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Irish Setter Temperament: Shine bright with love

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In the world of canine companions, few breeds possess the charm, elegance, and endearing personality of the Irish Setter. With their striking red coats, exuberant energy, and affectionate disposition, Irish Setters have endeared themselves to dog lovers around the globe. But what exactly defines the temperament of these majestic dogs, and is an Irish Setter the right fit for your lifestyle?

In this comprehensive exploration of the Irish Setter breed, we'll delve into their fascinating history, uncover their distinctive temperament traits, address common questions about their compatibility with other pets, training ease, and hypoallergenic qualities. Additionally, we'll provide insights into popular Irish Setter names, potential health concerns, and reputable breeders for those considering welcoming an Irish Setter into their home.

So, whether you're already a devoted Irish Setter enthusiast or on the cusp of making an informed decision about your next canine companion, join us on this journey through the world of the Irish Setter. Let's uncover these dogs' heartwarming and spirited characters and discover if they are the perfect addition to your family.

Table of Contents

Irish Setter History: Where are Irish Setters from?

Let's journey into the fascinating history of Irish Setters - where they hail from and how they've evolved over time.

The story of Irish Setters begins in the rugged moors of Ireland, where they were meticulously developed for hunting and exceptionally skilled at retrieving and pointing birds. Initially, these dogs were a mix of white and red, but at some point, they branched off into two distinct breeds: the Irish Setter and the renowned Irish Red and White Setter.

As with many breeds, a division arose between working dogs and show dogs because not everyone sought a hunting companion. Irish Setters, known for their striking appearance and bird-retrieving prowess, fall under the Gundog group, specialising in fetching various game birds like pheasants, partridges, ducks, quail, and woodcocks.

The lineage of Irish Setters is intertwined with other breeds, including the English Setter, Gordon Setter, Springer Spaniel, Pointer, and Irish Water Spaniel. These ancestors contributed to the development of today's Irish Setter, enhancing their hunting abilities.

The first mention of Setters in literature can be traced back to Caius's "De Canibus Britannicus," published in 1570. It described a dog as "serviceable for fowling, making no noise either with foot or with tongue while they follow the game." Though this may refer to the now-extinct Setting Spaniel, their abilities influenced the setting instincts of today's Setters.

By 1845, according to William Youatt, a veterinary surgeon and animal welfare writer, Irish Setters came in various colours, including red, red and white, lemon, or white patched with deep chestnut. This hints that some dogs already had solid red coats, which would later become their signature look.

There was an ongoing debate about whether these red-coated Setters blended too easily into the environment or if they remained unseen by game birds. Hunters often added a bandana around the Irish Setters neck to be sure not to shoot their precious dog accidentally.

The rich, deep red coat that defines Irish Setters today owes its existence to William Cole, the 3rd Earl of Enniskillen. Noblemen often played crucial roles in developing working dog breeds; this Earl was no exception.

Irish Setter Temperament
The Irish Setter has a distinctive red coat which is the only allowed colour for Kennel Club registrations.

In the mid-19th century, he selectively bred Irish Setters for their distinctive red coat and elegant appearance.

These dogs quickly gained popularity and significantly contributed to defining the breed's characteristics as we recognise them today. His dedication to breeding and promoting Irish Setters left an enduring mark on their development.

In 1882, the Irish Red Setter Club was established in Dublin, further solidifying the breed's presence. The United Kingdom Kennel Club officially recognised the breed in 1908 by sanctioning the first breed standard.

However, in the 1940s, a severe threat loomed over the Irish Setter as Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) nearly pushed the breed to extinction. Thankfully, advances in DNA testing breathed new life into the breed, helping to eradicate the disease.

Today, Irish Setters continue to enchant us with their striking red coats and boundless enthusiasm for the great outdoors, a testament to their enduring legacy.

The registrations of Irish Setters with the UK Kennel Club show a consistent and positive trend. In 2022, a total of 825 registrations were recorded, demonstrating a strong interest in this beautiful breed. In Q1 2023, with 151 registrations, it's clear that the Irish Setter's popularity continues to endure.

Q1 2022

Q2 2022

Q3 2022

Q4 2022

2022 Total

Q1 2023







Source: updated October 2023

Now that we have learnt about their history, let's look at the temperament of the Irish Setter.

What is the Temperament of the Irish Setter?

