Irish Setters

This charming Irish redhead is known for a rollicking personality and a rocket-launcher energy level. He comes in a wide size range, standing 24 to 27 inches at the shoulder and weighing 35 to 70 pounds. Here’s what you need to know if you’re considering acquiring an Irish Setter.

Traits, Personality and Behavior

Words frequently used to describe this breed are "tireless" and "enthusiastic." The Irish Setter loves to run, but given an ample daily quota of exercise, he is a calm and fun-loving companion. The Irish Setter can be a good choice for families with older children, but he's probably too rambunctious to be set loose among toddlers. He also gets along well with other pets such as cats if he's raised with them. Irish Setters are alert and will loudly and excitedly announce that someone is approaching the house.

Choose an Irish Setter if you are an active person who can give him the exercise he needs. A long walk or run of an hour or so will do, or you can take him hiking or run him alongside your bicycle, safely leashed, of course. He's also a super competitor in dog sports such as agility, obedience and rally and can be an excellent therapy dog. Be warned: if you don't give him an outlet for his energy, he will become frustrated, and a frustrated Irish Setter is a destructive Irish Setter.

The Irish Setter has a reputation as something of an airhead, but given a patient, gentle trainer who uses positive reinforcement techniques such as play, praise and food rewards, he is willing and eager to learn. That said, he does like to have his own way and may stubbornly resist you if what you're asking doesn't seem like much fun. For best results, begin training early, keep it interesting and don't assume you can stop after a single obedience class. This breed is slow to mature, so he will be playful and puppy-like until he's 3 or 4 years old.

The Irish Setter has a stunning medium-length coat in mahogany or rich chestnut red. The coat needs frequent brushing and combing to prevent or remove mats and tangles. A bath every six weeks or so doesn't go amiss. In addition, trim the nails as needed, brush the teeth, and keep the ears clean and dry to prevent infections.

Last but not least, it should go without saying that a people-loving dog like the Irish Setter needs to live in the house. It's an unhappy Irish Setter who is relegated to the backyard with little or no human companionship.

Variations of the Irish Setter

As with so many sporting breeds, there are differences between Irish Setters bred for the field and those bred for the show ring. Field-bred dogs are smaller with a lighter coat and have much more hunting instinct than their show-ring siblings, but both types make good companions.

Health Issues Common to Irish Setters

All purebred dogs have the potential to develop genetic health problems, just as all people have the potential to inherit a particular disease. Run, don't walk, from any breeder who does not offer a health guarantee on puppies, who tells you that the breed is 100 percent healthy and has no known problems, or who tells you that her puppies are isolated from the main part of the household for health reasons.

Irish Setters have some health conditions that can be a concern, especially if you aren't cautious about whom you buy from. They include progressive retinal atrophy, hip dysplasia and autoimmune thyroiditis. Irish Setters can also be prone to gastric torsion (bloat), epilepsy and osteosarcoma (bone cancer), but none of these conditions can be predicted. A reputable breeder will be honest and open about health problems in the breed and the incidence with which they occur in her lines.

Ask the breeder to show evidence that both of a puppy's parents have hip and thyroid clearances from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals and a DNA test for PRA or a clearance from the Canine Eye Registry Foundation. You can check the website of the Canine Health Information Center to see if a breeder's dogs have these certifications.

Do not purchase a puppy from a breeder who cannot provide you with written documentation that the parents were cleared of health problems that affect the breed. Having the dogs "vet checked" is not a substitute for genetic health testing.

Condition Risk Profile Cost to Diagnose and Treat
Hip Dysplasia Medium $1,500-$6,000
Gastric Dilatation Volvulus (Bloat) Medium $1,500-$7,500
Lick Granuloma High $100-$1,000
Hypertrophic Osteodystrophy High $200-$1,500
Hypothyroidism High $200-$1,000
Patent Ductus Arteriosus Medium $2,500-$5,000
Persistent Right Aortic Arch High $2,000-$6,000
Tricuspid Valve Dysplasia High $500-$2,000

5 Tips to Bring Home a Healthy Irish Setter Puppy

Finding a good breeder is more important than finding the right puppy. A good breeder will match you with the right puppy, and will without question have done all the health certifications necessary to screen out health problems as much as possible. To find a list of breeders, visit the website of the Irish Setter Club of America.

Consider an adult dog from a shelter or a rescue group. Many of the health problems in Irish Setters aren't apparent in puppyhood, but by adopting an older dog, most of them can be ruled out. Irish Setters can live 12 to 14 years, so an adult dog will still be a part of your family for a long time to come.

Puppy or adult, take your Irish Setter to your veterinarian soon after adoption. Your veterinarian will be able to spot visible problems, and will work with you to set up a preventive regimen that will help you avoid many health issues.

Don't ever, ever, ever buy a puppy from a pet store. You're more likely to get an unhealthy, unsocialized and difficult to housetrain puppy and will be supporting the cruelty of high-volume puppy mills.

Make sure you have a good contract with the seller, shelter or rescue group that spells out responsibilities on both sides. In states with "puppy lemon laws," be sure you and the person you get the dog from both understand your rights and recourses.

Pet Insurance for Irish Setters

Pet insurance for Irish Setters costs more than for mixed breed dogs. This is because Irish Setters are more likely than mixed breed dogs to make claims for hereditary conditions that are expensive to treat.

Embrace dog insurance plans offer full coverage for all breed-specific conditions (excluding those that are pre-existing) to which Irish Setters are susceptible. The best time to get pet insurance for your Irish Setter is when he's a healthy puppy. You can't predict what will happen in the future, and pet insurance is the one thing you can't get when you need it the most.