Known as "the gentleman's hunting dog," the Irish Red and White Setter is a spirited, playful breed that's often overlooked. Less famous than their all-red Irish Setter cousins, there were only about 500 Irish Red and White Setters in the United States in 2017.
Irish Red and White Setters are bred as field dogs and love the thrill of the hunt. They are high-energy dogs with lots of stamina, and they're experts at navigating rugged terrain.
Irish Red and White Setters do best in active, outdoorsy families — they make excellent hiking and biking companions. If you're looking for a friendly, affectionate dog to join you on outdoor adventures, the Irish Red and White Setter may be the dog for you.
Read on to learn what you need to know about Irish Red and White Setters.
Characteristics of an Irish Red and White Setter
Irish Red and White Setter Appearance
A bit shorter and stockier than all-red Irish Setters, Irish Red and White Setters are medium-sized dogs with an athletic, powerful appearance.
Irish Red and White Setters have long silky coats with feathery tails. Their fur can be straight or slightly wavy. Irish Red and White Setters are — you guessed it — red and white, with solid red patches on a white coat. Their particular coat allows hunters to spot their setter from a distance.
Irish Red and White Setter Weight and Height
Irish Red and White Setters are medium to medium-large dogs, averaging 22.5 to 26 inches in height at the shoulders and 35 to 60 pounds in weight.
Irish Red and White Setter Temperament
Irish Red and White Setters are lively, playful dogs who are affectionate with their families. Good with other dogs and children, they make an excellent family dog for an active, high-energy family.
Common Irish Red and White Setter characteristics include being:
Irish Red and White Setter Hunting
When hunting, Irish Red and White Setters should work at a moderate pace and range, covering the ground thoroughly to sniff out game.
Caring for an Irish Red and White Setter
Irish Red and White Setter Grooming
Irish Red and White Setters are simple to groom. Their coat is typically kept at its natural length, though you can tidy any rough edges on your Irish Red and White Setter's coat with scissors or clippers if desired. It would be best if you brushed their coat weekly with a slicker brush to prevent tangles and help keep their coat and skin healthy.
Tangles in a Red and White Irish Setter's coat tighten when wet, so any tangles should be removed before bathing. A bath every month is sufficient to keep their long, silky coat clean and manageable.
Check your Irish Red and White Setter's coat and skin for ticks regularly, especially if you've been hunting or hiking in a tick-prone area. You should provide a regular tick and flea preventative product to limit the risk of ticks and fleas. Tick and flea preventative products come in various formulations: chewables, sprays, topical treatments, powders, and flea prevention collars, and are available both over-the-counter and by prescription. Your veterinarian can help you choose the right flea and tick prevention for your Irish Red and White Setter.
Like all dogs, Irish Red and White Setters need routine nail trims and dental care. You should trim your Irish Red and White Setter's nails with a nail grinder or clipper if you hear them clicking on the ground. To prevent tooth decay, brush your Irish Red and White Setter's teeth with a toothpaste formulated for dogs daily.
Irish Red and White Setter Exercise
Irish Red and White Setters are high-energy dogs that need lots of daily exercise for their physical and mental health. Until an Irish Red and White Setter is 18 months old, exercise should be kept low-impact to protect their joints — lots of walking and free play in a securely fenced area is ideal.
Adult Irish Red and White Setters enjoy more strenuous forms of exercise and make good jogging, hiking, and biking companions.
Irish Red and White Setters enjoy canine sports such as agility, tracking, hunting, and obedience that provide physical and mental stimulation.
Irish Red and White Setter Training
Irish Red and White Setters are easily trained and respond well to positive reinforcement based training programs. Irish Red and White Setters don't respond well to harsh or repetitive training — keep training sessions short and positive for the best results.
Irish Red and White Setter Medical Care
Like all dogs, Irish Red and White Setters need to visit the veterinarian every 3 to 4 weeks for the first 6 to 8 months of life, and then, annually after they are a year old.
All Irish Red and White Setters will need standard core vaccines. Core vaccines include:
- Canine parvovirus
- Canine hepatitis
Non-core vaccines may be given if your dog has a higher exposure risk. Your vet will help you decide if your dog needs any non-core vaccines. Non-core vaccines include:
- Bordetella bronchiseptica
- Borrelia burgdorferi/Canine Lyme disease
- Leptospira bacteria
- Canine Influenza
Like all dogs, you need to give your Irish Red and White Setter a heartworm prevention medication year-round. This medication prevents heartworms, a potentially fatal parasitic infection that's spread through mosquito bites. Your Irish Red and White Setter puppy should be started on heartworm prevention medications no later than eight weeks. Heartworm prevention medication comes in oral or topical forms and is available by prescription. Your veterinarian can help you choose which prescription is right for you.
