English Setter – Facts, Breed History & Information

picture of an english setter

The English Setter is known to be an attractive and energetic dog that can prove to be very useful for hunting and can appeal to the audience inside any show ring.

This medium-sized dog can also face multiple health issues over the years. However, with proper care and nutrition, it can live for a modest lifespan of 12 to 15 years.

This unique dog breed requires a good amount of maintenance and grooming. However, in return, you will get a lot of love, affection, and loyalty from this dog as a pet.

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About the Breed

english setter

The English Setter is an active and affectionate dog that is good for hunting or use as a family dog. It is a very intelligent breed which makes it very easy to train. If you have a family with children as well as other pets, including dogs and cats, this can be the ideal pet for you to have.

English Setters are most suitable for a house with a fenced yard but can adapt to an apartment setting as well. They need their daily exercise and play time for a minimum of thirty minutes.

It is important that you train and socialize your English Setter from a very young age so that they grow up to be well-trained and well-adaptive dogs.

History of the English Setter

english setter white

The English Setter originated in England nearly 400 to 500 years ago. Hence, they are described as an “old but not ancient” breed by the English Setter Association of America, Inc.

Works from history indicate that the springer spaniel, large water spaniel, and Spanish pointer are some of the ancestors of the English Setter.

They earned their name because of their unique responsive behavior during hunting. Before the use of guns, the English Setter was trained to couch or lie down to suggest the presence of game birds close by – an act called “setting.”

As soon as the English Setter was seen to demonstrate this position, a big net would be thrown out to catch the birds.

Later on, guns began to be used for hunting, but the English Setter was still used. During this time the dog indicated the presence of the prey by pointing. This was done by arcing forward or by standing in an upright position.

At the beginning of the 1800s, R. LL. Purcell Llewellin and Edward Laverack began their own distinctive processes of breeding the modern English Setter of the same breed. Llewellin created a small dog that was ideal for the purpose of hunting, while Laverack bred a larger “show dog.”

It was not until later in the 1800 century that the English Setter entered the United States. As per the American Kennel Club, it was one of the nine registered dog breeds in the year 1878.

English Setter Facts

english setter spaniel

Now that you are familiar with the origin and history of the English Setter, let’s take a look at a few fun facts about this dog breed.

  • They are the 37th most intelligent dog in Stanley Coren’s ranking of “The Intelligence of Dogs”.
  • In the beginning, they were called the Setting Spaniels by the National Breed Club. This was because they were used for hunting, and during the process they would crouch down in front of the hunters as soon as they found any prey.
  • It is a well-known fact that the bark of an English Setter is worse than its bite. They have a built-in alarm system that is activated as soon as a stranger approaches their owner’s house. They create havoc and reap chaos until the stranger is invited into the house. This is when they quiet down and socialize.
  • If you are a first-time dog owner, then they are the perfect option. This is because they have an easy-going personality, and their actions can be easily deduced by the owners.
  • They turn into couch potatoes as soon as they reach the age of three years.
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English Setter Appearance

english setter breeders

As previously mentioned, the English Setter is known for its attractive looks and can appeal to a wide set of audience. They are dark-nosed with big hazel eyes, droopy ears that are of medium length, and a bushy tail.

In this section of the article, we will discuss the size, weight, coat, and color of the English Setter.


When it comes to their size, the English Setter is taller than an average medium-sized dog.

Fully grown male English Setters stand at a height of 25 to 27 inches, whereas the females are known to be 23 to 25 inches in height. Hence, the female English Setters are slightly shorter than the male dogs.

There are two kinds of the English Setter dog breed: Llewellin and Laverack. The Llewellin breed is smaller and is mostly used for the purpose of hunting, whereas the Laverack breed is larger and is mostly used as a family dog or a show dog.


pictures of english setters

In terms of weight, the male English Setter is heavier than the female. A typical male dog weighs about 65 to 80 pounds, while the females weigh 45 to 55 pounds. This is why males require a relatively plentiful diet than female English Setters.


What sets the English Setter apart is the quality of their coat. They have a long thick coat which gives an overall feathery or fluffy look to the dog. The hair on their coat is silky, smooth, and a unique blend of wavy and straight.

They have heavy feathers on their tail, ears, and legs, as well as on their underside.

english setter pictures


Another unique characteristic of the English Setter is the color of their coat. They are white-colored at birth, but as they grow, you will be able to see markings of various sizes all over their body.

These markings can be tiny dots or large patches of different colors. The most common colors of these markings are black, but you can also find them in orange, lemon, liver, or blue color.

The spotted or marked colored coat of the English Setter is called the Belton. In a few cases, you can find a tricolored English Setter, with a blue Belton and other colored patches on the legs and face. This makes them appear to be close to the Dalmatian dog breed.

