Irish Setters: the most honest dog breed review you'll ever find about Irish Setter temperament, personality, and behavior.

DOG BOOKS by Michele Welton

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Irish Setter dog breed

Irish Setter Temperament: What's Good About 'Em, What's Bad About 'Em

Irish Setter Temperament, Personality, Behavior, Traits, and Characteristics, by Michele Welton. Copyright © 2000-2017


Did you think Irish Setters only came in red? Surprise! They also come in a handsome red-and-white pattern.

The elegant Irish Setter has been described as rollicking, happy-go-lucky, clownish, impulsive, flighty, and demonstrative.

This lively dog can be a destructive handful during the gawky adolescent stage – which lasts two or three years. But given sufficient exercise and obedience training to instill good manners, adults gradually become more dignified and aristocratic.

The sociable Irish Setter gets along well with everyone, including other pets. Indeed, he requires a good deal of companionship and doesn't thrive if left alone too much.

Though he has a willful streak and is easily distracted by exciting sights and smells (remember, this is a hunting dog!), the Irish Setter is probably the most willing to please of the three setter breeds. You must be both patient and persistent when training setters, but never harsh, because these dogs are physically and emotionally sensitive. And they have long memories: once they learn something (whether right or wrong), they'll remember it for a long time. This means bad habits can be difficult to break and harsh handling is not easily forgotten.


If you want a dog who...

  • Is medium to large, elegant and graceful in build and motion
  • Has a lovely feathered coat
  • Thrives on lots of exercise and athletic activities
  • Is good-natured with everyone
  • Is peaceful with other animals

An Irish Setter may be right for you.


If you don't want to deal with...

  • Providing enough exercise to keep him satisfied
  • Exuberant jumping, especially when young
  • "Separation anxiety" (destructiveness and barking) when left alone too much
  • Stubbornness (mind of his own)
  • Frequent brushing and combing
  • Shedding

An Irish Setter may not be right for you.

Keep in mind that the inheritance of temperament is less predictable than the inheritance of physical traits such as size or shedding. Temperament and behavior are also shaped by raising and training.

  • You can avoid some negative traits by choosing an ADULT dog from an animal shelter or rescue group. With an adult dog, you can easily see what you're getting, and plenty of adult Irish Setters have already proven themselves not to have negative characteristics.
  • If you want a puppy, you can avoid some negative traits by choosing the right breeder and the right puppy. Unfortunately, you usually can't tell whether a puppy has inherited temperament or health problems until he grows up.
  • Finally, you can avoid some negative traits by training your Irish Setter to respect you and by following the 11-step care program in my book, 11 Things You Must Do Right To Keep Your Dog Healthy and Happy.

More traits and characteristics of the Irish Setter

If I was considering an Irish Setter, I would be most concerned about...

  1. Providing enough exercise. Irish Setters are active dogs, though those bred for the show ring are content with long daily walks and occasional running and fetching games to vent their energy. Irish Setters bred for hunting are much more athletic and need more vigorous exercise. Without enough exercise, Irish Setters become rambunctious and bored, which they usually express by destructive chewing, especially when young or adolescent.
  2. Separation anxiety. More than most other breeds, Irish Setters need a great deal of companionship and do not like being left alone for more than a few hours. They tend to express their unhappiness through destructive chewing and barking. If you work all day, this is not the breed for you.
  3. Stubbornness. Irish Setters are probably the most trainable of the setters, but can still be stubborn and manipulative. You must show them, through absolute consistency, that you mean what you say. Many Irish Setters are easily distracted by exciting sights, sounds, and scents; it takes some training experience to hold the dog's attention throughout a training session. Read more about Irish Setter Training.
  4. Grooming. Coat care is a big responsibility. To keep their silky coat free of mats, Irish Setters require regular brushing and combing, and also clipping and trimming every few months. Irish Setters from show lines typically have more profuse coats that need much more extensive grooming than Irish Setters from field lines.
  5. Shedding. Irish Setters shed a lot, so be prepared for dog hair on your clothing and furniture, and regular vacuuming.

To help you train and care for your dog

book cover To learn more about training your dog to be calm and well-behaved, my dog training book is Teach Your Dog 100 English Words. It's a unique Vocabulary and Respect Training Program that will teach your dog to listen to you and do whatever you ask.

book cover My dog buying guide, Dog Quest: Find The Dog Of Your Dreams, will teach you everything you need to know about finding a good-tempered, healthy dog.

book cover My dog health care book, 11 Things You Must Do Right To Keep Your Dog Healthy and Happy, shows you how to help your dog live a longer life while avoiding health problems and unnecessary veterinary expenses.

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