Belonging to the Setter Group that had a specific role in bird hunting, the English Setter Dog breed is known for its hunting prowess, endurance and high energy reserves. While some dogs are still used in the field, many are bred as show dogs. Even though they are known to be mischievous, they make good family dogs because of their affinity for human company and affectionate nature. They are excellent companions for people who love the outdoors and lead an active lifestyle.
Setters were developed as bird hunters before the use of shot guns became the norm. In those days, birds were caught with nets, and the setter dogs were supposed to point game by crouching and staying still until the birds were caught by the hunters. The English Setter dog breed is considered the oldest among setter breeds and is thought to be in existence from the 15th century onwards.
They probably originated from other hunting dog breeds such as Spanish Pointer, Springer Spaniel and Water Spaniel. The English Setters of today trace their lineage to a group of dogs bred by Edward Laverack for about 30 years starting from 1825.
The English Setters were earlier developed for their ability in the field, and these dogs received good reception when they were introduced to the United States. But since then, they have become popular as family dogs and show dogs.
This medium sized dog breed has an elegant appearance that belies its athletic nature. Their graceful bearing has earned them the epithet, “Gentleman by Nature”.
Measuring 25 to 27 inches at the withers, and weighing up to 80 pounds, their body is designed for quick movements and fast running. It is well-proportioned and muscular with powerful hindquarters to propel the dog as it runs after birds. The ears are large, folded, and floppy; the tail is plume-like, and generally held in line with the back.
The medium long coat is silky and lies flat. The field type has shorter coat compared to that of show dogs. The color of the coat is basically white, and puppies are mostly born white with colored ears. But as they grow, several colored patterns, or flecking, appear in various colors such as black, liver or orange. Their flecking pattern is known as belton, and the dogs are called orange belton, lemon belton, blue belton etc., according to the color of the flecks.
The English Setter dog breed ranks high on intelligence and thrives on high levels of physical activity. This is a breed that cannot be cooped up in a house all day long. Nevertheless, these dogs can make good family dogs as long as their exercise needs are taken care of. They remain docile and well mannered indoors, preferring to laze away the day lying on the couch. Extremely friendly and affectionate, they welcome human interaction at all times, and love the company of children and visitors.
English Setters are trainable as long as positive reinforcements are used, as they are sensitive to harsh words and reprimands. The hunting instinct is so strong in them that outdoor training sessions often fail as the dog gets distracted easily by any sound, scent or movement in the trees and bushes.
Grooming and exercise
The long coat of English Setters needs regular grooming to look good. Thorough brushing daily or every other day may be required. The field type with shorter coat is easier to groom.
Being a hunting dog breed used to intense physical activity for extended periods, the English Setter is known for its need for vigorous exercise. Most dogs need an hour or two of running to expend their store of energy, in addition to other exercises to stay fit and happy. These dogs should ideally have a large yard to spend the day roaming freely.
English Setters are capable of living outdoors in all seasons except in extremes of temperatures, but they love human company, and would rather spend the nights indoors with their family.
Common health issues of English Setter dog breed
The English Setter Dog Breed is known to have several breed-related inheritable disorders, as well as common canine health issues. Deafness is a genetic disorder found in a large percentage of English Setters. They are prone to an abnormal skeletal disorder known as Osteochondritis Dissecans. Canine Hip Dysplasia and elbow dysplasia are common musculoskeletal disorders found in this breed. They may be affected by progressive retinal atrophy and hypothyroidism too. Epilepsy very rarely occurs in this breed.
Most English Setters live for 12 years or more, but canine cancers are frequent in dogs over ten years of age, and this progressive disease accounts for most deaths before the dogs reach the expected lifespan.