Gordon Setter

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The Gordon Setter is a high-energy canine companion who loves outdoor sports, children and their families.

Breed Snapshot

Life Expectancy:
12 to 13 years
Size:

Large

Maintenance Level:

High

Shed Level:

Medium

Temperament:
ConfidentAthleticAffectionate
Coat Color:
Black And Tan

Best For

Gordon Setters thrive in homes with active and experienced pet parents eager to have a running or biking companion. The breed loves attention and wants to spend as much time as possible with their families, including children and other dogs. Pet parents who are willing to provide their Gordon Setter with a job—whether it's learning new tricks or exploring new trails—will have the happiest pup.

Gordon Setter Traits

What makes the Gordon Setter a Gordon Setter? Let's find out how they stack up.

Gordon Setter Temperament

Confident, alert and intelligent, Gordon Setters were bred to race off into the woods after birds. But no matter what their particular training is today, this breed truly flourishes when pet parents channel their dog’s energies into outdoor activities. The Gordon Setter temperament is not one for lazily sitting around and staring out the window at the action outside. They want to be right up in it.

That’s because a Gordon Setter dog loves two things most: Being on the move and spending time with their people. They are happiest when they can marry these twin passions by hiking, biking or hitting the dog park for some exercise alongside their humans, who they’ll then eagerly reward with loads of affection, love and loyalty. They are sweet-natured dogs, after all, and not overly hard to please.

Gordon Setters can be determined and strong willed, too, qualities that serve them well on a hunt as they push on until they find their marks. Nevertheless, this can make training a bit of a challenge. Still, with patience, the Gordon Setter can be a well-behaved member of the family.

Although Gordon Setters were bred to be working dogs, they’re not all business. These dogs definitely know how to play. And despite the Gordon Setter’s size, the breed is mild-mannered, good with kids of all ages and will quickly turn strangers into friends. Most Gordon Setters are happy to find other four-legged playmates, and the breed ranks low for both aggression and biting tendencies. If dogs held popularity contests, the Gordon Setter would be an all-star for sure.

How to Care for a Gordon Setter

The key to caring for a Gordon Setter dog is exercise. This is a breed who loves activity and will do best in households where there are lots of opportunities for outdoor adventures. To ensure your Gordon Setter lives a happy, healthy life, take advantage of their intelligence with training activities that provide mental and physical stimulation, feed them a complete and balanced diet, groom them regularly and take them to the vet for routine care.

Gordon Setter Health

The Gordon Setter’s life expectancy is 12 to 13 years. Although they are generally healthy dogs, the breed is at risk for certain health issues that can crop up during their lifetimes.

  • Progressive Retinal Atrophy: This group of eye diseases is linked with degeneration of the retinal cells, eventually causing blindness. The inherited form of progressive retinal atrophy, also called retinal dysplasia, is diagnosed in puppies; older dogs can be diagnosed with a late onset form of disease that’s often diagnosed between 3 and 9 years old. PRA isn’t painful, and the earliest symptoms, such as increased pupil dilation or bumping into objects, often go unnoticed. Although there is no treatment for PRA, supplements containing antioxidants could relieve stress on the cells in the lens and delay cataracts, prolonging vision. It’s an inherited disease, and dogs who are diagnosed with it can still lead happy lives, even if they lose sight.
  • Hip Dysplasia: Sometimes, the ball and socket that make up the hip joint doesn’t fit together quite right, which causes a painful grinding in the joint. It’s a genetic condition that’s quite common in larger breeds like the Gordon Setter and is linked to earlier onset of osteoarthritis. Your vet will take an X-ray to determine if your dog has hip dysplasia. Keeping puppies at a normal weight during their growth and development phase can reduce the risk of developing joint dysplasia. The treatments range from joint supplements and anti-inflammatories to surgery.
  • Bloat: Like other large-breed dogs with deep chests and thin waists, the Gordon Setter breed is at increased risk for gastric dilatation-volvulus or GDV. The condition, better known as bloat, occurs when gas stretches the stomach and causes it to twist. It can be sudden and life-threatening. If you notice symptoms, such as your dog’s abdomen becoming enlarged, restlessness, vomiting and drooling, bring your dog to an emergency room immediately. Not allowing your Gordon Setter to exercise before or after eating can reduce the risk as can feeding them smaller meals more frequently throughout the day and using a slow feeder. Some veterinarians also recommend a procedure called a gastropexy that involves stitching the stomach to the side of the body as a preventive measure against bloat.

