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Irish Setter Temperament – How To Tell If This Dog Breed Is Right For You?

People who say that blondes have more fun have clearly never experienced the Irish Setter temperament!

These red-headed beauties have a fun-loving temperament, and they are extremely smart!

Irish Setter Temperament and Personality

Known for their likeability and enthusiasm, the Irish Setter dog is also athletic and friendly.


The Irish Setter's tremendous energy spills into his desire to try new things and see new places. He's very passionate, and you can even see it in the deep red of his coat. This dog doesn't do anything without putting his full heart into it!


While the Setter loves everyone he meets, this doesn’t mean he will be able to do well in every home.

He can be one stubborn beast, that's for sure. He loves getting his way, and if you give him an inch, he will gladly take two miles. You can overcome this streak of his, but it's going to take some time.

His tremendous energy can be troublesome to those who don’t have the necessary time or patience for him. He needs at least one hour per day.

Fair warning: the first two or three years of the Setter's life are, simply put, a handful. He has a penchant for engaging in destructive behavior

If you or other members of your family don't have the patience to consistently train him then do not get this dog.


This little guy can be quite the troublemaker. He'll think it's hilarious to knock over the garbage can, and he'll watch you with a wagging tail while you clean it up! This trait tends to soften over time, but not for a few years at least!

A Hunter at Heart

This happy-go-lucky breed has a drive and energy level that borders on extreme, thanks to his origin as a bird dog. Though he doesn't use these talents as often today, the Irish Setter still has that hunting instinct fully intact – especially if it involves birds.

You can see his hunter instinct at work when he catches even the slightest sound or smell of something different. In other words, his hunting instinct causes him to become very easily distracted, which can be a pain when you're trying to train him.

While this breed is typically sociable and outgoing with both humans and other dogs, just be careful with smaller animals, like cats or hamsters. He may find it unavoidable to view them as prey.

But, with the right introduction and some patience on your part, they should be able to get along just fine, especially if you raise them together.

Not for the Younger Crowd

When it comes to children, the Irish Setter does best in a home with older kids.

This is because his rambunctious attitude can be a bit overwhelming to young kids who may find themselves in the crosshairs of the playful Setter!


This may surprise you about the energetic, happy-go-lucky Irish Setter, but his battery will power down if you leave him alone too much. He's a sociable dog who requires constant companionship, or he will spiral downward and develop negative personality traits if you leave him alone too often.

Eager to Please

Despite the fact that he can be a bit willful at times, of the Setter breeds, the Irish Setter is actually the one who is most eager to please his master. So, basically, if you find it nearly impossible to train an Irish Setter, then you should probably refrain from purchasing or adopting another type of Setter in the future.

Like the Elephant Who Never Forgets

You have to be so careful around the Irish Setter – this is a dog who has a long-lasting memory.

If you use harsh training methods with him once or treat him negatively in any way, he will remember that for a very long time, and it will influence his relationship with you.

This also means that once he learns a bad habit, it can take a very long time to help him overcome it. On the positive side, though, this also means that once he learns something good, he's not likely to forget it anytime soon!

A Brief History of the Irish Setter Breed

Native to Ireland, the Irish Setter is a sporting dog who originally started out as a gundog. Hunters would train the Irish Setter to hunt birds.

Experts believe that the Irish Setter we know today originated in the early 18th century.

By 1845, the Setters appearing in Ireland were predominantly red in color.

Breeders were doing this on purpose, as there existed a strong desire for a fully red dog, though variations that included red were still appearing here and there.

How Do You Train an Irish Setter?

When it comes to training an Irish Setter dog, patience is a virtue.

Though he is extremely intelligent, he is also an independent and mischievous little dog.

Considering the fact that Irish Setters retain their puppy mentality until they are about five years old, training them can be quite the challenge.

That said, early and consistent training is the name of the game.

Irish Setters have a reputation for being “airheads,” meaning they don't retain the information you're trying to teach them. But, if you are gentle and patient with them, they will be more eager and willing to learn.

The key is to make training fun. He can become stubborn if he doesn’t like what he is learning.

The Irish Setter breed responds best to consistent, firm, and loving training – especially if the end result is a treat, play or praise.

And once he has learned a command or trick, he'll never forget it!

For optimal results, train your Irish Setter as a puppy and, of course, don’t just stop after one session. Consistency and persistence are key to getting the performance you want out of your Irish Setter.

Helpful Dog Training Resource:

For help with training your Irish Setter dog, you should take a look at The Online Dog Trainer by Doggy Dan. Doggy Dan is an expert Dog Trainer based in New Zealand. His online resource contains Hundreds of Excellent Dog Training Videos that will take you step-by-step through the process of developing a healthy, happy well-behaved dog.

The Irish Setter Appearance


A full-grown male Irish Setter measures at about 23 to 26 inches in height, while females grow to be between 22 and 24 inches tall.


A healthy weight for a male is between 60 and 71 lbs., and for a female, it is between 53 and 64 lbs.


As for colors, that deep-red Irish Setter color is the color by which people know them best. However, they also come in mahogany or chestnut, and some are even mostly white!

