Needs space to exercise and needs a well fenced yard. Prefers indoor living and is not recommended for apartments.
The Gordon Setter is one of the most distinct of the setter breeds largely because of its unique coat coloration. This breed is the only setter that always has the black and tan coloration to it long, luxurious coat and furnishings. The coat may be slightly wavy but is never curly with longer hair on the ears, chest, undersides and the legs and tail. The tail is relatively long and is rather broad at the base and tapers to a very fine point. The tail is carried low naturally but will be raised higher when the dog is excited or working. The hair on the tail is longer at the underside of the base and gradually becomes shorter as the tail decreases in size. When viewed from the side the tail should resemble a pendant or flag.
The body of the Gordon Setter is robust and sturdy without appearing heavy, cobby or clumsy. The chest is very deep and will reach down almost to the elbows of the front legs, but is typically narrow rather than broad and blunt. The ribcage is well sprung and developed, and there is a gradual concave appearance to the abdomen. The legs and long and give the dog a tall stance. They are straight and well boned but not heavy or overly muscular looking. The hind legs are slightly bent to give the impression of the dog being able to spring immediately into action. The feet are compact and well arched and provide this dog with a sure footed confidence in moving through brush and over rough terrain. The breed also has a significant amount of long hairs between the toes providing additional protection to the feet.
The head of the Gordon Setter is much broader and larger than many of the other setter breeds. It is considered to be rather chiseled in appearance with a very pronounced stop between the muzzle and the eyes. The muzzle itself is long, broad and square looking and they will always have a very wide black nose with well developed nostrils. The muzzle does not appear to taper in anyway and is very blunt at the end. The lips are held close to the mouth and are not slack or pendulous. The ears are thin and are held slightly back and close to the head and are never carried erect. The eyes are oval in shape and are very dark with a look of intelligence and enthusiasm.
The coat is medium to long and is silky and flat in appearance. It may be wavy or straight or a combination of wavy on the furnishings and straight on the body. The coat is very shiny and flowing looking without being bulky or fluffy in appearance. The furnishings are moderately long and heavy and should appear in balance with the coat and size of the dog. The tail is well furnished with a flag like appearance when held horizontal.
Originally bred in Scotland in the 1600s the Gordon Setter has always been a popular breed with hunters. It was originally known as the Black and Tan Setter, but then with the interest of Duke Alexander the 4th the name changed to Gordon after the castle that he maintained his hunting dogs at. The Duke set out to improve the breed and encouraged others to do the same. Another important person in the development and popularization of the breed was the Duke of Richmond that took up the promotion of the breed after Duke Alexander's death.
In the early 1900's the breed went back to the original Black and Tan name, but then was officially recognized as the Gordon Setter by the English Kennel Club. The Gordon Setter was also one of the first breeds to be recognized by the American Kennel Club. The Gordon Setter was brought to the United States in 1842 and was recognized as a breed in 1892.
The Gordon Setter was bred as a one man hunting dog, not for speed but for a patterned and logical approach to finding game birds. It has been used as a pointer, for flushing out birds as well as for retrieving. This multi-level skill development has lead this breed to be one of the most intelligent of the setter breeds and a true asset to hunters. They have more recently become popular as a beautiful show dog as well as a faithful companion dog.
As with most of the setter breeds the Gordon Setter is a very even tempered dog that tends to get along well with almost anyone or anything that he or she encounters. They are somewhat aloof and independent around strangers until the dog decides if they are trustworthy or not, then the dog will either completely ignore the person or become very friendly. Often this breed seems to be studying people to make this decision. Early and constant socialization is required to keep this breed from becoming shy or highly reserved around other people.
Overall a very loyal and loving breed the Gordon Setter makes an excellent dog both inside the house and outside. They are wonderful with children of all ages and have a great deal of patience with young kids. They do not react to sudden noises or fast movements in negative ways like some breeds, so can easily handle children. They are really a people breed preferring to be in the same area as the owner rather than along or isolated. The breed does need a significant amount of exercise either in the form of a large fenced yard to wander and play or in regular walks and romps. Without enough exercise they can become hyperactive and rambunctious and more challenging to handle.
The Gordon Setter makes a wonderful companion dog for both canine and non-canine pets. They will quickly adjust to cats and other pets in the house provided they are properly socialized. It is always recommended to start the socialization process with other pets and dogs as soon as possible when the Gordon Setter is a puppy. They are not a dog aggressive breed and typically will do well even with dominant breeds of dogs. Male Gordon Setters will be somewhat more aggressive especially if females are present so early neutering is important. Females should be spayed early as well to prevent pregnancies and the challenging behaviors often displayed while they are in heat.
