Saara Mattero
Ristiaallokonkatu 4 B 63
02320 Espoo, FINLAND

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The Irish Setter

The Irish Setter has often been called the most beautiful dog breed and it’s easy to see where it comes from. Deep chestnut flowing coat, great posture and lines and simply a dog of overall harmony appeal to many and the dog’s alert gaze with affection awakens our images of a loyal friend. The Irish setter should have spark in it’s temperament and it should exube vitality, enthusiasm and joy. The happy and friendly Irish Setter is at its best as a part of an active (family) life.


The red Setter is a vibrant and active hunting dog that could also be described as a well adapting and versatile family dog. An ideal Setter is very friendly towards people, social to other dogs and is suitable with other pets as well. As long as the dog gets enough exercise and activities they are usually nice house dogs from puppies and they learn their families’ ways quickly.

The overall appearance of an Irish Setter is racy, stylish, always well-proportioned and in harmony and with a friendly expression. The breed is large and the body should be proportioned like a typical bird dog, “outside the square”, meaning it’s height from the withers to the ground should equal the length from the withers to the tail set. When you add the front and the hindquarters of the dog you see that an Irish Setter should not be shaped as a square. The breed movements are one of the most notorious features of the Irish Setter: the breed moves with efficiency, effortlessly and with a smooth step.

The breed had divided into show and working lines and the lines are mainly kept separate. The show line has divided into two types: the English and the American and these lines are mixed varyingly depending on the breeder. We have both lines and types represented in Finland.


Men developed The Irish Red Setter to hunt and the breed evolved from Red and White Irish Setters and unknown single-coloured red dogs. The breed has been described in the 16th century but the breed type seems to have settled in the 18th century and The Irish Red Setter Club was founded in 1882 to promote the breeding and use of the breed.

It is assumed that officers brought the breed to Finland in the 1860’s, first litter has been registered in 1892 and in the 1890’s Irish Setters were competing in field trials. The breed was quite uniform in Finland until the 1970’s but the separation to different lines began in the 1980’s and 1990’s and the lines are pretty much kept separate in Finland nowadays.

Registrations in Finland 2009 274 dogs               


At best The Irish Setter is a reliable, friendly and happy dog at home, in the fields and in doggy activities. An adult Setter is calm indoors but outside a Setter should be filled with excitement and vigour! The dogs are intelligent but it’s easily hidden under a goofy appearance J Setters learn new things fast, most are very greedy and they enjoy doing things with their owners. If you are looking for a hobby companion our of an Irish Setter it’s good to keep in mind that any activity is bound to be spiced with humour – not everything goes as planned due to a bird, a familiar face by the ringside or a bad day!


The coat of an Irish Setter makes up for most of the dogs care. According to the quality, amount and dirtiness the dog needs to be bathed, brushed and possible trimmed with scissors and a trimmer. Usually a show lined Irish Setter is trimmed from the throat, paws and tail, some owners also trim the ear hairs short. Ears and eyes are good to be checked at least when you clip the dogs nails.


The Irish Setter is an active breed that needs to exercise a lot; the most enjoyable type of exercise for a Setter is running free in the nature with a doggy companion. The breed still has its hunting instincts and a Setter should already as a puppy be taught the basic commands and to come when called so that moving in the outdoors is safe for the dog; it is however not impossible to teach this to a Setter.

Could I become a owner of an Irish Red Setter?

The best possible owner for an Irish Setter is bound to be an active person with a good sense of humour and patience and one that understands to set boundaries on a cute puppy – but gently. An Irish Setter is slightly soft and sensitive to owner instructions at heart even though they test their limits and are sometimes stubborn. A well-tempered Setter is one of the best family dogs, even though it’s good to keep in mind that young dogs are more active and they can be careless around young children.


The Irish Red Setter is a part of the Finnish Kennel Club’s program for preventing hereditary illnesses and defects. Setters must be hip scored (from 1.1.2011 grade B or index 102 is the minimum) and no more than 40 puppies can be registered to a single dog in Finland (the last litter is registered as a whole).

According to the Finnish Irish Setter club health survey Irish Setters have single defects and illnesses but most dogs live healthy lives. Most common things were hip dysplasia, bowel illnesses (bowel infections, sensitivities, anal gland infections), skin rashs and ear infections. It was particularly noted that bowel, ear and skin illnesses seemed to be connected so that allergic dogs had many chronic problems.

There are also cases of epilepsy, megaoesophagus, PRA and a breed specific immune deficiency CLAD in the breed. There are gene tests for PRA and CLAD for the breed.


An Irish Setter is a versatile dog for different activities as long as the owner is not too serious about competing. The main activities are dog shows, hunting, agility and obedience.


Irish Setters are still used in their original purpose as setting gundogs, in Finland specially with wood grouse, blackgrouse, willow grouse, grey partridge and pheasant.