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Irish Setters: What's Good About 'Em, What's Bad About 'Em

Irish Setter temperament, personality, training, behavior, pros and cons, advice, and information, by Michele Welton, Dog Trainer, Behavioral Consultant, Author of 15 Dog Books

Irish Setter dog breed

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.

Michele Welton with BuffyAbout the author: Michele Welton has over 40 years of experience as a Dog Trainer, Dog Breed Consultant, and founder of three Dog Training Centers. An expert researcher and author of 15 books about dogs, she loves helping people choose, train, and care for their dogs.

To help you train and care for your dog

dog training videos Dog training videos. Sometimes it's easier to train your puppy (or adult dog) when you can see the correct training techniques in action.

The problem is that most dog training videos on the internet are worthless, because they use the wrong training method. I recommend these dog training videos that are based on respect and leadership.

book coverRespect Training For Puppies: 30 seconds to a calm, polite, well-behaved puppy. For puppies 2 to 18 months old. Your puppy will learn the 21 skills that all family dogs need to know.
If your dog is over 18 months, you'll want book coverRespect Training For Adult Dogs: 30 seconds to a calm, polite, well-behaved dog. Again your dog will learn the 21 skills that all family dogs need to know.
book coverTeach Your Dog 100 English Words is a unique Vocabulary and Respect Training Program that will teach your adult dog to listen to you and do what you say.
book cover11 Things You Must Do Right To Keep Your Dog Healthy and Happy helps your dog live a longer, healthier life.
book coverDog Quest: Find The Dog Of Your Dreams will help you find a good-tempered, healthy family companion.

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