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Irish Setter

Tags: Sporting, Large-sized, Kid-friendly, Requires firm, dedicated training

We were supposed to be colored red and white -- at least that was the plan when hunters in Ireland wanted a dog with a good nose for game birds. Our job was to lead the hunters to birds like woodcock and then to "set," basically to crouch out of the way while hunters threw nets over the birds. By crossing a variety of sporting breeds -- like the Irish Water Spaniel and Irish Terrier (as well as English Pointers, English Spaniels, English Setters, and Gordon Setters) -- the 18th-century Irish Setters were, in fact, red and white colored. Then the solid red coloration turned up in the 19th century -- and became so popular that the Irish Red and White Setter all but disappeared. Finally, the Irish Kennel Club decided we were two distinct breeds. The American Kennel Club welcomed us -- the all-red Irish Setters -- into their Sporting Group in 1878. The Red and Whites didn't get there until 2009.

Rave review

  • Affectionate, loyal family friend
  • Agile and active
  • Born to run, willing to walk
  • Confident and self-assured
  • Energizer doggie
  • Even-tempered, good-natured
  • Classy canine

Report card

  • Hardy hunter
  • Busy is better than bored
  • Cats should keep their distance
  • Independent thinker
  • Intelligent and ready to learn
  • Loves kids and vice versa
  • Never aggressive
  • Outdoors enthusiast
  • Outgoing extrovert
  • Playful pal
  • Caters to country, tolerates town
  • Ready to romp
  • Socialization and training must start early
  • Sweet disposition
  • Training must be firm but gentle, patient and consistent
  • A welcomer, not a watchdog

What to expect

I need you to know something about the Irish Setter personality: behind that clownish facade -- we take our job seriously. It's just that we're having so much fun in life! And we might never outgrow our happy-go-puppy attitude. However, that doesn't mean all "cute" things we do as pups are acceptable in adult Irish Setters. Take cat chasing, for example. A kitty-sized Irish Setter pup harassing an indignant cat is kind of funny (to the pup, at least). Later and larger, it's just plain mean. Please start early and get us socialized to all the creatures -- animal and people types -- we're likely to encounter. Make my obedience training firm but gentle, with lots of positive reinforcement and easy on the negativity. I can't wait to get started. This is going to be so much fun!

Watch for

Hip dysplasia, vision disorders (including cataracts and progressive retinal atrophy), osteochondritis, hypothyroidism, bloat, heart problems, tumors, and allergies to wheat products in food.

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