Caring for an Irish Setter

How Do You Groom an Irish Setter?

The Irish Setter's coat is unmistakable, with its feathered, silky texture and glorious redness.

He has fine hair on his head and front legs, with long, straight hair on his body that feathers out on his back legs, tail, ears, belly, and chest.

Grooming him requires a brushing session every other day to remove the loose hair and prevent tangles while keeping the coat healthy and shiny.

Regular brushing sessions allow you to bathe the Setter only when necessary, which is about twice per year – unless he's one of those dogs who enjoy playing in the dirt!

Since his ears are long and hang down, they can become prone to ear infections. Weekly check-ups can prevent more serious problems that warrant a trip to the vet.

Bad news if you are an allergy sufferer: this is not the breed for you.

While there are many dogs out there whom people describe as “hypoallergenic,” the Irish Setter is not one of them.

Staying Healthy: Watch out for these Irish Setter Health Issues

Though the Irish Setter is generally a rather healthy dog, he can still from certain health conditions, just like any other dog.

For instance, this breed, in particular, is prone to hip dysplasia, hypothyroidism, Osteochondrosis Dissecans (OCD – an orthopedic condition), epilepsy, Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA), and bloat, or gastric torsion.

Regular trips to your veterinarian can help prevent these diseases by spotting the symptoms and catching them early on before they become catastrophic.

Helpful Dog Health Resource:

Note: Don't let the many issues above scare you. The best way to approach health problems is to prevent them in the first place. The Ultimate Guide to Dog Health is a great place to start. Get a copy to keep at home. It will help you prevent the painful health issues that can plague your lovely dog from expressing his winning personality and maximizing his life expectancy.

Exercise your Irish Setter

Irish Setters are perfect for families who have large, fenced-in backyards.

They also do well with active families who enjoy including their pup in all their favorite outdoor activities, such as hiking, swimming, jogging, or even just a simple walk around the park.

In addition to his energetic attitude, this breed is known for his clown-like behavior.

He enjoys entertaining his humans while also incorporating his larger-than-life sense of mischief!

Being a smart, intelligent dog breed you should check out ideas to mentally exercise your Irish Setter.

One thing's for sure: life with an Irish Setter is anything but dull!

Click here to read our article on the benefits of exercise for dogs with bad behavior.

Top Irish Setter Mixes

If a mixed breed is what you're after, there are a few Irish Setter mixed breeds out there who might strike your fancy. Consider the following:

Finding the Perfect Irish Puppy

Ready to take the leap and add an Irish Setter puppy to your family?

If so, you have a few options insofar as how to go about getting one.

One option is rescuing an Irish Setter. There are several rescue organizations dedicated to this breed. One example is the Irish Setter Club of America, who lists rescue options on their website. 

But there are also plenty of non-breed specific rescues and shelters that have Irish Setter adults and puppies available for adoption.

Another option is to look for Irish Setters for sale from a registered, qualified breeder.

I will cover both of these options below.

How Much is an Irish Setter?

Looking into buying an Irish Setter puppy from a breeder?

You can expect to spend anywhere from $1,400 to up to $5,000 or more. It all depends on the lineage and location of the pup.

It is significantly less expensive to adopt a dog. And the above is only for the price of the dog.

All remaining expenses are the same, including regular vet checkups, monthly food bills, and add-ons, like leashes, treats, and bowls.

Irish Setter Rescue and Adoptions

If you’re thinking of going the rescue route, there are several Irish Setter rescues that you can choose from.

The Irish Setter Club of America, for example, has a volunteer group called the “Irish Setter Rescue.” This group works tirelessly to find warm “forever” homes for homeless and displaced Irish Setters.

Save Our Setters, Inc. is another Irish Setter rescue working to rehome displaced Setters. They too aim to match their pups up with loving, forever homes.

The NorCal Irish Setter Rescue, Inc. is yet another adoption center dedicated to this breed.

You can also find Irish Setter puppies or adults for adoption on websites like Petfinder.com and Adoptapet.com.

Be sure to contact your local shelter and ask if they have any Irish Setter or Irish Setter mixes available for adoption.

If not, you can always ask to be put on a list so that when one comes in, you'll be one of the first people they call!

Irish Setter Breeders

Are you looking to purchase a purebred Irish Setter puppy?

Your first step should be contacting the Irish Setter Club of America, Inc. They offer an online directory of certified breeders, listed by region, who sell pups to fill every category including:

  • Irish Setter puppies for sale
  • Stud services
  • Adults for sale
  • Obedience work
  • Field stock
  • Show stock
  • Agility

The ISCA also offers an international breeders list.

Additionally, you can search the AKC Marketplace website for Irish Setters for sale.

A Final Word About the Irish Setter

The Irish Setter temperament makes him a wonderful breed with a heart of gold.

He is outgoing, personable, affectionate, and playful.

Perhaps the most important thing you should know about this breed is that he is energetic and requires adequate exercise.

And when you train him properly, he makes for an amazing family companion.

He loves to please you, which can sometimes be at odds with his desire to be willful.

Stay consistent and persistent with him, and eventually he will learn that you are the master, and that his “my way or the highway” attitude is not going to fly here!