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How Much Exercise Do Irish Setters Need: Complete Guide

Irish setters need around 1-2 hours of moderate to intensive exercise per day. These are active dogs and absolutely must receive sufficient exercise in order to be content. This article will elaborate on this and include important info on mental stimulation and puppy exercise.


How Much Exercise Do Irish Setters Need?

Irish setters heavily depend on receiving a high amount of exercise, the sweet spot is around 1-2 hours per day. For healthy adults in their prime years (2-7) it should be more towards the 2-hour mark.

Ideally, their exercise should be split up into two different sessions, 60 minutes in the morning, and 60 minutes in the evening. But if this is unattainable, then receiving their daily exercise in one big session is okay.

Why Do Irish Setters Need So Much Exercise?

We have to look at their working history to find out why Irish Setters need so much exercise. For centuries, setters would have spent many hours outside pointing, retrieving, and flushing-out wild game with their owners.

By living such a physically demanding lifestyle for a long time, Irish Setters have become one of the fittest and most athletic breeds we know of. Still to this day, setters need a high level of exercise to keep their bodies and minds satisfied.

Why Mental Exercise Is Equally Important

There are two sides to the coin with exercise… physical exercise and mental exercise.

Physical exercise often takes the limelight, but both are equally important. Your Irish Setter will never truly be tired if her mind isn’t put to work as her body is. It doesn’t matter how much physical exercise you give, she’ll be ready to go again in 5 minutes if her mind hasn’t been taxed.

Therefore, to properly satisfy your Irish Setter, you must facilitate mental stimulation activities like daily training, using interactive puzzle toys, playing nose work games, and perhaps the most important of them all… socializing her with other dogs.

How Much Exercise Do PUPPIES Need?

When it comes to puppies, the rules change a lot. Puppies should not receive 1-2 hours of dedicated exercise per day as their bones, joints and muscles are still developing and therefore fragile.

Irish Setter puppies should receive gradually increasing exercise until around 1 year old. At four months 20 minutes per day is ideal, six months 30 minutes per day, eight months 40 minutes per day, and so on…

This is known as the 5-minute method, whereby they receive 5 minutes of exercise per day, per month of age they have. So at four months of age, it’s 20 minutes per day (4×5).

This is a well-known and proven method to safely exercise your puppy without putting too much stress on their developing bodies. Overstraining their fragile bodies can lead to short and long-term injuries.

Negative Effects From Not Receiving Enough Exercise

As exercise is such a crucial part of any Irish Setter’s day, there can be some serious downsides when they don’t receive enough of it.

Without being sufficiently stimulated, expect to see some of the following:

Increased irritability
Increased whining, howling
Disobedience / Bad recall
Stress & Anxiety
Destructive behavior

Both physical AND mental exercise needs to be given in sufficient amounts on a daily basis. Otherwise, It won’t be a matter of “if” your Irish Setter starts misbehaving, it will be a matter of “when” it will happen.

I have spoken to countless owners about specific issues with bad behavior, and if it isn’t being caused by an underlying health issue, then insufficient exercise levels are nearly always the answer.

Popular Irish Setter Articles on The Puppy Mag:
How To Fix a Smelly Irish Setter
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7 Awesome Exercise Ideas For Irish Setters

Irish Setters love a wide range of outdoor activities, and while there’s nothing wrong with classic fetch, it helps to switch it up a little and keep it interesting.

1. Hiking

Hiking on new trails on different terrain will certainly awaken your setter’s senses and double up as valuable mental stimulation too. Be sure not to hike too far, be aware of the hazards and take plenty of water.

2. Agility training

You can get quality agility training sets like this one on Amazon. Setters are naturally good at activities like hurdling, jumping, weaving, and crawling through tunnels. Although this might take some time to practice, your setter will absolutely LOVE zooming through the circuit with you by their side encouraging them. This will also act as incredible mental stimulation too.

