The Irish Setter - "Big Red"

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Irish Setter
Weight: 60 — 70 lbs
Height: 25” — 27”
AKC Rank 2008 # 67
Life Span: 12—14 yrs
Group Sporting
Origin Ireland

Dob Breed Info - The Irish Setter

The Proud Irish Settar
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Breed Overview

Original function was bird setting and retrieving. Today, pointing, personal companion.

The origin of the Setter is not certain. One idea suggests a blend of spaniels, pointers and other setters, some English, but mostly the Gordon Setter. The Irish Red Setter came from Ireland in the 1700’s. Original Irish Setters were supposedly white with red spots but that has changed with time. By the 1900’s, Irish Red Setters, as they had come to be known, had arrived in America. The Setters were used for bird hunting, primarily. Today, it’s a companion and pet.

"Big Red" hunting
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Difficult to train. The Setter is not dumb, just sort of nervous and they can try your patience. Keep trying, as they will eventually get it. Use clicker training, as this works very well with these dogs. Also, the clicker goes with Positive Reinforcement. Once they learn, they are good to go. Don’t lose your cool.

Crate Training

Want to crate train your Irish Setter puppy? It's easy and if you're interested, take a look and you'll see what to do. Crate training your puppy will save many headaches and problems.

Potty Training

Some Irish Setters and puppies can be difficult to house train, potty train, toilet train, housebreak or whatever you want to call it. If you have a puppy, decide if you want to crate or paper potty train it. For the best results, we have a page at Crate vs Paper Potty Training which will help you decide and from there you can get all the information you need to get the job done. Always praise the pup profusely when she goes potty in the RIGHT PLACE so she knows she has done a good thing. Either method will work for this breed.

If you have an older dog, take the dog outside every two hours until she gets the idea which door leads to her potty area. Older dogs catch on to the potty or housebreaking pretty fast once they are shown what to do.


The Irish Setter was bred to be a tireless and enthusiastic hunter, and it appreciates life with a rollicking good natured attitude, full of gusto and fervor. Given a daily outlet for his energy, this breed makes a pleasant companion.

Without ample exercise, the Setter can be overly active inside and start to display behavior problems as well as aggressiveness.

This is a friendly breed, eager to please, and wants to be part of it’s family’s activities. The Irish Setter can be good with children but can be too rambunctious for small children. These dogs don't like to be left alone.

The Irish Setter is prone to Separation Anxiety! If you happen to get one with a separation anxiety problem, that can be dealt with by investing a few hours of work on your part and some "tough love."

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Friendly Toward Other Dogs?

Good. Gets along with other dogs in general.

Friendly Toward Other Pets

Usually not a problem. Likes just about anything.

Friendly Toward Strangers

Loves everybody. Bring on the relatives.


Very playful. Lots of energy, needs lots of play.


Very affectionate breed. The Irish Setter craves affection from his family and give affection back. S/he should not be left alone for long, as having people around is important.

Good with children

Okay for children 6 or 7 and up providing the kids have been taught how to behave with a dog.

Good with Seniors over 65?

If you are 65 and expect to be jogging for the next 14 years, GET an Irish Setter! You are retired and can give the dog the time and attention she longs for! Just remember, her daily exercise is a must.

Living environment

House with big, fenced back yard is ideal or, a farm or ranch. The Irish Setter is an indoor dog that needs people around him all the time and should not be left alone for long periods. Irish Setters need constant companionship from their humans.


Energy level

Extremely high energy.

Exercise needs, daily

Extremely high. Two hours a day of running or quick walking or heavy play.

Take your Irish Setter our jogging with you.


Pretty good, though certainly not a Mastiff!

Guard dog

No. They love people too much.




Brush and comb three to four times a week to keep fur from tangling and to keep small debris from collecting. (Look for weeds, leaves and twigs caught in their coat on the chest and underbelly.) Use a stiff bristle brush from the pet store.



Suggested Reading For The Irish Setter

The book on the right is by the American National Red Cross and deals with dog emergencies, illnesses and injuries. It's a valuable reference manual for all dog owners and should be kept close at hand.


