Irish Setter vs Golden Retriever (Which Dog is Better?)

If you’re looking to add a dog to your household and you’re trying to decide between an Irish Setter or a Golden Retriever, then you’ll want to know the similarities and the differences between these two fantastic breeds. Irish Setters and Golden Retrievers are very similar dogs in many ways, but there are some differences you’ll want to know about.

Irish Setters are typically bigger in size and live one or two years longer, while Golden Retrievers are as loving and loyal as it gets. Irish Setters require more exercise and grooming, but Goldens need more socialization to prevent anxiety and depression.

In this article, we’ll talk about the average traits of both breeds, how much they cost, and whether or not they’re good for your home. We’ll also dive into the details about grooming, trainability, and more!

Irish Setter vs Golden Retriever

(This article may contain affiliate links and loyalgoldens may earn a commission if a purchase is made.)

Unlock your goldens natural intelligence and see just how quickly problem behaviors disappear.This is the best at home dog training I've ever used!

Irish Setter and Golden Retriever Trait Comparisons

Irish Setters are energetic and playful dogs who love learning about everything around them. Golden Retrievers are also quite playful and goofy, which is why many people love them as family dogs. Both breeds are rated amongst the most loved and loyal dogs worldwide, so let’s break down a handful of their most important traits below.

Golden Retriever vs. Irish Setter: Size and Lifespan

While Golden Retrievers and Irish Setters can be quite similar, the first major differences between these two breeds are their size and lifespan.

TraitGolden RetrieverIrish Setter
Expected Lifespan10 to 12 years old12 to 14 years old
Average Weight55 to 75 pounds60 to 70 pounds
Average Height21.5 to 24 inches25 to 27 inches

An Irish Setter can be anywhere from slightly bigger than an average Golden Retriever to noticeably bigger. The table above shows a significant difference between a smaller female Golden Retriever standing 22 inches tall and weighing 55lbs compared to a large male Irish Setter standing 27 inches tall and weighing up to 70lbs.

It really depends on the dog’s individual genetics. When choosing a puppy of either breed, it will be helpful, if possible, to look at the parents to get an idea of how large the puppy will be when they are an adult dog. Also, in general, females of both breeds tend to be on the smaller end of the size and weight scale compared to their male counterparts.

As for lifespan, the average longevity of a Golden Retriever is between 10 and 12 years, while the average Irish Setter lives between 12 and 14 years. Being such an important part of our families, we all want our furry friends to live as long as possible, and an Irish Setter has a slight edge when it comes to longevity. Keep in mind, however, that these are just averages.

Golden Retriever vs. Irish Setter: Temperament

Describing an Irish Setter’s and Golden Retriever’s personalities would make these dogs sound like the same breed. They’re very similar in many ways, including their desire to socialize and be around people. Golden Retrievers are a bit more clingy than Irish Setters, but both of them would prefer to be with other animals and people in a comfortable environment instead of being on their own.

Irish Setters and Golden Retrievers are both affectionate breeds who love people. Neither breed would make for a good guard dog, though they’ll bark if they feel threatened or sense an intruder. Golden Retrievers are more likely to bite if they’re worried, but it’s exceptionally uncommon.

Recommended Reading: The 5 Ways Golden Retrievers Protect Their Owners

Irish Setter vs Golden Retriever: The Better Family Dog

Since Irish Setters and Golden Retrievers love spending time with others, it’s understandable that they’d be excellent with families. While they’re quite playful dogs, it’d be best to train them to be gentle with young children. Golden Retrievers often don’t know their size and can get a bit too energetic inside without basic training.

It’s nearly impossible to rate one dog as a better family dog than another in this category. However, PetMD states Golden Retrievers are the #2 best family dog breed (behind mutts, simply because many mutts make excellent family dogs!). Based on most ratings, Goldens take the cake over Irish Setters. That being said, both pups would be more than happy to call your house their home.

Recommended Reading: 12 Reasons Why Golden Retrievers Make Good Family Pets!

Characteristics, health and temperament of Irish Setters

Discover how to train your Golden Retriever by playing games: 21 games to play with your Golden that will make them smarter and better behaved!

Potential Health Concerns of Irish Setters & Golden Retrievers

While most of us don’t like to think about it, Golden Retrievers and Irish Setters will inevitably encounter health issues. Whether from old age, neglect, genetic defects, or other medical issues, there’s a list of problems your pup might have to deal with. Knowing each breed’s potential health concerns will prepare you for the worst so you can handle it as best as possible.

