Before the invention of the breech-loading gun in 1865, pointers and setters were the most popular shooting dogs in Britain. Many sporting estates maintained large kennels with teams of dogs for visiting guests to shoot over. As driven shooting grew in popularity, shooting over bird dogs for small bags fell out of favor and large estates gradually reduced or sold their kennels. 

Gordon Setter

The handsome, well-muscled Gordon Setter is the most alert, serious, and sensible of the setters, a graceful yet powerful dog who enjoys hiking, biking, jogging, and field work as regular exercise.

Though usually calm and dignified, with a wise and noble expression, the Gordon Setter does have a silly side, and also a demanding side. Gordon Setters thrive on one-on-one attention, you see. They can be jealous of other pets and are sometimes aggressive toward strange dogs.

To know more about the needs, temperament, personality, and living conditions of this dog breed, keeps reading the article. We’re quite hopeful that the information, we jotted down below, will help you to cross the fence of whether you should adopt a Gordon setter next or not. Let’s begin!


Native to Scotland, the roots of Gordon setters go back to the 1500s and early 1600s. Some believe that these dogs originated from setting spaniels that lived only in Scotland since 1620, under a different name; black and tan setters.

These dogs caught the attention of people about 200 years ago when the fourth duke of Gordon found these dogs and started working on polishing their abilities as hunting dogs. From that time, people began calling them Gordon castle setters.

Gordon established a kennel club for these black and tan setters where he cross-bred various types of setters, known at that time. Since most of his kenneled dogs resembled English setters, he cross-bred them with different hunting and gundogs including black pointers, black and tan collie, solid black setters, and bloodhounds.

Eventually, Gordon succeeded to find the modern Gordon setter we have today and named them after his name; Gordon setter.

With their super sharp smelling power, athletic bodies, and high endurance, Gordon setters soon became famous among hunters. Till then, they were more appreciated for their performance as hunting and gundogs rather than their looks


This Setter is a big and elegant dog with a shiny black coat and rich tan markings on its chest, legs, and face. It has a strong, muscular body that shows it’s built for activity. This dog’s head is broad. The looks are dignified and confident, with a noble stance that makes it stand out. Overall, it’s a beautiful and impressive dog with a friendly personality to match its striking appearance.

Physical Characteristics


  • Male 24-27 inches
  • Female 23-26 inches


  • Male 55-80 pounds
  • Female 45-70 pounds


Their most distinctive feature is their long, silky, and glossy coat, which is primarily black with rich mahogany markings. The coat is dense, weather-resistant, and lies flat.


Black and Tan

Ears and Tail

They have long, pendant ears and a long, feathered tail that is carried horizontally.

Life Span

The average lifespan of a Gordon Setter is around 10 to 12 years.


Gordon setters are probably known best for their loveable temperaments. They are often described as happy, sweet, and joyful, and once you spend a little time with them, you’ll see why. This pup is often in a great mood and her positivity is infectious.

The breed’s energy level may also rub off on you. Gordon setter dogs are perfect for owners who want a lively companion on all their athletic pursuits. The Gordon setter, simply put, is no couch potato. Whether you’re hiking, hunting, or just want to take a stroll around the neighborhood, your Gordon setter will just want to be by your side. Their favorite forms of exercise are games and high-energy runs, and you can even give them a spin on the agility course.

After all their energy is out, Gordon setters will be happy to cuddle up next to you at night. They only bark a moderate amount, but you will hear some happy grunts and grumbles from them every once in a while, too, just to keep you on your toes.

Because they’re such loyal dogs, they don’t often like to be left alone. So if you keep them inside for long stretches without much attention or exercise, beware—they could get bored and start chewing or develop other behaviors associated with separation anxiety. But because they’re eager to please and highly intelligent, if you give them lots of attention they’ll be happy and relatively easy to train.


One look at your Gordon’s coat, and you can probably guess that it will need a bit of upkeep. While they aren’t exactly high-maintenance dogs, they will need a bit more grooming than your average pup. Keep a brush handy for pampering sessions, which should be at least weekly. Brushing and combing your Gordon regularly will keep her sleek coat looking fresh and free of any matting or knots.

