The Gordon Setter breed of dogs date back many years. These gorgeous, hunting and working dogs are known to be the largest of all the setter breeds. They are an active breed that love nothing better than being active and busy. Not only are they very intelligent dogs, they are also very loyal to their human families. They make fantastic pets especially as they keep some of their puppy characteristics through to adulthood. Over recent years, the popularity of the Gordon Setter has dwindled. Because of this, they are now classed as a vulnerable, native breed.
Key facts about the Gordon Setter
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Origins and history
Black and Tan setters were discovered in Scotland, way back during the 15th century. This is where they first took their breed name from, the Gordon Castle Setter. His previous ancestors may have been bloodhounds, or colleys, which could account for his unique colouring. Although he isn’t as fast as the English Setter when hunting, nonetheless his skills do include tracking, pointing and retrieving game birds.
FCI breed nomenclature
Group 7 - Pointing Dogs
Section 2 : British and Irish Pointers and Setters
Physical characteristics of the Gordon Setter
Female : Between 24 and 25 in
Male : Between 25 and 27 in
Female : Between 55 and 57 lb
Male : Between 64 and 66 lb
The coat colour is always Black and Tan but the colours don’t mix together on the hair, they are always separate coloured markings. A small white chest spot is not uncommon.
Type of coat
The Gordon Setter has a moderate to longer length, luxurious coat.
The Gordon Setter has a luxurious, glossy coat. The hair on the dog’s body is of moderate length, lying close and flat to his body. The hair on the ears, front of their legs and on the dog’s head is shorter and finer. With feathering on the dog’s belly, upper ears and backs of the legs, which is silky and long.
This dog breed has brown eyes.
The males of this dog breed are larger than the females, yet both have gloriously glossy hair. The dog’s skull is dome-shaped with a broad muzzle and a large, black nose. Quite a sturdy dog, built more for stamina and strength, rather than speed. Its rugged looks give the impression of a rugged dog that will cope with an active, full-day’s work on the hunting field.
The Gordon Setter has well-muscled and broad hindquarters, strong rear legs and nicely padded, hair-covered feet. The dog’s tail is thick at the base but finer near the tip. His eyes are deep brown and oval shaped. His ears lie flat but are long and floppy, with a pointed shape.
Good to know
There are actually two types of Gordon Setter. The first is the field-type Gordon and the other the show Gordon Setter. In modern days, the hunting dog is a more popular choice than just a family pet.
As a sensitive breed of dog, the Gordon Setter is a loyal, affectionate dog. They become very attached to their owners, but don’t often tolerate strangers.
If a Gordon Setter puppy is socialised from a young age, he is likely to maintain his playful nature into adulthood. This breed are known to be happy, curious dogs, generally loyal to the family they live with. They love to entertain and take part in many tasks and games. When the mood takes him, he can be slightly mischievous too.
As adolescents, between 6 to 9 months, most Gordon Setter pups go through a stage filled with anxiety and fear. Owners shouldn’t pamper the dogs too much during this period, but to remain calm and give the dogs lots of reassurance, that all is well in their world.
Gordon Setters are certainly very intelligent dogs. Always eager to please their owners and are quick learners when it comes to any new tasks. However, when training a Gordon Setter, you must understand that they sometimes pick up bad habits too. Often quite stubborn, yet he definitely doesn’t like harsh discipline treatments.
Even though Gordon Setters have hunting and working dogs in their ancestry, they are more social dogs by nature. Because of this, their prey drive isn’t very strong. However, this doesn’t totally exclude any hunting skills totally from their lives, and if the odd squirrel crosses his path, he may just chase after it.
Fearful / wary of strangers
As a loyal breed of dog, totally dedicated to his owners, the Gordon Setter won’t really tolerate strangers in his home.
This smart, intelligent dog breed loves human company and interaction. He doesn’t take too well being left alone for long periods at all. Best suited to someone who plans to be at home for most of the day.
Behaviour of the Gordon Setter
A Gordon Setter is a very family-orientated breed who loves the company of his owner. It isn’t advisable to leave a dog alone at home for any long periods of time, to prevent any separation anxieties. Destructive habits can form when he is anxious or stressed.
Easy to train / obedience
This breed needs to begin training routines at an early stage in his life. Once this dog has picked up bad habits, it’s more difficult to retrain him. Consistent training is needed, with a caring, calm approach.
Some pets from this breed like to make lots of noise. This needs to be controlled when the dog is a small puppy, although care must be taken when reprimanding this sensitive dog. Others will only be noisy and bark when they’re not sure about something in their surroundings, or to alert you of a stranger’s presence.
Tendency to run away
When you are out walking a Gordon Setter, you will understand that he loves nothing better than to run loose, off the leash. This is all well and good, until he spots a small, wild animal disappearing through the fence in front of him. You will need to be alert to make sure he comes back to your recall, or he will be off over the fields giving chase.
