The Golden Retriever-Irish Setter Mix commonly referred to as the Golden Irish, is a bundle of joy and energy. They are highly active dogs who are always on the move, so make sure you’re ready to keep up with their busy lifestyle.
Both parent breeds were created to hunt, and this mix is no exception. They’re incredibly obedient, intelligent, and love water. Giving them a job and putting their mind to work is the best way to tire them out.
These dogs make great family pets who get along with everyone, including strangers. Don’t expect to make a guard dog out of them. There is rarely a sign of aggression in this breed, but they are fast, powerful dogs who could hurt someone when charging at full speed. Learning to control and calm your Golden Irish is crucial.
Like its parent breeds, the Golden Irish can suffer from separation anxiety and even depression if left alone for prolonged periods of time. If you work long hours or travel frequently, this is not the breed for you.
As with any other recent designer dog, the history of this mix is murky. The best way to understand their origin is to look at the history of both parent breeds.
The Golden Retriever’s history is well known because its original breeder was meticulous with documentation. Scotland’s Dudley Coutts Marjoribanks, born in 1820, is the father of the Golden Retriever.
Having grown up in the upper class, Marjoribanks always had a passion for dog breeding, once considered a pastime of the elite and wealthy. Another pastime of the rich was hunting fowl. At the time, their gun dogs could not retrieve fowl from water. The Golden Retriever was soon to change that.
In 1865, Marjoribanks was taking a walk with his son when he saw a dog named Nous on the street. Nous was gold-colored, which was unusual for the time, as black dogs were considered superior. Sadly, the rest were typically euthanized.
After acquiring Nous for himself, Marjoribanks bred him three years later with the now extinct Tweed Water Spaniel. Nous and his mate, Belle, produced a water-loving retriever who could hunt on land and water. The first litter, born in 1868, brought the first Golden Retrievers.
The name Golden Retriever was not given to the breed officially until it was registered with the UK Kennel Club in 1920. The Golden Retriever was first registered with the AKC in 1925.
As its name suggests, the Irish Setter originates from Ireland. It was bred to help bird hunters by detecting birds and “setting” or getting low to the ground to alert a hunter of the game. Once the bird is flushed out, the hunter shoots it, and the Irish Setter retrieves it.
Bird hunters in Ireland wanted a dog that could traverse Ireland’s open terrain but remain attentive and obedient. They first looked at spaniels, English setters, and Gordon setters to meet their needs. Generations of breeding resulted in a red and white-colored dog called the Irish Setter.
Selective breeding over many generations produced an exclusively red-coated dog. In 1878, the Irish Setter was one of the first breeds recognized by the AKC. Over the years, 11 different Irish Setters have won the Sporting Group at the Westminster Kennel Club show.
There are now two variants of Irish Setter: field and show. Show ones are what you traditionally picture when someone mentions an Irish Setter. They boast a beautiful, flowing coat. Field setters retain their working capabilities and have far less feathering and more compact stature.
Golden Retrievers and Irish Setters share many of the same temperament traits, so it’s relatively easy to make predictions about them.
Don’t expect these pups to be guard dogs. They love everyone and anyone, even strangers. They get along great with children and often make faithful nannies. They also tend to do well with other animals but have a strong prey drive. So exercise caution when socializing them with small animals.
Since both parent breeds were created to be hunting dogs, the Golden Irish is very trainable. They’re eager to please and want to follow your commands. That said, training should begin as early as eight weeks. Most can master basic commands at a young age, including sit, down, stay, and leave it.
Starting basic obedience right away helps form a bond with your dog and teaches him to listen to you. Using positive reinforcement also helps him learn that you are a positive presence and often give him food or a toy.
Perhaps the most consistent trait of this breed is its energy level. Goldens and Irish Setters are both extremely high energy, and this mix is the same. At a minimum, one hour of strenuous exercise is necessary to keep your Golden Irish out of trouble.
Mental exercise is a great way to tire this dog more easily. Consider puzzle toys or a strict obedience regime. These dogs also do well in competitions such as frisbee or agility. Given their trainability, this crossbreed can excel in many activities.
Overall, this mix is a happy, outgoing, and active dog that makes a great family companion.
Size & Appearance
Golden Irish dogs are large, weighing 55-80 pounds and standing 21-28 inches at the shoulder. They have a long, feathered tail and a proud chest, with longer hair than found on the body. They also have a black nose and black or brown eyes.
He also sports floppy ears and a compact body for hunting. The gait is a bit less lanky than that of the Irish Setter.
Coat & Colors
Their long, silky coat needs regular grooming, as often as daily during shedding season. Skimping out on your brushing routine leads to mats and tangles, as well as even more hair around your house.
