Irish Setter

Irish setter

The sleek, red coat of an Irish Setter is a beautiful sight, and there’s a reason why this breed is so well-loved. This dog’s origins stretch back to the 1800s and Irish Setters have been wonderful companions ever since! Keep reading to find out more about this breed, including potential health problems to look out for.

Irish Setter Breed Characteristics

The red Irish Setter can be traced back to Ireland in the 19th century. They were bred for their strong sense of smell to locate birds for hunters. They’re fast runners who move gracefully, which also makes them very popular as show dogs. They are large dogs, with males reaching a height of 27 inches and weight of up to 70 pounds. A healthy Irish Setter is likely to live for 12 to 15 years.


The Irish Setter’s gorgeous red coat is fairly low maintenance. It needs brushing at least twice a week, with occasional baths to keep the coat clean.


The Irish Setter breed standard (see below) describes the breed as having a “rollicking personality” with an outgoing, stable temperament. They’re eager to please but can get bored with training if you don’t make it fun and interesting.

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Irish Setter Breed Standard

 This is how the official breed standard fdescribes the general appearance of the Irish Setter …

“The Irish Setter is an active, aristocratic bird dog, rich red in color, substantial yet elegant in build. Standing over two feet tall at the shoulder, the dog has a straight, fine, glossy coat, longer on ears, chest, tail and back of legs. Afield, the Irish Setter is a swift-moving hunter; at home, a sweet natured, trainable companion. At their best, the lines of the Irish Setter so satisfy in overall balance that artists have termed it the most beautiful of all dogs. The correct specimen always exhibits balance, whether standing or in motion. Each part of the dog flows and fits smoothly into its neighboring parts without calling attention to itself.”

Purebred Irish Setter color is a rich chestnut red or mahogany, with no black. Some Irish Setters may have a bit of white fur on the chest, throat, or toes. The flowing coat is what gives the breed a distinctive, graceful look. A stable, outgoing temperament is characteristic of this breed.

Read the full official breed standard for the Irish Setter.

Best Lifestyle for Irish Setters

They were bred as sporting dogs to hunt birds, so Irish Setters are happiest when they’re active. They’re an affectionate and playful breed that’s good with children, so they make a great family pet. But they need access to open space to run around and get enough exercise.

Irish Setters are high-energy working dogs, so they require both physical activity and mental stimulation to thrive. This is not a dog that’s suited to apartment living unless you’re willing to take him out for several good walks a day. An outdoor lifestyle is ideal to keep this breed happy.

Irish Setters do well at sports like agility, flyball or dock diving, and their sensitive nature makes them good therapy or assistance dogs.

If you have an Irish Setter mix, consider what other breed characteristics your dog has to make sure you’re meeting his needs.

Common Health Issues for Irish Setters

Every breed comes with predispositions to certain health problems, and the Irish Setter is no different. When you buy a purebred Irish Setter puppy from a breeder, they should provide you with documented clearances for common genetic health problems.

Here are a few potential issues to be aware of if you’re planning on adding an Irish Setter to your family.

Hypertrophic Osteodystrophy (HOD)

HOD is a bone disease that occurs in fast-growing large dogs and leads to limping or lameness in the affected limbs. This disease shows up before one year of age as your puppy is growing. One symptom is reluctance to put weight on the front legs, or standing in an abnormal posture.

The conventional treatment for this is pain control using NSAIDs or immunosuppressive doses of corticosteroids. Talk to a holistic vet about natural pain management that can help your dog. Mild cases of HOD can correct themselves, but your dog is not out of the woods until the leg bones are finished growing! Prevention of HOD involves feeding a balanced diet. As always, the best diet for dogs is a varied whole food, raw diet. 

Lick Granuloma

Lick granulomas happen when your dog causes sore spots or wounds due to chronic licking of one area. You’ll need to figure out the reason for your dog’s excessive licking so that you can prevent it from continuing. But there are many home remedies you can use to treat the sores. 

RELATED: How to heal your dog’s lick granuloma … 


This endocrine problem manifests as lethargy, weight gain, abnormalities in the skin and coat (dry, itchy, or greasy skin), and increased likelihood of getting infections. A holistic vet will be able to help you with some natural solutions and supplements. These can often work well without the need for pharmaceutical medications. 

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Heart Problems

Irish Setters are at higher risk of persistent right aortic arch and tricuspid valve dysplasia. These are both conditions that can only be prevented by not breeding dogs with these problems. Treatment for these serious conditions is usually surgical.

Gastric Dilatation And Volvulus (GDV)

Also known as bloat, this is a sudden, life-threatening swelling of the abdomen that is a risk for all large, deep-chested breeds. It happens when your dog’s stomach fills with gas and then twists, preventing air and fluids from entering or leaving the belly. This increase in pressure can affect breathing and lead to shock in less than 20 minutes.

If you own an Irish Setter, you should know how to recognize the symptoms of bloat. These include agitation, stiff movement, shivering, burping, swollen abdomen and trying to vomit. If you suspect your dog may be suffering from bloat, it’s an emergency and you need to get to the vet immediately. 

But before things ever get to this point, there are things you can do to naturally prevent bloat from happening in the first place. One thing you can do is minimize stress.

How To Find Irish Setter Puppies

Here’s where to start your search for your Irish Setter puppies.

Irish Setter Parent Breed Clubs

The most reputable place to find purebred Irish Setter puppies is the parent breed club in your country. Here are some places to look:

In the US: Irish Setter Club of America

In Canada: Irish Setter Club of Canada

In the UK: Irish Setter Breeders Club UK

Adopt Or Foster An Irish Setter

Adopting is a rewarding way to provide a good home to a dog. You can find out about Irish Setters who need homes at Irish Setter Rescue. And of course you can search for rescues where you live).

Whether you decide to shop for an Irish Setter puppy or adopt, this beautiful breed will be a wonderful companion for many years.

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