The Irish Setter's temperament presents an intriguing blend of contrasting traits. On one hand, these dogs exude grace and elegance; on the other, they can display moments of impulsiveness and playfulness.

Originally bred to be both demonstrably affectionate and serious working dogs, Irish Setters uniquely embody a balance of these characteristics. Their sweet and loving nature shines through, forging strong bonds with their human companions.

Irish Setters are playful and often retain puppy-like enthusiasm well into adulthood. They enjoy games and activities with their owners.

This breed is exceptionally social and enjoys interacting with people, making it a delightful addition to households seeking a canine companion that thrives on human interaction. Whether within the family unit or meeting new faces, the Irish Setter's friendly disposition shines through. They have an inherent warmth and approachability that often makes them known as "people dogs."

When properly socialised, Irish Setters are known for their naturally affectionate and cheerful demeanour, and they should not exhibit aloofness towards other dogs or people. This breed thrives in the company of those who share their optimistic outlook on life.

Nervousness or shyness is not characteristic of their breed. Socialisation entails exposing them to various dogs, people of all ages, and different environmental settings.

Irish Setter Temperament
The Irish Setter wouldn't make a good guard dog.

Due to their inherently friendly nature, Irish Setters are not well-suited to be guard dogs.

However, their keen attention to detail enables them to serve as capable watchdogs, alerting their owners when someone approaches the house.

Given their exuberant energy levels, Irish Setters necessitate ample space to roam freely, ideally within a securely fenced backyard. These dogs are not particularly well-suited to urban environments, and potential owners should seriously contemplate suburban or rural areas when considering an Irish Setter.

Meeting the needs of an Irish Setter involves daily exercises that stimulate both their minds and bodies, ranging from structured walks to engaging in canine sports. Owners interested in gundog training will find this breed particularly well-suited, as the Irish Setter excels as a versatile bird dog and participates in various canine sports.

Recognising and wholeheartedly embracing their dog's requirement for physical activity is paramount for Irish Setter owners to ensure the well-being and contentment of their beloved companions.

The Irish Setter is a good choice for first-time dog owners, thanks to their affectionate nature and strong desire to please. Positive reinforcement training methods are particularly well-suited to this breed.

When training an Irish Setter, keep sessions short and enjoyable, as their attention span can be limited. While they are intelligent dogs, Irish Setters can also demonstrate independent thinking, which may necessitate patience and consistent training efforts to ensure their unwavering responsiveness to commands.

The Irish Setter is an excellent companion for families with children, as they are known for their compatibility with youngsters and ability to keep pace with them energetically. However, it's important to note that their exuberance can sometimes lead to boisterous play that may inadvertently result in a child being knocked over.

While their enthusiasm is a testament to their affection for children, teaching the dog and the child about appropriate play and interaction can help ensure a safe and enjoyable relationship between them.

While these three primary temperament traits—friendliness, energy, and affection—define the Irish Setter, it's essential to recognise that individual dogs may exhibit personality variations.

Early socialisation and consistent training are crucial to help shape their behaviour and ensure they develop into well-adjusted and balanced pets.

In conclusion, the Irish Setter's temperament is a harmonious blend of friendliness, energy, playfulness, and affection. Their social nature, high activity level, and boundless love make them wonderful companions for those who appreciate an engaging and loving canine presence in their lives.

When embraced and nurtured by responsible owners, these qualities create a bond and connection that exemplify the best of canine-human relationships.

Irish Setters are not only known for their stunning red coats but also their captivating personalities, making them cherished members of countless households around the world.

Let's now have a look at some common Irish Setter questions.

Are Irish Setters hypoallergenic?

No, Irish Setters are not considered hypoallergenic due to their moderate shedding throughout the year, which can lead to allergenic dander in their fur. Their beautiful, silky coat, characterised by its rich, deep-red colour, is indeed eye-catching but also a potential source of allergens.

Irish Setters shed more noticeably during the spring and autumn seasons when they blow their coat in preparation for the season. This shedding pattern can exacerbate allergic reactions in individuals sensitive to pet dander.

To manage allergies when living with an Irish Setter and minimise allergic reactions, consider the following tips:

Irish Setter Temperament
Irish Setters are not considered hypoallergenic.

Regular Brushing: Brush your Irish Setter's coat a few times weekly to help remove loose hair and minimise shedding. Use a high-quality, allergy-friendly brush to capture and contain the hair and dander.