Obesity is a common and severe issue for Irish Setters. Portion control isn’t in their nature, so it’s crucial that you pay attention to their eating habits and don’t overfeed them. They can also have joint problems, muscle aches, back pain, and digestive issues from being overweight.

Golden Retrievers tend to have to deal with joint, muscle, digestive, and heart problems, too. The most common of these being hip dysplasia. However, the most general concern with a Golden Retriever breed is their mental health. Goldens can become depressed, anxious, or overwhelmed without enough exercise or attention from their owners.

Both breeds are very active. However, a lack of exercise can drastically increase their chances of getting one of the previously mentioned health disorders. Most Golden Retrievers and Irish Setters need about an hour or so of exercise daily. Also, check their dog food to ensure they’re getting enough protein and not too many fillers.

Recommended Reading: Is Your Golden Retriever Lonely? (How to Tell & What to Do!)

Golden Retriever or Irish Setter: Which Dog Is Easier to Train?

If you’re worried about training, you’ll love how easy it is to train both an Irish Setter and a Golden Retriever. They’re some of the best dogs in the world when it comes to learning new tricks, being obedient, and paying attention to your commands.

Here’s how their training works:

Irish Setters Are One of the Easiest Dogs to Train

Irish Setters were used as a hunting dog for many years, which is why they’re so easy to train. Learning new tricks and following instructions is in their DNA. As a result, potty training will be a breeze, and you don’t have to worry about them barking all of the time. Their training works because it’s a core part of who they are.

Golden Retrievers Are Easy To Train Due to Their Desire to Please 

While Golden Retrievers were bred as hunting dogs as well, their trainability stems from their desire to be loyal and impress their owners. They want to keep you happy, so they’re willing to learn all sorts of tricks (even if it takes a long time). Goldens are slightly more difficult to train than the Irish Setter breed but still much easier than most other dog breeds.

Recommended Reading: Training a Golden Retriever Puppy to Stop Biting

Check out some of these top Golden Retriever facts!

Grooming Requirements: Irish Setters vs Golden Retrievers

Grooming is a necessary part of owning a dog. Irish Setters and Golden Retrievers both have a double coat and medium-to-long fur, so it’s essential to stay on top of grooming to prevent their coats from becoming a mess. 

So, how do their grooming needs compare?

  •  Irish Setters should be brushed several times per week and have their nails clipped to prevent the quick from getting too long. You may need to brush their coat as often as four times a week. If you’re not willing to do this, your Irish Setter’s coat will become unhealthy, get tangled, and shed everywhere.
  • Golden Retrievers need to be brushed two to three times weekly, as well as regular nail trimming. Keep an eye on their quicks (front part of the nail) to ensure they’re not getting too long. When a Golden’s nails grow excessively, the quick will enlarge and become harder to manage. This can lead to pain and discomfort.
  • Use a deep-cleaning brush to prevent tangles, clumps, and matted hair in both breeds. The SleekEZ Deshedding Tool (Amazon) is an excellent choice because it removes surface hair, dandruff, and debris without scratching your dog’s skin.

Recommended Reading: 5 Best Vacuums for Golden Retriever Hair

How Much Do Irish Setters and Golden Retrievers Cost?

Irish Setter puppies cost between $800 to $5,000, depending on their pedigree, age, coat, and more. A Golden Retriever puppy generally costs between $1,000 to $2,000, so it’s safe to assume these breeds are close to the same price on average for a family pet. However, you might have some difficulty finding an Irish Setter puppy. Golden Retrievers puppies are much more common and easy to find.

Recommended Reading: Are Golden Retrievers Expensive to Get and Care For? (Costs)


Irish Setters and Golden Retrievers might look different, but they have quite similar temperaments. Both breeds excel as hunting dogs but can relax at home as long as they get enough exercise and socialization, in addition to receiving a healthy diet.

When it comes down to which is the best dog, it really comes down to availability. A purebred Golden Retriever will be much easier to find than an Irish Setter, as you can find a reputable breeder for Goldens in literally every major city. This fact alone makes the Golden Retriever the better choice for most dog owners.


Bryan Mullennix

Bryan's a freelance travel photographer and happy dog dad. He currently lives in Las Vegas with his wife, his son, and two dogs Nom Nom & Speck.

Recent Posts