Childhood Companions: Are Irish Setters Child Friendly?

Are Irish setters child friendly? If you have kids, it is important to think about the type of breed you are getting before bringing a puppy home. From my experience with different dog breeds, some can be overly active and anxious around kids, while others can be overly protective and need a lot of training.

So are Irish setters child friendly? I can attest that these furry friends are some of the most lovable creatures you’ll ever encounter. However, if you need more information than my opinion, let’s dig deeper if you’re considering adding one of these pups to your family.

The Basic Facts About Irish Setters

are irish setters child friendly

Knowing the breed is the key to answering the question, “Are Irish setters child friendly?”. Let’s examine their history, temperament, and other key facts about the breed.


Irish Setter dog is originally bred in Ireland as a hunting dog. The breed was developed from Irish Water Spaniels, Irish Terriers, Pointers, and “common” Spaniels. In the early 19th century, the breed was refined by a man named Noble Huston, who aimed to create a dog that was both stylish and effective in the field. Over time, Irish Setters became more popular as good family dogs than hunting dogs.


The most striking aspect of the appearance of Irish Setter puppies is their beautiful, long, silky red coat. They have long ears that hang down and beautiful almond-shaped eyes. Irish Setters are tall, reaching around 20-28 inches and weighing between 50 and 70 pounds. Their breed standard describes them as having a noble appearance with a lively, graceful stride.


Irish Setters are known for their friendly, outgoing nature. They are people-loving dogs that thrive on human interaction and affection. They are famously loyal and make great family dogs. These pups enjoy lots of exercise and outdoor time and are often good with children and other pets. These dogs have a high energy level and need plenty of mental and physical stimulation. Because of their friendly nature, they are not great watchdogs, but they bark if they sense something is wrong.

➤Behavioral Traits 

Irish Setters are known for their lively personality and friendly demeanor toward their owners and strangers. They are social dogs and love being around their families. They crave human companionship and enjoy being part of family activities. This breed is also known for its intelligence. However, they can be strong-willed and sometimes stubborn, making training challenging. With patience, consistency, and positive reinforcement techniques, Irish Setters can be successfully trained.


Generally healthy, the Irish Setter has an average lifespan of 12-15 years. As with any breed, they are prone to certain health issues such as hip dysplasia, hypothyroidism, and cancer. Regular visits to the veterinarian, a well-balanced diet, plenty of exercises, and proper grooming can help prevent health problems and ensure your Irish Setter lives a long and healthy life.

➤Health Issues

Like all breeds, most Irish Setters are prone to certain health issues. They are susceptible to hip and elbow dysplasia, bloat, and ear infections. Irish Setters can also develop progressive retinal atrophy, which affects their eyesight and can lead to blindness. Owners of Irish Setters must pay attention to their pet’s health, including grooming their long hair and checking their ears regularly for signs of infection.


These factors are important to consider when contemplating the question, “Are Irish setters child friendly?” which will be discussed in detail below.

Are Irish Setters Child Friendly?

are irish setters child friendly

Irish Setter dogs are highly recommended by experts as a kid-friendly breed and score a perfect 5 out of 5 on the scale for their playfulness, energy, and affection towards children. Let’s take a closer look at why these dogs are deemed so child-friendly.

1: Social Butterflies

Irish Setters are outgoing dogs that love meeting new people. They are highly social and thrive around individuals who show them love and affection. This makes them a perfect choice for families with kids. While other breeds may shy away from children’s loud and unpredictable behavior, Irish Setters love their enthusiasm and willingness to play.

Moreover, Irish Setters need lots of attention; being around kids who love to shower them with affection all day long means they will remain happy and content, further strengthening their bond with their young owners.

2: Playful and Energetic

Irish Setters are known for their boundless energy, which works great with children’s active and playful nature. Whether running in the park, playing fetch in the yard, or hiking, Irish Setters love the outdoors and playing. This active nature works well with children who adore playtime, making them ideal companions.

Be aware this breed’s enthusiastic nature may work against them if they are not physically challenged enough. Irish Setters need plenty of daily exercises to satisfy their high-energy needs.

3: Affectionate Nature 

Irish Setters’ affectionate nature is one factor that makes them a favorite among pet parents. They are natural cuddlers, love hugs, and will seek attention and affection from their family. Kids who love dogs’ affection will enjoy spending time with an Irish Setter. You can teach kids gentle petting techniques, further promoting healthy relationships and empathy for animals.

4: Excel at Guardianship

Irish Setters are a loyal and protective breed. They are highly intelligent and make great watchdogs, naturally providing protection and security for their families. This characteristic is crucial for parents who want their kids to grow up with a responsible and protective dog. My Irish Setter never failed to alert us of any suspicious activity around the house.