Bathing: Give your dog a regular bath using a hypoallergenic dog shampoo. This can help reduce the amount of allergenic proteins present in their fur.

Clean Living Environment: Maintain a clean and allergen-free living space by vacuuming frequently with a vacuum cleaner equipped with a HEPA filter. This can help capture airborne allergens and reduce allergen buildup.

Air Purifiers: Invest money in an air purifier with a HEPA filter to trap airborne allergens and improve indoor air quality.

Wash Bedding: Regularly wash your Irish Setter's bedding, toys, and any other items they frequently come into contact with. Using hot water and allergen-reducing laundry detergent can help remove allergens effectively.

Limit Allergen Exposure: Designate specific areas of your home as pet-free zones to reduce allergen exposure in particular areas.

Consult an Allergist: If you have severe allergies, consult an allergist for a comprehensive assessment. They can recommend appropriate allergy medications or immunotherapy (allergy shots) to help manage your symptoms.

While these strategies can help minimise allergic reactions, it's important to remember that no method can eliminate allergens associated with pets. However, with careful management, you can create a more comfortable and allergy-friendly environment while enjoying the companionship of your Irish Setter.

Are Irish Setters good with cats?

Irish Setters can get along well with cats, but their temperament and socialisation play a significant role in how they interact with other animals, including cats.

The Irish Setter Temperament is generally friendly and affable towards humans and other animals. They were bred to be friendly hunting companions.

Here are some considerations when considering an Irish Setter and cat relationship:

Socialisation: Proper socialisation from a young age is essential. Early exposure to cats and positive interactions can help your Irish Setter develop a more tolerant and friendly attitude towards them.

Energy Level: Irish Setters are known for their high energy levels and playful nature. Some cats may find their exuberance overwhelming, so it's important to supervise their interactions, especially initially.

Prey Drive: Irish Setters have a natural hunting instinct, and some individuals may have a strong prey drive. This instinct can lead to chasing behaviour, which may not be well-received by a cat.

Training: Consistent training and obedience commands can help control your Irish Setter's behaviour around cats. Commands like "leave it" and "stay" can help manage interactions.

Individual Personality: Every dog is unique, so it's essential to consider your Irish Setter's specific personality. Some may be more laid-back and accepting of cats, while others may be more excitable.

Supervision: Until you're confident in their behaviour around cats, it's crucial to supervise interactions. Use baby gates or other barriers if needed to separate them when unsupervised.

Positive Reinforcement: Reward your Irish Setter for calm and respectful behaviour around the cat.

Positive reinforcement can reinforce good behaviour and discourage any unwanted actions.

Ultimately, successful coexistence between an Irish Setter and a cat depends on their personalities, early socialisation, and training. While many Irish Setters can live harmoniously with cats, it's essential to be patient, monitor their interactions, and create a safe environment for both pets. Always prioritise their safety and well-being when introducing or allowing them to interact.

Are Irish Setters easy to train?

Irish Setters are intelligent and eager to please, which can make them trainable. However, they also have a strong independent streak and can be easily distracted due to their high energy levels and enthusiasm for exploring their surroundings.

This combination of intelligence and independence means that training an Irish Setter can be rewarding and challenging.

Here are some factors to consider:

Positive Reinforcement: Irish Setters respond well to positive reinforcement training methods, such as praise, treats, and toys. They thrive on the attention and rewards they receive for good behaviour.

Consistency: Consistency in training is critical with Irish Setters. They can easily understand if family members' or trainers' commands and expectations are consistent.

Socialisation: Early and thorough socialisation is critical to ensure that Irish Setters are well-adjusted and comfortable in various situations and around different people and animals.

Exercise: Irish Setters have high energy levels and require daily practice to stimulate them physically and mentally. A tired dog is often more receptive to training.

Patience: Training an Irish Setter may require patience and persistence, as they can be strong-willed and may test boundaries.

Professional Training: Some owners enrol their Irish Setters in obedience classes or work with professional trainers to address specific behavioural issues or fine-tune their training.

In summary, while Irish Setters have the potential to be well-trained, they do require consistent, positive, and patient training methods. They are best suited to owners willing to invest time and effort in their training and provide them with the physical and mental stimulation they need to thrive.

Do Irish Setters bark a lot?