Exercise Needs & Living Requirements
Expect at least one hour of intense physical exercise each day, not including mental training. In reality, your Golden Irish needs far more activity than this.
These dogs are not suited for apartments and do best with large houses and spacious yards to run around. Additionally, if you plan to be gone for extended periods of time, this is not the dog for you. They can get separation anxiety and, as mentioned, even suffer from depression, so you need to keep them with you as often as possible.
Some workouts to consider for your Golden Irish include hikes, playtime in the backyard, fetch, frisbee, agility, obedience, the dog park, swimming, or any other demanding activity. Remember that dogs’ skeletons are still forming until about two years of age, so don’t ask them to do high-impact exercise before then.
Mental workouts are essential for Golden Irish and can often be more demanding than physical exercise. Regular obedience training offers mental stimulation and helps keep your dog sharp and responsive. Consider Kongs or other puzzle toys if you want a way to occupy your dog while you tend to other activities.
Remember that a tired dog is a good dog. When underexercised, they become mischievous and destructive. These dogs need their exercise, so you make sure it’s a priority.
Both the Golden Retriever and Irish Setter are extremely intelligent dogs, so this breed is highly trainable. That said, the Irish Setter is an independent pooch, so depending on which parent breed your dog takes after, it may either be highly obedient or more on the independent side.
It’s important to start training from a very young age. Puppies are super impressionable, and basic training strengthens your bond. There’s no reason not to start right away.
Begin with the basic commands such as sit, stay, down, come, and leave it. Now is also an excellent time to begin leash training slowly. This generally starts with getting your dog accustomed to having the leash on, even when you are not actively using it on walks.
Short, engaging training sessions using positive reinforcement are best. Puppies have very short attention spans, and pushing their limits only leaves them confused and frustrated. After getting the commands right, end your session and let the pup free play after a few repetitions.
Give your dog an abundance of toys, including puzzles. These help the dog self-soothe if he wants to play, but you’re too busy. Otherwise, his self-soothing may look like chewing shoes, digging up the yard, or peeing in the house.
There are a few conditions to be aware of with this breed. You may find they are more prone to these health concerns than others.
This skeletal condition is widespread in large and giant breed dogs. A dog with hip dysplasia has a hip whose ball and socket don’t form properly. In this case, the two grind together rather than function smoothly, which can be extremely painful.
Hip dysplasia is predominantly congenital. Do your research if purchasing a Golden Irish from a breeder to ensure they are breeding dogs that are healthy, minimizing the risk of hereditary diseases. Additionally, joint problems like hip dysplasia are exacerbated by obesity, which Goldens and Irish Setters are prone to. Proper exercise and limiting treats can keep this in check.
Difficulty walking and lameness are indicators of hip dysplasia. This is a costly disease to treat, requiring extensive surgery, so prevention is the best cure.
Similar to hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia results from skeletal abnormalities. It occurs when the elbow joint is malformed or even degraded, worsening over time. Symptoms include decreased range of motion and pain if forced to extend the elbow joint.
Although there are a few different causes of elbow dysplasia, it is a congenital disease and obesity can make it worse. Additionally, avoiding high-impact or extended exercise before the age of two, when the skeleton is fully formed, helps prevent this painful ailment.
Radiographs and other imaging techniques such as CT scans or MRIs help diagnose elbow dysplasia. Treatment typically necessitates surgery, especially in more severe cases.
Bloat is an extremely dangerous condition that results when your dog’s stomach fills and expands. This expansion causes the stomach to place pressure on other organs and can lead to restricted blood flow to the heart, a tear in the stomach wall, or difficulty breathing.
In some cases, the dog’s stomach can rotate and block blood flow to the heart, sending a dog into shock. Symptoms of bloat include a swollen belly, anxiety, pacing, drooling, or restlessness. If you suspect your dog is suffering from bloat, which onsets quickly, get veterinary care immediately. If left untreated, bloat is fatal.
Causes are unclear, but certain activities can increase risk. These include eating from a raised bowl, having one large meal per day, eating too quickly, doing strenuous exercise after eating, and overeating or overdrinking. Thus, make sure to spread your dog’s meals out, avoid exercise after mealtime, and invest in a slow feeder if your Golden Irish inhales his food.
As with humans, certain dog breeds are prone to obesity. Golden Retrievers and Irish Setters alike commonly suffer from this affliction. Keep track of any snacks or treats your dog is getting and subtract that from mealtime. Better yet, keep snacking to a minimum and give your dog low-fat, low-calorie training treats.