These traits make many Irish Setters an excellent choice for families with children. If given the right amount of exercise, love, and attention, these dogs will be a great addition as wonderful family pets.

Potential Challenges of Owning an Irish Setter Around Kids


Though Irish Setters are friendly and patient with kids, they can sometimes act out in certain circumstances. Below are some challenges you might face as an Irish Setter pet parent with kids at home.

∎The Need for Extensive Exercise and Mental Stimulation

Irish Setters are an active breed that requires extensive exercise, outdoor running, and mental stimulation. Failing to provide the necessary mental and physical stimulation can lead to destructive behavior, such as excessive barking, chewing on furniture or shoes, and scratching doors. Hence, owners with kids must know how much exercise and physical activity their dogs need and provide it. For me, this meant waking up early every day to take my Irish Setter for a run or hike before settling down. It also means that when my kids are playing outside, my dog gets to join in the fun, running and playing with the children.

∎Potential for Knocking Over Young Children

However, this high energy mentioned above can be a challenge for young children. They may inadvertently knock over small children, causing injuries. Being aware of your dog’s excitement levels around children is crucial. Training your Irish Setter to play gently and to be mindful of your child’s size and age is paramount. In my experience, it is best to introduce your dog slowly and carefully to your children, teaching them how to play with your dog under supervision and in a controlled environment, at least initially.

∎Tendency to Chew on Objects

Irish Setters are known for their love of chewing on things, including toys and furniture. This can be a problem when young children may not understand what’s appropriate to chew on and what’s not. To mitigate this issue, provide your Irish Setter with plenty of chew toys and supervise playtime to ensure they don’t start gnawing on things they shouldn’t. Also, consider investing in bitter apple spray, which can be applied to furniture to deter chewing.

∎Strong Hunting Instincts

Irish Setters were bred for hunting and had a strong prey drive. This means that if they see something move quickly, they may be inclined to give chase. It can be a problem if you have small children who may run around the house or backyard. It’s important to teach your children to stand still if your dog starts to chase them and to discourage any behavior that may trigger your Irish Setter’s hunting instincts.

∎Too Boisterous for Very Young or Timid Children

Their high energy levels and natural exuberance characteristics can be a lot of fun for older kids, but it may be a bit overwhelming for very young children or those who are more reserved. Their playful nature may cause them to knock over small children accidentally, which can be frightening for the kids and frustrating for the parents.

Moreover, Irish Setters, like all dogs, may unintentionally harm someone with their nails or sharp teeth. This can be a risk when young children are involved and utmost care must be taken to ensure that the interactions between dog and child remain safe. Teaching your children how to handle and interact with a dog properly is important.

∎Sensitive to Harsh Discipline

Irish Setters are sensitive dogs that don’t respond well to harsh discipline or punishment. Yelling, hitting, or scolding them can exacerbate their behavioral issues and make training difficult. If your kids are old enough to understand, teaching them how to interact with your dog positively and gently is important.

Irish Setters respond well to positive reinforcement training methods, such as using treats, verbal praise, and physical touch to encourage good behavior. Consistency is critical when training your dog, so start early and be patient.

With enough love and dedication, you can turn your Irish Setter into a friendly and well-behaved companion for your kids.

Ways to Tell If an Irish Setter Is Feeling Jealous of Babies

So if you got an Irish Setter first before having a baby, you may have noticed some changes in their behavior. Common signs of jealousy include your dog includes:

📌Avoids Contact with the Baby

The first sign that your Irish Setter might feel jealous of your baby is if he or she avoids contact with the baby. If your dog usually loves to be close to you and your family members but starts avoiding the baby, that might indicate that they feel left out and are experiencing some jealousy. Dogs are creatures of habit and routine, and a new baby disrupts their previous routine. One example of my personal experience is that my Irish Setter followed me everywhere, but after my daughter was born, she started to keep her distance and spend more time alone.

📌Displays Destructive Behavior

Another sign of jealousy in Irish Setters is destructive behavior. If your dog starts to behave destructively, such as chewing or digging on furniture or personal items, it might be a sign that they feel neglected and left out. Your dog tries to get your attention and express their frustration, which can escalate if left untreated. Again, from my own experience, my Irish Setter started to chew on the furniture after my daughter was born, which was unusual behavior for her.

