St. Patrick’s Day

March 3, 2012

ImageIrish Setters

St. Patrick’s Day is upon us, and what better time to talk about the beautiful Irish Setter?  This breed holds a special place in my heart, as I grew up next door to a Setter named Noah.  He fascinated the neighborhood kids with his big heart and slobbery grin.  But, you don’t see a lot of Irish Setters anymore. Maybe this is because they can be reckless and high-strung if they do not receive the proper amount of mental and physical exercise.  Decades of people buying this dog for its beauty and ignoring its physical and mental needs resulted in the dog’s reputation as being destructive and hard to manage.

But, it is this impulsive and independent spirit that I find so alluring.  And the beach can be just the place for a high-strung dog.   After a Setter is trained to behave on a leash and come when called, they can work their brains and their bodies as they play fetch or herd gulls.  Their flowing red coat is a spectacle to watch when they run at full speed.

The Irish Setter is classified by the American Kennel Club as a sporting breed. As an ancestor of the Spanish Pointer, the Irish Setter is an all-purpose hunting dog, both a pointer and retriever all in one. They are especially good for hunting game birds. They have excellent noses and are very fast. Over the years many breeders have started breeding more for looks rather than the dog’s hunting ability, and for some reason I find this sad.  In fact, the Irish Setter used to be a red and white dog, but selective breeding in the 19th century resulted in the chestnut color that we see today.

This talented breed has also been used for tracking, guarding, agility and competitive obedience.  Although I wonder about the guarding ability, as the setters I have known tend to be overly friendly and eager to please.  They might actually, in an effort to be friendly and helpful, lead a burglar to the jewelry rather than scare them away.

If you should consider an Irish Setter as an addition to your family, you should know that they are sensitive to the tone of one’s voice and will not listen if they sense that they are stronger minded than their owner, and on the other hand, they do not respond well to harsh discipline.  Like a high strung horse, the Irish Setter needs a calm, stern and rewarding discipline.  Sometimes kids simply get trounced by these big clown-like dogs. That said, they are generally wonderful with kids as my neighborhood friends can attest.   They also need regular brushing to keep the sand spurs out of their flowing coats.

If you want more information about the Irish Setter, check out the  No matter what breed you may be interested in adding to your family, always think of rescuing a dog in need before you buy one from a breeder. is a national organization that can link you to Setters in need near you. is a Southeastern organization coordinating Setter rescue in our area as is  The oldies are the best as I am a sucker for those grey faces and an energy level that I can keep up with, but there are needy pups out there too.


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