The Irish Setter: Hunter In The Field

  1. Where do you live? What do you do “outside” of dogs?
  2. In popularity, our red-headed friends currently rank #77 out of all 192 AKC-recognized breeds.
  3. We think everyone on earth is a fan, but does the average person in the street recognize him? -Is this good or bad when it comes to placing puppies?
  4. Few of these dogs really “work” anymore. How has he adapted to civilian life? What qualities in the field also come in handy around the house?
  5. A big strong Sporting dog requires a special household to be a perfect fit. What about the breed makes him an ideal companion? Drawbacks?
  6. What special challenges do us breeders face in our current economic and social climate?
  7. At what age do you start to see definite signs of show-worthiness (or lack thereof)?
  8. What is the most important thing about the breed for a new judge to keep in mind?
  9. What is your ultimate goal for the breed?
  10. What is your favorite dog show memory?
  11. Is there anything else you’d like to share about the breed? Please elaborate.

Lydia Miller

My kennel name is Kilkenny’s and I live in Hellertown, Pennsylvania.

Outside of dogs I enjoy going to Broadway shows, museums, and concerts. I am a retired Narcotics Agents who lived in Bogota, Colombia where I found a little puppy in a flea market and bought her. She turned out to be an Irish Setter. That was in 1995.

When I take my dogs to public places everyone stops me and comments how beautiful they are. And most people recognize that they are Irish setters and tell me about experiences they had with them in the past.

Having just had a litter of 12 puppies, the last one leaving on October 12th. I can tell you I had people fill out a questionnaire and went through them carefully. People that had Irish Setters previously I felt they knew the breed. The new people that never owned an Irish Setter before, I asked them to bring their families and spend time interacting with them. I would watch them and I could tell if they really would interact with the dogs they would be a good fit. I also had strict requirements when placing an Irish Setter. I required a fenced in yard. The dog not to be crated long hours. I would explain to the new owners that these dogs like to be with you and they like to play and interact with their owners. I turned down several potential homes because of the type of living situation. For example a community that would not allow an invisible fence or fenced in yard. The dog would have to be leashed walked. They need to be able to run in a yard. They require exercise.

I have put JR hunting titles on my dogs in the past. I don’t really think their hunting abilities matter inside the house. But in the yard. I watch them point birds and are always using their instincts when we go to the lake and their are ducks. They point them and you can see they natural ability come out in them.

As far as the perfect household for an Irish Setter. I learned a lot through the years. This most recent litter I placed each dog in a great household. I had them temperament tested to see what dogs showed different attitudes and behaviors. And then I looked at each individual family and what they wanted. For instance one of my homes was interested in hunting with his Irish Setter and has done hunting in the past with them. So when I did the temperament test one dog in the report came back and it stated that this dog has excellent hunting abilities. So I placed that dog with that home.

The first time owners I placed a more calm temperament puppy with them. Obviously things can change. But I had the temperament test done by a person that wrote many articles and teaches it nationwide.

The drawback to owning an Irish Setter and never having one previously is people don’t always understand that they want to be with you. They are not a breed that wants to be alone. They like to be with you and need lots of exercise.

As far as our current economics go. I feel we are the same as any other breed. You need to know what you are getting into with any dog. The cost of food and vet care are very expensive. The climate has never affected my dogs. I have four seasons and they love all of them.

I like to evaluate my show stock between 9 and 12 weeks old. I feel that is when we can see their strengths and weaknesses start to come out. But if course that can change also.

When a new judge comes into our breed, it is important for them to evaluate the overall dog. Balance and structure and choose the dog that is closest to our written standard. Some judges will focus on one trait and not the overall structure of the dog. It’s the entire package of the dog that needs to be evaluated not just one trait.

My ultimate goal for our breed is health. We need to do all the recommended health clearances by our parent club. And we need to do pedigree research on health issues and try and breed into lines that don’t have the same health issues as your line might have. There are no clear lines of health issues. So we must do our best to make sure we breed healthy sound dogs.

My favorite dog show memory is when I finished my first home bred Champion in 2005. My very first litter I bred produced three Champions, a JR hunting title and two obedience titles.

When I returned from Bogota Colombia , I wanted to get another Irish Setter puppy. I found a little female. I began training her in obedience, which lead me to meet many Irish Setter owners. Since I was new to showing in 1997 many people wanted to look at my bitch and pedigree. I had a vet appointment to have her spayed that week. Several people told me to cancel it. They told me she was show quality. I had many mentors. But one was so outstanding and if it was not for her help and guidance I would not be doing this today. She explained how to get my health clearances on my bitch. And she picked out what she thought was a good stud dog for me to breed to. That produced my first litter of 12 puppies. And two of them just got another puppy from me out of my current litter. I am forever grateful to her and to all my mentors. Most of them have passed away. I am forever grateful I found this breed.