📌Tries to Exclude You from the Baby

Irish Setters are loyal dogs who tend to be very protective of their owners. However, this can also lead to jealousy when a new addition to the family exists. If your dog starts trying to exclude you from the baby or guarding the baby from you, it might be a sign that they feel left out. Your dog wants your attention and may be trying to show you they are unhappy with the new situation. For example, my Irish Setter used to growl when I approached the baby, which hadn’t happened before.

📌Becomes Overly Clingy

If your Irish Setter becomes overly clingy or needy after your baby’s arrival, it might be a sign of jealousy. Your dog might fear losing your attention or affection for the baby and tries to get as close as possible to you. It can be challenging to deal with a dog’s clinginess, especially when you have a new baby to take care of, but it’s essential to reassure your dog that they are still loved and valued. My Irish Setter followed me everywhere after my daughter was born, even when I went to the bathroom, a drastic change from her previous behavior.

If you notice any of these signs, acting quickly and trying to address the situation is essential. Remember, with patience and reassurance, you can help your Irish Setter adjust to this new phase in their life with having a new family member.

are irish setters child friendly


So how did I train my Irish Setter for child-friendliness? I will discuss several tips that I found helpful in the training process.

1: Socialization with Children of Different Ages

As mentioned, early socialization is essential for puppies to prepare them for life as an adult. Socialization helps your pup get used to different people, animals, and experiences, and it is also important to introduce them to children of different ages. Start by inviting friends with kids to play with your puppy in a quiet and controlled environment. Keep the interactions short and positive so your pup has time to adjust and learn. You can increase the interaction time as your puppy becomes more comfortable around children.

2: Teaching Gentle and Calm Behavior around Kids

Teaching gentle and calm behavior around kids is essential to ensure your pup doesn’t accidentally knock over any child. One technique is gently holding your puppy’s collar, kneeling alongside them, and asking your child to approach slowly. Reward your puppy with a treat for calm behavior and gradually increase the time they spend around each other. Always supervise interactions, and redirect your pup’s behavior if they become too excited.

3: Start with Short Interactions

It’s important to start with short interactions so that your pup doesn’t become overwhelmed and that you can promptly correct any unwanted behavior. Gradually increasing the interaction length will help your pup become comfortable around children without feeling pressured to behave perfectly every time.

4: Positive Reinforcement for Good Behavior around Children

Positive reinforcement is one of the most effective ways to train dogs. When your pup behaves well around children, reward them with their favorite treat or toy, and shower them with praise. Consistency is key here. It’s important to reinforce good behavior every time so your pup learns to associate positive behavior with a reward.

5: Establish Clear Boundaries and Rules

Before introducing your dog to children, it’s crucial to set clear boundaries and rules that both the kids and the dog must follow. Teach children not to approach or touch their pets without permission and never to disturb their furry friends while sleeping or eating. Explain to them that dogs have personal space that must be respected.

On the other hand, train your dog to understand basic commands you can use when interacting with kids. Commands like “sit,” “stay,” and “leave it” will help you control your dog’s behavior around children. Once your dog is proficient in these commands, use them when interacting with kids. For instance, if your dog gets too excited and jumps onto a child, use the command “sit” to calm it down. If your dog tries to grab a toy from a child, use the command “leave it” to stop it from doing so.

6: Exposing the Dog to Various Child-Related Stimuli

Exposing your dog to various child-related stimuli is crucial for getting them to adjust to children. Start by introducing your dog to children’s toys, sounds, and movements in a controlled environment. Use positive reinforcements to encourage your furry friend to interact with these stimuli.

Gradually increase the intensity and duration of these stimuli as your dog gets more comfortable. Take your pup on walks around children’s playgrounds or parks to expose them to real-life situations. Always monitor your dog’s behavior and keep them on a leash if necessary.

7: Teaching the Dog to Walk Calmly on a Leash Around Children

These large dog breeds can be high-energy dogs that love to run and play, sometimes making it difficult to walk on a leash around children. In order to prevent accidents or incidents, training them to walk calmly on a leash is essential. Start using positive reinforcement techniques, like treating your dog for walking beside you on a leash, and gradually increase the distractions, like introducing them to other people or children. You can also use a short leash to help you keep control or give your dog commands as needed.

8: Practicing Supervised Interactions with Well-behaved Children

Once your dog is comfortable and calm on a leash, it’s time to introduce them to children in a controlled environment. Start with well-behaved children who understand how to interact with dogs, like those of friends or family members. Make sure to closely supervise the interactions and give positive reinforcement when your dog behaves appropriately. Gradually increase the duration and frequency of these interactions until your dog becomes comfortable and relaxed around children.

9: Teach Your Irish Setter Not to Snatch Food or Toys from Children

Irish Setters have a strong prey drive, as mentioned earlier, which means they may be tempted to snatch food or toys from children. In order to avoid this, teach your dog that they should not take things from kids.

