The Gordon Setter is an athletic and affectionate breed best known for their hunting skills and flowing coat. The breed originated in Scotland almost 200 years ago. They are one of four different setter breeds, whose job was to sniff out game birds and lay down quietly, or “set”, went they located one. The Gordon Setter is distinguished by its large, heavy body structure bred to withstand the rugged and challenging landscape of Scotland. They are named after the Gordon Castle and setter fancier Alexander Gordon.
The modern Gordon Setter is still used for hunting, as well as being a devoted companion dog and successful competitor in field trial and agility competitions. The Gordon Setter ranks number 115 out of 193 in the AKC most popular breeds.
Characteristics of the Gordon Setter
Here we will go into more detail about the appearance and temperament of the Gordon Setter.
The Gordon Setter is an AKC certified medium-sized dog breed. The largest of the setters, males are 24-27 inches in height and weigh 55-80 pounds. Females are 23-26 inches in height and weigh 45-70 pounds. They are a relatively long-lived breed with a lifespan of 12-13 years.
Their feathery coat has a base color of black with tan markings on the face and legs. Their hair is long around the ears, belly, chest, legs, and tail. Their dark eyes and prominent eyebrows give them a gentle expression. Their coat requires frequent brushing with a dog brush to avoid tangles and mats. They shed regularly, which can be minimized by regular trimming of their coat and a bath every month or two. Check out or recommendations for dog vacuums to keep your furniture clean.
Gordon Setters are calm, devoted and strong-minded. They are relatively demanding of their owners in terms of attention and exercise. They are less friendly with strangers than the other setter breeds. They generally do well with children and other household pets, but can be aggressive towards strange dogs of the same sex.
Because of their high level of sociability, Gordon Setters cannot be left alone for very long without developing destructive behavior. While they love their humans, other pets in the household can help minimize separation anxiety and boredom. Gordon Setters can make great travel companions for longer car trips and they enjoy exploring outside on long walks and hikes.
Caring for a Gordon Setter
To ensure you are providing your Gordon Setter with everything it needs to live a long and happy life, it is essential to understand the quirks of the breed and what works best for them. Following are preliminary tips on health and training your Gordon Setter so you know what to expect. However, remember that each dog is unique, even within a specific breed.
The Gordon Setter should be fed a diet of high-quality dog food. It is important to purchase a dog food that is meant for the dog’s age and activity level to fulfil all their nutritional needs. Feeding them table scraps or excessive treats should be avoided, as it can lead to weight gain and related health problems. Even small increases in caloric intake can lead to weight gain over time, so consistency is key. Gordons should be lean and have a clearly defined “waist”.
The Gordon Setter has high exercise needs, requiring plentiful daily exercise to maintain physical health and a happy temperament. These energetic athletes are well-suited for active, outdoorsy people. They enjoy daily runs or vigorous play sessions in securely fenced areas. High-impact activities on bones and joints such as stairs and jumping should be minimized until two years of age. As a young dog, their bones and joints are still developing and do not reach full strength until then. Investing in a high-quality leash and harness to minimize strain on both dog and human is recommended.
Gordon Setters can develop bloat, a potentially deadly disease, and should exercise immediately before or after eating to minimize the risk of developing the condition.
Gordon Setters are moderately difficult to train, with some Gordon’s possessing a serious stubborn streak. The breed requires a consistent and dominant owner to ensue Gordons are well-behaved companions throughout their lives. Learning basic commands such as “no” and “come” are important to keep their behavior in check. However, Gordons are eager to please their owners and enjoy spending time with them, so training is generally an enjoyable process if made fun by their owner. Gordon’s have an impressive memory and pick up new skills fast, but also form habits quickly that are often difficult to break. They will become fearful and nervous in response to aggressive or harsh commands, and any sort of negative-reinforcement is best avoided. As the most wary setter breed, early socialization is important to minimize aggressive behavior later on.
While generally healthy, Gordon Setters are prone to some serious genetic diseases and ailments. Eye diseases, hip dysplasia and elbow dysplasia are some of the most common afflictions seen in the breed. Bloat, a life-threatening digestive condition where the stomach distends and expands, is also seen in the breed. The condition is not well understood, and owners should learn its symptoms and what to do if it does occur. Cancer is the most common cause of death for Gordons, but is rarely seen in younger dogs. The National Breed Blub recommends certain tests for Gordon Setters, including a hip evaluation, elbow evaluation, ophthalmologist evaluation and PRA Optigen DNA test.
The Gordon Setter’s nails should be clipped monthly if not worn down naturally. Their ears should be checked weekly and any excess dirt or wax should be removed. Teeth should be brushed often with a dog-specific toothpaste.
Be sure to choose a dog from a responsible, certified breeder, preferably one who is a member of the Gordon Setter Club of America. This club has a detailed code of ethics in breeding and will be able to provide owners with helpful information on heath and care for the breed. Careful selection of a puppy or adult dog will give you the highest chance of having a long-lived and healthy Gordon Setter.