Anita Gage

I live in Fortuna, California, a small town in northern California, four hours away from the closest dog show.

After 30 years, I retired as a high school English teacher. Since then I have been a member of the District’s Board of Trustees. My husband and I travel abroad extensively when we aren’t traveling to dog shows in country. I’m also an avid reader.

Does the average person in the street recognize the breed? Many folks seeing them on the street will say that they haven’t seen an Irish Setter for years, or that they grew up with one, and “it was the best dog they ever had.” In the 70s the Irish setter was so popular.

How has the breed adapted to civilian life? Many, many “conformation” Irish Setters are used successfully in the field. My husband and I don’t hunt, but our Irish Setters keep us active and in good health. They are all walked, biked and trained every day. Keeping the dogs active also makes them good house dogs.

What special challenges do us breeders face in our current economic and social climate? I don’t think an Irish setter provides any special economic or social challenges from any other large purebred dog. They eat more than a small dog, need to be groomed and exercised. They are so beautiful, I haven’t heard any negative comments about them being purebred, which I think can be an issue in this “rescue dog” era.

At what age do I start to see definite signs of show-worthiness? Certainly puppies at eight to ten weeks old can be initially evaluated for show worthiness. At six months old I usually revaluate their attitudes as well as their physicality.

What is the most important thing about the breed for a new judge to keep in mind? The Irish setter is more than a beautiful dog with NOW lots of coat. Many new judges don’t keep in mind that the Irish setter is a field dog meant to hunt all day away from its handler. Their movement needs to abe extended and efficient in order for that to happen. Correct confirmation in the front, which is often lacking, needs to be there for correct movement. I would suggest new judges try to view a field event. Grooming, which is often way overdone should not be the first thing the judges notice or reward.

What is my ultimate goal for the breed? My goal is to preserve the Irish setter and promote and support the health of the breed.

My favorite dog show memory? Our breed unfortunately has become a handlers breed. But two years ago at the Southern Oregon Kennel Club, my special GCHG Firle Oak More Than Ready took BISOH and BIS with the most respected, successful handlers in the country also in the ring. Will it happen again, maybe not, but it happened once!

Anne Marie Kubacz

Ramblin’ Red Irish Setters began when Randy and Anne Marie met at the Irish Setter Club of Long Island and married in 1975.

The founder of Ramblin’ Acres Kennel, Randy retired from a successful career at United Airlines to create a place where pets could be boarded and get top notch care and personal attention. Anne Marie is a licensed veterinary technician and worked at The Animal Medical Center in New York City from 1974 until she retired in June 2019

Peter graduated with double major at Monmouth University, and now runs Ramblin’ Acres Kennel, handles show dogs professionally, is a member of PHA and the AKC Registered Handlers program, is an AKC Junior Showmanship judge and a board member of Take the Lead.

Anne Marie, Randy and Peter recognize how important the Human Animal Bond is, and that every pet is a member of the family first and foremost. That is why the emphasis of our breeding program is based on sound temperaments and good health.

Ramblin’ Red is the only Irish setter breeding program to produce both a National Field Trial Winner and several National Specialty winners. Form and function dictate what dogs are chosen to play a role in the Ramblin’ Red breeding program.

Part of being a breeder is giving back to the sport. Being available to help newcomers to Irish setters in particular, and to the sport of dogs in general, no matter where the owners got their dog, is important to each of us.

Our favorite charities are the Irish Setter Club of America Foundation, Take the Lead and the AKC Canine Health Foundation.

I live in Jackson, New Jersey. I recently retired after working at The Animal Medical Center in New York City for 45 years as a
vet tech.

Does the average person in the street recognize the breed? The most common comment we get is “oh an Irish Setter…I had one growing up.”

How has the breed adapted to civilian life? Irish setters are great family dogs with an active family who really wants their dog to be a part of their life. They love to do anything the family wants to do, same quality that makes them a biddable hunter in the field.

What about the breed makes them an ideal companion? This is not a breed who does well isolated from the family. Having a big yard is great but don’t expect an Irish Setter to go out in the yard and entertain itself. It will be pawing at the door to come back inside with you. I do think a doggie door is a great option as it lets your dog go outside knowing they can always get back in to you. Some of my best homes have been apartment dwellers in NYC who are active and love having their dog with them outside.

What special challenges do breeders face in our current economic and social climate? I don’t feel our challenges are any different than any dog breeder: finding a home who wants a dog forever and has the dedication to provide them with exercise and social stimulation as well as the means to provide excellent veterinary care. Once the initial purchase price (or adoption fee) is paid, every dog has the same basic requirements.

At what age do I start to see definite signs of show-worthiness? I usually take a first look at about seven weeks, with a better idea at nine weeks and final decisions made at 12-14 weeks.