3. Frisbee

Similar to fetch, frisbee is another awesome alternative. Every now and then your setter will love to chase a flying frisbee and jump to secure it. After all, setters have spent most of their existence chasing birds. Just be sure not to over do this, as too much jumping and hard landings could impact their joints.

4. Swimming

Whether you have a doggy swimming pool or a calm ocean, swimming is loved by most setters. Swimming is perhaps one of the best forms of physical exercise as it’s incredibly tiring, yet non-impactful on the joints. Just be sure to take all the safety precautions necessary!

5. Laser pointer games

It’s not just cats that love laser pointers… Point a laser on the floor and watch your setter lose their mind with excitement. This will trigger your setter’s prey instinct and send them flying. You would be surprised just how exhausting 10 minutes of chasing a laser can be! Of course, be extremely careful when using a laser pointer.

6. Running with you

If you’re a keen runner, or even just starting, taking your setter can be an excellent form of exercise. You will need to use a hands-free leash and work up slowly to allow your setter to get used to the distances. Although running won’t provide much mental stimulation, it will prove to be an excellent way to improve your bond, burn calories and fit in your setters daily exercise.

7. Visit doggy play groups

As socialization is so important, this is my favorite one. Either meeting up with pet parents in the park, or visiting dedicated doggy play group centers. Your setter can run, chase and play with other dogs while you catch up with some friends.

Socialization is one of the main ways to create a friendly, approachable dog that’s well behaved. Interacting with other dogs develops your setters social skills and forms food manners. Receiving adequate physical exercise is just one of the many important benefits of this activity.

Irish Setter Exercise FAQs

Is one hour of exercise enough for Irish Setters?

For healthy adult Irish Setters, one hour is a little insufficient. Of course, one hour is better than nothing at all, but ideally, your setter should receive closer to two hours. If your schedule doesn’t allow for two hours, then you can increase playtime while indoors for added exercise.

Do Irish Setters need to wear coats outside in winter?

If it’s damp or wet then a waterproof coat will help to keep them dry and reduce the risk of hypothermia or frostbite. This mainly depends on the weather conditions more so than the temperature… If it’s dry, sunny without wind, then an Irish Setter will be fine exercising outside in temperatures as low as 35F. If it’s windy or cloudy and feels much colder then a winter jacket would be advised.

How much exercise is appropriate in summer?

Irish Setters will still need exercise even when the summer months come around, but it’s important to avoid heatstroke and dehydration. One way to get around this is to only exercise your setter early in the morning and in the evening while the sun is very low. Always take extra water, don’t venture too far, or push your setter too hard. But yes, your setter will still need a good amount of exercise.

Why does my setter get easily distracted when on walks

For most setters this is normal, especially with all the smells of different animals and other dogs, it’s hard to remain focused. To counteract this, ensuring your setter has good recall is crucial. This isn’t something that just happens naturally, you’ll need to start recall training in order to benefit from this higher level of obedience. If recall training is something you need to work on, this video will help a lot. Recall Training.

When can I exercise my puppy outside?

Your Irish Setter puppy should remain inside (or in your private yard) until 2 weeks after she has completed her vaccinations. For most pups, this will be around the 16-18th week mark. Until this moment you should not exercise her in public spaces. You can, however, invite healthy, vaccinated, and friendly dogs over to your home for the purpose of socialization, and spend short periods of time in your private yard under supervision. Related article: Can unvaccinated puppies play with vaccinated dogs?

Popular Irish Setter Articles on The Puppy Mag:
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Recommended Gear

I strongly recommend checking out some of these items. I have used the harness, leashes, and water bottle myself and my friends have recommended the jacket. They are all highly reviewed on Amazon.

Thank you for reading!
Were your questions answered sufficiently? I love hearing feedback and improving my content where possible, please let me know if you have any recommendations. For now, all the best, Harry.


Before making any decisions that could affect the health and/or safety of your dog, you should always consult a trained veterinarian in your local area. Even though this content may have been written/reviewed by a trained veterinarian, our advice to you is to always consult your own local veterinarian in person. Please read our full dislcaimer if you have any questions.