The Gordon Setter dog breed is a high-energy sporting breed used for hunting birds. The setter dogs typically scout for birds far and wide, and ‘set them up’ for the hunters who catch them by casting a net. The working dogs are usually allowed to roam freely and work independently. They are not known for their speed, but for their high energy reserves and stamina to work all day long.
Since these dogs are extremely people oriented and very protective of their pack they make excellent family dogs and watch dogs. They are great companions for active people who spend a lot of time outdoors.
Setter type dogs, used for a definite purpose in bird hunting, were popular as far back as the early 17th century according to the literature of those times. Originating from land spaniels, they were used for hunting birds that did not take to wings on being spotted by the dogs, but rather tried to hide in the bush.
Black and Tan Setters were around in Scotland from the 1600s, but they came to be distinguished as Gordon Setter sonly in the later part of the 18th century. They take their name from the Gordon Castle where the fourth Duke of Gordon kept a large number of these dogs. The breed was continuously refined with selective breeding at the Gordon Castle even after the time of the duke. The Gordon Setters at the castle were tricolored with black white and tan.
The use of guns in bird hunting eclipsed the popularity of setters as the hunters increasingly preferred retrievers for bringing in the injured birds. Consequently, the setter type dogs declined in popularity and numbers. Another reason was the dwindling population of partridges and other birds in the fields as intensive farming practices took over the land.
Gordon Setters were first brought to the United States in 1842. The breed was recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1892, one of the first breeds to be registered by AKC. They are still popular companions of sportsmen.
Measuring 24 to 27 inches at the withers, and weighing up to 80 pounds, the Gordon Setter dog breed is slightly larger, as well as heavier, than Irish Setters and English Setters. Their long, silky coat is a rich coal black with tan or chestnut muzzles and lower limbs. They have tan spots over the eyes, and may have some white patches too. The ears are pendulous and covered with long hair, and the tail is plume-like. These muscular and athletic dogs have a dignified appearance.
These dogs are very intelligent and capable of working independently. They are full of life and remain alert to the surroundings when out in the field. Gordon Setters are extremely loyal to their owners, and very sensitive. They need gentle, yet firm, handling. It is important to give these independent and highly protective dogs obedience training and early socialization. Even though they are patient and affectionate with children, their boisterous nature makes them unsuitable for households with very young children.
These dogs have a tendency to wander off after a scent; hence they should not be allowed to roam free because of the risk of injury from traffic. However, they’d be happy to have frequent opportunities to run around freely in a well-protected area.
Grooming and exercise
The long, shiny, coat of the Gordon Setter dog breed requires regular grooming to look good. A thorough brushing once in 2-3 days may be necessary.
Being sporting dogs, they need regular exercise to expend their energy and become comfortably tired and contented. These dogs will be well-behaved in the house if they get their daily quota of exercise. Brisk walks combined with some vigorous activities in the yard should help. They should have access to a secure yard to roam about during the day. These dogs are not suitable for living in small city apartments as they have a tendency to become irritable, as well as obese, with lack of exercise.
Gordon Setters are capable of outdoor living except in extreme temperatures, but it might be best if they are allowed to sleep indoors with the family at night.
Common health issues of Gordon Setter dog breed
The Gordon Setter dog breed is relatively healthy, but it is prone to Canine Hip Dysplasia. Gastric torsion is a potentially fatal condition these dogs can develop. It requires immediate medical intervention at the onset of symptoms. Hypothyroidism, elbow dysplasia and progressive retinal atrophy are a few other health issues affecting them. This breed is at risk of an inheritable neurological disorder called cerebellar abiotrophy. The average life expectancy is 10 to 12 years.