Gordon Setter: The Most Graceful Dog

Written by: Bojana Radulovic
Gordon Setters were bred to hunt pheasant and quail, but they evolved from there. Read on to discover why this breed is more suitable for living in a large home with a garden than city life.
Dog Breed Group:
Sporting Dogs
1 foot, 11 inches to 2 feet, 3 inches tall at the shoulder
45 to 80 pounds
Life Span:
10 to 12 years

Breed Characteristics:

Apartment Friendly


How well will this breed adapt to apartment living? Is the apartment size the most important factor when it comes to proper living conditions? Is the breed suitable for apartment living?

Good For First-Time Owners


Some dogs aren't suitable for first-time dog owners. Is this breed a good match for someone with no dog experience? Can training help them be on their best behavior with owners with no dog experience? Are they suitable to be handled by someone who is just entering the canine world?

Overall Sensitivity


Some dogs are sensitive. Certain breeds are rough on the outside, while having the softest heart on the inside. In other words, some dogs are 'thick-skinned' while some are 'easygoing.' Is this breed prone to sensitivity?

Tolerates Being Alone


Separation anxiety in dogs is a serious condition that can affect a dog's life quality. Is this breed prone to this condition? Can you leave him alone for hours? How destructive this breed can become when bored, neglected, or not loved enough?

Affectionate With Family


How affectionate this breed will be around his humans? Will he welcome new family friends easily or he will choose to be shy? Some breeds can be clingy with owners, while others don't attach a lot. Will this breed act as the family's best friend?



Some dogs will tolerate children, while others will adore well-behaved ones. Dogs and children should always be supervised, no matter how well trained the dog might be. Will this breed act as a nanny dog or he will stay away from children?

Friendly Toward Other Dogs


Some dog breeds cannot wait to run to the dog park and run with others. Others prefer to be with their humans, and not to be a part of a multi-pet household. Is this breed dog lover or not? How friendly this breed will be toward other dogs?

Friendly Toward Strangers


Some dog breeds tend to be reserved toward strangers and highly suspicious. Others are fast to walk away with them easily. How welcoming this breed is toward strangers?

Drooling Level


If you love to clean all the time drooling level in dogs is a trait that you should mind. Is this breed less likely to drool, or you will always need a towel on hand?

Easy To Groom


Heavier shedding during the shedding season is something that every dog needs to go through. However, some dogs shed just a bit all year round. Is this breed one of them? How often should you groom this dog?

Overall Health


What can you expect from this breed in terms of health? Are there any genetic conditions to vary about? Is obesity a major issue in this breed? By knowing more about the dog's health, you are learning how to help him live a longer and healthier life.

Prone To Obesity


Treats are a great addition to training sessions. Dogs love sweet bites of dog treats but they should be served in moderation. Treats can lead to obesity, next to poor nutrition. Can this breed gain extra weight from treats? How prone to obesity this breed actually is?

Trainability Level


Training some dogs is easier than others. How easy this dog will be to train? What can you expect? Some dogs are huge people pleasers and they will master commands easily, while others will try to outsmart you.

Intelligence Level


Dogs are smart beings. We do our best to train them, but they do still end up training us to adapt to their needs. How intelligent is this breed? Will he try to outsmart you? Or he will need multiple training sessions to master basic commands?

Prey Drive


Dogs were bred for a specific purpose. Those who were bred to hunt have natural instincts to hunt, even today. This is why many dogs, like Terriers, will chase other animals. They will also have a hard time concentrating on your commands when there is something small moving. Is this breed prone to following his prey instincts?

Barking Level


How vocal this breed is? Can you expect neighbors to ring you often to calm your dog? Or you can sleep without worries of hearing your Fido bark? Some breeds are highly vocal, others have unusual sounds, and some are silent. Is this breed prone to barking?

Energy Level


Low-energy dogs are happy with regular walks and indoor chill times. High-energy dogs are always ready for action. Is this breed a couch potato, energetic dog, or somewhere in between?

Exercise Needs


Some dogs are more than happy with a slow stroll down the street. Others need hours of active time to stay happy and fit. Is this breed demanding in terms of exercise? How much exercise this breed needs to stay happy and healthy?

Playfulness Level


Some dogs never lose that puppy spirit, not even in their senior years. Others are more serious and prefer having a job to do. Is this breed demanding in terms of playfulness? Can you expect playfulness in their senior years as well?

