Bringing an Irish Setter into your home


In order to be a satisfied owner of this beautiful breed you must honestly evaluate whether an Irish Setter is the dog for you.  Do you have the space to accommodate an exuberant dog that may grow to 80 pounds, with a tail that swishes everything off the coffee table?  Do you have the patience to train this animal from the time you bring it home until it matures at two or three years of age?  Do you have the requisite exercise facilities, or someone in the family who will undertake to maintain this regimen faithfully?  Do you have the temperament and the sense of humor to enjoy an Irish Setter?  Are you committed to a lifetime of care and responsibility for this animal?  Are you prepared to include your dog as a true member of the family?

If you can honestly answer affirmatively to all these considerations, then perhaps an Irish Setter is the dog for you.

The absolute first rule is always buy from a reputable breeder and not from a retail outlet.  The Irish Setter Club of America publishes an annual Breeder’s Directory, listing breeders in almost every state of the United States.  These breeders sign a document called Principles of Integrity to which they must subscribe before being listed in the Directory.  ISCA does not police its members, but the Principles serve as guidelines both for the breeder and the buyer.

Here are some things to consider when you go to buy your puppy.  The breeder, whether someone who owns one bitch and breeds an occasional litter, or someone who runs a large kennel with several litters a year, must run the same type of operation.  The place, whether family room or kennel, must be clean and the puppies well maintained and contented.  You should be able to see the mother, or receive a convincing explanation of why the mother is not with the puppies.  Most breeders have the dam on the premises with the puppies, although occasionally the puppies were born elsewhere.  This is acceptable, unless the puppies were bought commercially for resale.  You may see the sire, but most often the sire is not present, as breeders go far afield to find the perfect mate for their bitch.

You should see a copy of the pedigree of the puppies, plus pictures of the sire, if he is elsewhere.  You should be given proof that the puppies are registerable with the American Kennel Club.

There are some health-related problems in the breed, as there are with all breeds and mixed-breeds, too.  Among them are hip dysplasia, PRA (an inherited eye disease) and epilepsy.  You should ask if the sire and dam have had their hips X-rayed and are free of this crippling disorder and if either the sire or dam are known to have had epilepsy or if they have produced it in other litters.

Some breeders have had their animal test-mated to be certain that they do not carry PRA (Progressive Retinal Atrophy), a degenerative eye disease.  Many breeders are not able to do this, but should be able to tell you whether any close relatives are known to have this disease.  Breeders often check their dogs’ eyes and register them with CERF (Canine Eye Registry Foundation). (This does not mean, however, that the dog will be clear of all eye problems for life.) In addition, the Irish Setter Genetic Registry maintains a list of all the test-mated and genetically clear dogs.  This list is available from the Genetic Registry.

You are entitled, as a prospective buyer, to an honest evaluation of the litter.  Ethical breeders produce puppies which they hope will improve the breed.  They may be breeding for certain characteristics which they hope to achieve.  Some may be looking for the ideal show champion, others may be breeding for the best field potential, still others may look to combine all the attributes of show, field and obedience.  Others may be interested in producing the best pets with stable temperaments and adequate looks.  Whatever the goals are of the breeder, he or she should honestly convey them to you.

Here are a few caveats:  Do not accept the word of the breeder who guarantees you a champion when the litter is eight weeks old.  Even though the puppies may look wonderful at that age, too many variables are possible for a breeder to honestly sell puppies on that basis.  Do not be pressured into buying a puppy if you have any doubts about the condition of the litter, the dam, or the breeder.  Look around.  Once you find a line that you like you may have to wait for a puppy.  Don’t take the first puppy that you see unless all the conditions are right.

Almost every litter contains dogs of varying quality.  Depending upon the lineage, some may turn out to be show stoppers, while others may have minor faults which in no way precludes them from being excellent pets.  A puppy from one of these litters is a very good bet because you are pretty well assured that the breeder has done his or her best to produce top quality in looks, temperament and health.

If you are in an area in which dog shows are held, or in which a local Irish Setter club is represented, take the time to go to a show or a match and see the puppies.  Meet the breeders and exhibitors and get a feel for what is available in your area.  Take your time.  Remember this puppy will be part of your family for a long time, so you want to make the best choice possible.

Don’t be surprised if the breeder asks as many questions about you as you do about the puppies.  In fact, be happy that the breeder is concerned about where his or her puppy is going.  Responsible breeders put an enormous amount of time, energy, emotion and money into a litter.  They want to make sure the puppies are going to appropriate homes where they will be happy and well cared for their entire lives.

Breeders who sell pet puppies whom they do not consider of top breeding quality may require a spay or neuter agreement from the buyer.  Or they may sell a puppy with limited registration papers, which would preclude any offspring of that puppy form being registered with AKC.  Most people who buy a pet are happy to have it altered and this has to bearing on whether the puppy will be a good pet.

Buyers Rights

Once you have selected a puppy from a litter you have chosen, here are some things you should be given by the breeder.

