Origin: United Kingdom (Scotland)
Type: Gun dog
Weight: Male – 25-36kg
Female – 20-32kg
Height: Male – 24-27in / 61-69cm
Female – 23-36in / 58-66cm
Appearance: Gordon Setters are large muscular dogs, the largest of all Setter breeds. They have a soft coat usually straight or slightly wavy, longer on the ears, tail, belly and back of the legs. Unlike many breeds Gordons don’t have colour and pattern variants, they come in black and tan colours only. Their ears are long and pendant and their eyes are medium-sized and brown.
Temperament: Gordon setters are intelligent and loyal animals. They are alert and confident, friendly, but not always comfortable with strangers. Separation anxiety and destructive behaviours can be a problem if you leave your Gordon alone for too long.
Skills: Gordons are energetic animals and need their daily dose of exercise. They’re not the easiest dogs to train, being regarded as a stubborn breed. They also have a rather delicate temperament so will respond (eventually) to firm consistent guidelines, but harsh treatment can cause damage resulting in a timid or untrustworthy animal.
Behaviour Toward Other Animals and Children: Gordons are protective, they love children and families in general. Smaller children may find the sheer size of the dog a little overwhelming. Gordons are probably best suited to families where the children are older and know how to treat dogs with respect. This breed is generally friendly towards other pets, but they can be reserved with strange dogs. There have been instances of aggression in Gordons but these are rare.
Common Health Problems: Gordon Setters are generally healthy but as with many breeds hip and elbow dysplasia can occur. Other potential health issues include progressive retinal atrophy, gastric dilatation volvulus, hypothyroidism and rarely cerebellar abiothrophy.
Lifespan: Average 10-12 years.
Gordon Setters are intelligent dogs that are easy to train, however they require firmness and consistency to prevent them from taking advantage of the owner. To achieve this effect, one must be able to instil authority without using anger or physical force. The first weeks in one’s home are very important for the development of the Gordon puppy. Early training and learning of indoor rules is essential. This will ensure that the dog will start learning right from the day it enters a domestic environment.
As a general rule, Gordon Setters are predisposed to housebreaking, with a few exceptions. The owner should be consistent, the puppy should be kept on a schedule and using crates is recommended. Not only will crate training benefit the housebreaking process, but it will prevent the puppy from chewing items as well and will provide the dog with a safe and quiet environment to rest. Even if the Gordon puppy understands where it is allowed to relieve, one should always keep in mind that the dog will not develop full bladder control until the animal is 4 months or older. In case the owner is planning to be absent for long periods of time, it is important to have someone who will let the puppy out for it to relieve.
Gordons are caring and protective when it comes to children. They also tolerate fair amounts of teasing or rough-housing and, when they no longer wish to be bothered, the animals simply leave the area. Gordons are able to freely interact with other dogs and cats as long as they are raised together, however their attitude towards more exotic dogs may vary. When the Gordon Setter is first introduced to members of the family, one should make sure that the animal is not surrounded by large groups of people. One should instead introduce the pet to the rest of the family only once one has spent a few hours in the company of the puppy and has shown the animal around. The process of socializing, however, must continue through adulthood. Walking the dog through different routes on a daily basis will make other sights, sounds, people and pets less overwhelming and frightening for the Gordon.
The point of obedience is the point at which the owner takes action.
- One should allow for 2 or 3 repeats of an order, then one has to draw the puppy’s attention to the fact that the former is speaking.
- One should not allow for the pup to chew on one’s fingers or heels. A rough growl and a gentle shake will point out to the pet that the animal should abide by its master’s rules at all times.
- Patience is key. At any point during training, one should be prepared to go back and start from the beginning.
- A Gordon Setter should be trained through negative behaviour or treatment.
- Positive behaviour should be rewarded and negative – ignored. The dog will thus associate inappropriate behaviour with not getting a treat.
- Repetition is key in ensuring that the pet learns and remembers well.