Gordon setter dogs tend to have coats that are on the longer side, especially around their ears, legs, chest, tails, and bellies, and knowing how to groom a Gordon setter means paying special attention to these spots. Give those nails a trim, too—you’ll be glad you did when your pup is happily bounding around the yard.

Again, Gordon setters need lots of exercise to keep calm and happy. A short walk will probably not cut it, so be sure you’re ready for lots of runs, Frisbee sessions in the park, and training games to work their minds, too.

Sinn says Gordon setters are as easy to train as any other dog, though because of their roots as a hunting dog, you may have to pay special attention to their tendency to run and chase something that catches their eye. Because of this, these pups might be best for experienced dog owners who have lots of patience for training. And while some may be more independent-minded, they want to please their owner first and foremost. With lots of positive reinforcement, a Gordon setter will be your forever friend!


Even though Gordon setters are quite intelligent, they might be stubborn sometimes, and that’s the very reason why they are not recommended for first-time pet owners. Instead, they are more suited to the owner who knows how to handle a stubborn dog with high energy and who gets distracted easily.

Since their bodies show rapid growth, it’s important to start training your Gordon setter from the very first day. However, regardless of how stubborn or strong-headed your pet is, never go for negative reinforcement methods to induce good qualities.

Experts say that a Gordon is smart enough to understand a command after 20 tries. However, it mainly depends upon your expertise and consistency in training your dog. Remember that if you don’t stay firm and consistent with the training sessions, chances are he might not take you and your teachings seriously.

It’s good to start with basic obedience training, after which you can move to the advanced stages of agility training, game training, and watchdog training. Most importantly, go slow since you might confuse your Gordon when trying to teach him so many things simultaneously.

Have patience and make the training a part of his daily exercise so he can learn things at his own pace.


Gordon Setters need daily strenuous exercise, so they’re good companions for joggers or runners. A good game of fetch in the backyard or a long walk will also contribute to their physical wellbeing. Puppies are rambunctious and full of the devil.

Let them play all they want in the backyard, but limit forced exercise such as road running or obedience jumps to avoid placing unnecessary strain on the still developing bones and joints. Avoid these types of workouts until the dog is 2 years old and introduce them gradually. Gordon Setters are intelligent dogs who are easy to train, although they require firmness and consistency to prevent them from taking advantage of you.

You must be able to provide leadership without using anger or physical force. Housetraining is fairly easy with most Gordon Setters, although there are exceptions to every rule. Be consistent, keep the puppy on a schedule, and use a crate. Crate training not only aids in housetraining, it also keeps the puppy from chewing (a common habit of Gordon puppies) and provides a safe and quiet place for the dog to rest.

The most important thing to remember is that housetraining is a long process. Your Gordon puppy may understand where he needs to do his business, but he may not have the bladder control to see it through until he’s 4 months or older.

If you will be gone for long periods of time for work or other activities, it’s important to have someone who will let the puppy out for a pee break. The silver lining to the Gordon’s wild puppyhood is his quiet and sedate adulthood. He loves competition, however, and can excel in many dog sports. The Gordon can be a busy breed, but once you understand his drive and meet his needs, he can be a wonderful companion who’s just as happy to lie beside you as he is hiking or hunting beside you.


Proper nutrition is crucial for the overall health and well-being of Gordon Setters, as it directly impacts their energy levels, coat condition, and longevity. A well-balanced diet that meets the specific nutritional needs of this breed is essential. Gordon Setters are medium to large-sized dogs with moderate energy requirements, and their diet should reflect their activity level.

High-quality commercial dog food designed for medium to large breeds is generally recommended, ensuring it contains the necessary balance of proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals. It’s important to choose a dog food that lists meat as the primary ingredient, as protein is vital for muscle development and maintenance.

Additionally, as Gordon Setters have a moderately long and wavy coat, incorporating omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids into their diet can contribute to a healthy skin and coat. Regular veterinary check-ups can help assess the dog’s weight and overall health, allowing for adjustments to the diet if needed.

While treats can be part of their diet, it’s essential to monitor calorie intake to prevent weight gain, which can exacerbate joint issues. Fresh water should always be available to keep them well-hydrated. Ultimately, consulting with a veterinarian for personalized nutritional advice based on the individual dog’s age, weight, and health status is recommended to ensure they receive the best possible nutrition throughout their lives.

