Irish setters are known for their beautiful, long, glossy coats. The mahogany or chestnut red color is striking. The setter's hair grows in "feathers" on the tail, the ears, the back of forelegs, and the abdomen, which is considered a "skirt" in the animal grooming industry. The optimal coat is fine-textured and the hair should be straight and curl-free, according to the AKC standard. An Irish setter can be groomed for show purposes or trimmed shorter for easier maintenance if he is a companion dog. The silky hair of an Irish setter can quickly become matted if it is not properly and routinely cared for. The Irish setter is among the breeds that require the greatest amount of routine grooming maintenance.
Brush the dog at least weekly, following the direction of the hair growth from the head to the back. Brush from the top of the body down to the trunk, and from the tops of the legs to the feet.
Comb your Irish setter with a wide-tooth comb to break up tangles and remove mats that the brush may have missed. The hair on the Irish setter's legs and flanks, and under the elbows, abdomen and ears, is particularly susceptible to tangles, as it is wispy or feathery in nature.
Use a fine-tooth comb under the chin and tail, and behind the ears. The hair under a setter's chin grows long and thin like a beard; both the hair in this area and the hair at the back of the upper thighs under the tail are susceptible to matting.
Strip or pluck the coat with a stripping knife to thin dead hair from the back. Strip your Irish setter of dead hair every three months.
Use shears or scissors to remove excess fur from between the pads of the feet. Contour around the top of the foot. This gives the dog more traction and reduces tracking of dirt or leaves into the house.
Shampoo the dog once or twice a month, or as needed after swimming or field running. Many owners of Irish setters bathe their dogs weekly, according to Charlotte Wilcox, author of "The Irish Setter." Bathing a dog is a matter of judgment; if your dog is an indoor dog only, is not shown and stays clean, you may not need to bathe him more than a few times a year. But an Irish setter is a high-energy dog who requires considerable daily exercise just to keep him out of trouble. Where and how he romps is one key to how often he will need to be bathed.
Bathing removes important oils from a dog's coat, and frequent bathing can cause skin problems, but bathing also can reduce the allergens the dog carries into your home in his coat. If you bathe your Irish setter frequently, it is best to use a conditioner to help replace the natural oils bathing removes from his coat.
Regardless of bathing frequency, you should brush an Irish setter three to four times per week, because the Irish setter has a very high-maintenance coat.
Blow-dry your dog's coat with a hand-held dryer after bathing. Keep the dryer moving while you are working on drying the coat so that you do not burn the dog.
Have an expert trim your Irish setter's nails frequently or show you how to do it properly. If nails are left to grow too long, the toes may splay. Do not trim your dog's nails yourself unless you are certain you know how to do it properly and can persuade your dog to hold still during the procedure. It is easy to cut the quick, causing pain and considerable bleeding.