Gordon Setter Characteristics and what to expect when choosing a Gordon Setter

The Gordon Setter temperament is without a doubt an amiable and special one, but is this gundog right for you? A Gordon Setter will be the happiest living with an outdoorsy owner, who can take them on all the adventures but has also time for evening cuddles. They mastered field work to such an extent and beauty that someone wrote a poem about them. This article will be going into more depth for future pet owners who are considering getting this breed of dog to help them make that decision.

Running Gordon Setter
A Gordon Setter at work in the field is a truly majestic sight

History of the Gordon Setter

Gordon Setters are medium-large sized dogs that originated from the Scottish Highlands sometime in the late eighteenth century. Alexander Gordon the 4th of his name is believed to be the person who established the breed. Hence the name Gordon Setter. According to documents he bred Black and Tan Setters.

Initially bred to be hunting dogs to flush grouse out of bushes so hunters could shoot them, they have since become family pets and companion dogs. Their instinct is still strong so don't be surprised if your Gordon runs off into the sunset at times for a little hunt. Good re-call training is essential. Their boldness shines through on occasion.

The breed almost went extinct in the nineteenth century with only around 50 Setters registered at the kennel, but was then revived by an individual who used what little specimens that were left to begin breeding again. The Kennel Club is classing Gordon Setters as a native vulnerable breed due to less than 300 registrations a year. In 2020, 268 Gordon Setters were registered.

Gordon Setters usually weigh anywhere between 50-70 pounds depending on if they are male or female. So first-time dog owners need to keep in mind that this breed is on the bigger side. To withstand the temperament of the Scottish weather, they're solidly built when compared to other setter breeds. A house with a garden is preferred. They can feel like a proper king or queen of the castle then.

The only Breed recognised standard colour is black and tan.

If properly cared for, the Gordon Setter has a uniquely soft glowing coat that comes down from its chest. They also have feathering on their legs, tail, chest and ears which gives them an elegant look when they are presented at shows or competitions, or just out for a walk with their owners.

What is it like to live with a Gordon Setter?

They are energetic dogs, but this energy level depends on the individual dog so keep it in mind if you get one of your own.

As far as living conditions go, Gordon Setters do well in a house, but it is best if they have a yard or garden to play in at least. If there is no garden, make sure the walks have a sufficient duration so they get their fair share of exercise.

Gordon Setter
The longer feathering is on the ears of the Gordon making them recognisable

What is important to note about this breed, is that they need high quality food which has a lot of proteins in it because of the energy they expend and the amount of work they do when running and hunting for more than half of a day at a time.

Grooming is medium as long as you brush your Gordon Setter every day or at least once or twice a week for a few minutes each time. Remember that they have soft coats unlike wire haired dogs, so brushing them every day will not only make the dog happy but it will keep their coat healthy too and reduce shedding. If properly cared for, the coat can be a real eye-catcher and shiny in the sunlight.

For Gundogs exercise is essential. Two walks a day for an hour are recommended. They're also an all-weather type of dog. Gordons will enjoy themselves thoroughly whether it's raining, windy or the sun is shining. They will thrive playing fetch and the owner needs a lot of stamina to keep up with their activity requirements. Gordon Setters are not the fastest of the setter breed, they do however have the greatest stamina of all of them. It is a good idea to switch up walking routes so they can discover new smells, sounds, and trails.

Tug of war is also great as they need to crouch and pull which helps them build muscles to protect joints, tendons and also releases that extra bit of energy. Teach them to release when you want them to. If your Gordon picks up all the massive "sticks" (also called tree branches), this extra long rope might be perfect for you.

The Gordon Setter is known to live up to 12 years on average. This means they need lots of love, exercise and good food so that they can stay healthy throughout the 'golden' years; well the first ten at least since these dogs are considered seniors after 10 years old. Gordon Setters stay young at heart for a long time and mature later, however, if you ever had the chance to see a Gordon Setter in a field or obedience training, you'd be surprised. They carry themselves with a certain dignity and nobility that is not often seen. It's like an "on-off-puppy-switch".

Gordons are loving with children but it's important to introduce them how to treat a dog from an early age.

If you are interested in owning a Gordon Setter for your own, then it would be important to know more about them beforehand so that you can ask some questions before you adopt one of these dogs from an animal shelter or rescue center. Remember they need lots of love, attention and exercise so choose wisely when getting one of your own.

Gordon Setter playing fetch
A Gordon Setter will thoroughly enjoy a game of fetch

Gordon Setter characteristics in a nutshell

  • Affectionate, loyal and smart

  • Need a lot of exercise and new surroundings outside

  • Awesome with children

  • A true champion in the field

  • Reserved towards strangers at times

Potential diseases in the Gordon Setter breed

Common health issues in a Gordon Setter breed include bloat, hip dysplasia and cancer. As they are deep-chested dogs they are especially susceptible to bloat. A study said they're ranking 5th in being most prone to bloat. Bloat is life-threatening and this is not a vet blog, so please do your research and learn the signs of bloat from your vet and what you can do if symptoms show.

Make sure you’re aware of the costs and prepared to carry those for the lifetime of a Gordon Setter.

All potential dog owners should do their research on the breed they are interested in before bringing a dog into their home, to ensure they are prepared for any potential health issues, especially the financial impacts of health issues.

Many dog owners are unaware of the danger in some pet toys and accessories that can worsen health issues, when they innocently buy cheap products from the Far East. Avoid synthetic rubber play things like chew bones or tug o' war ropes from polyester; polyester collars could cause skin irritation while nylon leads shed microplastics into the environment or get indigested if nibbled on. Swap out those harmful materials with natural dog products made from hemp here at Hooman’s Friend.

What else Gordon Setters may seem like a tough breed at first because they were originally bred with English setters in mind but they need lots of love and attention just like most dogs do. They can also be reserved towards strangers at first and take on a "wait and see" approach.

If you have time to take them out for walks daily, play fetch with them and give them belly rubs every night then this breed will become one of your best friends in no time! Just remember that these dogs need their exercise and grooming needs need to be met. If you don't have the time to dedicate to a Gordon Setter, this breed might not be right for you.

If you want to learn more about other dog breeds, check related articles or sign up to our newsletter here. We are working hard to add all dog breeds as soon as possible to have a whole extensive library!

Fun facts

The poet, William Somerville (1675–1742) crafted a lyrical description of the Setter breed at work in the field. It's the first appearance of a Setter in a poem. We think it fits Setter breeds to a T.

When autumn smiles, all beauteous in decay,
And paints each chequered grove with various hues,
My setter ranges in the new shorn fields,
His nose in air erect; from ridge to ridge,
Panting, he bounds, his quartered ground divides
In equal intervals, nor careless leaves
One inch untried. At length the tainted gale
His nostrils wide inhale, quick joy elates
His beating heart, which, awed by discipline
Severe, he dares not own, but cautious creeps
Low-cowering, step by step; at last attains
His proper distance, there he stops at once,
And points with his instructive nose upon
The trembling prey. On wings of wind and upborne
The floating net unfolded flies; then drops,
And the poor fluttering captives rise in vain.

Owners voices

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