Start by teaching your dog the “leave it” command. This command instructs your dog to leave any item it may have in its mouth or want to grab. You should also teach your children not to leave food lying around, as this can be tempting for your dog.

10: Enlist the Help of a Professional Dog Trainer or Behaviorist

If you’re having difficulty training your Irish Setter to be child-friendly, it may be time to enlist the help of a professional dog trainer or behaviorist. They can provide additional tips and techniques to help your dog adapt well to being around children.

Additionally, an experienced dog trainer can help diagnose and treat any behavioral issues affecting your dog. This way, you can ensure your dog is happy and healthy around kids.

Signs That Your Child and Your Irish Setter Have Formed a Bond

Not all Irish Setters bond easily with children, so it’s essential to determine whether a genuine bond has formed. Here are the signs that your kid and Irish Setter have a strong friendship bond.

✅Sharing Common Activities

One of the obvious signs that your child and Irish Setter have formed a bond is that they like sharing common activities. If your child and your Irish Setter love playing outdoor games like fetch or tag or snuggling together on the couch, it indicates a strong bond has formed between them. When your child comes home from school, and your Irish Setter happily greets him and is eager to play, it’s a good enough reason to believe that your child and Irish Setter have bonded.

✅Nonverbal Communication

Dogs love nonverbal cues, and if your child has learned how to communicate with your Irish Setter like a pro, chances are they have formed a strong bond. Pay attention to how your child pet, hug, and cuddle with your Irish Setter. Your pet’s behavior and nonverbal cues can indicate whether they’re comfortable or not. If your pet leans into the hug or closes their eyes when your child pets him, that’s a sign that their bond is genuine.

✅Showing Signs of Empathy

Empathy is one of the essential elements of any human-pet bond. If your child shows empathy and concern for your Irish Setter’s wellbeing, it indicates a bond between them. For example, if your Setter has an injury or is unwell, and your child takes extra care of him, or if your child shares his food with the pet, this is a good sign of a bond between them.

✅Trusting Each Other

The bond between kids and pets is built upon trust. If your child trusts your Irish Setter, this is a sign of a genuine bond between them. Trust also comes from listening to the pet’s body language and respecting their space. For example, if your Setter wants to be alone or doesn’t want to be petted, and your child respects that, it shows that he understands and cares for the pet.

✅Separation Anxiety

This might sound counter-intuitive, but separation anxiety can be a sign of a strong bond between pets and their human companions. If your Irish Setter shows signs of separation anxiety, like whining, barking, or scratching the door when your child leaves, it’s a good indication that they’re bonded. Dogs tend to form deep bonds with individuals they see as their primary caregivers. If your child is one of them, your Irish Setter might experience separation anxiety when left alone.

These indicate that your child and Irish Setter have formed a strong bond. If you observe any of these signs, chances are they’ve built a meaningful relationship based on trust, empathy, and understanding.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can Irish Setters be aggressive with kids?

Like other breeds, Irish Setters can exhibit aggression towards anyone, including children. However, it’s crucial to consider other factors before generalizing the breed’s behavior. Factors such as socialization, training, upbringing, and individual temperament play vital roles in determining the dog’s behavior. In short, Irish Setters can be great family companions, but only with proper care, training, and supervision. It’s essential to teach children to respect the dog’s boundaries and always supervise their interactions.

Can Irish Setters easily adapt to living in a household with kids?

While some may worry about these larger dogs being too rowdy for little ones, I’ve found that Irish Setters can easily adapt to living in a household with kids with proper training and exercise. As long as their physical and mental needs are met, they can be incredibly loving and loyal family companions.

Are Irish Setters good protectors of children?

Yes, Irish Setters can be excellent protectors of children. While all dogs have the potential for guarding behavior, Irish Setters are particularly known to show loyalty and protective instincts toward their family members. It’s essential, however, to provide them with proper training so they learn which behaviors are acceptable and which are not. With the right guidance, Irish Setters can be excellent watchdogs and protectors of any family.

Final Words

So, are Irish setters child friendly? After much research and personal experience, I confidently say that Irish Setters are, without a doubt, child-friendly. These magnificent pups are known to be gentle, affectionate, and adaptable around children. Their playful personality makes them perfect companions for little ones to engage with and enjoy. As a dog owner, I’ve observed how my Irish Setter interacts with my nieces and nephews – he is always patient, trustworthy, and happy to be around them. You must ensure your pup is properly socialized and taught to listen to commands. With proper care, training, and supervision, your Irish Setter will be the best companion for any kid!