One of the Irish Setter's most distinguishing characteristics is her flowing, shiny coat. While most all long-haired breeds are prone to tangling or matting at least once in a while, for whatever reason it seems to be a much more prevalent problem for the Irish Setter. Besides the normal grooming practices that should be employed for all breeds, the Setter's coat can be affected by a much wider range of influences. For that reason, it's important to take a few extra considerations into mind when caring for your dog's coat and appearance.
First and foremost in maintaining the proper look for an Irish Setter's coat is good nutrition. The shiny look of the coat is highly dependent upon a diet balanced with both protein and fat, and overlooking either will cause the coat to become lackluster and unmanageable. In addition, good nutrition is essential for fighting off parasites and other diseases that will have a detrimental appearance on your dog's coat even if everything else is in order.
Your Irish Setter's environment will also play a large part in his or her appearance. If he or she spends a lot of time around children who play rough, it's probably that they're stripping a lot of the Setter's coat just in the course of normal activity. His or her trips outside can also prove hazardous if he or she comes into contact with a lot of brush or sharp grasses that cut or tear bald patches into the coat. It's important to take preventative measures against this sort of abuse. One method of protection might include acclimating your Setter to wearing a t-shirt or some other type of cloth covering when he or she is exercising or playing with children.
Because the Irish Setter's coat is so unique, so too are the requirements for grooming him or her. What works for one Setter might not for another, so it's important to experiment and change both your tools and the frequency of your grooming until you find the combination that works perfectly for you. You'll likely need to use an assortment of brushes, including a sharper more coarse bristled one for getting rid of mats and tangles and a lighter one for smoothing the overall coat once it's been combed out. There are many different shampoos available on the market as well, so you'll need to be aware of which ones will improve the look of and which ones will ruin your Setter's coat. In general, shampoos that contain coal tar and harsher conditioning agents are no good. It's best to use a milder shampoo and a separate conditioner, such as an oatmeal-based product.
With the Irish Setter, it's important to remain vigilant and aware of all the potential hazards that could harm the appearance of his or her coat. Many times, simply going through a normal day of eating, playing, and exercising will be murder on a coat. With a few precautionary measures though, you should be able to maintain a glistening, flowing coat without depriving your Setter of any of the activities that he or she has come to enjoy.