Exclusively Setters

Home for Irish Setter Lovers Around the World

Hello everyone,

I've joined this forum to find out more about the Irish setter. We are considering getting a second dog to be a companion for our working line labrador and were wondering whether an Irish setter would be a good breed for us.

I know very little about this breed and have a number of questions I would like to ask.

I know that setters are gundogs, but what exactly were they originally they bred to do? 

Our labrador is very calm indoors but full of energy outdoors; are Irish Setters similar?

Are Irish Setters easy to train? What is their recall like?

I saw some beautiful Irish Setters at a busy dog event; they were very calm and were not at all phased by the noise and the many people stroking them. Is this calm temperament typical?

I read in a handout from this dog event not to believe people when they say Irish Setters are mad; why were Irish Setters given that label and is there any truth in it?

I understand there working and show lines of Irish Setters? Do they differ in similar ways to working and show line labradors?

Do Irish Setters shed a lot?


What are the pros and cons of owning an Irish Setter as a pet?

Sorry for so many questions! Thank you for reading my post! Laura :-)                        

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Thank you! A dog is a commitment and we want to know what to expect from a particular breed.

Laura - for answers to many of our your health questions please have a look at our website www.seisc.co.uk and it's sister site www.irishsetterhealth.info which has much general information on Irish Setters and will answer you specific queries about hereditary problems

Visit the Irish Setter Breeders Club site and the Irish Setter Ireland and UK both of which will alert you to the health conditions, this club has a puppy register and the breeders there will be conscientous breeders.   There is night blindness and late onset blindness and it is known as PRcd.   I believe that the Kennel Club will not allow puppies to be registered unless the breeder has conformed and had their stock checked.  The Animal Health Trust have been great supporters in identifying genes responsible for this particular condition.  I am not sure about the working side of the breed because they are different bloodlines but no doubt things like hip dysplasia, entropian, epilepsy etc probably show their ugly heads.   Also don't forget rescue.   There are lovely dogs of different ages that need to be loved by responsible caring people who own working labs!!!!   Check them out, you may have to wait but it is well worth investigating.  

Thank you, Georgina for those suggestions and the health information.

Funnily enough, I was thinking about rescue. I still haven't decided that an Irish Setter is the dog for us. However, I was thinking it would be nice to have a bitch to go with our dog. Our dog is entire and it is unlikely that we're going to have him neutered (for a variety of considered reasons). If we had a rescue dog, it would be spayed. Also, we would know what the adult personality was like.

Can you recommend any rescue organisations?



Hi, Irish Setter Breeders Club and Irish Setter Rescue and this particular one can be seen on the Irish Setter UK and Ireland  site which is very good because it is regularly updated and has lots of interesting items.

The secretary of the ISBC  is Phil Cater 01487 830138 and Maureen Hurll 01787 248143 organises the Irish Setter rescue, they will give you the third degree but their main concern will be the welfare of the dogs.    If you decide to have a bitch that has been spayed remember to ask if there are any incontience issues because it can be a major problem.  Have a look at the "neuturing blog" and you will see lots of comments that are interesting.   I have a """"minature"""" setter in the shape of a working cocker and she is intelligent, biddable, pretty and consequently everybody's best friend.  She is black and white, I couldn't quite bring myself to have a red or golden.   I am so pleased that you are being cautious because if you commit to another dog whatever breed and it's a renegade because some stupid person has confused it, it's unbalanced personality could adversley disturb your lab.

I have read that Irish Setters are 'hunters'. Could you tell me a bit more about this drive? Obviously with training an animal can be controlled, but do they have a instinctual hunting drive? e.g. chasing after animals? More-so than some other breeds?

Irish setters will find game often ground liviing birds and point when given the command they will rush forward  putting the bird to flight.On one occasion she chased a fox into long grass .My daughter told me that our one actually caught a duck but did not know what to do with it and released it.She also caught  a cod fillet in mid air when a drunk stumbled .She did not release the cod. A word of caution on health testing. The main problems that are tested for are conditions that threatened the breed.Dogs going blind at 18 months for example. There are not tests for  everything. Health problems can spring up from a lack of genetic diversity. The Kennel Club has recently refused registration of close relation matings and limited the number of litters a bitch can have and at what ages.At the moment there is no limit on the number of litters a stud dog can father..Would we have another one?  yes if we have space .look at the other forums. Coi for example

Hi Laura, welcome to the site, as you will ahve seen we are all very devoted to our breed!!! I am rather a novice owner but am at present on my 4th Irish...I had always wanted one.....they are all very different characters!!! I can only tell you what mine are like if it helps!! Merlin my eldest is 6yrs old, he is and always has been quite an aloof boy, he ahs that regal irish setter mind set....I have someone to do that for me, and is quite a couch potatoe indoors....all mine are from show lines, all different breeders lol!! Merlin is always VERY enthusiastic about everything, he loves to chase and has chased deer frequently, birds and rabbits, he caught a pigeon once but didn't know what to do with it!! He adores people,.more than other dogs especially children and goes up t and leans on everybody!! His forte is agility, it gives him the outlet he needs for his energy level. I ahve done the bronze and silver good citizen with him...during the classes he constantly played the fool but on the day of the tests he was perfect...this is typical setter behaviour I think!!!