The Gordon Setter does have a tendency to roam and wander so should be kept in a fenced yard. They do very well in hunting trials, obedience competitions and as watchdogs for the family. While not a problem barker they will naturally bark whenever someone or something approaches they are unfamiliar with. The breed is considered very easy to train but can be somewhat independent and requires firm, consistent and regular positive training and practice to stay highly obedient and cooperative.
The Gordon Setter is considered a very healthy and hardy breeds and has no specific genetic or hereditary problems that are not seen in other large breeds of dogs. Within the breed Bloat, also known as Gastric torsion may be a problem, as can canine hip dysplasia. Both of these conditions can be treated and are not life threatening. elbow dysplasia and Progressive Retinal Atrophy are occasionally seen and a vet can provide information on these conditions. Cerebellar abiotrophy is very occasionally seen in the breed and is a neurological disorder with no known treatment or cure. Reputable breeders will not breed lines with a history of this condition.
Despite the long and somewhat silky coat the Gordon Setter is an amazingly easy to groom breed. They do required regular brushing two or three times a week to prevent tangles and mats from forming, especially in the longer furnishings on the legs, chest, underbelly and tail areas. The coat lies very close to the body and can be brushed in the direction of hair growth using a pin or stiff bristle or wire brush. The longer hair on the legs, tail and belly can be combed with a metal brush or with the wire or pin brush. Pay particular attention to the hair behind the legs where the movement between the legs and the body can cause tangles and mats.
The hair between the toes should be trimmed flat to the edges of the feet to prevent debris from being trapped. The nails should be kept trimmed and flat to the surface of the ground without pushing up on the ends of the toes. The ears should be checked for any debris or waxy build up and should be cleaned accordingly.
As with all hunting breeds the coat of the Gordon Setter is naturally water-resistant and has a natural oil that protects the hair and keeps in free from dirt. In the case of the Gordon Setter it also provides a beautiful sheen to the coat. Only bathe when absolutely necessary and avoid using any human hair products on the breed that will dry out the natural oils and lead to a dry looking damaged coat.
The Gordon Setter requires regular, intense exercise to keep focused and calm when in the house or during periods of inactivity. They are a large breed that has historically been used for long periods of hunting and tracking and needs to be moving about more than sitting still. The Gordon Setter will do very well with one or two long walks a day provided they have a yard or fenced area to explore. The breed tends to do poorly in kennels or small confined spaces as they need to stretch their long legs in romps and runs.
Since the Gordon Setter is very tolerant and non-aggressive with other dogs they make excellent candidates for exercising in dog parks and off leash areas. They are somewhat prone to getting on a scent and ignoring the owners calls so only allow the dog to exercise off leash when they are completely trained and responsive.
Often when owners find that the Gordon Setter is becoming distracted, hyperactive or non-compliant it is directly related to not getting enough exercise. Always exercise this breed before they are left alone in the house or taken for a ride in a vehicle. They love to go with the family and are great dogs to travel with. The Gordon Setter will play with children for hours and makes a great hiking, camping and jogging companion.
The Gordon Setter should be socialized and trained at a very early age as they are natural learners but can just as easily develop good as well as bad habits. They are not an aggressive dog but can be somewhat aloof and stubborn at times so they do need consistent, firm and gentle handling.
As a hunting dog the Gordon Setter needs to feel that he or she is working with the family, not for the family. They love to be challenged and then praised and given attention, and usually all the correction that will be needed is to ignore the dog and give a simple "no" command. This breed does not respond well to punishment or even harsh tones of voice and overly harsh treatment will lead to a dog that will not respond to commands.
The Gordon Setter should always be exercised prior to training as they tend to be a very energetic breed, especially as puppies and may have trouble focusing and attending when not properly exercised. They learn best when taught one command at a time without a lot of repetitions. Typically this breed will learn a basic command in one or two lessons and then has it mastered. Excessive repetition will simply lead to non-compliance.
The Gordon Setter will need little training to track, scent, flush and retrieve game birds. Many puppies will naturally exhibit all these hunting behaviors and will just need to learn the commands that owners wish to use. These dogs are very methodical hunters and owners will often see them setting up patterns and moving across the yard with the typically zigzag pattern of hunting and scent breeds. Remember when training a scent dog you may need to keep them on the leash to prevent them from wandering off when they become focused on the scent trail.