The Gordon Setter is often described as one of the best-looking dogs within the canine world. This breed is a well-muscled, serious, alert, and graceful dog that isn’t afraid to use his power when needed.

This is a true outdoor lover since Gordon Setter enjoys hiking, biking, and morning running.

If you are a dog owner already, who love running you know that in the hot days you should stick to morning doggy walks and running, due to heatstroke which occurs in dogs when the temperature is high.

This is a one-person dog because they thrive the most on one-on-one attention, which is why they can be jealous sometimes of other pets and even people.

They may show aggressiveness toward other dogs, so make sure that you truly understand the dog psychology, and that you understand what their body means and which sign could be troublesome.

They have long memories: what they learn, or what you do to them, will stay forever. So, never pushing harshly your dog, and never try to enforce harsh training methods or any negative training.

With a dog with so long memory, you need to be careful and full of patience because bad habits can be difficult to break.

Quick Facts

Real name: Gordon Setter
Origin: Scotland
Breed type: Sporting Dogs
Weight: 55-80 pounds (male), 45-70 pounds (female)
Height: 24-27 inches (male), 23-26 inches (female)
Lifespan: 12-13 years
Litter Size: 6-8 puppies
Color: Black, brown, fawn
Coat:Soft and shining, straight or slightly wave

Gordon Setter Introduction

The Gordon Setter, known as the black avenger of the Highlands, is a bird dog who was named after a Scottish aristocrat.

Gordons are truly athletic and outdoorsy dogs with a unique temperament: they are bold, packed with confidence, and affectionate toward those that they love.

They are also the largest and most substantial of the setters – males can grow up to 27 inches in height and can weigh up to 80 pounds. As expected, females are smaller in size and overall appearance.

They have a longer coat which adds to their royal appearance. Like other Scots breeds, Gordons were bred and built to withstand their homeland’s tough terrain and foul weather.

Gordon Setter History

Gordon Setters are an old breed. They first started to hunt game birds almost 200 years ago. They were originally bred to be quiet when locating birds.

This was the original style of hunting at the time, and Gorgon Setters were perfect for these games.

The 19th century saw a divergence of Setters into different breeds when they evolved based on their location and the terrain in which they spend days hunted.

All in, the Gordon Setter was a more than a useful dog in the hard landscape of Scotland.

One of the most important, if not the most important person, for the breed’s development was Alexander Gordon.

Alexander was the Fourth Duke of Gordon – a huge fancier of the breed founded a kennel of “Black and Tan Setters” at Gordon Castle.

In the early days of the breed, Gordon Castle looked more like the English Setter, and a cross between the flat-coated black and tan collie, Bloodhounds, and even black Pointers – these varieties helped created the breed of Gordon Setter as we know it today.

This breed was first imported in 1872 into the States when George Blunt of New York brought a male and female named Rake and Rachael.

AKC recognized the breed in 1884, while the British Kennel Club recognized the breed in 1872.

Eight years once the breed was officially recognized, the AKC changed the breed’s name from the Gordon Castle Setter to the Gordon Setter.

On January 1, 1924, the Kennel Club accepted the Gordon Setter name as well.

Gordon Setter Physical Appearance

The Gordon Setter is a well-built dog of good size and black and tan dog.

He has a strong posture, a short back, well-sprung ribs, and a short tail. The head is nicely shaped, rather deep than broad.

Eyes are expressive, or fair size, usually dark brown and wise. The shape is oval rather than round. Ears are set low. The neck is long, lean, and without throatiness.

Forelegs are big-boned, straight, and not bowed. Dewclaws may be removed.

The coat is soft and shining, and usually straight. The coat may be slightly waved, but not curly.

Ears are covered with long hair. The hind legs are long, flat, and muscular.

Dog fanciers love this breed’s copal-black coat with distinctive markings of rich chestnut or mahogany color.

An extremely small amount of white is allowed on the chest. In some rare cases, red Gordons are born to normal-colored parents.

This is the result of the expression of a recessive red gene. Chest, stomach, ear, leg, and tail are feathered.

They are the heaviest of the setter breeds, with males reaching 27 inches (69 cm) at the withers and up to 80 pounds (36 kg) in weight.