Harry my middle boy is 31/2, very lazy, not a morning person at all, loves to be patted and petted, loves to eet other dogs but although friendly to people can take them or leave them.....recall hs always been a problem with him from day one...he is JUST about ok now but if somehting else catches his eye, he is gone and will come back when HE is ready!! He comes from good lines and we do show him but he si very lazy in the ring and just doesn't WANT to run!!


We also have George who is 5 months now.....one thing no one has mentioned yet I think, George is a very fussy eater and the irish can be, my others have all more or less been ok but not this one lol!!  He is very sweet though and a joy, he is very playful and naughty, they are great counter surfers some of them though!!  He is very curious like most puppies and loves everyone!!


We also had Jack who sadly died...someone has mentioned megaesophagus (MO) and Jack had this...he was poorly all his life but he didn't know that and of the four we have had was the one with most character, he could escape most places, learning how to undo doors and the baby gate, he drank from the water butt and was a "talker" and yes he stole the xmas turkey sharing it with the cat!! he was a very nervous boy, mostly due to all the tests he had done etc but was the most affectionate lovely boy


I hope this gives you a little insight!! They are beautiful wonderful dogs and very addictive, good luck and hope you do get one!!

Hi Laura,

Welcome to ES!

I know everyone pretty much covered every point you ask, but I couldn't resist on adding my opinion on our reds!
I have 2 girls, aged 5 (almost!!!) and 3. They are from mixed lines, so I'm not the best person to tell you the diferences in the two lines....
From my little experience with the breed, here's what I can tell you: They are full of energy, will run for hours if you let them, and still look like they have not let out any energy at all. But I can tell you my girls go unnoticed indoors. If someone arrives, they get up, greet them and go back to their little beds. They sometimes play indoors, but even then it's a quiet and calm way of playing. My secret to this is, of course, letting them burn out their energy on a daily basis. If you don't exercise them, you'll find out why they are called mad!

I'm not expert on dog training, but I found setters could be a bit hard to train - however, if you take the time to convince them that waht YOU want is in fact what they want, they will do anything and will do it faster than most dogs I know! You just need to find the perfect reward! Recall is a tricky thing to get in their brains, but it's not impossible at all!!! I'm able to recall my girls if they are chasing a rabbit! ( so yes, at least mine like to chase rabits and birds)

As for their coats, they are gorgeous and soft as everyone has described them but... Mine almost don't shed! Maybe I'm  just lucky, or my method of "quick brush after a field run" works perfectly for them - I rarely find traces of their coats in my home.

They are the perfect pets: loving and loyal, very sensitive and always trying to keep everyone happy around them, but you need to be ready for some nerve recking days in puppyhood, because they can be quite... well, setterish! You'll find yourself furious and wanting to correct them, but then take a second look at the goofy setter in front of you and all you can do is laugh!

I would take the proper time and atention to find out all the health issues with the breed - there are a few. But don't be alarmed by them, just look for the right breeder, with proper health concerns and you are very likely to find a perfect and healthy red devil that suits you!

Me again; Setters don't have the will to please as Retrievers have. Retrievers work very close and precise with their master-Setters work much more independant and at high speed. They love to run and run and run, off lead they will run across woods& fields and only on a for them borring territory they will walk on the path, that could be a problem with farmers other walkers depending where you live and walk the dogs. For a Labrador there are mich more opportunities to run free, as a setter owner you have to scan the area for live stock first, but free running is a must to offer because that is when they are really happy, daydreaming on walks -you can forget it with a setter. They are passionate in whatever they do and have a real zest of life. They go on very well with
Other dogs and love the company of other setters. All but one of mine were mucj loved school dogs, they love humans. As youngsters they destroy a lot, but as adults they are wonderful at home, they love to lay a bit up, sofas, beds whatever most important they are near their loved ones. I don't think they shed a lot and they don't have a doggy smell. Setters are free spirits and many want too much from them too young, they need patient owners who love them as they are, I saw some very obidient Irish but they don't have the little devil sparkle in their eyes anymore - for me a somehow sad sign. They need a "slave" or servant not a master, someone who lives to make it possible that they can live a life full of speed, passion and in the evenings they need much cuddling!!

Even with all their faults they are wonderful dogs!

If the setter does something then use it in his training.Arthur dropped his ball by my feet(a first) so I gave him a reward and now,75% of the time, he returns the ball,even without a treat.

They are different to other dogs in many ways, as you will have gathered from these posts.

They are great fun .

Can I say a massive thank you to you all. You've provided me with so much useful information and useful links that I have a lot to read about and digest now. Thank you for all your recounts and anecdotes about your individual dogs. Thanks to your descriptions, I'm getting a feel for this breed.

We were lucky with our lab in that he was born with perfect recall and although loves running off and is exhuberant outdoors, always keeps us in sight and returns to us before bombing off again (I don't think this is necessarily typical of lab behaviour). He ignores the big wildlife in the New Forest (ponies, cows) but will chase a squirrel if he sees one. I'll have a good think about the Irish Setter and its natural way of being. I think Irish Setters are very beautiful (I loved the one my uncle had on his farm when I was a child) and I do like the idea of a people-friendly animal that fully enjoys running outdoors but I need to think carefully about whether I will be able to control such an animal and whether its need to zoom off into the distance and possibly chase livestock will fit on with the walks we have with our lab.

Lots to read about and consider. :-)

I think I need to go on a walk with some Irish Setters to see how they are.




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