Gordon Setter

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deep, shining coal black, without rustiness, with markings of chestnut red, i.e. lustrous tan
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Pros Cons
  • excellent gun dog
  • loves children
  • wonderful family companion                       
  • great watchdog
  • requires a sufficient amount of mental and physical stimulation
  • regular grooming is needed


The Gordon Setter is a hardy and hard-working hunting dog native to Scotland. Practically it’s the only living gundog, which originated in that country. It will make an excellent friend for the hunting fan, but it also can be fostered into superb companion animal.


The Gordon Setter appeared as a result of long-termed breeding efforts of the Fourth Duke of Gordon to whom it owes its name. The Duke was a loyal fan of dogs and one of the last representatives of the British aristocracy who favoured falconry. At some stage of his life he established two distinct kennels one for Scottish Deerhounds and the other for Setters. He strived to invent its own unique breed, which would be able to work in the various Scottish terrains as a personal gundog. This avid hunter spotted peculiar black and tan coloration in some of his Setters and was fascinated by its beauty. He eventually managed to standardise the black and tan colour as well as get rid of any white. Thus the modern form of the breed most likely already existed in 1820.

At the beginning of the XIX century Setters were widely spread across the British Isles. However they came in so many varieties that it can be hardly categorised in any number of unique breeds. It’s known for sure that Alexander Gordon used in his breeding experiments the whole set of Setters of different size and colours. There is also a theory that the Gordon Setter acquired its distinct colour from the Bloodhound with whom it was interbred at some point.

The Gordon Setter was specifically developed to become a perfect personal gundog with ability to work over immense open spaces of Scotland of that time. This dog was capable of detecting of every species of game bird in its homeland. Moreover, it functioned effectively both on land and water. For some time it enjoyed great deal of popularity among hunters in the British Isles but it was soon replaced by some other trendier breeds. The Gordon Setter still has small but stable following in Scotland and Northern England.

Originally the Gordon Setter was imported to America in 1842. This breed failed to acquire lots of fanciers in this country and presently its role most exclusively boils down to the one of a docile companion for a hunter. American Kennel Club (AKC) recognised the dog in 1884 and the United Kennel Club (UKC) in 1949.


The Gordon Setter is used to operate one on one with a hunter and therefore it’s prone to form tight bonds with him. This dog hates being alone and it’s known to become extremely anxious and upset if it’s left without human society for long periods of time. It gets along well with children, which have been taught to respect the boundaries of the dog. However a toddler may be tempted to pull the Setter’s prominent ears and long hair so it’s better to opt for some other breed for the families with young children.

The Gordon Setter certainly prefers a company of people it knows and expresses distrust by acting with cool dignity when it meets an unfamiliar person. Properly socialised members in most cases will be quite polite and friendly with strangers but some specimens will never get over its natural suspiciousness. This breed is observant and alert enough to make a fabulous watchdog. Nevertheless it can be barely accommodated to the role of a guard dog because of its low overall aggressiveness.

The Gordon Setter is generally alright with other unfamiliar dogs. However majority of the dogs would want to live in a family as the only dog to receive all its love and attention. It’s apt to seek for dominance in a group of other canines and this inclination may entail some conflicts between the Gordon Setter and an unfamiliar dog. On the whole this breed isn’t dog aggressive but some issues can happen between intact males. As a hunting dog it’s commonly trained to identify the location of the game and not to attack it. So well-socialised specimens will be able to co-exist relatively problem-free with a home cat though a young Gordon Setter may bother it by inviting to play.

Health Problems
The most common problems for the breed include:

• eye problems;
• canine hip dysplasia;
• elbow dysplasia;
• gastric torsion;
• tumours;
• cancer;
• neonatal neurological disorder.

The grooming of the Gordon Setter takes a lot of time and efforts because of its long, dense coat. It should be carefully brushed every day since the hair of this breed is highly prone to tangling and matting. It also requires regular trimming and majority owners prefer to entrust this procedure to a professional groomer rather than do it themselves.

This breed sheds averagely but its long hair can be rather visible on your furniture and closing. The ears of the Gordon Setter get easily dirty so its owner should pay special attention to its systematic cleaning.

The trainability of the Gordon Setter depends solely on the training methods you use and personality of the handler. If you take the right approach than this smart and skilful dog will be capable of learning most complicated tricks. The lessons with this dog should be based on the principles of consistency and repetitiveness and its trainer should always exhibit unshakable confidence in his dominative position.

It’s obligatory to apply in training of the Gordon Setter only mild encouragement and abundance of tasty incentives. The dog doesn’t respond well to screaming and other types of rough-housing and reacts to it with wilful behaviour or a repressed grudge.

The Gordon Setter is an extremely active dog, which needs to be provided with plenty of opportunities to release its boisterous energy. It should be walked for at least 60 to 80 minutes on a daily basis. The dog will become your enthusiastic partner in jogging but it definitely prefers to roam unrestrained in securely fenced territory.

Specimens, which receive insufficient amount of exercise, are tend to develop various behavioural issues including destructiveness, unreasonable excitability, nervousness and so on. Before adopting this dog you should consider that it would be virtually impossible to meet its exercise needs without a spacious yard.