The most important thing about the breed for a new judge to keep in mind? This is a sporting breed and the Irish Setters side profile standing and moving defines it as an Irish Setter. After assessing the dog for soundness down and back, there’s no need for more down and back assessment!

It is very disappointing to see judges make decisions on down and back of our breed. Moving them around from the side tells you much more about what makes an Irish Setter an Irish Setter.

Also as our standard says “no part should call attention to itself”. Balance is key on an Irish Setter. Don’t fault judge! Find the best dog not the best “part”.

And finally Irish Setters shouldn’t “bounce” or have a spring-like stride when they move. Think of the phrase “clipping daisies” when you watch them move, along with looking for effortless reach and drive.

My ultimate goal for the breed? To produce healthy pets with great temperament; any titles the dogs get in show, field, agility, obedience, rally, dock diving, scent work etc is the icing on the cake but being a great healthy companion is most important to us.

My favorite dog show memory? While both my husband, Randy, and I have handled National Specialty and Best in Show winners, my favorite memory is watching our then 16 year old son, Peter, handle a Best of Breed winner at the Irish Setter Club of America National Specialty. A close second is watching Peter judge the Irish Setter Club of America National sweepstakes classes, the youngest person ever to be voted for that honor by ISCA members. We are so lucky to have a son who shares our passion.

Kimberly Lamontagne

I live in Colorado. Outside of dogs, I work full time for IBM and my husband enjoys cooking, hiking and spending time with family.

Does the average person in the street recognize the breed? I am 50/50 on this one. Many people ask what breed I have and many know it’s an Irish Setter. The two most common things people say is, “I had one growing up” and “You don’t see many of them any more”. I have never had trouble placing puppies as many of my puppy buyers are repeat. I don’t breed too often so I don’t have too many to worry about.

How has the breed adapted to civilian life? I’m not sure what this means. What qualities in the field also come in handy around the house? Good recall, sit and down.

What about the breed makes them an ideal companion? Friendliness, loyalty and loving dogs. They are great for active people, usually good with children. Drawbacks? They need an active family and free run in additional to frequent leash walking. An Irish needs to have his “run”. Not meant for apartment living until they become seniors.

What special challenges do breeders face in our current economic and social climate? People are looking for the latest thing, the latest gadget, latest phone, latest device, latest dog breed. The ever disappointing something-doodle.

At what age do I start to see definite signs of show-worthiness? At ten weeks. Then review at 12 months.

The most important thing about the breed for a new judge to keep in mind? It’s not about how much coat. It’s not about just a pretty head, although it should resemble the standard. Puppies are puppies and don’t hold anything against them, they will change.

My ultimate goal for the breed? To continue on as meant to be without morphing into something trendy.


I live in Wells, Maine. Outside of dogs, I’m a retired US Postmaster, Sit on Board of Governors for York County Audubon, Sit on Board for ISCNE, Avid gardener, Avid Birder, Avid walker/hiker, love traveling.

Does the average person in the street recognize the breed? I’d say about 75% of the people recognize our dogs as Irish Setters. The people that contact us are mostly prior Irish Setter owners or people who have a good knowledge of the breed.

How has the breed adapted to civilian life? A Sporting dog requires a special household to be a perfect fit. I do not find this to be true of show bred Irish Setters. Our dogs love being house dogs, are not excessively driven to be in a hunting mode, they love being with their humans, lounging on the couches, going for walks, hikes, romping outside with kennelmates, going to obedience or
handling classes.

What about the breed makes him an ideal companion? Their total devotion to their humans. Drawbacks are they require brushing and grooming to keep their gorgeous coats and feathers free
of mats.

What special challenges do us breeders face in our current economic and social climate? No more challenges than any other purebred breed. If a person wants a well bred, healthy dog they will be willing to purchase from a reputable breeder who does the proper health testing.

At what age do I start to see definite signs of show-worthiness? Eight to 16 weeks.

What is the most important thing about the breed for a new judge to keep in mind? Balance is key, front angle should match rear angles, movement should be fluid and free, toplines should be strong with no dips in spine and no roaches, hocks should be nice and straight when standing relaxed, hocking in when standing or moving is not acceptable nor are hocks that are too long, Irish should have a soft expression with nice dark eyes, they should have a nice front sternum, depth and width of chest, ribs should be well sprung and should reach the elbow, movement should be fluid.

What is my ultimate goal for the breed? Producing health, correct and balanced setters with wonderful temperaments.

My favorite dog show memory? There have been so many. Just watching our dogs perform well and win in the rings gives us
great pleasure.

Irish Setters are wonderful family members. Show bred Setters have fabulous, sound, loving temperaments. They have exceptional bonds with their families and welcome everyone into their world. They connect to their families on a very deep level and seem to feel everything that their owners feel. They get into their owners souls with a devotion and unconditional love that is unmatched.

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