Irish Red and White Setter Health Problems
The average Irish Red and White Setter lifespan is 11 to 15 years. Irish Red and White Setters are generally very healthy dogs. Some health conditions the breed can be prone to include:
Leukocyte Adhesion Deficiency (CLAD)
Leukocyte adhesion deficiency (CLAD) is an inherited blood disorder that can affect Irish Setters. Red and White Irish Setters who have CLAD have abnormal blood clotting and immune system functions due to mutations in genes that affect blood cell activity. Symptoms include:
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Failure to gain weight
- Recurrent skin infections
- Bone infections
Most affected dogs die young from bleeding or infection, but some dogs live for years with this condition. Talk to your veterinarian if you have concerns about CLAD.
Canine von Willebrand Disease
A genetic bleeding disorder, Canine von Willebrand Disease (vWD) can cause uncontrollable bleeding. Severe vWD can cause spontaneous bleeding from the nose or mouth and the urinary, reproductive, or intestinal tracts. If your Irish Red and White Setter has any signs of random or uncontrolled bleeding, talk to your veterinarian about vWD.
If your Irish Red and White Setter has vWD, your veterinarian may give a plasma transfusion before surgery or other procedures that can cause bleeding.
Irish Red and White Setters with vWD should never be given medication that interferes with clotting, like aspirin or heparin.
Red and white Irish Setters can be prone to hip dysplasia, which is a condition where the ball and socket of the hip joint don't fit together correctly. Misalignment of the hip joint causes pain, deterioration, and, over time, loss of joint function. Symptoms include:
- Lethargy or decreased activity
- Loss of thigh muscles
- A swaying or hopping gait
- Lameness in the hind legs
Let your veterinarian know if your Irish Red and White Setter shows signs of hip dysplasia.
Hypothyroidism is a condition where your Irish Red and White Setter's thyroid gland doesn't produce enough thyroid hormones.
Symptoms of hypothyroidism include:
- Excessive shedding
- Fur loss or thinning
- Weight gain
- Reduced activity
- Reduced cold tolerance
- Thickening of the skin
- Frequent ear or skin infections
- Facial droop
Your veterinarian can make a hypothyroidism diagnosis with a blood test. Hypothyroidism is treated with a synthetic thyroid hormone that will need to be given for the rest of your dog's life.
Cataracts occur when a lens in your Irish Red and White Setter's eyes becomes cloudy. Irish Setters are prone to posterior polar cataracts, which occur in the back of the eye and are more difficult to see. Depending on the severity, your veterinarian may recommend surgery.
- Signs of vision loss, such as bumping into furniture or walls
- A hazy, white appearance to the eye
Irish Red and White Setters: Special Considerations
Irish Red and White Setters are high-energy. Their stamina and athleticism is part of what makes Irish Red and White Setters a prized hunting dog, but these same qualities can be a lot to handle in the home. While they are highly trainable dogs, they'll never be at their best lounging around at home regularly. Irish Red and White Setters are best suited to an active family that spends lots of time outdoors.
Irish Red and White Setters are playful dogs that are good with children. As with all dog breeds, small children and Irish Red and White Setters should be supervised at all times. Children should be taught how to interact with dogs safely and respectfully.
Irish Red and White Setter History
Irish Red and White Setters date back to at least the 1600s, when they were used to hunt birds in Ireland's countryside.
Irish Red and White Setters are probably the progenitors of all-red Irish Setters, which were likely developed from breeding Irish red-and-white setters with increasing amounts of red in their coat. By the 19th century, though, the all-red Irish Setters outnumbered their red-and-white predecessors, and they are still the more prevalent breed today.
The breed's numbers fell dramatically during World War I. A dedicated Reverend, Rev. Noble Huston, and his cousin Dr. Elliot started an Irish Red and White Setter breeding program that rescued the breed from the brink of extinction.
In 1944, Mrs. Maureen Cuddy and her husband, Will Cuddy, formed the Irish Red and White Setter Society. The Cuddys are credited with researching and preserving much of the history of the breed. Their own Irish Red and White Setter, Judith Cunningham of Knockalla, was likely instrumental in reviving the breed.
Between the end of World War II and the 1980s, the breed spread to England and the U.S., and the American Kennel Club formally recognized Irish Red and White Setters in 2009.