Gordon Setter History

The Gordon Setter’s history dates back to the 1500s when the earliest setter breeds were developed. This bird dog breed earned their name for their tendencies to quietly “set” down (or lie down) to alert hunters to the location of birds. The hunter would then toss a net over the birds and dogs, if necessary, to bring home game for supper.

A key figure in the Gordon Setter’s origin was the setter fancier Alexander Gordon, the Fourth Duke of Gordon in Scotland, who lived in the 18th and 19th centuries. He bred black-and-tan setters at his home, Gordon Castle. The dogs were heavier boned and more “square” than other setter breeds, providing them with strength and stamina, albeit not speed, and making them ideal for long hunts over tough terrain in their native Scotland. And hunt with his dogs, the Duke certainly did. Although he waited until the setters were more than 5 years old because it took these “perpetual puppies” that long to settle down and mature.

Although the earliest iterations of the Gordon Setter looked more like English Setters, when breeders later crossed them with flat-coated black-and-tan Collies, Bloodhounds, black Pointers and black Setters, they got the Gordon Setter breed as it’s known today.

Historic records show that George Blunt brought the first Gordon Setters to New York in 1842—a curly-coated white Setter with black and tan points named Rake and a black-and-tan Setter named Rachael. Although the American Kennel Club welcomed the black-and-tan Setter as an official breed in 1884, they changed the breed name from the Gordon Castle Setter to the Gordon Setter in 1892.

If you’re thinking about adding a Gordon Setter to your family, you can find a list of reputable breeders on the American Kennel Club’s website. The average price for a puppy ranges from $1,000 to $2,000. But for that cost, you usually get a dog who’s been screened for health and temperament issues, and they might even come with pedigree papers. You can also reach out to Gordon Setter rescue organizations to adopt a dog, or keep an eye out for the breed at your local animal shelter.

FAQs

Do Gordon Setters shed?

Gordon Setters shed an average amount. You’ll have less dog hair floating around the house than pet parents with German Shepherds or Huskies, but more hair than those who live with Poodles and Schnauzers.

How long do Gordon Setters live?

Gordon Setters have lifespans of 12 to 13 years, which gives you a lot of years to have fun adventures with your pup.

Are Gordon Setters good family dogs?

Gordon Setters are great family dogs. The breed is affectionate, loves spending time with their family and gets along well with children and other dogs.

Do Gordon Setters bark a lot?

Gordon Setters bark an average amount and tend to become vocal at “normal” things, like the doorbell ringing or dogs barking on television. They will not bark incessantly each time the wind changes direction.

What are the most common Gordon Setters dog mixes?

  • Gordon Setter-Golden Retriever mix (Gordon Setter Golden Retriever)
  • Gordon Setter-Labrador Retriever mix (Gordon Setter Labrador Retriever)
  • Gordon Setter-Poodle mix (Gordondoodle)
  • Gordon Setter-German Shepherd mix (Gordon Setter German Shepherd)
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Top Takeaways

Gordon Setters are energetic working dogs who do best with lots of exercise and mental stimulation. In exchange for plenty of walks and a spot beside you on the couch, Gordon Setters will reward the entire family with loyalty, affection and sloppy kisses.

Expert input provided by veterinarian Dr. Jami-Lyn Derse DVM, founder of Veterinary Housecall Care LLC and certified dog trainer Marissa Sunny CPDT-KA, canine behavior specialist at Best Friends Animal Society.

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