Irish Red and White Setter dog
Irish Red and White Setter dogs
Irish Red and White Setter dog
Irish Red and White Setter dog
He’s not an Irish Setter but is a relative of the better-known breed. The Irish Red and White is tireless and enthusiastic at everything he does, especially if it involves hunting. Eclipsed by the popularity of his cousin, the Irish Setter, The Irish Red and White Setter was almost lost to extinction. Fortunately hunters recognized his abilities and brought him back from the abyss. He is distinguished by a red and white coat. The Irish Red and White is just as friendly and affectionate as the Irish Setter but has the same potential for stubbornness. He comes in a more standard size, typically weighing 60 to 70 pounds.

 “Tireless” and “enthusiastic are the words frequently used to describe the Irish Red and White.” If this dog were writing a personals ad, he’d say that he enjoys long walks or hikes at a moderate pace. He also loves to run. Given an ample daily quota of exercise, he is a calm and fun-loving companion. He can be a good choice for families with older children, but he’s probably too rambunctious to be set loose with toddlers. He gets along well with other pets such as cats if he’s raised with them, but he only scores a 3 for "cat-friendliness" on a scale of 1 to 5. Irish Red and White Setters are alert and will loudly and excitedly announce that someone is approaching.

Choose an Irish Red and White Setter if you are an active person who can give him the exercise he needs. A long walk or run of an hour or more a day will do, or you can take him hiking. He’s also a super competitor in dog sports such as agility, obedience, and rally, and can be an excellent therapy dog. Be warned: if you don’t give him an outlet for his energy, he will become frustrated. A frustrated Irish Red and White Setter is a destructive Irish Red and White Setter.

The Irish Red and White Setter responds well to patient, gentle training with positive reinforcement techniques such as play, praise, and food rewards. That said, he likes to have his own way and may stubbornly resist if what you’re asking doesn’t seem like fun. For best results, begin training early, keep it interesting, and don’t assume you can stop after a single obedience class. This breed is slow to mature, so he will be playful and puppy-like until he’s three or four years old.

The Irish Red and White Setter has a medium-length particolor coat with deep chestnut red patches on a white background. Brush and comb the coat two or three times a week to prevent or remove mats and tangles. A bath every six weeks or so doesn’t go amiss. In addition, trim the nails as needed, brush the teeth, and keep the ears clean and dry.

A people-loving dog like the Irish Red and White Setter needs to live in the house.

Other Quick Facts

  • The Irish Red and White has a long, sometimes slightly wavy coat with feathering on the legs, chest, and tail. The eyes are dark hazel to dark brown, and the hanging ears have a triangular shape.
  • The coat of the Irish Red and White is a pearly white, with distinct solid red patches. It has a silky texture that sheds dirt easily.
  • The Irish Red and White’s heritage is unknown, but it’s likely that he has Spaniels in his ancestry.

The History of the Irish Red and White Setter

Before the Irish Setter, there was the Irish Red and White Setter. The first written records to refer to a red and white setting dog date to the mid-17th century, but paintings from a century before that show similar breeds. They were favorites with hunters because they were easy to see in the field, but when dog shows came along, the desire for dogs that were dark solid-red nearly led to the disappearance of the red and white dogs.

A few of the dogs remained, but the privations of World War I almost did them in. They were saved through the efforts of a County Down parson, the Rev. Noble Huston, and his cousin, a Dr. Elliott. They gradually increased the numbers of the Red and White and sent a few of the dogs to other countries, including England, Spain, and the United States. In later years, Huston and Elliott’s work was carried on by Mr. and Mrs. Will Cuddy. Maureen Cuddy researched and recorded the breed’s history in the early 20th century. The Cuddys were involved in forming the Irish Red and White Setter Society in Ireland in 1944 and gaining recognition for the breed as separate from the Irish Setter.

A few Irish Red and Whites were imported to the U. S. in the 1960s, followed by more in the 1980s, which is when the breed’s growth really began. The Red and White was recognized by the United Kennel Club in 1995, the Canadian Kennel Club the in 1999, and the American Kennel Club in 2009. Today there are at least 500 Red and Whites in North America, and they rank 150th among the breeds registered by the AKC.

Irish Red and White Setter Temperament and Behavior

The good-natured and affectionate Red and White is not only a popular hunting dog. Thanks to his excellent scenting ability and strong natural instincts for pointing and retrieving, he does double-duty as a family friend. He likes kids and can fit well into a family with children, with the caveat that he is pretty rambunctious, especially as a pupster, and should always be supervised around toddlers.

The Red and White is alert, so he’s a good watchdog, but he doesn’t have the protective nature of a guard dog. He generally gets along well with other dogs and is friendly toward cats when he’s brought up with them. But bear in mind that he only scores a 3 for "cat-friendliness" on a scale of 1 to 5.