Irish Setter Breeders

In the event you decide to go looking for Irish Setter puppies, be SURE to find reputable breeders that really know what they are doing. Be sure the puppy has been well socialized and started in obedience training.
Irish Setter Breeders with puppies for sale.

Irish Setter Rescue

In the event you are seriously considering the adoption of an older dog and are looking for an Irish Setter Rescue group or groups in your state, here are several links that might help:
Petfinder - Irish Setter Rescue - (Nationwide) I just checked Petfinder and there are only 167 Setters listed for adoption in the entire country. That's subject to change, of course. Be sure to check dog health records if there are any.
Adopt A Pet This is an interesting site but based on what we just found with Petfinder above, you may have trouble locating a dog. Again, try Irish Setter Rescue groups, kennels, foster homes and even breeders in your web surfing. (Sometimes breeders have older dogs left over.)

Dog Health Issues For The Irish Setter
Below: The dog illness / illnesses or medical problems listed for the Irish Setter by various vets.

This is basically a healthy breed. Don’t let the list below scare you! Your own dog will probably never have ANY of these problems. These are dog illness and medical issues this breed is prone to that have been listed by various veterinarians at different times over the past decade or so and some pertain to puppies and very young dogs that a breeder would deal with.

The information contained herein has been gathered from numerous books by veterinarians and is intended as general information only. Every dog and situation is different. You must see your vet. Our information is for general interest only and not intended to replace the advice provided by your own veterinarian.

  • Progressive Retinal Atrophy—An inherited, untreatable disease of the retina affecting both eyes causing blindness. It’s in the genes of the dog and is not painful. Starts with night blindness and progresses as the retina gradually deteriorates.

  • Entropion—Eye irritation caused by the eyelids and lashes rolling inward. The problem is usually inherited and found in young, adult dogs. It can come from an eyelid spasm. Affected eyes will be held partially shut and tear excessively. Both eyes will usually be affected the same. Treatment for the condition requires eye surgery.

  • Hip dysplasia - Hind end limping, back leg acts lame. Wear and time causes the femur to fit poorly into the pelvic socket with improper rotation causing great pain, lameness and difficulty walking. You may notice the Irish Setter “hopping”” like a rabbit when running plus hesitating to climb stairs, all due to pain in the hind quarters. The problem actually starts as a very young puppy with an abnormal formation of the hip joint and grows progressively. A vet can locate this with a diagnostics test.

  • Degenerative myelopathy—Is common to German Shepherds and Irish Setters. There is no cure for this chronic disease that destroys the sheathing around the dog’s lower spinal column. This forces a loss of sensation and the use of the hind legs. There are some treatments for this crippling problem, but no cure.

  • Gastric Torsion—Sometimes called Dog Bloat or “Twisted stomach.” Mainly in larger, deep-cheated dogs. Here's a brief description of the problem:
    Symptoms include excessive drooling, nervous pacing, agitation, weakness, attempt to vomit, bulging stomach area, heavy breathing, retching and gagging, shock or total collapse.

  • Megaesophagus—Incomplete nerve development of the esophagus in dogs 5 to 12 years old causing regurgitation of food. Since food is collecting in the esophagus and not the stomach, the dog feels hungry and keeps eating. Food collects for up to a day or two and finally vomits back out, having never reached the stomach. A dangerous aide effect of the disease is pneumonia. The only solution is getting the dog to drink and eat in a position where he has to reach his mouth way up high, like on a step ladder with his paws elevated where he can barely reach the food with his whole body elevated nearly vertical. There is no other cure.

  • Panosteitis—So called "growing pains" in the legs of 6 to 12 month old puppies. The dogs experience an alternating pain and lameness in the legs due to acute pain. Large dogs and especially German Shepherds are affected. The pain generally goes away as the dog matures.

  • Hypertrophic osteodystrophy—Orthopedic bone disease in large dogs, 2 to 6 months old. Very painful and possibly caused by poor nutrition. There will be pain and swelling in the affected legs. Look for lameness or a desire not to move at all, and loss of appetite plus a high fever may also occur. Medication, bed rest and a special diet are usually given. The disease can be fatal.

