The versatile Irish setter is an extremely energetic hunting dog and wonderful family companion.

1. Key Characteristics

  • AKC Group: Sporting
  • Height: 25–27 inches
  • Weight: 60–70 pounds
  • Life Expectancy: Around 15 years

The Irish setter is an all-purpose hunting dog and family companion. The body is longer than it is tall, and the head features an either black or brown nose. The almond-shaped, medium-sized eyes can be various shades of brown. The tail is long and thick, tapering from the base to the tip. The thin, triangular-shaped ears are feathered and hang close to the head.

The coat colors include shades of mahogany to a rich chestnut red and may have patches of white. The coat is soft and flat, but the length can vary; field lines bred for working have shorter coats, and dog bred for conformation have longer coats.

2. Where They Came From

Native to Ireland, the Irish setter rose in popularity in the 1700s as a hunting and bird dog. Breeds reportedly contributing to the Irish setter’s development include the Irish water spaniel, Irish terrier, English setter, spaniel, pointer and Gordon setter.

Original Irish setters were red and white, but the white color was selectively bred out. The first all-red Irish setter appeared in 1812.

The dogs were imported to America in the 19th century and eventually split into 2 breeding lines: 1 for field work and 1 for conformation. The breed remains popular worldwide, and the American Kennel Club recognized the breed in 1878.

Irish setters were originally bred as hunting and bird dogs. By: reddogs (Top: Iakov Filimonov)

3. How Friendly Are They?

Don’t let the aristocratic and elegant movement fool you; Irish setters are active, energetic, outgoing and high-energy dogs who can act clownish at times. Despite being independent and impulsive at times, they are great with children and other pets.

Irish setters are easy to housebreak and are comfortable on nearly any terrain in almost any climate. Because of their high energy levels, Irish setters need consistent training and daily exercise to prevent undesirable behavior. They are also sensitive to tone of voice and will not respond well to harsh discipline.

4. Is This the Right Dog for You?

Exercise Needs

HIGH: This active breed needs daily exercise in the form of a rigorous walk or jog, and exercise is necessary for the dog to expel energy and avoid negative behavior.

These dogs are outgoing, love the outdoors, running, free play and would appreciate a yard. This breed is not recommended for apartment life unless the family is active and can commit to the dog’s daily exercise needs.

Grooming Needs

MEDIUM: The Irish setter sheds on an average basis. Daily brushing is needed to maintain the coat and prevent matting.

Active working and hunting dogs should be checked for debris in the coat and ears after returning indoors. Bathe Irish setters only as necessary; dry shampoo can also be used occasionally.

Health Problems

MEDIUM: Irish setters are generally healthy dogs, but these diseases are commonly seen in the breed:

This video shows the versatility of the breed:

5. Where to Adopt One?

Check shelters and rescues first to find an Irish setter, and you can start with our adoptable dog search. If you decide to contact a breeder to purchase a dog or puppy, get to know them and be on the lookout for the puppy mill warning signs.

Additional Resources

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