Gordon Setter Temperament – An affectionate and confident family dog
The Gordon Setter originated in Scotland, and is the largest of the Setter dog breeds, standing up to 27 inches at the shoulder and weighing up to 80 lbs. They have a striking appearance, with a glossy black coat set off by tan markings. They may look slender, athletic and somewhat frail, but make no mistake – these dogs were bred to withstand the rough terrain and foul weather that can occur in Scotland. This is one tough nut!
Gordon Setter Temperament
These dogs do best in a family environment where they have company. They will form very strong bonds with their owner, and will want to be included in family activities, even if it’s just dozing on a rug in the evening.
As young dogs, they are quite active, and bounce around with enthusiasm. For this reason a young dog may not be the best choice for a household with very small children. They do not mature and calm down until around 3 years of age.
They are sensitive dogs, and need gentle and patient handing as young dogs, with careful socialization. Although bred to spend a day out hunting and running, they should not be over-exerted until over 18 months old, to protect their developing joints. After that age, they can build up to an hour’s worth of exercise each day. They need significant room to move, and need a big back yard in addition to daily runs.
You should not let your Gordon off leash unless you can recall the dog reliably. They are prone to wandering off after interesting scents if unsupervised.
Gordon Setter Temperament – Breed History
The Setter type of dog was first used to help with hunting game birds around 1820. They were taught to detect birds that were hiding in undergrowth, and then indicate to the hunter where they were by quietly lying down, or ‘setting’, pointing at the location of the bird. Typical game were grouse, pheasant, ptarmigan, snipe and woodcock.
The hunter could then approach, and throw a large net over the area indicated by the dog – sometimes even over the dog too – to catch the game birds. During the 19th century, different styles of Setter started to emerge.
The Gordon Setter was developed principally by the 4th Duke of Gordon in Scotland, with a heavier frame and taller stance, suited to the rough Scottish terrain. Although the breed gets its name from the 4th Duke of Gordon, there were other breeders in the U.K. also developing the Setter.
The Gordon Setter was first introduced to the USA in 1842, with the import of 2 dogs. The Gordon was recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1884.
In the 20th century, with the introduction of reliable guns, the Gordon Setter was taught to ‘set’ standing up, so that they would be visible to the hunters, who may be some distance away.
As time moved on, hunters had less need of pointers and setters, and instead needed retriever-type dogs to collect shot game birds. Breeds like the Labrador Retriever were better suited to this role, and Setters in general became limited to working grouse and ptarmigan birds in Scotland and the moors of Northern England.
Nowadays, Gordon Setters are mainly kept as show dogs and as family pets, although some are still used for ‘setting’ game birds on country estates.
Height; 24 inches to 27 inches (male), and 23 inches to 26 inches (female)
Weight; 55 lbs to 80 lbs (male), and 45 lbs to 70 lbs (female)
Life Span; 12 to 13 years
Color; Black and Tan
Gordon Setter Temperament – Ease of Training
This is an intelligent dog breed, and they learn quickly if treated with patience. Some say they can be a bit stubborn, but this is probably due to unrealistic expectations regarding how quickly the dog picks up new commands.
It’s a good idea to take your puppy along to puppy training classes as soon as they are old enough. This introduces them to the concept of training and learning, and is also part of their early socialization. You need to continue the training in short bursts at home, say just 5 minutes at a time.
Around 18 months to 2 years, you can take the dog to adult training classes, for more formal training, including a reliable recall when off-leash, and walking to heel.
Gordon Setter Temperament – Protection
I’m afraid this beautiful and friendly dog will not provide much protection. They are not especially alert at home, and are not territorial. Neither are they suspicious of strangers. They are more likely to welcome an intruder with a lick and a tail wag, and are unlikely to bark.
If you are looking for a little extra protection at home, I suggest you look for a different breed.
Gordon Setter Temperament – Grooming
Gordon Setters have a long, glossy coat that is prone to matting unless brushed through at least once a week. In fact, it’s better to brush through the coat with a pin brush or soft slicker brush every 2 to 3 days.
The Gordon is a seasonal shedder, but regular and frequent brushing will minimize loose hairs around the home and on your clothes and furniture!
The teeth should be brushed daily, with a toothpaste formulated for dogs – not a human toothpaste. A small, soft toothbrush works best. Introduce brushing to your dog as a puppy for just a few seconds each day, and they will come to accept this as normal.
The ears should be checked weekly for foreign objects or signs of infection such as redness, swelling or a bad smell. The claws should be checked every month, and trimmed if needed to prevent splitting and cracking.
This is a generally healthy breed, but they DO have a problem with bloat, a potentially fatal condition also called gastric torsion. The dog should not be exercised 30 minutes before or after eating, and they should be fed using an anti-gulping bowl, to slow down their eating.
The National Breed Club recommends the following screenings;
- Hip dysplasia
- Elbow dysplasia
- Eye conditions
- PRA Optigen DNA Test
Famous Gordon Setters
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