These friendly and outgoing dogs are incredible family dogs that do well in an active home and with activities like obedience, agility, and tracking. While there are two types of this breed (show and field), Irish Setters are a part of the sporting breed group and their hunting instinct is still strong. Even with that strong instinct and high energy, Irish Setters have a wonderful temperament that would make them a great therapy animal.
Irish Setters, as you might imagine, are from Ireland and were bred to help bird hunters. In the early 19th century, hunters bred spaniels, English setters, Gordon setters and a couple other breeds into what we now know as the Irish Setter. The first Irish Setters were red and white but over time, they were bred into the exclusively rich red coat they’re known for.
As far as care goes, these dogs need daily exercise or they’ll become restless and hard to manage. An hour or so of strenuous activity every day will help keep an Irish Setter healthy; a brisk walk, a run, endlessly retrieving tennis balls, or activities like scent work and agility will help keep them engaged. Like many other active breeds, mental stimulation like puzzle toys will also be great and will keep them occupied for some time. These dogs are also incredibly intelligent but a bit stubborn and mischievous so positive reinforcement training will be necessary.
Their medium to long double coats aren’t as high maintenance as you might imagine. Brushing them a couple times a week will help keep their coat unmatted and will remove loose hair; they will shed more in the spring when they’re losing their winter coat so more brushing will be necessary during that time. These dogs only need an occasional bath but will need regular teeth cleaning and nail trimming.
There are several common health problems that Irish Setters might face in their life. They do get very attached to their people and are prone to serious separation anxiety, meaning they can get destructive if left alone for hours at a time. They’re also prone to hip dysplasia, hypothyroidism, epilepsy, bloat, and joint and bone issues like osteochondrosis dissecans, hypertrophic osteodystrophy, and panosteitis. The last few issues can potentially cause lameness and painful stiffening of joints.
Irish Setters are a gorgeous, friendly breed that would do well in an active home with a fully fenced in yard. They’ll need regular grooming and plenty of exercise to be happy and healthy and their great temperament makes them wonderful companions and possible therapy dogs. If you’d like to know more about the breed, the Irish Setter Club of America is a good place to start!