The Irish Red and White Setter has actually taken a backseat to the more popular all red Irish Setter, although they were originally developed from the same foundation stock and breeds. This is not a color variation on the Irish Setter; the two breeds have been separate and different for hundreds of years, resulting in a different breed standard as well as a truly different dog.
The Irish Red and White Setter continues to be primarily bred as a field or sporting dog, which means that they have not been bred as much for appearance. The Irish Setter, while there are still field lines, is more commonly now bred as a show dog or companion dog, leading to a heavier, longer and leggier version of the original breed in Ireland. Most researchers accept that the Irish Red and White is actually the older of the two breeds and that they have been continually bred for enhancing the natural hunting instincts and enhancing their performance in the field.
Although long seen as a gundog in Ireland and the United Kingdom, the Irish Red and White was only accepted into the American Kennel Club in January of 2009. The breed was almost extinct due to the massive popularity of the Irish Setter, however dedicated breeders in Ireland and the United Kingdom managed to sustain the breed and increase awareness and understanding of the exceptional qualities of this outstanding hunting dog.
The Irish Red and White, not surprisingly, only has one color option. This is a solid white background with varying degrees of red patches on the body and the head. Flecking on the face, paws and legs is possible but these areas cannot be roan in coloration, which is an equal mixture of red and white hairs. Flecking is small patches of solid red hairs in a white background. The solid red patches on the body, upper legs, tail and head have to be clearly defined and bright in color without roaning or blending of the white and red hairs around the patches.
The coat of the Irish Red and White Setter is similar in length and texture to that of the Irish Setter bred in the United Kingdom and shorter than that of the American Irish Setter. The coat is longer and silky through the feathering which is along the underside of the dog, on the backs of the front and hind legs as well as on the underside of the tail. Males will be slightly larger than females with a weight of 70 pounds and a height of 26 inches, females at about 60 pounds and a height of 24 inches. Smaller dogs and females are acceptable in show standards. Field dogs are typically within this range although they are not faulted for being slightly taller or heavier or shorter or lighter. The Irish Red and White Setter should never appear to be slight, rather they are muscular and strong in appearance at all times.
This particular breed of gundog can be a bit more challenging to train than other hunting dogs. They have a high level of distractibility as puppies that makes it difficult for them to focus their instincts on what the hunter is asking them to do. Once they are trained they are devoted dogs that can use their natural problem solving skills and abilities in the field with remarkable results. They are very dedicated hunters but not aggressive dogs by nature, making them a good match for other dogs and even cats in the family.
Irish Red and White Setters will need firm and positive training methods and short training periods surrounded by lots of activity for the puppy. They will need routine socialization to prevent them from becoming protective or timid around other dogs, but a well socialized Red and White is an outstanding companion dog that can adjust well to new people, places and animals. Positive training methods must be used with this breed as negative treatment will result in a cowed and timid dog. Children should be involved in obedience work with the dog once the command is mastered by the puppy or dog. They may be challenging to train to work on a leash however they will run and track if not on a leash outside of a fenced area, posing a potential safety hazard until fully obedience trained.
These dogs are perhaps the most high spirited of the setter group and they are very playful and affectionate all through their lives. They are ideal with children that are active, but may be too rambunctious and high energy for smaller children. The Irish Red and White is absolutely not a guard dog and most are very timid around new people until they are introduced and get to know that person. They are prone to sudden bursts of energy and clownishness which makes them a great dog for a family that wants a high energy breed.
The Irish Red and White Setter is not a good breed for people living in an apartment or those without a yard. They need to have several hours outdoors to run and play each day, plus ideally at least two long, brisk walks or jogs a day as well. They are great dogs for hikers, campers and those that are outdoors, and they are also suited for almost any type of climate. Although they can be outdoor dogs they are so affectionate and loving that they prefer to be indoors with the family whenever possible. They are not considered a good match as a kennel dog because they do need human interaction on a regular basis to be happy. They are great farm dogs or for people with large, open areas or dog off-leash parks where they can regularly visit. The Irish Red and White loves the water and is an avid swimmer and water retriever.
The silky feathered coat of the Irish Red and White needs routine, daily or every other day grooming. They are average shedders year round but the feathering does tend to tangle and mat without daily or other day grooming. The ears need to be checked for signs of infection and all hair should be removed to prevent irritation. As with all dogs bred for water work they should not be bathed unless absolutely necessary as the shampoo will strip the natural oils from the hair.
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