  1. You should receive the AKC application enabling you to register your puppy with the American Kennel Club.  Sometimes breeders prefer to register all their puppies with kennel names beforehand and this is acceptable, just so long as this is done promptly and necessary transfer papers are timely and in order.  AKC has a 6-month time line during which puppies may be registered without penalty, and there is no reason for a breeder to delay any of the paperwork involved.  In addition, it is against AKC regulations for a breeder to charge for the registration certificate, and ethically it is wrong to charge for a pedigree.
  2. You should receive the pedigree at the same time you purchase the puppy, or before.  You should not have to wait for this.  It is part of the breeders’ responsibility to keep their paperwork current.
  3. You should receive a list of the vaccinations which the puppy has received and the veterinarian who has given them.

Some breeders vaccinate their own puppies, but you should receive a document stating when the vaccinations were given and which pharmaceuticals were used.  In addition, you should receive a document stating when and if the puppies were wormed and which medications were given.  If the puppies were examined by a veterinarian, there should be a certificate of health provided by the examining doctor.

  • The breeder should recommend that you take the puppy to a veterinarian of your choice within a specific time.  Usually 48 hours from the time of purchase is considered reasonable.  If the puppy, upon examination at that time, is found to be ill or with some visible defect, the breeder should be willing to take the puppy back.
  • You should receive a guarantee that the puppy is healthy and free of known defects at the time of purchase.
  • The breeder should state in writing that he or she will take the puppy back if the buyer is unable to keep it, or that they will do their utmost to place the puppy in another home within a reasonable time.

Breeders Rights

Just as you have reasonable expectations as a buyer when you go to purchase a puppy, the breeder, who has put so much heart and soul into this litter, has the right to expect certain things from you.

  1. If the breeder has suggested that you follow a certain regimen in raising the puppy, you should abide by those suggestions concerning feeding, grooming and exercise to the utmost of your ability.  It is always advisable to consult with your veterinarian about this.
  2. The breeder has a right to expect you to keep the puppy clean and healthy.
  3. If you agreed to have the puppy altered, you are obligated to do so within a reasonable time.  Six months is usually considered the norm.
  4. The breeder has the right to expect that you have represented yourselves and your family honestly regarding your ability to care for this animal.
  5. The breeder has the right to expect that you will come back for advice if you have a problem you cannot solve.
  6. If you have signed a breeding contract each governs when and how a bitch or dog will be bred, you are bound to abide by that contract.  It is important to a breeder that puppies they produce are in turn bred to improve the line.  It is for this reason that many breeders sell puppies, particularly bitch puppies, with “strings” attached.  You should know what the conditions are and the breeder should explain them to you thoroughly before any contract is signed.


Many breeders like to co-own their show stock so that they can have a voice in the show career and breeding potential of that dog.  There are many kinds of co-ownerships and the responsible breeder will explain the details to you before you buy your puppy.  There are also many pitfalls to co-ownerships, so the buyer needs to thoroughly understand what is involved.  Co-ownerships are a little like a marriage.  You had better like each other and know each other very well before engaging in any complicated arrangements.  Co-ownerships work best when the details are thoroughly understood and the expectations of all parties are in agreement.  If you, as a puppy buyer, have doubts about co-ownerships, but you really want to buy from a particular breeder, a limited time co-ownership sometimes works best.  That way both of you can evaluate one another to see if this marriage will work.  Such a contract would continue through the first litter or until the dog is mature and shows its worth as a show dog.  You can then decide whether to terminate the contract or continue with it if both parties are satisfied.


Without a doubt – the best dogs are those available directly from quality breeders, which carry an AKC registration.  Please – do not buy a puppy from someone’s backyard, a parking lot, or a pet store.  Even though they may be ‘Registered’, there’s a 99% probability that they will have a major health issue, which may result in discomfort for the dog, expensive veterinary bills, and disappointment for you and your family.  You will not pay more in the long run for a puppy from a quality breeder.

The breeders who you will be referred to by the ISCM Breeders Referral Committee are all known to us, and have track records of producing quality animals.


  • You can tell if a breeder is reputable if he or she asks a lot of questions about your home, your family, your experience with dogs and cats in general, and Irish Setters in particular.
  • A quality breeder wants to place dogs in the type of home situations best suited to the health and happiness of BOTH the animal and its owners!
  • You will be expected to visit the kennel to see the puppies, and so the breeder can meet you and your family.
  • The breeder will show you a purchase contract that has lots of information and defines some standards.


Not all puppies in a litter are ‘show quality’, for very minor reasons, usually.  The ‘Pet quality’ puppies have all the carefully bred characteristics of their litter mates, however, and should not  be considered to be ‘inferior’ in any way.

The breeder will want his or her ‘show quality’ puppies to go into homes in which the family will actively show the dog, or at least allow others to show it.  Many folks begin their interest in showing dogs by this route!

YOU MUST READ THE ‘DESCRIPTION OF THE BREED’.  We want all puppy buyers to be educated buyers!  Even though you admire the breed and believe you can provide the right kind of home, there may be some characteristic of Irish Setters that would make it a poor match.  For your sake as well as the dog’s, please learn all you can BEFORE you buy!