As a sensitive dog, who doesn’t take easily being left home alone for long periods, he can certainly have destructive tenancies when he is bored or stressed.
Greedy / Gluttony
Not a greedy dog, who, although he has high energy levels, he isn’t a picky eater and will eat most things you put into his food bowl.
As a natural watchdog breed, he will certainly alert you to any unknown person on your property. However, as a non-aggressive dog, he isn’t likely to approach a stranger but is more likely to bark and stand his ground, to alert you instead.
This breed is certainly a good choice for any first time dog owners. This of course, is providing if they have plenty of time to dedicate to an energetic dog that needs an abundance of exercise on a daily basis. Likewise, they are suited to a family who has enough space to allow them to roam around and let off steam outside of the home.
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Gordon Setter in a flat
A high-energy dog who needs lots of space to run around, both inside and outside of the home. Certainly not suited to apartment living, especially with his large tail that he swishes around, knocking things off tables. Outside space needs to be fenced off securely to prevent him escaping and running off.
Need for exercise / Sporty
These very strong, courageous dogs have an enormous stamina. They are a brilliant choice for a person who loves being outside and is very active. Certainly not the best pet for anyone who lives a more quiet and sedentary lifestyle. Most Gordon Setters will need a brisk, long walk, several times a day, or he will become difficult to manage and restless. He will also enjoy running free in a large, enclosed area.
Travelling / easy to transport
As a strong and active dog, probably not best suited to travelling on public transport. If trained to travel in a vehicle from a young age, will be more used to this mode of transportation.
Gordon Setter and cats
When a kitten and a young puppy have been reared together, there should be no co-habitation issues. Certainly, care should be taken around smaller cats and other tiny pets, as the Gordon Setter has a hunting instinct and he may view these as prey.
Gordon Setter and dogs
If a Gordon Setter has been brought up from an early age with another dog, they should get along fine together. However, with his sensitivity, he may take objection to other dogs, especially when out walking.
Gordon Setter and children
These affectionate, playful dogs are great when spending time with children of any age. Often, the dog can become rather protective of the children in the family. Because of this, close supervision is needed to make sure that playtime is quite calm and not too stressful or boisterous for the dog, or a small child.
Gordon Setter and the elderly
As a strong, robust dog breed, it certainly wouldn’t be number one choice of pet for an elderly person. Needing vigorous and lengthy exercise sessions too, means that it’s not a suitable choice of pet for those who live life at a quieter and gentler pace.
If you wish to buy a Gordon Setter, expect to pay an average price of £930 for a dog registered at the Kennel Club and £900 for a dog who isn’t registered at the KC.
When it comes to nutrition, opt for the best quality food, either dry or wet feed which will cost between £50 to £60 each month. You then need to factor in insurance and veterinary costs, plus the cost of spaying or neutering your pet. Monthly costs could work out at around £80 to £130 each month, which doesn’t include the initial cost of buying a dog.
With his thick, long coat with silky feathering on his tail, belly, legs and ears, he definitely needs frequent brushing. If he has been outside in the dirt and mud, you will need to pay more attention to his coat to prevent mats and tangles. Of all the activities, the Gordon Setter loves playing in water and swimming the most. Care needs to be taken with his ears, to ensure they are dry and clean to prevent any infections.
The Gordon Setter sheds his coat quite moderately, usually twice a year. Certainly, the more you groom him, the less hair he will shed onto your clothing, furniture and the floor.
Nutrition of the Gordon Setter
As a dog who has high energy levels, he needs sufficient nutritional, high-quality food to meet his needs. Twice a day feeds should suffice. These Gordon Setters can also suffer from bloat, so to relieve any symptoms of this, don’t exercise immediately before or after feeding. As a tall dog, he much prefers his food bowl to be raised off the ground when feeding.
Health of the Gordon Setter
As a fairly healthy dog breed, Gordon Setters often live between 12 and 14 years of age.
Strong / robust
A very strong, vigorous dog who loves plenty of exercise. At least one daily walk is needed, for anything up to 2 hours, and still he won’t be tired afterwards.
During hot weather, a Gordon Setter loves nothing better than being allowed to swim to cool down. Of course, care should be taken to carefully monitor any dog in the water, but he will be an excellent swimmer. As with all pets, during hot weather, sufficient shade should be given, both indoors and in the garden, to prevent your pet from overheating.
The dog’s long coat certainly helps to insulate against the cold weather. As dogs used for hunting sports, they are bred to be outside for most of the day and won’t have an issue with the chilly days.
Tendency to put on weight
As a very active breed of canines, the Gordon Setter needs plenty of vigorous, daily exercise, to prevent him from gaining too much weight. Certainly, older dogs have a tendency to gain weight if they are more sedentary.