How to Train an Irish Red and White Setter

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The rollicking Irish Red and White Setter is an athletic medium-sized bird dog bred primarily for hunting. Fun-loving, friendly, and high-spirited, Irish Red and Whites are a bit shorter and stockier than their cousin the Irish Setter.

Sportsmen thrill at the sight of a noble Red and White frozen on point, motionless as a statue. These medium-to-large bird dogs are powerful, solid, and sinewy, with enough stamina and bird sense to get the job done any day of the week and twice on Sunday. The stunning coat, vivid red islands floating on a sea of pearl white, has a practical function: It enables hunters to spot their dog at a distance. The handsome face projects a keen but kindly expression.


Before there was the all-red Irish Setter we know and love, there was the Red and White—a fixture of Ireland’s hills and bogs since at least the 1600s. In those days setters would sneak up on game birds by crawling on their bellies, then freeze in a “setting” position and indicate with their tail until a hunter threw a net over the birds. Nets eventually gave way to firearms, and the best setter lines adapted their crouching style of hunting to the new technology.

Quick Facts

Temperament: Courageous / Spirited / Determined

Height: 22.5-26 inches

Weight: 35-60 pounds

Life Expectancy: 11-15 years

Sporting Group


rish Red and White Setters are generally healthy dogs, although there are some issues the breed can be prone to. Some that present themselves occasionally include posterior polar cataracts (cataracts that form in the back of the eye), hip dysplasia, progressive retinal atrophy, von Willebrand’s disease (a blood clotting issue), hypothyroidism, and immune disorders. The breed’s gene pool is not large, so genetic testing is especially important. Responsible breeders will screen their stock for conditions that can affect the breed.

Recommended Health Tests From the National Breed Club:
  • Hip Evaluation
  • Ophthalmologist Evaluation
  • Canine Leukocyte Adhesion Deficiency DNA Test


Grooming the Irish Red and White Setter is a fairly simple job. It is important that the breed look as natural as possible, although scissors or clippers might be used to tidy up the rough edges just for the sake of neatness. An all-over grooming once a week with a soft brush and a slicker or comb to eliminate any tangles will keep the dog looking his best. The ears should be checked weekly for any excess wax and debris. A bath every month or so is usually sufficient. Nails should be trimmed every few weeks, as needed.


The IRWS is a high-energy dog and requires a lot of exercise. A bored and under-exercised IRWS can be a handful to live with. Provide the IRWS puppy with plenty of low-impact activity to channel his abundant energy and stimulate his mind. While this breed is in its growth stage (puppy to 18 months), it is important to give them regular exercise and long walks while also protecting their forming joints’¿this means no jogging or biking. Free exercise in a fenced area is ideal and means the pup stops when he is tired. Upon maturity, the Irish Red and White Setter is an ideal walking, hiking, and biking companion.

The breed’s high spirits can make them a challenge to train. A key is to keep training sessions short, interesting, and upbeat. The IRWS is very eager to please and reacts well to a positive training approach involving lots of praise. Early socialization and puppy training classes are recommended. His intelligence, energy, and devotion to his human make him a natural at obedience, hunting, tracking, and agility.


 The Irish Red and White Setter should be fed a high-quality dog foodappropriate to the dog’s age (puppy, adult, or senior) and activity level. Give table scraps sparingly, if at all, especially avoiding cooked bones and foods with high fat content. Learn about which human foods are safe for dogs, and which are not. Check with your vet if you have any concerns about your dog’s weight or diet.