Irish Setters are not typically known for excessive barking. They were traditionally trained to be relatively noiseless when hunting. Their ability to work silently in the field was highly valued, and they were even disqualified from field trials if they made any sounds during the hunt, as it was seen as a severe fault in working dogs.

While they may occasionally bark in a home environment, especially to alert their owners to something unusual, they generally do not tend to be excessively vocal. Some individuals can be more excitable than others and bark during play sessions.

Individual dogs' behaviour can vary, so proper training and socialisation can play a role in managing their barking tendencies.

Gift ideas for Irish Setter lovers

Etsy has some beautiful Irish Setter lovers gifts.

Gift ideas for Irish Setter lovers #1: Irish Setter print scarf

A stylish Irish Setter-themed scarf featuring elegant illustrations of this beloved breed, perfect for keeping warm while showcasing your passion for these graceful dogs.

Gift Ideas for Irish Setter Lover

Etsy: Irish Setter Printed Scarf

Gift ideas for Irish Setter lovers #2: Irish Setter Wooden Coaster

Elevate the coffee or tea experience for the Irish Setter enthusiast with these beautifully crafted Irish Setter wooden coasters.

Gift ideas for Irish Setter lovers #3: Christmas Irish Setter hanging decoration

Add a touch of Irish Setter charm to your holiday decor with this exquisite wool-felted Christmas ornament, a must-have for any devoted Irish Setter lover's tree.

Gift ideas for Irish Setter lovers #4: Irish Setter House Number

Elevate the entrance of any Irish Setter lover's home with this stunning metal Irish Setter house number, a perfect blend of elegance and canine devotion.

Gift ideas for Irish Setter lovers #5: Irish Setter Metal Wall Art

Illuminate your love for Irish Setters with this captivating metal wall art featuring built-in lighting, a striking addition to any Irish Setter enthusiast's home decor.

Gift ideas for Irish Setter lovers #6: Wooden Chopping Board

Add a touch of Irish Setter elegance to your kitchen with this exquisite wooden chopping board, the perfect gift for the Irish Setter lover who enjoys both cooking and canine companionship.

Gift ideas for Irish Setter lovers #7: Irish Setter Calendar 2024

Stay delighted all year round with this charming Irish Setter calendar, a wonderful gift for every Irish Setter enthusiast who adores these graceful dogs.

Irish Setter Temperament in a Nutshell

Irish Setter Temperament
The Irish Setter is energetic and playful dogs.
  • Friendly and Affectionate: Irish Setters are known for their friendly and affectionate nature. They often form strong bonds with their human family members and enjoy being part of the household.

  • Energetic and Playful: They have high energy levels and a playful disposition, making them great companions for active individuals and families. They love engaging in games and outdoor activities.

  • Social and Outgoing: Irish Setters are social dogs and generally get along well with people and other pets when properly socialised. They are often described as "people dogs" because they love human interaction.

  • Intelligent and Independent Thinkers: While intelligent, they can also be independent thinkers, which may require consistent training and patience to ensure they respond to commands.

  • Child-Friendly: Irish Setters are known for their compatibility with children. They can easily match kids' energy levels and are generally gentle and patient with them, making them excellent family pets.

Top 10 Female Irish Setter Names

Top 10 Male Irish Setter Names

Potential health issues in the Irish Setter breed

If you're a proud owner of an Irish Setter, it's essential to be on top of the potential health issues this breed might face despite its generally good health reputation. You'll want to keep up with regular research and stay in touch with breeders or veterinarians to stay informed.

Now, when it comes to finances, it's a smart move to be prepared. Veterinary bills can pile up quickly in case of health concerns. So, ensure you have a budget for routine check-ups and be ready for unexpected costs related to genetic predispositions or accidents.

Considering pet insurance is a proactive step to ease potential financial stress. It offers peace of mind, ensuring your Irish Setter gets the necessary care without breaking the bank.

The below issues have been linked with the Irish Setter breed:

Canine Leukocyte Adhesion Deficiency (CLAD): a genetic disorder that can affect Irish Setters. CLAD is an inherited condition that affects the immune system. Dogs with CLAD have a deficiency in specific white blood cells, specifically the neutrophils, which are essential for fighting off bacterial infections. Breeders can conduct genetic testing to identify carriers of the CLAD gene and make informed breeding decisions to prevent the transmission of the disorder to offspring.