Obesity can also worsen joint and cardiac conditions, both of which are already preexisting concerns for this mixed breed pup. Regular exercise and a balanced, appropriately-portioned diet are critical.
Unfortunately, cancer is prevalent in dogs. 50% of dogs older than ten can develop cancer. Symptoms to watch for include irregular bumps, abnormal bleeding, swelling, or enlarged lymph nodes.
Increasing cancer rates are likely due to the increase in a dog’s lifespan. Dogs didn’t use to live 10+ years. With the push for vaccination and better care, dogs began to live this long. Sadly, old age can lead to the development of cancer.
Feed your Golden Irish three times per day until six months of age, after which you can reduce it to twice per day.
Ultimately the amount you feed your dog depends on age, sex, and activity level. Here is a rough outline based on the Golden Retriever:
- Two Months Old: 1 ½ cups a day
- Three Months Old: 2 cups a day
- Four Months Old: 2 ½ cups a day
- Five To Six Months Old: 3 cups a day
- Six To Seven Months Old (male pups only): 3 ½ to 4 cups a day (females should stay on 3 cups/day)
When it comes to exactly which food you choose, make sure protein is the first ingredient and that it’s free of any artificial ingredients. Also, note that studies have shown a grain-free diet can increase the prevalence of certain diseases, especially Canine Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM). Just because human diets push for grain-free doesn’t mean it’s what’s best for dogs.
Here are a few dog food options for adult Golden Irish:
- The Farmer’s Dog fresh, human-grade recipes
- Rachael Ray Nutrish
- Purina One Smart Blend Dry Dog Food
- Pedigree Complete Nutrition Adult Dry
- Dog Food
- Royal Canin
- Hill’s Science Diet Dry Dog Food
The Golden Irish has a very long, dense coat. As a result, this crossbreed sheds frequently and needs weekly, preferably daily, grooming.
Baths are on an as-needed basis. Whenever your dog looks or smells dirty, it’s time to sud up. These are water dogs, so a slow, proper introduction to bath time should ensure your pooch doesn’t mind.
Regular nail trimming and teeth brushing are crucial. The groomer can handle both of these, but the teeth in particular need to be cleaned very often, no less than once per week. Slowly introduce your dog to the toothbrush and toothpaste, first just letting him sniff and check it out. Reward successful brushing with treats and praise.
Given that Golden Irish have floppy ears, you must check and clean them regularly to prevent ear infections.
Breeders & Puppy Costs
Given this crossbreed’s popularity, it is possible to find breeders, which is not the case for all designer dogs. Here are some options:
That said, with any breeder you choose, be very careful to ensure they are reputable. With breeds not registered through the AKC, selecting a breeder is more complex, as the AKC is not around to vet them for you.
Inspect the breeder’s facilities, make sure they can provide you with proof that the breeding dogs are free of congenital disabilities and that their bill of sale is fair and thorough.
Rescues & Shelters
This cross can happen by accident and land a dog in the pound where he might die if not adopted. That said, you don’t know the history or pedigree of an adopted dog, so proceed with caution.
Although adopting a dog straight from the pound is a noble endeavor, you often don’t know anything about the dog you’re bringing home. Shelter dogs can come with a host of behavioral and health issues unbeknownst to the staff, simply because they are overwhelmed with dogs.
On the other hand, rescue organizations often foster their dogs and get to know them to help place them. Presenting a rescue with a list of preferences for your future family member can help them match you with an appropriate Golden Irish. Consider the temperament, activity level, preferences, and age of the dog you want to adopt.
Since Golden Retriever-Irish Setter Mixes are relatively novel, finding a rescue dedicated solely to this mix will not be a walk in the park. You’re likely to have more luck looking at rescue organizations devoted to the parent breeds, as they often take in mixes. One of these could be a Golden Irish.
Here are some rescues to consider:
As Family Pets
Golden Irish make excellent family companions. Here’s what to expect. They are:
- Very high energy and need regular, intense exercise.
- Lovers of all people, including strangers.
- Do not make good guard dogs.
- Know to suffer from separation anxiety and even depression if left alone for too long.
- Great with kids and other animals.
- Highly trainable.
- In need of a large home with a fenced-in yard – they do not make good apartment dogs.
Golden Irish are nonstop bundles of energy who do well with all types of people. They train easily, even for novice dog owners. Given their high activity needs, they do not do well in apartments and need a home with a yard.
These dogs love everyone and aren’t suited to being guard dogs. They love spending time with their family and will follow you everywhere you go. They get along great with kids, other dogs, and other animals.
If you’re ready to provide your Golden Irish with frequent exercise and groom him daily, this dog makes an exceptional family pet.