Many people fall in love with Irish Setters because of their wonderful rich chestnut coloured coat and their outgoing personality but there is much more to the breed than that.
They are intelligent dogs in spite of what you might have heard. Quite often people say they are scatty and untrainable, but they are more likely to be stubborn and self willed, especially as a puppy. You may have heard they are destructive, that they chew. Well yes that can be true but all puppies need extra attention and you need to train them.
Irish Setters are members of the Gundog group, a medium sized dog that needs plenty of exercise when mature. If you don't like exercise then it is probably not the breed for you. Although the origin of the breed is not clear they were bred for the purpose to ‘set’ grouse or partridge on the moors and this instinct is still with them today. The Setter did not retrieve game, but worked as one of a pair, one ‘backing’ the other in order to locate the game on the ground. He would then ‘point’ the game to the gun. On command he would then flush the birds into the air. He therefore has a need for companionship, either yours or another Setter, and youngsters in particular can become bored and destructive if left for long lengths of time. They are fun loving, high spirited, full of energy, intelligent and affectionate. In fact the breed standard says “Demonstrably affectionate”. Sometimes they are thought of as being highly strung. This is probably because they have not been trained properly, are not getting enough mental or physical exercise or they have an owner who does not understand them. They have an independent spirit and need an owner who is prepared to be firm and give them plenty of time. Consistent training is needed from the day you bring them home but you will need a sense of humour because puppies will get up to all sorts of mischief and they need to learn that you didn’t put the clean washing on the line for them to play with or that you didn’t plant those flowers for them to dig up and bring to you in the kitchen, mud and all.
If you decide to go ahead and buy an Irish Setter puppy your life will never be the same again. You will need endless energy and a good sense of humour with lots of time and patience but your life will be immeasurably richer. The first decision is whether you want a dog or a bitch to share your life. Whichever you chose they will love you unconditionally. However, they do demand attention and affection and it is this need to be such a large part of your lives that is their charm. Once you have had an Irish Setter it is unlikely that any other breed will take its place.
They are a perfect family dog, willing to share every aspect of your lifestyle, super with children and the elderly. They seem to know instinctively when to be gentle and quiet and when to have their ‘mad moment’.