Labrador Retriever vs. Irish Setter

Labrador Retrievers and Irish Setters have some notable differences. Labradors are known for their friendly and outgoing nature, they are highly trainable and excellent with families and children.

On the other hand, Irish Setters are also friendly but are known to be more energetic and require more exercise. They also tend to be a bit harder to train.

Appearance-wise, Labradors have a short, dense coat and come in black, yellow, or chocolate, while Irish Setters are red or chestnut colored with a longer, feathered coat. In terms of health, both breeds have their share of genetic health issues: Labradors are more prone to hip and elbow dysplasia and some eye conditions, whereas Irish Setters can have issues with hip dysplasia, eye conditions and gastric dilation, also known as bloating.

Last Updated on September 20, 2023

Quick Summary: Many families choose between Labrador Retrievers and Irish Setters because of the differences in their appearance. Some owners prefer the Irish Setter’s graceful appearance and unique red hues, whereas Labs have a muscular and stocky build. The Setter weighs between 60 and 70 pounds, while the Labs weigh anywhere between 55 to 80 pounds. The Setter typically has higher energy than the Labrador, as the Lab loves to lie on the couch for an afternoon snooze. Both breeds of dogs are generally healthy, but the Setter appears to be healthier. The Labrador Retriever is expected to enjoy an average lifespan of 10 to 12 years, while the Irish Setter can live anywhere from 12 to 15 years.

The Labrador Retriever and the Irish Setter are both stunning in their own way. If you’re trying to decide which pooch you want to welcome into your home, you’ve come to the right place.

This guide will walk you through all the information regarding each breed, as well as their similarities and differences. Their differences could make one breed more suitable for you and your family than the other.

Interested in finding out whether we’ll match you with a redhead Setter or a yellow/black/chocolate Lab? Let’s see what happens!

Labrador Retriever vs. Irish Setter

Breed History

Looking at each breed’s history is an important part of your research to determine if you have selected the right breed. Understanding the history of a breed can tell you what type of family they require. Let’s look at these two guys. For starters, know that they both have a history of hunting.

Labrador Retriever: An Overview

The Labrador Retriever dates back to the 1700s, and he originates from Newfoundland, Canada. He is a descendant of the now-extinct St John’s waterdog and may have some Newfoundland blood. He was created to assist fishermen and hunters in catching and quarrying on the water. This is why Labs love ducks and water!

The Labrador has been America’s most beloved dog breed since 1983, according to the American Kennel Club. Many Lab mix breeds have also been influenced by his popularity. Due to the breed’s longevity, there are now two distinct versions of this breed.

Labs have also starred in many famous films, such as Old Yeller and Homeward Bound. He is not only a Hollywood star, but he has also achieved great success in canine careers such as search and rescue, therapy, and assistance.

Irish Setter: An Overview

The Irish Setter hails from Ireland, or the Emerald Island as some people call it. He is an aristocratic gundog, created to help his master in hunting. He is a cross between a Pointer, Spaniel, and English Setter. Setters are named so because they use their keen sense of smell to locate birds and set their belly to show their master where they are.

He is several centuries old, but the 19th century saw a preference for red dogs. Red Setters is the name given to Irish Setters because they are always red.

He is much rarer than the Lab, and he usually finds himself ranked between the 70th and 80th most popular dog breed. Former President Nixon was a fan of Reds and had his own setter named King Timahoe. King Timahoe allegedly stole the President’s birthday cake frosting on camera (lol).

Appearance and Size

Both dog breeds can be distinguished easily. The most distinguishing feature between these two breeds is their coat.

Labradors have three basic coat colors: black, chocolate, or yellow. Although some breed purists may argue that Red Labradors don’t really come from purebred, these unique-coated pups have been accepted more widely in recent years. Silver Labradors have also slowly become more accepted as a coat color as well.

The Irish Red Setter has three official coat colors – they are red, chestnut, and mahogany in different shades. It’s not only the color that makes them stand out but also their overall appearance, texture, and length. The Lab’s coat is short to medium in length and thick, straight, and very coarse in texture.

The Setter’s hair is different in length. His hair is naturally shorter along his back and his face. His hair is medium-long to long, covering his ears, tail, underbelly, and legs. It is silky smooth and has a wavy texture, similar to a Spaniel’s.