English Setter Temperament and Personality

english setter dog

The English Setter is known for being a friendly, compassionate, loving, and mild-tempered dog. This dog has a lot of energy and is very athletic, which fits its use as a show dog or a hunting dog.

It is not a barking dog, but when approached by a stranger in or out of the home, it will use barking as a means of alerting the owner. However, if you properly introduce your English Setter to a new set of people, it will be very hospitable towards them.

It is important to note that your English Setter’s temperament will not develop in isolation. The way you train them, the activities you make them participate in for better socialization, as well as their birth parents, all combine to form the temperament of your dog.

Generally, English Setters have a very gentle temperament and by nature, they are very inquisitive and playful.

One of the most unique personality traits of the English Setter is that they can work independently. They have the innate skill of thinking individually, even though they can work really well in a group setting. This reflects their high intelligence, but at times they can prove to be very stubborn as well.

If you have a family with children, the English Setter is a great pet to have. For infants, this dog can be a great watchdog and because it is highly patient, they can endure the constant pulling of the ear, tail, or hair by young children.

However, it is probably a good idea to observe the dog initially, so as to avoid this from happening. They are also a great play companion for older children given their highly energetic nature.

As an owner of several pets, you do not have to worry about the English Setter getting along with other pets, as it engages very well with other dogs and cats. Given their calm nature, they are also known to be used as therapy dogs.

English Setter puppies are more energetic than fully grown dogs. During their playtime, they love to go digging and jump in the air. At all ages, these dogs need plenty of exercise time to prevent weight gain.

It is important that you provide them with at least 30 minutes of exercise time on a daily basis, or let them go on a supervised run.

By nature, the English Setter is a hunting dog. This breed should always be kept on a dog leash to restrict them to stay in the yard or garden area. If left unleashed, they will be found leaving the premises and going for hunting birds.

When your dog is just a puppy, you should be ensuring that it undergoes proper socialization. Early exposure to different experiences, such as various sounds, sights, activities, people, and pets, will help your dog develop skills when they are young. Doing this is important in order to ensure that your dog grows up to be a versatile dog.

If you are confused about where to start, you can begin by getting your dog enrolled in a kindergarten class for puppies. It is also a good idea to invite people over, be it your friends or family, so your dog can learn to interact with strangers.

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Taking your dog out to shops that permit dogs inside, parks that are busy, and on a casual walk around the block to meet the neighbors, is also a great way to develop its social skills.

Most pet owners prefer to choose the middle ground when selecting their pets. They are looking for a dog that is not so wild that it will tire them and also not so timid that it is not able to come out of a corner of the home.

Before choosing your English Setter, it is recommended that you also meet one of the two parents of the dog. This will help you decide the nature of the dog and if you find some traits that you would like to avoid, you can choose a different dog.

As a bonus, you can also interact with any of the siblings or cousins, or other relatives of the parents, to evaluate what your dog will be like when it has grown up in the dog world.

English Setter Health and Care

red english setter

The English Setter is generally a healthy dog, but in terms of health issues, there are a few medical concerns attached to this breed. If you considering buying an English Setter, it is important to be aware of these health issues in order to make an informed decision.

While English Setters can develop these issues, it is not certain that any or all of them will apply to your pet.

Before purchasing your English Setter, you should consider a breeder that would provide you with health clearances for your dog. A few clearances that you should consider getting are:

  • Clearance from Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) for hip and elbow dysplasia, von Willebrand’s disease, and hypothyroidism
  • Clearance from Auburn University for thrombopathia
  • Clearance from the Canine Eye Registry Foundation (CERF) for normal functioning of the eyes

Now let’s take a look at the common health issues that English Setters are prone to develop.

The first and most common issue is that of hip dysplasia, which is a hereditary disease. It is a condition in which there is an improper fit of the hip joint and the thighbone.

If the two are not fit together in a snug manner, the dog can show symptoms such as limping and experiencing extreme pain. Unfortunately, this condition can also develop in both legs.

However, in most cases, you will not be able to observe any symptoms until an X-ray is performed. As the dog ages, if hip dysplasia has been inherited, it can lead to arthritis.

Before getting a dog, you should get a health clearance from the breeder, which indicates that none of the parents have the problem of hip dysplasia.

In most cases, hip dysplasia is inherited, but it can develop at a later stage as well. The most common reasons for its occurrence are jumping, falling on hard surfaces, and the intake of a diet that is high in calories.

Another common health issue that can occur in English Setters is hypothyroidism. This is a condition in which the thyroid glands produce a low level of hormones which is not considered normal for the dog.

One of the most obvious symptoms of hypothyroidism is infertility. Others include low energy levels, generally mental obtuseness, obesity, sagging eyes, as well as, far from regular heat cycles.

english setter red

Dogs that have hypothyroidism are known to develop very dark and hard skin coupled with a fur coat that is rough and fragile. This leads to shedding that is above the normal level.

