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Irish Setters: A Bold, Sensitive Breed
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Irish Setters: A Bold, Sensitive Breed

Theo, Critter Culture Staff
Updated Oct 15, 2020

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The Irish setter is a relatively new dog breed, only around 200 years old. They were bred to be hunting dogs and enjoy joining their owners on hunting expeditions. What makes them a "setter" is the fact that they're trained to set themselves on the ground once they've found the downed prey. Irish setters are not only great hunting companions; they're also loving and loyal family dogs.

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1

The setter's size and weight standards

Irish setter standing outside in a backyard

The Irish setter is a sturdy and fast dog, with little variation in size between the sexes. Adult males stand up to 27 inches and can weigh up to 70 pounds. Females can stand up to 25 inches and weigh up to 60 pounds.

These dogs are very active and get very hungry, which means they tend to eat too fast and can't tell when they've become full. Measure their food, and feed them twice a day to prevent overeating.

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2

Irish setter puppies need basic training and socialization

Happy smiling Irish Setter dog lying in the park Wavetop / Getty Images

Irish setters are extremely friendly and energetic dogs. Training is important for these enthusiastic dogs to keep their energy levels in check. Socialization helps your puppy become accustomed to strangers and pets, preventing them from getting overstimulated by the presence of new people and animals. Basic training stops excessive jumping on strangers and curbs their urge to bark.

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3

Setters are a healthy breed

irish setter dog running along a path Michael Sugrue / Getty Images

The Irish setter breed has a relatively healthy body. As with all deep-chested dogs, this breed can develop sudden bloating, but avoiding exercise around mealtime can reduce the likelihood of bloat. Other things your vet will need to screen for are hip dysplasia, eye disorders, and thyroid issues.

Irish setters also need their owners to take special care of their teeth and ears. Use a dog toothpaste to brush their teeth regularly, and check their ears regularly for infections.

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4

Irish setters are a high-energy breed

Irish Setter Swimming in a lake with a stick Carl & Ann Purcell / Getty Images

The Irish setter is a very active dog. They need at least an hour of exercise every single day, so many owners combine their dog's exercise with their own. People who have an active lifestyle enjoy their setter's company on long runs and hiking trails. Playtime is an excellent way to bond with your dog and burn some energy off at the same time. Some great toys to use with your setter are balls and throwing discs. Setters love the chase, and short sprints are great for their health.

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5

Setters are sensitive creatures

Portrait of a beautiful lazy Irish Setter Wavetop / Getty Images

These dogs are very sensitive. They take harsh words and strict teaching seriously and become depressed if they spend too much time away from their family. Training is important, but positive feedback is an absolute must. Use a reward-based system for training, and encourage them with praise and pets throughout their lessons. They need a lot of attention early on and a lot of guidance on behavior. This helps them grow into happy, healthy adults.

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6

Grooming your Irish setter

Red dog running against background green grass. Shallow DOF, focus on dog. Shooting with panning. glenkar / Getty Images

An Irish setter's coat is a luxurious red, and regular grooming is needed to keep it silky and shiny. Be sure to brush your setter's coat two to three times a week, and give them a bath every so often. Nails need to be trimmed once a month, and brush their coat regularly to catch tangles and prevent mats from forming.

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7

Everybody's their friend

Woman training irish setter dog sestovic / Getty Images

The Irish setter is an amiable and social breed. They love their owners, strangers, even other pets. With proper introduction, setters will be fast friends with almost anyone.

Setters are really great with children, but they need proper training. They can get too exuberant and rough with children and other dogs. To enjoy playtime and park excursions, give your setter basic training and socialize them as puppies.

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8

A setter's adaptability

Pet relationship banner - happy puppy and adult dogs sniffing in the grass Wavetop / Getty Images

Irish setters are sensitive creatures and very high-energy. They also have a strong prey drive and need to run. They do not do well with small apartments and become anxious when left home alone for long periods of time. They are also very emotionally receptive; they can tell if something is bothering you and will try to comfort you with their favorite toys or a loving snuggle on the couch.

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9

Preferred sport training

Irish Setter on agility course, over the bar jump s5iztok / Getty Images

Irish setters are an intelligent breed. They need mental stimulation and lots of playtime. This translates well into sport training. Agility, fly ball, dock diving, rally, and tracking training are great ways to keep your dog mentally stimulated and physically active. Their intelligence makes them very easy to train, and they adore working hard and playing games. They can get bored easily, so use positive reinforcement and change things up to entertain them.

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10

Setters make great therapy dogs

Playtime with an Irish setter

The warm nature and emotional sensitivity of Irish setters make them well-suited as therapy dogs. Many setters who have become too old to continue sports become therapy dogs at hospitals and other care facilities. They are very gentle and open with strangers and love to make people happy. Irish setters have sweet eyes, a happy smile, and are sensitive to other's feelings.

sestovic / Getty Images

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