Gastric Dilation Volvulus (GVD) or Bloat: Serious concern in Irish Setters due to their deep-chested build. This condition can become life-threatening rapidly, making it essential for Irish Setter owners to be vigilant about feeding practices and exercise routines and recognise early signs to seek immediate veterinary care if suspected.

Epilepsy: A neurological disorder that can affect Irish Setters, leading to recurrent seizures. While the exact cause remains unclear, responsible breeding practices and regular veterinary monitoring can help manage this condition in the breed.

Hip Dysplasia: Hip dysplasia is a relatively common orthopaedic issue in purebred dogs, characterised by improper hip joint development, which can lead to pain and reduced mobility in affected dogs. Responsible breeders perform hip screenings to reduce the risk of hip dysplasia in their breeding lines.

Entropion: An ocular condition occasionally seen in Irish Setters where the eyelids roll inward, causing discomfort as the eyelashes rub against the eye's surface.

Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA): This leads to a gradual retina degeneration, eventually causing blindness, making regular eye examinations crucial to identify and manage this condition.

Alabama Rot: A rare but severe disease affecting dogs, has been reported in Irish Setters. It can lead to skin lesions and kidney damage.

Liver Shunt: Portosystemic Shunt is a rare but severe condition that can affect Irish Setters. It involves abnormal blood flow in the liver, leading to various health issues, making early diagnosis and veterinary intervention critical for affected dogs.

It's all about giving your Irish Setter regular check-ups, dental care, and a healthy diet. These are the building blocks of their well-being. Being a responsible pet owner means you're committed to caring for your pup's health and wallet.

So, staying informed and having a financial plan is the game's name. It's what responsible pet parenting is all about! It ensures your Irish Setter enjoys a long, happy, and healthy life right by your side.

Reputable Irish Setter breeders in the UK

The following Clubs can help if you are searching for a puppy or want to learn more about the breed.

Irish Setter Fun facts

In 1878, the American Kennel Club officially registered the first Irish Setter, a distinguished canine named Admiral. This began a growing community of Irish Setter enthusiasts across the United States.

Among these dedicated owners, a few notable mentions include King Timahoe, cherished by President Richard Nixon, and Mike, the loyal companion of President Harry Truman. These presidential associations further underscored the breed's popularity and endearing presence in American homes.

Is the Irish Setter the right dog breed for me?

Irish Setter Temperament
The Irish Setter is an excellent choice for a first-time owner.

In conclusion, the Irish Setter is a magnificent breed with a unique combination of beauty, energy, and intelligence.

However, determining if the Irish Setter is the right breed for you depends on your lifestyle and commitment to meeting their specific needs.

One of the critical considerations is the ample amount of exercise and mental stimulation that this breed requires.

Irish Setters are known for their boundless energy and enthusiasm and thrive in environments where they can run and play freely.

Daily exercise is a must, so if you lead a sedentary lifestyle or don't have the time for regular outdoor activities, this breed may not be the best fit for you.

Furthermore, Irish Setters are incredibly social dogs that thrive on companionship. Leaving them alone for extended periods can lead to separation anxiety and destructive behaviour. Providing the attention and interaction that an Irish Setter craves may be challenging if you have a hectic schedule that keeps you away from home for long hours.

Another important consideration is the living environment. Irish Setters are not well-suited for city living or apartment life. They are happiest in homes with access to a secure, spacious yard where they can roam and explore. Keeping them cooped up in a small living space is not fair to their nature, and it can lead to restlessness and behavioural issues.

In summary, the Irish Setter is an incredible breed for the right owner who can commit to their active lifestyle and social needs. You'll be rewarded with a loyal and loving companion if you have the time, energy, and space to accommodate this breed's requirements.

However, if you live a busy urban life or lack the necessary resources to cater to their needs, exploring other breeds that may be a better match for your circumstances is advisable.

Always remember that responsible pet ownership involves understanding and meeting the unique needs of your chosen breed, ensuring a happy and fulfilling life for you and your four-legged friend.

Owners voices in three words

to be added :)

Breed box Irish Setter



Dog Size

63cm - 68cm

Dog Weight

26kg- 34kg

Bitch Size

59cm- 65cm

Bitch Weight




Feeding Need


Tendency to drool


Energy level


Tendency to bark


Tendency to dig


Attention need



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