Trish Haill is also the author of STAND! A Complete Guide to Showing your Dog from Companion to Champion. Written to fill a gap in the market the book translates the Kennel Club's showing regulations into simple everyday language. It's an excellent guide to newcomers who want to dip their toe into the world of dog showing and have fun with their dogs.
You can buy STAND! at Amazon as a paperback or ebook.
Snuggler Honey Pie over Smokeywater aka Bess! - a much loved family pet!
Smokeywater Irish Setters
Smokeywater Irish Setters
Living with an Irish Setter
If you own an Irish Setter the most common thing you will get asked by another breed owner or non-doggy person is 'aren't they scatty?'. This question will normally be accompanied by a story of their aunt/uncle/(insert appropriate relative here) who used to own one when they were a child and they remember it being as mad as a hatter. Your Irish Setter will probably be tearing around at the time looking as though to prove the point!
This is the general misconception about the Irish Setter - he loves life, is always happy and friendly, is very energetic and the clown of the dog world. But this, sometimes, mad behaviour should not be mistaken for a lack of intelligence. The Irish Setter is very, very intelligent, and will probably have you trained in no time at all!
Irish Setters can be trained, make no mistake, but like any new puppy a well behaved dog doesn't appear like magic (unless you are extremely lucky). Puppy training and consistency will be necessary from the word go.
Size and Activity Level
The Irish Setter is classified as a large breed dog, with the males being larger than the females. A large breed dog means higher food, vet and insurance costs as well as needing a larger house to live in, with preferably access to a garden of sufficient size to let it run around and play. An Irish Setter would not normally be happy in a flat without access to the outside.
An athletic dog he will need a lot of exercise and will get the most benefit from long runs over grass or fields rather than a lot of pavement walking.
Irish Setters are gundogs, and many retain their natural instinct to flush out game birds and give chase.
An Irish Setter is the most beautiful, stunning looking dog. When well looked after he will have a sleek, shiny coat that gleams with health and fitness. Both sexes have feathering on their legs, chest, stomach and tail which has to be kept free of knots which means regular brushing, particularly after a muddy walk, or when he's been chasing through the undergrowth. Dogs normally (but not always) have a heavier coat than the bitches. Daily brushing is necessary to maintain the coat in optimum condition.
For the show ring ears, chest, feet and from hock to foot on the hind leg have to be trimmed and kept tidy. If you have not trimmed an Irish Setter before make sure you get advice from your breeder or an experienced exhibitor and NEVER take him to the local dog groomer without finding out whether they are experienced in preparing Irish Setters for the show ring else you might be very disappointed when you collect him.
What can I do with my Irish Setter?
An Irish Setter has seemingly boundless energy, a desire to please and spend time with its human. Irish Setters are not happy being left alone for long periods of time, and will get bored and destructive if they are.
So, why not consider an activity such as showing your dog, agility, or even working him in the job he was designed to do? Irish Setters are gundogs and can be trained to flush out game. If you don't want to actually hunt with him, then you can take him to field trials instead. Or you could try Heelwork to Music which is fast becoming a popular sport.
Irish Setters are also used as PAT (Pets as Therapy) dogs and are taken to visit the elderly or sick in hospital and hospices. Their friendliness makes them ideal dogs for this purpose.
When you first take your puppy to the vet it will be unusual if the vet does not mention neutering or might use the terms castration for the dog, or spaying for the bitch. DO NOT think this is something that MUST be done, whatever your vet tells you.
Firstly, that beautiful sleek coat of your Irish Setter will be ruined for good if you have him, or her, neutered. The coat will go lighter in colour, and will resemble the that of a woolly sheep. There are ways to manage the coat, but this will involve a lot of time everyday raking it out, and it still will not look as good as an un-neutered dog. If you have chosen the Irish Setter because of his sleek looks do not have him or her neutered unless you absolutely have to. If you are choosing a bitch you will need to consider that she will have seasons at regular intervals (possibly every six months), and you will not be able to compete in many sports whilst she is in season. In the book STAND! I go into more detail about the pros and cons of dogs versus bitches and for the sake of space cannot replicate that here. But I recommend you buy the book if you want to have more information to consider.
Vets do not take into account the effect neutering will have on a dog's coat so will not warn you of this result.
The two dogs to the left have both been neutered - the bitch (far left) was neutered at five years old, and the dog next to her at six months of age.
The reason the vet will try and persuade you to have your dog neutered is two fold. Firstly to promote responsible dog ownership and to limit the number of unwanted puppies. But if you are a responsible person it will not be difficult to keep your bitch away from other dogs whilst she is in season, and to keep your male Irish Setter in a safe secure garden so that he cannot roam and impregnate bitches at will. The second reason is the potential health benefits. There are slightly more benefits to having a bitch spayed as she would not be able to suffer from pyrometra, an often fatal infection. However, particularly in the case of the male dog, modern studies indicate there are cancers that affect neutered dogs which do not affect entire ones. Vets, however, continue to push all owners to neuter their puppies, but this must not be done without careful thought. Your breeder is the best person to give you advice.
Lastly, if you do decide to neuter your Irish Setter, please be aware that this must not be done before the dog is fully grown as sex hormones are essential to growth. If you neuter too early then you can end up with a lanky dog, as well as one which may have behavioural issues such as nerveness or hyper-activity. A bitch should have one season before she is neutered, and to be on the safe side, neutering should not take place in either sex until the Irish Setter is eighteen months old.