Health Concerns

Gordons are generally healthy, but like all breeds of dogs, they’re prone to certain diseases and conditions. Not all Gordons will get any or all of these diseases, but it’s important to be aware of them if you’re buying or living with a Gordon.

Hip Dysplasia

This is a heritable condition in which the thighbone doesn’t fit snugly into the hip joint. Some dogs show pain and lameness on one or both rear legs, but you may not notice any signs of discomfort in a dog with hip dysplasia.

Hip dysplasia is hereditary, but it can also be triggered by environmental factors, such as rapid growth from a high-calorie diet or injuries incurred from jumping or falling on slick floors.

Elbow dysplasia

This is a heritable condition common to large-breed dogs. It’s thought to be caused by different growth rates of the three bones that make up the dog’s elbow, causing joint laxity. This can lead to painful lameness. Your vet may recommend surgery to correct the problem, weight management, or medication to control the pain.


Hypothyroidism is an abnormally low level of the hormone produced by the thyroid gland. A mild sign of the disease may be infertility. More obvious signs include obesity, mental dullness, drooping of the eyelids, low energy levels, and irregular heat cycles.

The dog’s fur becomes coarse and brittle and begins to fall out, and the skin becomes tough and dark. Hypothyroidism can be treated with daily medication, which must continue throughout the dog’s life. A dog receiving daily thyroid treatment can live a full and happy life.

Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA)

This is a degenerative eye disorder that eventually causes blindness from the loss of photoreceptors at the back of the eye. PRA is detectable years before the dog shows any signs of blindness. Fortunately, dogs can use their other senses to compensate for blindness, and a blind dog can live a full and happy life.

Just don’t make it a habit to move the furniture around. Reputable breeders have their dogs’ eyes certified annually by a veterinary ophthalmologist and do not breed dogs with this disease.

Gastric Dilatation Volvulus

Also called bloat or torsion, this is a life-threatening condition that affects large, deep-chested dogs, especially if they’re fed one large meal a day, eat rapidly, drink large amounts of water rapidly, or exercise vigorously after eating. Bloat occurs when the stomach is distended with gas or air and then twists.

The dog is unable to belch or vomit to rid himself of the excess air in his stomach, and blood flow to the heart is impeded. Blood pressure drops and the dog goes into shock. Without immediate medical attention, the dog can die.

Bottom Line

The Gordon Setter is a distinctive and loyal breed known for its elegant appearance, hunting abilities, and affectionate nature.

Whether you’re seeking a beautiful and devoted family pet, a skilled hunting companion, or a dog with a rich history in hunting game birds, the Gordon Setter is likely to capture your interest with its exceptional qualities and timeless beauty.

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

Q. What does a Gordon Setter look like?

Gordon Setters are medium to large-sized dogs with a well-balanced and sturdy build. They have a distinctive black and tan coat, with the black being the predominant color. They have a long, slightly wavy coat, and their ears are set low and hang close to their head.

Q. How are Gordon Setters with children and other pets?

Gordon Setters are generally good with children, but as with any dog, early socialization is important. They can get along well with other pets, especially if introduced to them at a young age. Supervision is always recommended when introducing any dog to children or other animals.

Q. Do Gordon Setters have any unique characteristics or quirks?

Gordon Setters are known for their “setter stance” when they catch a scent. They will freeze in a distinct pointing position with one front paw raised, signaling the presence of game. This behavior is characteristic of the setter breed.

Q. Do Gordon Setters get along with other dogs?

With proper socialization, Gordon Setters can get along well with other dogs. Early exposure to different environments, people, and animals helps them develop good social skills.

Q. Are Gordon Setters good for first-time dog owners?

Gordon Setters are intelligent and trainable, but they may not be the best choice for first-time dog owners. They require consistent training, socialization, and an understanding of their energy levels and exercise nee

Q. Are Gordon Setters good guard dogs?

Gordon Setters are known for their loyalty and protective instincts, but they are not typically aggressive. While they may alert their owners to the presence of strangers, they are more likely to be friendly with visitors once properly introduced.

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