The Gordon Setter is a very regal and almost elegant looking dog that is not delicate or slight in appearance, yet still gives an air of refinement. They are most known for their beautiful coat that resembles that of the Irish Setter in type, although the colors are not at all similar. A Gordon Setter only has one color option and this is black and tan. The black and tan markings are similar to that of a Rottweiler and Doberman Pinscher with the tan on the eyebrows, muzzle, vents, two parallel spots on each chest and on the lower parts of the legs and the paws. As such the color contrast on with the longer, silky coat in the deep black and rich chestnut to mahogany colors really sets the Gordon Setter apart from the other hunting breeds. It is also the only black and tan colored dog within the American Kennel Club sporting group.
The original Gordon Setters where known throughout their homeland of Scotland by the name black-and-tan setters. These dogs were bred to be easily visible in the fields, especially when hunting in winter and fall conditions. They were bred to be very versatile gun dogs, able to track and retrieve and work with the hunter. Many consider them to the be best breed as a one hunter dog, not designed to be speedy or wide ranging but rather working steadily and within gunshot distance of one single hunter.
The Gordon Setter actually received its current name from breeding programs of the Duke Alexander the 4th of Gordon. He is credited with actually refining and fully developing the hunting and intelligence aspects of the breed throughout the later part of the 1700's. In addition he also perfected the coat color and made the Gordon Setter a much sought after personal hunting dog throughout the United Kingdom and other parts of Europe. Later when the breed reached the United States they were considered an outstanding hunting dog for both upland game birds as well as waterfowl. The Gordon Setter is still used in field trials for both water and land work and their natural problem solving abilities are very evident in the way that they perform their duty as a hunting dog.
Even though the Gordon Setter was originally bred and developed as a hunting dog in Scotland, they were also prized for their beauty, intelligence and wonderful temperament. They quickly made the transition to companion pets; however they do continue to have the natural hunting instincts and skills that have made them such a popular breed of dog. As one of the largest of the sporting breeds weighing in at up to 80 pounds and 27 inches at the shoulder, they are a great family dog for people with large homes and big, fenced yards.
Ideally the Gordon Setter should have at least 80 minutes of free time per day to run and explore in order to stay happy and content. In addition they need regular walks and runs and play time, particularly retrieving or tracking work and games. This is because these dogs were bred to walk and jog with the hunter, criss crossing the path to flush out game. Without this much exercise per day the Gordon Setter may become challenging to work with, however this is not a characteristic of a well socialized and exercised Gordon Setter.
The Gordon Setter is a natural wanderer and roamer and will need to be in a fenced yard to prevent them from simply taking off on a track. Once taught to recall off leash they are safe to turn out in dog off-leash areas, however some a bit more independent than others when it comes to returning on command. Typically very easy to train the Gordon Setter really wants to keep the family happy and thrives on positive training methods. Unlike some of the sporting group the Gordon Setter tends to bond closely with the people he or she is in regular contact with rather than just with one person. Since they do bond quite strongly, rehoming an adult Gordon Setter can sometimes be challenging. It is important for owners to be able to commit to caring for these beautiful dogs throughout their life.
The Gordon Setter is not considered a low maintenance type of dog. As an average shedder year round the Gordon Setter also has two heavier sheds per year, one in the spring and one in the fall. Extra brushing at this time will help to prevent mats and tangles between the coats, especially on the undersides of the body. Daily or every other day grooming is highly recommended. The flat to the head ears also need to be checked routinely for signs of infection or irritation. The longer, wavy feathers on the ears that are so distinctive in the breed actually work against the dog, trapping dirt and moist air in the ear, making it the perfect spot for bacterial and yeast growth.
Although they are a moderately long lived dog with a typical lifespan of about 12 years, the Gordon Setter is very slow to mature from a puppy to an adult dog. Most are not fully grown until they are about 3 years of age and like all of the larger dogs they need to have minimal intensive strenuous exercise until at least 2 years of age. They are highly playful dogs that are willing to keep retrieving and playing games as long as people are willing to keep interacting. The Gordon is a natural swimmer and loves to get into the water, no matter what the temperature may be. They are also outstanding at water retrieving, a sport they love.
The Gordon Setter is a relatively uncommon but very adaptable member of the sporting group. Although only the 90th most popular breed out of the 156 recognized by the American Kennel Club, the Gordon Setters tend to have a very loyal group of breeders, ensuring that the breed is kept healthy and genetically sound. Working with a reputable breeder is always important and many Gordon Setter breeds are very conscientious about who they sell to, ensuring a great match between the puppy and their new family.
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