Regular grooming is essential for your Irish Setter and should be a pleasure for both of you. However it is important to train your pup as soon as he is settled in his new home so it is not a chore as he needs to get used to being groomed when young.   Start with short grooming sessions with gentle brushing so you are establishing a routine.  If necessary get someone to help hold him still as he may be very wriggley to start with but remember to be gentle and not rough with him.  Ask your helper to stand in front of the dog and hold him, gently,  by the collar on each side of his head and talk to him.  This not only stops him from moving around but also reassures him.

To keep your Setter tidy and to keep his feet and ears tidy it is a good idea to ask your breeder to show you what to do and ask them to show you a good bristle brush that is good for his coat.

Grooming your dog is an ideal opportunity to check him all over.  Make sure that his eyes are bright and not runny.  Make sure that you add a dental check to your routine. It is possible to get dental tooth wipes to help combat the build up of plaque.  You can also get dog toothbrushes and toothpaste which can be used regularly.  If your dog is not used to a toothbrush you could try a finger brush instead.  If, in your older setter, there is a bad build up of plaque then your vet may recommend descaling to prevent gingivitis, inflammation of the gums.  This means an anaesthetic so it is better and cheaper, to keep up regular dental cleaning yourself.  Check inside his ears to make sure there is no build up of wax or any unpleasant discharge, if there is, then get your dog checked out by your vet.  There are several reasons why this might happen but the ear is very sensitive and it is important that this is not left but dealt with quickly.

If you run your hands all over him you can feel if there are any lumps or bumps hidden under his coat.  You can also find out where the mats are in his coat.  If you start this immediately and always try to groom him in the same place he will soon learn what to expect.  This is also good practice for when he needs to go to the vet as he will be used to being handled in this way.

A young puppy has a short coat so grooming is easy.  Most dogs enjoy grooming and will learn to stand quietly, especially if there is a small treat when you have finished.

As he matures his coat will grow and become thicker and longer.  If you do not keep up a regular grooming routine his coat can quickly become tangled and matted which is not healthy but small knots can be gently teased apart quite easily.

It is important to pay particular attention to the area behind and under the ears as it is not unknown for this to become so matted that it can cause open sores if left.  Thinning scissors are best used here and your breeder can give you advice on these. 

The armpits are another area that need particular attention, and that means checking right up into the armpit as it is very easy to miss a tangle.  As he gets older it is useful if he learns to lie down as this will allow you to reach under his arm pits and the groin area.

The feathers in the groin area can get badly knotted if not groomed regularly, so much so that it must be painful when moving.  If there are small twigs, bits of heather etc caught in the feathers they easily become tangled and then matted and it may be necessary either to take a pair of scissors to cut out the mat or go to a canine beautician to have the job done for you.   You will also have to be careful not to nick the skin and cause further problems and this is one reason why it is important to train your pet to being handled, so he learns to stay still when needed.

Hair will grow between the toes and if left unchecked can become matted with mud and extremely painful so it is wise to trim that hair and check daily that there is nothing stuck between the toes.

It is possible to use scissors to remove hair balls, obviously being extremely careful not to cut the skin.  Mud can be removed by soaking the foot in warm water first, as can snow balls.  Grass seeds can be a major problem in late summer so it becomes vital that the feet are checked after each walk.  The inside of the ears need checking to make sure a grass seed hasn’t found its way in there either.  In winter, if your dog walks on areas which have been treated with salt it is sensible to wash the feet as the pads can become very dry and cracked.

Dogs have a particular problem when they start to cock their legs.  When they have lots of feathering, it can become smelly, unpleasant and brittle if left covered in urine.  To help to keep the feathering clean it should be rinsed with warm water after exercise.  This way it is easier to remove any twigs and sticky burrs as well.  Squeeze the excess water from the feathers and let them dry naturally as it is not a good idea to towel dry or use a hair dryer daily as it splits the hair.

Irish Setters moult; bitches more often than dogs because of the hormonal changes caused by their seasons, so be prepared for soft fluffy hairs around the place along with the dust and dirt.   Dogs really enjoy being groomed when moulting and it is better to get the dead coat in the brush and not all over the furniture.

Regularly check his nails, together with the nails on his dewclaws, if he has them, and trim if necessary.  You can learn to do this yourself if you feel confident and your breeder will advise you the best nail clippers to buy.  However, many veterinary nurses will do this for you if you prefer.

Regular grooming also means that you can keep a check on unwanted visitors, e.g. fleas or ticks.  There are many preparations available from your vet, ask his advice, but keep a flea spray ready to tackle any visitors brought home from the fields. You can buy tick removers which makes removing them very easy.

Your dog can be bathed if necessary and there will come a time in your life when it will become necessary.  They do seem to love to find the foulest smelling spots on the walk and roll in them so it is best to keep a dog shampoo in the house.  In an emergency a ‘human’ shampoo can be used, but these really are too harsh for a dog’s coat and baby shampoo is better.  Make sure you have got rid of any tangles first, otherwise they will just get worse when wet and can cause your dog great discomfort.