Gordon Setter Personality

The Gordon Setter is a gentle and sensitive dog which makes him a great family dog.

This breed is suitable even for first time dog owners, although he will need proper training and socialization to learn to live with humans and other pets.

The Gordon Setter enjoys vigorous walks, so make sure that you spend one to two hours a day for exercise and walks – regular exercise keeps your dog both happy and healthy.

This isn’t a great guarding dog. This is a working breed, so he likes being busy.

He can run all day, and if not entertained or given a task, he may become easily distracted. Some dogs may even suffer from separation anxiety and have difficulties staying alone.

Always be honest when getting a dog and ask yourself just how much time and energy do you have for the canine.

This is an intelligent, confident, and alert dog according to AKC. He is also loyal and affectionate, and strong-minded sometimes, which is why training should be conducted properly.

Living With Gordon Setter

They are strongly loyal to their owners, and they thrive in loving surroundings and positive environments. Setters are extremely loyal to their humans and are great family dogs.

Puppies and adult dogs can have a mind of their own, but thats common for any breed, so just make sure that you have enough endurance to go through different phases stress-free.

They are sensitive and empathic, and eager to learn. They need firm but gentle handling.

Like with any other breed, never apply any kind of harsh training or methods. The breed is slowest to mature, and they usually reach prime around three years of age or even more.

Simply said, expect puppy-like traits and behavior into their older years. They were bred to run, and require between 60 to 80 minutes of exercise daily.

Be careful with young dogs not to over-exercise them, or choose to begin agility training around 18 months of age to avoid any joint-related issues later in life.

They have strong hunting instincts, and as such, they shouldn’t be allowed to walk without a leash on or unsupervised, because they would always ignore any traffic situation while following a scent.

Gordon Setter Training

Training starts as soon as you bring your Gordon Starter home.

Make sure that you follow through puppy vaccination schedule, so you can socialize your dog properly when possible by exposing him to new places, smells, and people.

Dogs can start learning commands at only 8 weeks of age.

They can easily master basic commands as long as you are willing to invest your time and energy into the training process.

Gordons may be stubborn, but they are also gentle and soft and love to learn.

In fact, they are fast learners, as long as they trust you enough to learn from you. They live to please their owner.

Still, make sure that you create fun and well-organized training sessions, otherwise your Gordon will get bored.

Early socialization and puppy training classes can ensure that your Gordon Setter turns into a well-mannered companion.

Gordon Setter Grooming

No matter how low maintenance a dog might be, there should always be some time for grooming sessions.

Brushing at least once a week is mandatory to prevent matting.

If you provide weekly brushing, you can expect minimal shedding. As with other breeds, you can expect heavier shedding during the shedding season – during these days you should have a vacuum cleaner on hand and clean hair more often.

The rest is regular grooming:

  • Check gums weekly
  • Learn how to trim or how to grind dog’s nails
  • Check ears for any sign of infection
  • Learn how to clean dog’s ears
  • Bath only when mandatory – dogs don’t need a frequent bath as humans do
  • Check ears and skin for any sign of fleas or ticks

Gordon Setter Health

Gordons are generally healthy dogs, but just like in humans there are few things that you should care about.

First of all, when getting a dog or adopting, make sure that you take him to the veterinarian’s office immediately.

This is a good practice, and your Gordon won’t have fears from a veterinarian further on if he is a puppy.

If you are dealing with responsible breeders you should know how the right practice looks and that you will et medical documentation on the dog’s overall health.

Responsible breeders will also show you the facilities, puppies’ parents and tell you that if you ever cannot afford to have a dog anymore to return the dog to them.

This is why it’s so important to be sure that you can afford to have a dog because being a responsible dog owner will cost you money.

Responsible breeders will test dogs for conditions that the breed can be prone to, including:

Is Gordon Setter The Best Choice For You?

The Gordon Setter is one of a kind dog. There is no doubt that this breed can be a great pet to someone ready to have a dog with the above-listed traits.

So, if you want a dog that is large, but sturdy, and has a coat that you will have to brush at least once a week, then the Gordon Seteerr is for you.

This dog is also for you if you want a dog who is most alert and friendly.

On the other hand, if you cannot provide enough time for exercise and training, especially when young, then this breed may not be the right for you.

Make sure that you know what type of dog you need and if you have enough time to raise a dog.

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