Gordon Setter

Breed Group: Sporting

Temperament and Behavior

Highly active outside, the Gordon Setter needs a great deal of exercise. A walk, even a run around the block is insufficient. This breed needs a 2-3 mile walk and a short run every day. Their ideal living conditions include a large yard with a secure fence. Whenever not confined, a leash is essential to control their strong interest in hunting and tendency to roam. With his exercise needs met, he is calm inside; without it, he becomes hyperactive. Happy, loyal, and devoted to all family members, he seems happiest when he can be with children, especially those he is raised with. Even when teased, he tends to take flight rather than become defensive. Although they may be scrappy with strange dogs, they are happy to accept most family pets. Barking freely and tending to be cautious of strangers, they will be happy to announce the arrival of one. Some are willing to fulfill the role of a guardian. With their characteristic ever-wagging tail, many develop a ‘language’ of their own, letting their owners know when they are pleased, hungry, or need of attention. They can sometimes drool.

Physical Characteristics

Heaviest of all the setters, a Gordon Setter's average height is between 23 and 27 inches, with an average weight between 45 and 80 pounds. They have luxurious thick black and tan silky smooth coats. Grooming the breed is fairly easy – weekly brushing and checking tangles will keep them in good shape. But regardless, they tend to be above average shedders and not for a housekeeper who can’t stand dog hair around their home. A Gordon Setter is good in cold weather and they do well in warm temperatures too.

Trainer's Notes

Socialization is important for Gordon Setters for two reasons. The first is to make sure their cautiousness with strangers does not progress to skittishness. The second reason is to help deal with jealous tendencies if not given what they feel like is enough attention. With proper socialization, they make wonderful family pets. Basic obedience training is important so Gordon Setters understand who is boss. Like other setters, Gordons have very long memories. This means they remember their training well, no matter if they learn what is intended, or a bad habit which is then difficult to break. It also means they remember harshness which they have difficulty forgiving. Use only gentle, consistent, positive training techniques. Jerking them with a leash will result in their bracing themselves and refusing to move. They make a good family pet for a novice dog owner and are reasonably well suited for a novice dog trainer as they pick up basic manners reasonably quickly, but are certainly capable of much more. The key to the breed is to establish good habits early as their memories can make them stubborn and set in their ways.

Photo © by Joonasl available under the CC BY-SA 3.0
Gordon Setter

Gordon Setter


Although the Gordon Setter does not have many health problems, those it does have are significant. It is one of the breeds most likely to suffer from Bloat. Two or three small meals a day rather than one large feeding is recommended. About one in ten dogs are affected by Elbow Dysplasia and one in five suffers from Hip Dysplasia. About 4% have problems with sufficient thyroid gland production and roughly a similar number inherit PRA which leads to blindness. A dog’s lifespan is typically 10 to 12 years.


The American Kennel Club ranks the Gordon Setter 86th in popularity. There are usually about 800 dogs registered each year.

Breed History

Setters with black and tan coloring existed in Scotland no later than the 1600’s. But it was the late 1700’s that the fourth Duke of Gordon kept many of these dogs at his Gordon Castle where it was developed as a bird dog that had a superior sense of smell, and had both pointing and retrieving skills. It was at this time it became known as the Gordon Castle Setter. Breeding the best of these dogs was continued after the duke’s death by the Duke of Richmond. Daniel Webster, better known for the Dictionary that bears his name, was the first to bring a Gordon Setter to America in the mid-1800’s. They are one of the earliest breeds to be accepted by the American Kennel Club, their vote of approval coming in 1892. Unlike the English and Irish Setters, the Gordon Setter was never separated into show and field lines. In fact, many are bred specifically as dual-purpose dogs.

Additional Information

In addition to Daniel Webster, Sir Walter Scott was a Gordon Setter owner. The National (US) Breed Club is the Gordon Setter Club of America.

Is A Gordon Setter THE BEST Dog For YOU?

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