Gordon Setter

Breed At A Glance


Loyal, polite and obedient

Life Expectancy
10-12 years

Average Height
Males 24-27 inches; Females 23-26 inches

Average Weight
Males 55-80 lbs; Females 45-70 lbs

Coat Color
Black and tan

Coat Length/Texture
Medium length, silky and wavy or feathered

Shedding Propensity
Consistent year-round

General Temperament

Extremely intelligent and eager to work, the Gordon Setter makes an ideal hunting companion as well as a wonderful family pet. Possessed with a high level of endurance and dependability, this breed enjoys working with a single handler on long hunting trips. Even-tempered, friendly and sociable, they eventually get along well with just about anyone they come in contact with, although they are often a bit aloof with strangers until they decide they are trustworthy.

The Gordon Setter is exceptionally sweet and patient with young children, but they can be a bit active and boisterous, so it may be best to monitor those interactions until the two are accustomed to each other. Once the child and dog understand each other, outdoor playtime becomes a joy for both. Gordons usually get along with other dogs, although some individuals can be aggressive towards dogs of the same sex. They will get along with cats if introduced to them during puppyhood.

Although they enjoy roaming free outdoors, they will not be happy sleeping away from their families (such as in an exterior kennel). A house with a large yard or a country setting is recommended, as opposed to an apartment. They enjoy being in the company of their human companions, to the point that they can become jealous if they don’t get enough attention. They require an active owner/family that is willing to spend time playing or working with them; if boredom sets in, the Gordon can become destructive or bark excessively.

Gordon Setters are easy to train, as they enjoy pleasing their owners and have an excellent memory. They can sometimes, however, be a bit willful and can learn bad habits just as easily as good ones. Training should therefore begin early in the dog’s life. Some may be tough to housetrain (crate training is recommended). Early socialization is important with this breed to minimize shyness.

Breed History

The Gordon Setter has been popular among hunters and sportsmen since it’s development in Scotland in the 17th century. Bred as a one-man hunting dog, the Gordon was used as a pointer, retriever, and to flush out avian game. Though not as fast as other gun dogs, Gordons were revered for their endurance and reliability on the hunt, as well as it’s ability to improve it’s skills with age. Due to it’s unique color pattern, it was referred to as the “Black and Tan Setter” until Duke Alexander of Gordon began a kennel for the breed in the early 19th century. Here, the Duke began an aggressive breeding program designed to improve and proliferate the Gordon Setter.

The Gordon Setter was introduced into the United States by George Blunt in 1842, and was recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1892, shortly after it’s inception.

Body Structure and Composition

The Gordon is the heaviest of the Setter breeds, although the standard allows for a slight difference between show and field types. The muzzle is equal in length to the skull, and the long pendulous ears are set low on the head. The body is well-muscled and the topline slopes down slightly from the shoulders to the hindquarters. The long neck leads down to a deep chest that provides expanded lung capacity, allowing for tremendous endurance. Long feathering accentuates the neck, chest, undercarriage and tail, as well as the backs of the legs. Gordons carry their head high and have a proud and driving gait.

Medical Information

Like many other large breed dogs, the Gordon Setter often suffers from Hip or Elbow Dysplasia. These conditions occur when the head of the bone degenerates and no longer fits into the cup provided by the socket, causing lameness and arthritis-like symptoms. Hypothyroidism can also be a problem in some Gordon Setter lines, causing an underactivity of the thyroid gland, with symptoms including decreased appetite or weight gain, hair loss, recurring skin infections, and lethargy. Responsible breeders will have their breeding stock certified by the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) prior to producing a litter to help minimize the spread of these diseases.

Certain eye conditions can be of issue for the Gordon Setter, such as cataracts and Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA). PRA is characterized by degeneration of cells of the retina, leading eventually to loss of sight, often beginning with night vision.

Gordon Setters can also be prone to bloat, also known as Gastric Dilation Volvulus (GDV). Excess gas trapped in the dog’s stomach causes “bloat,” and twisting of the stomach (volvulus or “torsion”) causes or is caused by said excess gas. GDV is an emergency condition requiring immediate veterinary treatment. Feeding the dog two to three small meals per day (as opposed to one large meal) and avoiding exercise immediately after eating may help prevent this condition.

This breed needs to be brushed daily, particularly after time spent in the field, to control matting and tangles. The nails and hair on the bottom of the feet should be clipped regularly. Check and clean the Gordon’s long ears to help prevent infestation or infection.

Anecdotal Information

Details Coming Soon

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