This condition cannot be treated but can be controlled with proper medication that lasts as long as the dog lives. English Setters that are properly treated for hypothyroidism can live a long and healthy life.

The third most common disease among English Setters is deafness. This is a condition that can develop at any point in the life span of the dog, and can prove to be very challenging for both the dog and the pet owner.

If your dog develops this condition, it is important that you notify the breeder so that the breeding process of the same dog’s genes is not repeated.

Some forms of this condition can be treated and even cured with the use of medication or undergoing any surgical procedure. However, deafness is commonly not a condition that can be cured.

For a dog experiencing deafness, there are several pet aids that have been developed. Vibrating collars have made life much easier for these pets and their owners. However, these dogs require a lot of time, effort, and patience from their owners on a daily basis.

If you have a pet that develops this condition, it is probably a good time for you to evaluate if you have the ability and living conditions that are required for the proper care of a deaf dog.

The last common medical condition that English Setters can develop is elbow dysplasia. This occurs when the three bones of the elbow grow and develop at different rates and result in a condition called joint laxity.

When this happens, the dog can experience excruciating pain and can even develop arthritis. In most cases, a surgical procedure can cure the problem, while in others, all you can do is provide your pet with medication for the relief of pain.


setter dog

When it comes to caring for these dogs, you should consider keeping English Setters in a house that consists of a yard where the dog can play. This breed is not ideal for an apartment setting, however, if you provide it with the daily dose of exercise it needs, then it can live in a smaller space as well.

The English Setter is a very active breed, so you should make sure to cover your house with rugs that do not slip and slide. This will help in preventing the dog from falling or bumping into walls or furniture and result in fewer injuries.

This breed has high grooming needs as well. You will be required to brush its coat at least two to three times a week. This will help keep the coat healthy and provide it with a shiny look.

Regular brushing can be done with a bristle brush that you can find in any local pet store. For removing mats and tangled or shedding hair, you can use a steel brush.

Give your English Setter a bath after every six weeks and you can also trim its coat to give it an overall prim and proper look. If you are not accustomed to doing so, you can take your pet to a professional groomer and learn from him.

Keep your dog’s nails trimmed and short by maintaining them on a regular basis. It is possible that the dog may wear off its nails during their playtime.

However, if that does not happen and you hear nails scratching against the furniture or floor, it is time for a cut. This will prevent you from getting scratch marks as well.

The English Setter is prone to developing ear infections given that it has droopy ears that hinder proper blood circulation. You are therefore required to regularly clean out the visible part of the ear using a cotton bud dampened with an ear-cleaning solution recommended by your vet.

Do not poke inside the ear canal of the dog as it might result in damage. If you see redness inside the ears, or they feel soft or smell bad, it is an indication of an ear infection. General shaking or scratching of the head are also symptoms of ear infection. This is when you should take your pet to a vet.

At least twice or thrice a week you should be brushing your dog’s teeth. This helps in avoiding the problem of tartar, cavities, and bacteria. It is even better if you brush daily in order to keep the breath of your dog fresh and smelling nice, and its gums healthy.

When you are brushing, cleaning, bathing, or trimming your dog’s nails, ears, coat, and teeth, it is important that you check for its overall health as well. Look for signs of tender ears, red eyes, or inflamed skin. This will help care for your dog’s health and keep it active.

English Setter Training

white english setter

English Setters are very intelligent and highly trainable. They respond well to positive reinforcements such as dog treats and encouraging remarks and praises.

It is important that you do not use harsh tones or punishment with this dog breed otherwise they may develop negative behaviors and can prove to be very stubborn.

Like other breeds, they are barking dogs and can be seen to be going out of control when they look at strangers. Hence you should take special care in condoning this behavior and reward them for staying quiet.

Given their hunting nature, they can go hunting if not kept on a leash. You should thus train them to curb this trait and develop a sharp recall.


The English Setter is dark-nosed with big hazel eyes, floppy ears that are of medium length, and a bushy tail.
It has a thick long coat which gives an overall feathery or fluffy look to the dog. It is white-colored at birth, but as it grows you will be able to see markings of various sizes and colors all over its body.

The English Setters are hunting dogs and are known for being friendly, compassionate, loving, and mild-tempered dogs. This dog has a lot of energy and is very athletic, which fits its use as a show dog or a hunting dog. It is a very intelligent breed which makes it very easy to train.

The English Gordon Setter is prone to common health issues as compared to other dogs including hip and elbow dysplasia, hypothyroidism, and deafness. With proper care and nutrition, health English Setters can live for a modest lifespan of 12 to 15 years.

Cody Mitchell
Cody Mitchell is a pet lover and a passionate pet writer. He has worked as a professional writer for over 6 years, with a focus on creating compelling content for pet-related brands. His work has been featured in major publications. When he's not writing, Cody can be found playing with his two dogs (a labradoodle and a cocker spaniel) or cuddling his cat.

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