The owner’s approach to training has to be strict and consistent – if one cannot convince the puppy to follow orders, then that animal is likely to become disobedient. Once the owner is certain that the Gordon Setter is adequately responding to commands, that person should start developing the dog’s accuracy. For example, one could take the animal to the mall and issue a command for the dog to wait outside. The dog may not immediately come up with the correct response, however multiple attempts will eventually achieve the desired result. The main goal here is to observe the Setter’s behaviour in a new environment. One should also set up a situation where one is in control of both environment and pet.
History suggests that black and tan Setters existed as far back as the 16th century in Scotland and as early as 1620 in England. The Gordon Setter is a large-sized dog, a member of the Setter family that also includes the Irish Setter and the English Setter. These dogs are an air-scenting breed, developed over a long period of time for the purpose of hunting game birds. It is said that the Setter was evolved from the old “Setting Spaniel” and that its main function was to serve as a working dog.
Alexander Gordon, 4th Duke of Gordon, is credited with establishing the breed. His Gordon Castle home was where he built his kennels of Black and Tan Setters. They were bred to work and the best dog was that which served its purpose. It was not until later that their visual appearance gradually became as important as their practical uses. His dogs were either black, white and tan, black and white or black and tan. When the Duke died in 1827 his heir, the Duke of Richmond, inherited his kennels.
As the large shooting estates went into decline during the first half of the 20th century, Gordon Setter numbers decreased. In 1923, only 54 Black and Tan Setters were registered within the Kennel Club. During this period the Gordon Setter was rarely seen outside of Scotland. By the end of the Second World War, the Gordon was becoming increasingly popular as a family pet as opposed to a working gun-dog.
In the June of 1859, a Black and Tan Setter by the name of Dandie took Setters’ first prize at the first official dog show. This was due to the dog’s pedigree that could be traced back to the kennels of the Duke of Gordon. In 1924, the breed officially took the name of Gordon Setter. In 1924, The American Kennel Club recognized the Gordon Setter and in 1892 the Gordon Setter Club of America, Inc. was formed. The club is still in existence today and boasts a membership of more than 1,000 people. Today, the Gordon Setter ranks 88th among the 155 breeds and varieties registered by the AKC.
Puppies come with a glossy, easy to maintain coat with a certain amount of feathering. Gordons should be brushed and combed two or three times a week to prevent mats and tangles. The hair on the bottom of their feet and between their toes has to be trimmed as well. It is also recommended to remove hair from behind the ears as this area is often left neglected and may become heavily tangled.
- Their teeth should be checked on a weekly basis. One may also introduce a soft toothbrush as part of the grooming routine as soon as Setters reach their 4th month.
- Their fast-growing nails should be regularly trimmed with a nail clipper.
- Their ears require frequent inspection as well to avoid wax buildup and debris, which could cause an infection.
- While grooming, one should check the skin for sores or signs of infection such as redness, tenderness or inflammation.
- Eyes should be checked for redness or discharge. A thorough weekly exam will help identify potential health problems early.
Gordon Setters need to constantly vent their energy and perform interesting activities. Otherwise they will grow weary and uninterested, often expressed through destructive chewing, especially when it comes to puppies. Gordon Setters need daily strenuous exercise, which qualifies them as good companions for joggers or runners. A good game of fetch in the backyard or a long walk will also contribute to their overall physical health. Puppies should be allowed to play in the backyard as long as they desire. However, one should limit demanding exercises, such as road running or obedience jumps in order to avoid unnecessary pressure on the still developing bones.
Setters may develop certain health issues, such as hip and elbow dysplasia. Other health issues may include hypothyroidism, gastric torsion and eye diseases such as progressive retinal atrophy and cataracts. This breed is, however, rarely affected by such diseases.
- Recommended daily amount: 2 to 3 cups of high quality dry food, divided into two meals.
- The amount of food the dog consumes depends on the animal’s size, age, metabolism and activity level.
- It is important to provide the dog with high quality dog food to ensure the pet’s well-being.
- Tinned tuna or tinned pilchards may be served as a weekly treat.
- One is not required to chop meals into smaller pieces, for Gordon Setters are able to easily deal with large chunks of food.