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Breed profile: All about Irish Setters

Irish Setter

Traditionally bred as bird hunters, Irish Setters are known for their elegant appearance and boundless energy. They are sweet-tempered, rambunctious, and eager to please their people. If you are considering bringing an Irish Setter into your family, it is important to understand their unique personalities, potential health concerns, and grooming and exercise needs. 

Table of contents 


Irish Setters were originally developed in Ireland in the early 18th century to assist bird hunters. Before the invention of firearms, these dogs would often work with trained falcons to locate, flush, and retrieve birds on the wide, flat countryside using their keen sense of smell and boundless energy. As their name suggests, Irish Setters indicate to hunters that they’ve found birds by “setting” down on their belly, lying flat just a few inches off the ground. 

Probably a mix of Gordon Setter, spaniel, and pointer ancestry, Irish Setters have won the Westminster Kennel Club’s Sporting Group competition an impressive 11 times. Though still used for hunting today, Irish Setters are more commonly seen as companion and family dogs. The breed was recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1878 and consistently ranks in the top 100 most popular dog breeds in the United States.   

Size and appearance 

Irish Setters are considered medium-to-large dogs. They have a sturdy but lanky build and floppy ears. These dogs have solid red- or copper-colored coats that are flat and silky, with feathering on their ears, chest, legs, and tail. 

  • Male Irish Setters typically stand about 27 inches tall and can weigh anywhere between 65 and 75 pounds.     
  • Females are slightly shorter in height, about 25 inches tall and between 60 and 70 pounds in weight.  


Considered low maintenance despite their flowing coat, the Irish Setter has minimal grooming needs. Their double coat becomes heavier in winter to keep them warm and sheds as spring approaches. Owners should expect to ramp up grooming during heavier shedding periods. 

Irish Setters only need occasional baths to stay clean. Their floppy ears can be prone to ear infections, so be sure to clean them regularly. As with all dogs, their nails should also be trimmed every few weeks. 

Irish Setter activity levels 

Irish Setters have very high energy levels and require at least one hour of vigorous physical exercise every day. Tapping into their breed instincts, most Irish Setters love playing fetch and any other retrieving activities. In addition to physical exercise, these working dogs also require a significant amount of mental stimulation. Without enough stimulation, these dogs can become bored and destructive. 

These dogs are versatile athletes, excelling at obedience, agility, tracking, retriever field trials, and dock diving. They love to do whatever you’re doing, making them great adventure companions. Irish Setters are endurance dogs, so the best exercise routines for this breed include running and jogging. 


Irish Settlers are generally healthy dogs, and responsible breeders screen for common health conditions in efforts to improve the breed’s overall health. According to AKC, the average lifespan for healthy Irish Setters is between 12 and 15 years. Some common health concerns for the breed include: 

  • Eyes – Eye conditions including progressive retinal atrophy often affect Irish Setters. Owners should have their dog’s eyes checked by a canine ophthalmologist throughout their pet’s life. 
  • Bloat – According to AKC, all large, deep-chested breeds are susceptible to bloat, a sudden, serious stomach condition that can send the dog into shock and be fatal. Experts at Preventative Vet recommend feeding your dog smaller portions and using slow-feeder bowls to discourage your dog from scarfing down water and food.   
  • Joints – These large, active dogs can be susceptible to developing joint discomfort from wear and tear on their bodies. Owners should pay special attention to their dog’s hips and elbows. Joint discomfort and obesity can be a dangerous combination for big dogs and often make the other issue worse. Regular exercise and a healthy diet are important considerations for this breed to stay fit and keep joints healthy.   
  • Seizures – Unfortunately, Irish Setters commonly suffer from seizures. If your dog experiences a seizure, call your veterinarian immediately. Your vet will want to know your dog’s history of seizures, how long the episode lasted, if there were multiple fits and how far apart they were, and their symptoms. 

How can ElleVet’s CBD + CBDA help Irish Setters? 

CBD + CBDA is effective in helping Irish Setters find relief for the joint discomfort that often plagues larger breeds. ElleVet’s CBD + CBDA chews, soft gels, and oils can offer support for their mobility issues and keep these dogs active well into their later years by working to improve discomfort and reduce inflammation. 

CBD + CBDA is also proven effective in providing Irish Setters neuro support, which can help address seizures. ElleVet’s groundbreaking 2022 study found that when compared to the placebo group, the frequency and severity of seizures dropped significantly for 40% of dogs taking ElleVet’s CBD + CBDA oil. These results are extremely promising for how CBD + CBDA can support dogs’ quality of life and overall well-being. 


A sweet, affectionate dog, Irish Setters make excellent companion pets. Because they were originally bred to work alongside human hunters, these dogs are happiest at your side. They should not be left alone for extended periods of time, as this breed can be highly destructive and turn to disruptive behaviors like barking, chewing, and digging if away from their people and friends for too long.  

Irish Setters are friendly and playful with care-free personalities and rocket-launcher energy. They will likely bark to alert you to people, but they otherwise should not be counted on as effective guard dogs. Social and adaptable, Irish Setters typically get along very well with children and other pets, but they are very rambunctious and have a natural prey drive, so they are best suited for older children.  


The Irish Setter is considered a highly intelligent breed with a strong drive to work and please their owners. This means that they have the capacity for learning a wide array of tricks and commands. They also have what often seems like boundless energy, so they appreciate having a job to do to channel this energy. 

Irish Setters respond best to positive, reward-based training methods. They are fairly sensitive, and do not respond well to heavy-handed or harsh corrections. These dogs excel in canine sports such as hunting, agility, dock diving, rally, tracking, and flyball, and their gentle nature makes them a natural as therapy and assistance dogs. 

Bottom line on Irish Setters 

Irish Setters are wonderful family dogs full of affection and energy. Owners should provide their Irish Setters with plenty of physical and mental stimulation, as these dogs are highly active, intelligent, and can be prone to destructive behaviors. Matching your lifestyle to the breed of dog you bring into your family will set you both up for success.