  • Osteosarcoma—A leg bone cancer in large breed dogs of any age but usually in large, older dogs. Osteosarcoma in the limbs is “appendicular osteosarcoma” if talking to a vet. The dog will be in great pain as the disease destroys the bone from the inside out. The dog’s inability to walk will progress over only about 3 months time as the bone is destroyed by the tumor. Unfortunately, surgery to remove the leg is the only way to give your dog the only total relief needed.

  • Hypothyroidism—An underactive thyroid gland produces too little thyroid hormone which reduces the dog's metabolism level. Hypothyroidism stems from the dog’s immune system attacking the tissues of the thyroid gland. Bottom line is the dog becomes symptomatic. The cause can be a predisposition for thyroid problems, air pollution and allergies. A FEW symptoms of the disorder include lethargy, weight gain, skin infections, dry skin, hair loss, slow heart rate, ear infections, depression. See your set right away.

  • Osteochondritis dissecans—A common type of elbow dysplasia except it can occur in any joint. Flaps of cartilage run against tissue causing irritation, pain, lameness and in time, joint degeneration disease in the Irish Setter. Pieces can break loose and float around limiting movement, or getting lodged or wedged inside the joint itself. Look for lameness, pain and swelling in joints. Treatments include Non-steroid anti-inflammatory meds, weight loss, confinement to rest the joints, and dietary supplements for joint health. Surgery is the last option for very severe cases.

  • Tricuspid valve dysplasia—Hereditary. Malformation of the tricuspid valve in the heart allowing a backflow of blood, or “tricuspid regurgitation. Narrowing of the valve is also possible. The heart is working inefficiently. The dog may have cold limbs, no tolerance for exercise and a distended abdomen as the liver enlarges and may collapse. In severe cases, the dog may develop right-sided heart failure. Mainly a problem for the breeder.

  • Laryngeal paresis— A paralysis of the larynx. Found in middle aged and older, larger dogs like Labs and St. Bernard's, and Retrievers. It’s a malfunction or weakness of the muscles of the larynx or the controlling nerves. The larynx does not function properly causing difficulty breathing. This can also be caused by an injury to the larynx, illness and other factors. If you notice a change in voice, trouble breathing, coughing, gagging, fainting or any other odd symptom, get to the vet right away.

  • Intervertebral disc disease—Biochemical changes in a young dog of certain breeds like the Irish Setter can cause at least one diseased or mineralized disc in the spine of the Irish Setter. A disc that is not functioning properly will cause pain, problems walking, stumbling, severe neck pain and even paralysis. The Dachshund has an 80% chance of having this problem. Treatments can go from non-invasive doses of anti-inflammatory steroids, muscle relaxants and bed-rest to surgery. Pain meds are also given as needed. Mess with the spine and you have a serious situation and it’s tough on the dog!

  • Insulinoma - Cancerous tumor in the pancreas that secretes excessive amounts of insulin. The dog feels lightheaded and faint due to a lack of sugar in the system. The dog becomes hypoglycemic. Diagnosis is made by blood glucose testing so get to your vet quickly.

  • Patent ductus arteriosis—Canine congenital heart failure. Before birth, blood from the heart passes the lungs by a small vessel called the ductus arteriosis. That small vessel is supposes to vanish after birth and the infant breathes on it’s own With this disease, the vessel does not go away resulting in improper circulation of blood.

  • Epilepsy—A serious seizure disorder that shows up at around 2 to 4 or 5 years of age in the dog..

  • Atopic dermatitis's—Hereditary. Shows at 1 to 3 years age. Skin allergy triggered by dust mites, pollen, poor quality foods and other garbage we put into the dog’s environment. Many breeds are prone to this. The dog will lick, rub, chew and scratch the infected areas. Allergens can also come from fleas, bacteria and yeast infections. See your vet. There are many treatments ranging from medicines, antihistamines, diets, bathing, cleansing the house of dust mites and so on.

  • Hemophilia A—Lack of a clotting factor in the blood. The mutation responsible for canine hemophilia B is a lack of factor IX in the affected dogs and requires gene therapy. Obviously, if you find your dog is bleeding and the bleeding won't stop, you go to the vet, NOW.

Other health problems could occur in your Irish Setter. If you notice anything unusual with your pet, take it to the vet immediately. This website is for general information only and is not intended to, in any way, be a medical guide.


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