This is an active Sporting dog who needs daily exercise. Take him for a run, go on a long hike, walk him for half an hour twice a day, or get out there and play fetch until your arms begin to ache. All of those activities will help to satisfy his need to be outdoors doing something. If you’re interested in dog sports, he’s an excellent candidate for agility, flyball, obedience, rally, and tracking. Gentle, friendly, and mild-mannered once he’s past puppyhood, he also has the makings of a fine therapy dog for visiting facilities such as nursing homes and children’s hospitals. 

In the field, the Red and White works at a moderate pace, never too far away from the hunter. He’s full of curiosity and searches the ground thoroughly for game. Choose him if your happy hunting grounds are wooded or near a river or lake (he’s less well suited to large open spaces).

When it comes to training, the Red and White can be a contradiction in terms. He’s gentle but headstrong, smart but slow to mature. Train him with a light touch so as not to warp his determination, courage, and high spirit.

Start training your puppy the day you bring him home. Even at eight weeks old, he is capable of soaking up everything you can teach him. Don’t wait until he is six months old to begin training, or you will have a more headstrong dog to deal with. Get him to puppy kindergarten class by the time he is 10 to 12 weeks old, so you can start building a strong working relationship, and socialize, socialize, socialize. However, be aware that many puppy training classes require certain vaccines (like kennel cough) to be up to date, and many veterinarians recommend limited exposure to other dogs and public places until puppy vaccines (including rabies, distemper and parvovirus) have been completed. In lieu of formal training, you can begin training your puppy at home and socializing him among family and friends until puppy vaccines are completed.

Talk to the breeder, describe exactly what you’re looking for in a dog, and ask for assistance in selecting a puppy. Breeders see the puppies daily and can make uncannily accurate recommendations once they know your lifestyle and personality. Whatever you want from an Irish Red and White Setter, look for one whose parents have nice personalities and who has been well socialized from early puppyhood.

What You Need To Know About Irish Red and White Setter Health

All dogs have the potential to develop genetic health problems, just as all people have the potential to inherit disease. Run from any breeder who does not offer a health guarantee on puppies, who tells you that the breed has no known problems, or who keeps puppies isolated from the main part of the household for health reasons. A reputable breeder will be honest and open about health problems in the breed and the incidence with which they occur.

Irish Red and White Setters have health conditions that can be a concern, especially if you don’t screen the breeder carefully. They include hip dysplasia, eye problems such as cataracts and progressive retinal atrophy, hypothyroidism, and an immune disorder called Canine Leukocyte Adhesion Deficiency (CLAD). A reputable breeder will be honest and open about health problems in the breed and the incidence with which they occur in her lines.

The Irish Red and White Setter Club of America, which is the American Kennel Club parent organization for the breed in the United States, participates in the Canine Health Information Center Program. Breeders must agree to have all test results — positive or negative — published in the CHIC database. For an Irish Red and White Setter to obtain CHIC certification, he must have OFA or PennHIP evaluations for hips, an OFA thyroid evaluation, an eye clearance from the Canine Eye Registry Foundation, Optigen test results for progressive retinal atrophy registered with the OFA, and Optigen CLAD test results registered with the OFA.

Do not purchase a puppy from a breeder who cannot provide you with written documentation that the parents were cleared of health problems that affect the breed. Having the dogs "vet checked" is not a substitute for genetic health testing.

Report any serious disease to your dog’s breeder.  If breeders don’t know that a health problem has cropped up in their line, they can’t take steps to eradicate it.

The Basics of Grooming an Irish Red and White Setter

The Irish Red and White has a silky coat that sheds dirt easily. It also sheds hair, but only moderately. The coat should look natural and, except for the undersides of the feet, does not need any shaving or trimming.

Brush and comb the coat a couple of times a week — and every time the dog has been in the field — being careful to gently remove any tangles or mats in the feathering. Regular brushing will keep the coat clean, but you’ll want to bathe the dog occasionally if the white hair starts looking dingy. The IRWSA has a section with grooming tips on its web page.

The rest is basic care. Trim the nails as needed, usually every week or two. Brush the teeth frequently with a vet-approved pet toothpaste for good overall health and fresh breath.

Finding a Irish Red and White Setter

Whether you want to go with a breeder or get your dog from a shelter or rescue, here are some things to keep in mind.

Choosing an Irish Red and White Setter Breeder

Finding a quality breeder is aa great way to find the right puppy. A good breeder will match you with the right puppy, and will have done all the health certifications necessary to screen out as many problems as possible. He or she is more interested in placing pups in the right homes than making big bucks.

Reputable breeders will welcome your questions about temperament, health clearances, and what the dogs are like to live with. They will come right back at you with questions of their own about what you’re looking for in a dog and what kind of life you plan to provide. A good breeder can tell you about the history of the breed, explain why one puppy is considered pet quality while another is not, and discuss what health problems affect the breed and the steps were taken to avoid them. A breeder should want to be a resource for you throughout your dog’s life.