Both breeds are large-sized dogs and have many similarities in their appearance. The Setter weighs between 60 and 70 pounds, whereas Labs weigh more than Setters (or less!) at 55 to 80 pounds.

The Irish Setter stands several inches higher than the Lab. The Setter’s long legs also make him appear more athletic than a Lab.

The Lab is a square, robust-looking dog. Setters can be considered more elegant than other dogs. Many families have to choose between Setters and Standard breeds because of the differences in appearance. Some families want a unique and graceful dog, while others prefer a more stocky breed. It’s your choice!

Temperament and Personality Traits

Their temperaments are the most common trait between these two breeds. Many dog lovers don’t care about their appearance when choosing between the two breeds. Both are members of the AKC’s sporting dogs group. Because they worked closely with their master, they have an affinity for human company

Both adore human companionship, and they love to snuggle together with their families. If we had to pick which dog is more dependent upon human companionship, the Setter would be our choice. The Setter is not happy to be left alone and needs a family that can spend the majority of their time with him. The Lab is more comfortable spending a few hours alone while you go out to do some chores.

Your family’s work schedule may dictate the breed you choose. Crate training is essential for the anxious Irish Setter. We also recommend crate training your Labrador with an appropriate-sized dog crate, and you may find it just a little easier with this breed vs. the Setter.

Their sporting status means that they have a lot of energy. They need to find an outlet. What better way to burn off energy than playing games with your dog? The Lab and Setter are both loved by children. They both require an active family to sustain their sporting energy.

The Labrador is one of the most outgoing breeds. He’s also quick to make new friends because of his confident nature. They’ve been the top dog for over three decades, so it’s no surprise that they are very confident. Although the Setter is friendly and social, he can sometimes be reserved. Still, he is approachable and friendly most of the time. They are both balanced dog breeds that make great family pets.

Exercise Requirements

Both dogs are sporting breeds and have lots of energy. Both need at least 60 minutes of intense exercise a day to be physically satisfied. If we had to pick between a more active dog and a less active one, the Setter would be our choice. This is because our Lab loves to lie on the couch for an afternoon snooze.

They are both very intelligent and should participate in a variety of exercise activities. They will soon become bored and mischievous if they don’t. The Setter will love to chase objects, and the Lab will enjoy a swim in the nearest lake or pool.

This means that you need to choose the right dog toys. If you plan to take your Lab to the lake, look for some Labrador-proof dog toys that will float. A thrashing toy will keep your setter busy for hours. It should mimic live prey, as they are hunting dogs.

Training and Socialization

Their sporting nature clearly indicates that they are smart enough to learn commands. Both are intelligent dog breeds, according to the renowned ‘Intelligence of Dogs’ research. The Lab is ranked the 7th most intelligent, and the Setter is ranked the 53rd. What makes the Setter seem less intelligent? His stubborn nature is what makes him so frustrating to train sometimes. His high prey drive may mean he will follow his nose more than your voice.

This can make training an Irish Setter harder than a more obedient Lab. The Labrador may be a better choice for you if you are a novice dog owner. However, each dog is unique, and training will make them better. If you want your dogs to be well-balanced, both breeds must be trained early. You will need to put a lot of effort into recall training with the Setter to overcome that talented nose of his.

Both dog breeds respond well to positive reinforcement. If you shout at the sweet-natured Setter, they might become angry. You can use your dog’s motivations to your advantage. Labs love yummy treats, but be careful not to overindulge them. The Setter is more likely to be motivated to fetch toys.

As with all dogs, socializing the two must be done. You can help build their confidence by introducing them to as many dogs, animals, and people as possible. It’s a great way for them to meet other dogs and people. They will love spending time with you and getting exercise.

Grooming Requirements

Both dog breeds require intense grooming, but for different reasons. The Irish Setter’s coat is relatively thin and doesn’t shed as much as the average dog. His long, wavy hair makes him a prime target for hair matting and tangling. To keep the Setter looking his best, he needs to be groomed daily with a soft-bristle brush or pin brush.

