Gordon Setters have been around for a very long time, but they were brought to people's attention by the fourth Duke of Gordon in the 1800s. These good looking, proud working dogs are the largest of all the setters, they are active, well built and adore working although they keep a lot of their puppy characteristics their whole life long if allowed to. The breed is known to mature quite late and to remain young at heart as they get older. Gordon Setters not only look gorgeous, they are intelligent, loyal and very gentle canines which has made them a firm favourite with people familiar with the breed.
There are records of “black and tan setting dogs” found in Scotland that date back to 1620. However, it was the Duke of Gordon who brought the breed to everyone's attention around 200 years later when he introduced them into his kennels. The Duke noted they were not “fast dogs” but they were extremely hardy with wonderful “staying powers” which meant they could work from morning till the sun went down at night. He also noted they were extremely good scent dogs and they seldom made the mistake of making a “false point” - if a Gordon Setter stood, you could be sure a bird lay there.
The early breed of Gordon Setters were black and white in colour although they could also be tricoloured or their coats could have a reddish hue to them. But the preferred colour of the Duke was black and tan. When the Duke passed away in 1827, his son continued the tradition of having Gordon Setters and it's the “black and tan” colouring which prevails to this day.
The first time Gordon Setters were listed in England's Kennel Club was in the mid and late 1800s. On the first occasion it was a Black and Tan Setter called Dandie who took part in a dog show and won first prize for setters – his ancestry led straight back to the Duke of Gordon's kennels. However, the breed was only officially given its name in 1924. Today Gordon Setters are recognised by all the major kennel clubs around the world.
Gordon Setters are very proud looking dogs with the males standing at between 24” and 27” at the shoulder. They weigh in at around 55 to 80 lbs although females are slightly smaller standing an inch shorter than their male counterparts and weighing between 45 to 70 lbs. The breed boasts a life span of 10 to 12 years. Their coats are long and soft textured with the usual colour being black and tan. They boast an elegant feathered tail and very dignified, noble stance. Their coats can sometimes turn out wavy. The colouring of a Gordon Setter's muzzle and around their ears and throat is quite striking and they boast two tan spots on their chests. Their black and tan colouring is very defined which makes the colours really stand out. Sometimes, a dog may even have a small white spot on their chests and the smaller this is the better.
Gordon Setters are renowned for being intensely loyal dogs. They become devoted to their owners and their family. However, they can be a little wary of strangers which is one characteristic that makes them great watchdogs. They are also known for being the sort of dog that is always eager to please which makes them easy to train. However, they do need consistency in their training because although they are sensitive by nature, they can also get the upper hand. When working or competing, Gordon Setters excel at whatever they are asked to do. They are very alert, courageous as well as being intelligent and extremely capable and boast lots of stamina.
If puppies are well socialised from an early age, Gordon Setters usually end up being playful, curious and happy, they are always willing to please the people they are devoted to. Choosing a puppy that's been well socialised means you end up with a well balanced, kind natured dog that's lovely to have around. One thing to bear in mind is that Gordon Setters when young can experience a period of what can only be termed as a time of “fear”. This usually happens when they are around 6 to 9 months old and it's important not to pamper them too much during this time, but rather to remain calm, always reassuring your dog that everything is okay and there is nothing to be scared of. Gordon Setters are great around children and tend to be rather protective of them, they are also usually very good around other animals too although they might take objection to certain other dogs.
In general, Gordon Setters are healthy, robust dogs but just like many other breeds, they are predisposed to certain illnesses although some Gordon Setters will never get ill their entire lives. The diseases to watch out for and to be aware of in Gordon Setters are as follows:
- Hip Dysplasia
- Elbow dysplasia
- Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA)
- Gastric Dilatation Volvulus (Bloat)
Gordon Setters are active dogs, they need daily exercise and it needs to be a strenuous daily routine to keep them healthy and happy. They make great jogging or running partners and enjoy a fast game of fetch when they get a chance whether in a park or the back garden. Puppies tend to be boisterous so families with young toddlers need to be aware of this if they are thinking about adopting or buying a Gordon Setter puppy. Because they are such intelligent dogs, Gordon Setters are extremely easy to train, but they need consistency and a firm hand, or they can get the better of people, which means they are not the ideal choice for first time dog owners. However, once Gordon Setters reach maturity, they become gorgeous sedate dogs that retain a bit of their puppy natures in them throughout their lives. The thing to remember is that Gordon Setters need to be kept busy both physically and mentally for them to stay happy and so they don't develop any behavioural issues.
When it comes to grooming, Gordon Setter need to be brushed at least two to three times a week to prevent any tangles from forming in their long coats. It's also recommended to trim the hair on the feet and between their toes so they don't pick up any debris during the summer and to stop ice balls forming on their pads in the wintertime. As with most dogs with long ears, Gordon Setters can get ear infections so it's really important to check their ears on a regular basis. You should also check their teeth regularly to make sure there is no excess build up of plaque. Regular visits to the vet are a must especially as your dog gets older as well as to get their boosters.