For more information about the breed and start your search for a good breeder, visit the website of the Irish Red and White Setter Association. Choose a breeder who has agreed to abide by the IRWSA’s code of ethics, which prohibits the sale of puppies to or through pet stores and calls for the breeder to obtain recommended health clearances on dogs before breeding them.

Avoid breeders who only seem interested in how quickly they can unload a puppy on you and whether your credit card will clear. Breeders who offer puppies at one price “with papers” and at a lower price “without papers” are unethical. You should also bear in mind that buying a puppy from websites that offer to ship your dog to you immediately can be a risky venture, as it leaves you no recourse if what you get isn’t exactly what you expected. Put at least as much effort into researching your puppy as you would into choosing a new car or expensive appliance. It will save you money in the long run.

Lots of reputable breeders have websites, so how can you tell who’s good and who’s not? Red flags include over availability, multiple litters on the premises, a choice of any puppy, and the ability to pay online with a credit card. Those things are convenient, but they are almost never associated with reputable breeders.

Whether you’re planning to get your new best friend from a breeder, a pet store, or another source, don’t forget that old adage “let the buyer beware”. Disreputable breeders and facilities that deal with puppy mills can be hard to distinguish from reliable operations. There’s no 100% guaranteed way to make sure you’ll never purchase a sick puppy, but researching the breed (so you know what to expect), checking out the facility (to identify unhealthy conditions or sick animals), and asking the right questions can reduce the chances of heading into a disastrous situation. And don’t forget to ask your veterinarian, who can often refer you to a reputable breeder, breed rescue organization, or other reliable source for healthy puppies. 

The cost of an Irish Red and White Setter puppy varies depending on the breeder’s locale, whether the pup is male or female, what titles his parents have, and whether he is best suited for the show ring or a pet home. The puppy you buy should have been raised in a clean home environment, from parents with health clearances and conformation (show), and, ideally, working titles to prove that they are good specimens of the breed. Puppies should be temperament tested, vetted, dewormed, and socialized to give them a healthy, confident start in life.

Before you decide to buy a puppy, consider whether an adult Irish Red and White Setter might better suit your needs and lifestyle. Puppies are loads of fun, but they require a lot of time and effort. An adult may already have some training and will probably be less active, destructive, and demanding than a puppy.

With an adult, you know more about what you’re getting in terms of personality and health and you can find adults through breeders or shelters. If you are interested in acquiring an older dog through breeders, ask them about purchasing a retired show dog or if they know of an adult dog who needs a new home. If you want to adopt a dog, read the advice below on how to do that.

Adopting a Dog from Irish Red and White Setter Rescue or a Shelter

There are many great options available if you want to adopt a dog from an animal shelter or breed rescue organization. Here is how to get started.

1. Use the Web

Sites like and can have you searching for a Irish Red and White Setter in your area in no time flat. The site allows you to be very specific in your requests (housetraining status, for example) or very general (all the Irish Red and White Setters available on Petfinder across the country). AnimalShelter can help you find animal rescue groups in your area. Also some local newspapers have “pets looking for homes” sections you can review.

Social media is another great way to find a dog. Post on your Facebook page that you are looking for a specific breed so that your entire community can be your eyes and ears.

2. Reach Out to Local Experts

Start talking with all the pet pros in your area about your desire for a Irish Red and White Setter. That includes vets, dog walkers, and groomers. When someone has to make the tough decision to give up a dog, that person will often ask her own trusted network for recommendations.

3. Talk to Breed Rescue

Most people who love Irish Red and White Setters love all Irish Red and White Setters. That’s why breed clubs have rescue organizations devoted to taking care of homeless dogs. The Irish Red and White Setter Club of America’s rescue network can help you find a dog that may be the perfect companion for your family. You can also search online for other Irish Red and White Setter rescues in your area.

The great thing about breed rescue groups is that they tend to be very upfront about any health conditions the dogs may have and are a valuable resource for advice. They also often offer fostering opportunities so, with training, you could bring a Irish Red and White Setter home with you to see what the experience is like.

4. Key Questions to Ask

You now know the things to discuss with a breeder, but there are also questions you should discuss with shelter or rescue group staff or volunteers before you bring home a dog. These include:

What is his energy level?

How is he around other animals?

How does he respond to shelter workers, visitors, and children?

What is his personality like?

What is his age?

Is he housetrained?

Has he ever bitten or hurt anyone that they know of?

Are there any known health issues?

Wherever you acquire your Irish Red and White Setter, make sure you have a good contract with the seller, shelter or rescue group that spells out responsibilities on both sides. Petfinder offers an Adopters Bill of Rights that helps you understand what you can consider normal and appropriate when you get a dog from a shelter. In states with “puppy lemon laws,” be sure you and the person you get the dog from both understand your rights and recourses.

Puppy or adult, take your Irish Red and White Setter to your veterinarian soon after adoption. Your veterinarian will be able to spot problems, and will work with you to set up a preventive regimen that will help you avoid many health issues.