The Labrador, with his thick double coat, is a heavy shedder. He requires brushing two to three times per week all year. If you want to manage the shedding season, however, you will need to brush more often. Your sofa and carpet will always glisten with their yellow/black/chocolate locks. A de-shedding tool will be your saving grace for when he blows his coat.

All of their other grooming needs are the same. They require a twice-weekly cleaning of their teeth and a monthly clipping of their nails. Bath them once every two weeks or so, but not more than once per month. To take care of their skin, use gentle shampoos.

Regardless of the breed you choose, both need to be looked after. These adorable pups will love being spoiled by their groomers!

Nutritional Guide

Both dog breeds are large, energetic dogs that require the right food to keep them healthy and happy. When they are young, both breeds need dog food specifically designed for large-breed puppies. Both will consume between two and four cups of food each day, meaning their monthly food bill will be the same. Expect more if your Lab/Setter is working.

The Labrador, the most greedy of the two, will eat anything and everything. You’ll need cupboard locks if you are about to bring a Labrador into your home. He is also prone to obesity, so choosing the right kibble for your Lab is important, as well as keeping an eye on how much he eats. To keep him happy, he needs high-quality, well-balanced food that is nutrient-dense and nutritious.

The Irish Setter typically has higher energy than the Lab and needs to rebuild its hardworking muscle mass with proper nutrition. Include a healthy mix of carbohydrates, fiber, vitamins, and minerals in their diet. To keep your dog’s coat healthy and shiny, omega fatty acids can be a great addition.

They are both deep-chested breeds meaning they are more likely to suffer from gastric torsion. This is a life-threatening condition where the stomach twists, causing fatal shock. It is important that you know the signs and how to treat them. This is why it is important to give your Lab and Irish smaller meals throughout the day.

Health Issues and Lifespan

Both breeds of dogs are generally healthy, but the Irish Setter is generally healthier. The Lab is expected to enjoy an average lifespan of 10 to 12 years compared to the Setter, which has an average lifespan of 12 to 15 years.

Both breeds have their own health issues, just like all dogs. Let’s take a look at the health concerns that you (as a Setter or Lab parent) should be aware of.

The Labrador is susceptible to hip or elbow dysplasia. This is one of the most common conditions in large breeds of dogs. It can be caused by rapid skeletal development and/or genetic inheritance.

Eye conditions are another health concern for dogs, with cataracts and progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) being the most common in Labs. Another health concern in Labs is exercise-induced collapse. You should have a DNA test done to confirm these issues.

Hip dysplasia is also a common condition in Setters. Hypothyroidism is the second most common health concern found in Setters. This happens when the thyroid doesn’t produce enough hormones, causing health problems. This could lead to weight gain, mental dullness, and hair loss.

Reputable Breeders and Puppy Prices

The average Labrador Retriever price is lower than that of the Irish Setter. The reason for this is that the Setter is rarer. You may need to travel far to find an Irish breeder who is reliable, depending on where your home is.

The starting price of a Lab puppy is $1,000 compared to the starting price of $1,200 for an Irish Setter. Expect to pay more if you are looking for a puppy from a champion line or want to work with a well-respected breeder.

It is important to only deal with responsible and reputable breeders. AKC-registered breeders are a great place for purebred puppies. Do not work with breeders who don’t care about the health of their puppies. Although puppy mills may offer lower prices, you will end up paying more for your puppies in the long term due to vet bills. Based on their similarity, the lifetime costs of both breeds are almost identical.


Both of these pups have great personalities. They love people because of their sporting history. They are affectionate and loving dogs who enjoy snuggling and bringing joy to the home. Both are well-balanced dogs that make great family pets.

Their main differences are in their appearance. Some owners love the graceful appearance and unique red hues of the Irish Setter. Some prefer the Labrador’s square, strong appearance. Their trainability is another major difference. While they can be trained, the Labrador is easier to train. First-time dog owners might find the Lab more suitable.

As with all dogs, it is important to fulfill their needs. After reading the guide, you might be wondering if your perfect match is a redhead. Or maybe you’re tempted by the yellow/black/chocolate-haired pups? No matter which dog you choose, rest assured that you will find a loving and loyal companion in either one of these family-friendly breeds.

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