An Irish Setter is one of the most beautiful dogs with its rich, red colored coat, beautiful fringed coat, pendant type flowing tail and regal appearance. However they are also goofy, playful and highly affectionate dogs that are wonderful companions and outstanding family dogs. Owning an Irish Setter is a true joy, providing the dog itself is a good match for the family. As with any breed not everyone should own an Irish Setter, as they are definitely not a low maintenance breed.
To decide if an Irish Setter is the best match for you and your family, consider the following questions. These questions, and more specifically your answers, will help you evaluate your ability to match your life to the needs of these unique dogs.
1. Do you want to have a very large dog that really thinks he or she is a house dog ?
Although the Irish Setter is a large breed, and often appears larger because of the longer, flowing coat, the breed really thinks they are a tiny housedog. An Irish Setter is not a breed that thrives in a kennel or as an outside dog. They have been bred to be companion dogs as well as hunting dogs, and were considered to be part of the family when used as hunting dogs in the rural areas of Ireland.
The modern Irish Setter has been further bred from a hunting dog into a true show champion and companion. However, even the hunting lines of Irish Setters are still dogs that need to be around people more than they are left on their own. The ideal family situation for an Irish Setter is a family that is very active outdoors and that wants a larger sized dog indoors whenever people are home.
2. Are you prepared to have a very active, very energetic and very playful puppy and adult dog?
The Irish Setter is not a breed of dog that is recommended for anyone living in an apartment or a home with a small yard. These dogs need regular room to run and play, without this they can become very hyperactive and destructive indoors. The well exercised and trained Irish Setter is not at all like this, but their boundless energy has to be used up somehow if not in positive ways.
The Irish Setter can be a bit of a bull in a china shop when they are puppies. They are impulsive dogs that are spontaneous in their play, proving a true delight for their owners. However they can also be rather rough on furniture and the house and have to be taught in a positive and firm manner that rough play is for outdoors only. By having a large yard or living in the country the dog has enough time outside that they are naturally calmer and more settled in the house.
3. Are you prepared to have a dog that requires daily grooming and is a moderate shedder year round, with a heavier seasonal shed?
Hunting lines of Irish Setters tend to have shorter coats, however both the show and hunting lines do require regular grooming. The silkier hair is prone to matting and tangling as well as trapping debris such as sticks, grass and even burrs, so daily grooming is essential for dogs that are outside even a short amount of time. Grooming routines are typically very enjoyable as the dogs love the attention and the time spent with their owners.
Starting puppies off with a daily grooming program is a great way to bond with the dog and establish a 5-10 minute program. The ears should be examined for any signs of infection or wax build up and the long hair around the feet and between the toes needs to be clipped and checked to prevent irritations of the feet between the pads.
4. Do you want a dog that is very friendly and gets along with everyone once they are considered a friend to the family?
Some Irish Setters will bark a greeting to people and other animals approaching the property, but they are not at all good guard dogs and some are not really good at being watch dogs either. They are simply too friendly and fun loving to be seen as a threat by anyone. As long as they have been socialized even a moderate amount with other dogs they are very low in aggression, most tend to be more submissive than dominant when meeting new dogs.
The Irish Setter gets along fantastically with children and they thrive on the attention children provide them. They may, however, not respond well to commands given by children unless the kids are working with the dog in obedience work. This is because the dog sees the child as a lower standing than they are within the family unit. Parents can help the children learn how to establish themselves as leaders in a very positive way with the dog.
5. Are you prepared to commit to providing daily attention and time with the dog and to ensure they are obedience trained?
A very intelligent dog, the Irish Setter is not always the easiest dog to train. They do strive very hard to please their owners, but like all hunting breeds they are slightly independent, especially between the ages of about a year to two years. At this point they are testing the leadership abilities of the owner, and will require firm and consistent training, lots of exercise, as well as lots of time for bonding.
An Irish Setter that doesn't get regular attention in a positive way is smart enough to figure out how to get it in a negative way. This can sometimes include destructive behaviors, whining or barking, or simply ignoring their owners altogether. Well socialized, trained and loved Irish Setters don't display these characteristics, but they are slightly independent at times and can be highly distractible, especially if they are bored with a repetitive type of training routine.