stimulation to keep them out of trouble, an Irish Setter will definitely keep you busy. Here’s your 101 guide to caring for your Irish Setter dog.

Irish Setter Health

Irish Setters have a life expectancy of 12 to 15 years. In general, Irish Setters are a healthy breed, with only a few breed-specific diseases for pet parents and vets to watch out for. These potential Irish Setter health issues include:

  • Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA): PRA is a disease that can lead to blindness in Irish Setters. Luckily, it’s easy for your veterinarian to screen for PRA while your dog is young. If you have any concerns, speak with your vet.
  • Hip Dysplasia: Hip dysplasia can also be screened for at an early age. This painful hereditary condition affects your dog’s mobility. Your vet can guide you to the proper treatment options, which include weight control, surgery, medication to alleviate stiffness and pain and acupuncture.
  • Gastric Torsion: While not incredibly common, gastric torsion (aka bloat) has been known to affect Irish Setters and can be life-threatening if it’s not caught quickly enough. In this condition, a dog’s stomach inflates with gas, then twists. Speak with your vet to make sure you know the signs: a distended stomach, trouble breathing and anxiety or agitation. Multiple, small meals and preventing vigorous exercise around mealtimes may help reduce the risk of bloating.
  • Hypertrophic Osteodystrophy (HOD): This bone disease is not only a mouthful—it’s also extremely painful and can be severe in a growing Irish Setter puppy. Symptoms include fever, anorexia (loss of appetite) and the inability to walk. Your local vet hospital will be able to provide appropriate care if you have an Irish Setter suffering from HOD.
  • Hypothyroidism: Hypothyroidism is one of the most common health problems in many dog breeds, including Irish Setters. Hair loss, weight gain and ear infections are all signs of hypothyroidism. Your veterinarian can diagnose this condition via blood tests, and you’ll treat your dog with daily thyroid medication.
  • Epilepsy: Epilepsy is one of the fairly common Irish Setter health issues. If your dog is having a seizure, they might display loss of consciousness; involuntary muscle contractions; and behavioral changes, among other symptoms. Epilepsy can often be successfully treated with medication.

Irish Setter History

The Irish Setter’s origin is fairly straightforward. The Irish Setter breed was first developed in Ireland in the early 1800s as a hunting dog to aid bird hunters in finding and retrieving prey. Hunters combined Gordon Setters, English Setters, pointers and spaniels to create an entirely new breed of dog: the Irish Setter. Setters detected birds and flushed them out of their hiding spots. Then the hunter shot the bird, and the dog retrieved the body and brought it back.

Irish Setters used to be red and white but are now solid red. The American Kennel Club recognized the Irish Setter in 1878, making this bird dog one of the earliest breeds to ever be recognized by the organization. As the Irish Setter’s history continued, this breed quickly became one of the most popular dog breeds in the United States.

Today, some Irish Setters are still used as game dogs. Many more, however, live happy, fulfilled lives in homes with families. Puppies typically cost anywhere between $800 and $3,500, with $1,000 a common Irish Setter price. For that price, you’ll likely get a pup who’s been screened for health and temperament issues and may come with pedigree papers. You can find an Irish Setter puppy for sale with an AKC-registered breeder. Or check with your local animal shelter to see if they have any Irish Setter purebreds or mixes.

FAQs

Do Irish Setters shed?

Yes, Irish Setters do shed. This is not a hypoallergenic breed and not good for a family member with allergies. Compared to some dogs, however, an Irish Setter’s shedding is not excessive—and it’s only at its worst during the spring and autumn.

How long do Irish Setters live?

Irish Setters live 12 to 15 years. Preventative healthcare (regular vet checkups to stay on top of any medical concerns) will help increase your Irish Setter’s lifespan and allow them to live a happy, healthy life.

Are Irish Setters smart?

Yes, Irish Setters are smart. They’re an intelligent breed who can be trained to remember a variety of tasks and commands.

Are Irish Setters good with cats?

Irish Setters can be good with cats if raised with them from puppyhood. They have a strong prey drive but with training and encouragement, many Irish Setters get along well with indoor cats. (Just keep them away from pet birds!)

What are the most popular Irish Setter names?

The most popular Irish Setter names are Mac, Brady, Clooney, Conan, Cormac, Copper, Finnian, Fitz, Ford, Kennedy, Liam, Rusty and Seamus. Get more dog names here.

What are the most common Irish Setter mixes?

The most common Irish Setter mixes are:

  • Irish Setter-Labrador mix (Lab Setter)
  • Irish Setter-Cocker Spaniel mix (Cocker Setter )
  • Irish Setter-German Shepherd mix (Irish Shepherd)
  • Irish Setter-Golden Retriever mix (Golden Irish)
  • Irish Setter-Poodle mix (Irish Doodle)
Image

Top Takeaways

Want a loyal dog who will look good by your side? An Irish Setter is the breed for you. You’ll need to be prepared to invest time into your dog’s grooming, exercise and training needs. But as a reward, your Irish Setter will forge a strong bond with you that will stand the test of time.

Expert input provided by Erin Askeland, CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA, Animal Health & Behavior Consultant at Camp Bow Wow, and J. Todd Gross, DVM and owner of Goodlettsville Animal Hospital in Nashville, Tenn.

Published: