Gordon Setter – The Muscular and Fearless Dog Breed

gordon setter dog

If you are looking for a four-legged friend, with the most perfect combo of looks, intelligence, and extraordinary bird sense, the Gordon setter is your go-to choice. As the name implies, this dog belongs to the setter family. However, the Gordon setter is the heaviest and largest of all setter breeds.

Famous for its competitiveness, this dog considers it a shame to disappoint its owners – whether it’s about losing a match of dog sports or missing prey in the hunting fields. And the best part is that despite showing incredibly serious behavior in the fields, a Gordon setter dog remains a real softie by heart.

It doesn’t matter how large or heavy it grows, the soul residing within the colossal body will always remain young and enchanting. Even though these contrasting sets of traits make them the best family pets, they come with a long list of requirements and need thorough attention to learn correct behavior.

To know more about the needs, temperament, personality, and living conditions of this dog breed, keep 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!

Gordon Setter

About the Breed

gordon setter

As mentioned before, Gordon setters fall in the setter family, which also includes other famous setters too, including the English setters and Irish setters. Speaking precisely of Gordon setter dogs, the members of this large dog breed are often categorized as gundogs and hunting dogs.

They aren’t afraid of jumping into the most challenging fields to complete their task, and that’s the major reason why Gordon setters are still the very first choice of hunters, from all around the world. However, considering their job type, you should never think of them as some rough and tough, serious sort of canine.

When around their families, they can be quite jolly, playful, and affectionate. Even a Gordon setter will love to give you some cozy, relaxing cuddles.

However, that would be only possible if its exercise needs are catered to appropriately. Just don’t forget that they are originally hunting dogs and thus, their bodies are programmed to do extreme levels of workout.

Due to the very same reason, a Gordon setter will always be on their toes to join you in night strolls and insane adventures. Considering this, we can’t say that these dogs are suitable for lazy couch potato owners. Instead, they crave energetic, adventure-loving families.

Likewise, they are not good for apartment dwellers since they need a wide area to roam and play around freely. Yes, catering to their needs might sound a bit hectic but trust me, this dog knows how to return your efforts in the form of untradeable loyalty, warm hugs, and wet kisses.

History of the Gordon Setter

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 setter breeders

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.

The Gordon setters had coats in multiple colors, including white, red, tan, black, and tricolor, but since the favorite of Alexander IV was a black and tan setter, he bred them more and more, and that’s the very reason why most Gordon setters today feature this combination.

Soon after that, in the early 20th century, this Gordon castle setter dog became more popular among pet owners due to its magnificent lineage – bred and improvised by the great fourth Duke at his castle.

The very first pair of Gordon setters were brought to the United States by George blunt in 1842. Still, these Gordon setter dogs and all the other setters were considered the same breed. Finally, in 1872, the national breed club of England registered Gordon castle setters as a separate breed, whereas America registered it in 1878.

However, the American kennel club recognized the Gordon setter dog breed officially in 1884 whereas, in 1992, AKC changed the breed name from Gordon castle setter to Gordon setter.

In 1924, a special Gordon setter club of America was also founded, which works on regulating the breed’s population and preserving the desirable traits. These Gordon setters were then used in show dogs and to develop another setter breed, known as the Irish setter.

Gordon Setter Facts

gordon setter
  1. Gordon setter canines are better suited to country-style living conditions where they could play, run, and stretch freely. The apartment living might be disturbing for their sensitive and curious mindset.
  2. The average life expectancy of Gordon setters is 10-12 years. However, they may live longer after getting proper diet and exercise.
  3. Purchasing from reputable breeders, Gordon setters might cost between $800-$1000. However, they may cost even higher if comes with basic training and a good pedigree.
  4. Their biting force is much low, which means they won’t injure your kid while playing. Also, they can retrieve the prey, without damaging it.
  5. Even though they have long been used as hunting dogs, they can’t be categorized as fighting dogs due to their super calm and friendly nature.
  6. Gordon setters can serve you as therapy dogs, service dogs, cart-pulling dogs, and security or rescue dogs.
  7. Gordon setters are not hypoallergenic, so you better check for your allergy sensitivity before adopting them.
  8. Gordon setter canines prefer cooler regions but also do well with average climates. However, they can’t tolerate too hot weather conditions.
  9. They are moderate droolers, which makes them stink, if not bathed regularly.
  10. They deliver 6-8 Gordon puppies in one litter, each year.

Gordon Setter Appearance

gordon setter english setter

Gordon setter dogs are muscular, with a sturdier and heavily boned body frame. At first glance, the very first thing which catches the attention is its long, sleek back on which the black coat glistens magnificently. Throughout the body frame, you’d find subtle and prominent tan markings which enhance its overall look.

Their heads are between broad and sleek, which is adorned by a meditative expression, brown eyes, and a pair of feathery, sagging ears.


Gordon setters are the tallest of the other two setters (Irish and English setters). Its male may stand up to 66cm tall (24-27 inches) however the female Gordon may grow up to 62 tall (23-26 inches).


Not only are the Gordon setters tallest, but also the heaviest among other setters. The healthy weight range for its males is 55-80 lbs whereas that for a female Gordon is 45-70lbs.


Gordon’s coat grows to a medium-large length and might be straight or slightly wavy. Also, the coat density is quite high, giving off a fuller and fluffier look. However, there are certain regions around which they have long hair, such as around their legs, ears, tails, bellies, and chests.


gordon setter for sale

Almost all the ideal Gordons carry the black and tan coat, which shines when sunshine falls on it. The tan markings on the black coat might be of mahogany or a rich chestnut shade.

These markings are more prominent at the bottom and sides of the muzzle, above the eyes, on the chest, on the throat, in the forelegs, inside the hindlegs, and around the butt. Some Gordon setter dogs also come with a small white spot on their chest, but it’s not liked much by breeders.

Gordon Setter Temperament and Personality

As we mentioned before, Gordon setter is friendly, playful, and enchanting around its whole family, but at the same time, it could be highly reserved and uncomfortable around strangers (including the strange dogs).

This trait makes them excellent watchdogs, but we can’t say you’d be much happy with their skills as a guard dog. Compared to other dogs, they take much less time to get familiar with strange faces. And after getting familiar, they won’t mind strangers invading your property.

Gordon setter dogs are not excessive barkers, but when feeling threatened by strangers or after sensing any other security threat, they may bark endlessly. The only other possible reason behind your dog’s nuisance barking is their poor health condition.

gordon setters breeders

Since the mindset of this dog breed is programmed to stay around its owner, they might develop separation anxiety when left alone for a long time. In this condition, they may also bark a lot, chew, dig, and show various other undesirable behaviors.

So, never leave them alone in the backyard for too long and if you have to work on a tight schedule, arrange some company for your Gordon. Also, remember that these dogs have a super curious nature which increases their chances to wander off. Thus, to ensure their containment, a properly fenced yard is required.

To communicate with their owner, especially to exhibit their desire for playing, they may change their body language subtly. In most instances, they raise their tails, dilate their pupils, relax their bodies, and open their mouths with exposed tongues.

Whether you have a Gordon puppy or an adult dog, one thing that you should keep in mind is that both of them are super sensitive toward your behavior and voice tone. So stay calm and gentle around your Gordons, especially the Gordon setter puppy otherwise you won’t be able to win their affection ever.

Although these dogs take longer than other breeds to mature, when grown up to adult Gordon setters, they become gentler and calmer than young dogs. The main thing which makes them good family dogs is that they are quite protective and gentle around children.

However, Gordons may find it difficult to settle around other pets therefore, it’s important to either socialize them early or let them raise among other dogs.

Gordon Setter Health and Care

Although the breed comprises generally healthy dogs, they might develop some health problems, at some point in their lives. Due to being a purebred dog, it doesn’t come with the risks of hereditary disorders but still, it’s better to check for the health clearance certificates and ask about the puppy’s parents.

gordon setter puppy

Some common health issues which hit Gordons are as follows;

Hip Dysplasia

This degenerative health condition attacks your dog’s hip and thigh muscles, as a result of which, it feels difficulty and severe pain while moving. If not treated on time, the dog might get completely immobile. The only way to treat this problem is through surgery and physiotherapy.

Gastric Dilation Volvulus

Gastric dilation volvulus, also known as bloat, is the biggest health concern your Gordon is likely to develop. It normally attacks adult and middle-aged canines but can affect young dogs too, sometimes.

In this condition, your dog’s stomach twists after a large meal or after drinking too much water. Since the dog couldn’t get rid of the gas distended inside his stomach, his heart rate impedes, and his blood pressure drops to an alarming level.

If not getting medical assistance on time, your dog may die within a few minutes. Thus, to prevent this life-threatening condition from happening, check for the bloating signs in your dog, after every meal. These symptoms include discomfort, panting, winning, and drooling.

Progressive Retinal Atrophy

In this condition, your dog’s eyesight decreases every day, due to the continuous destruction of photoreceptors. Eventually, he gets completely blind. Unfortunately, no treatment method offers a promising cure for this disease. Still, it’s better to take your dog for eye checkups annually.

Speaking of Gordon’s care needs, the good news is that they don’t come with way too expensive upkeep requirements. However, regular grooming of a Gordon might be more time-consuming, but it’s not something hectic at all.

Just bring a soft-bristled brush and brush his coat, once or twice a week to prevent mats. Also, doing so will keep his coat in its neatest and freshest form, with no debris or knots. Trim the areas where the coat is overgrown so it won’t hinder your pet’s activity. Also, trim their nail so they won’t get clicked against the floor.

Since these dogs are relatively more slobbery than other dogs, make sure to bathe them once or twice a week so they won’t smell filthy. Since they have sagging, floppy ears, they come with a high risk of developing ear infections. Therefore, it’s important to remove dirt and debris from the ear and check for infection, regularly.

Lastly, remember that these dogs come with vigorous exercise needs, so to provide enough exercise and mental stimulation, take them for long walks and let them play for at least one to two hours. Just make sure they are not getting involved in way too strenuous activities.

Gordon Setter Training

Gordon Setter dog

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.


We hope that you’ve found this article helpful, Before wrapping up, here’s something you need to know before adopting or purchasing a Gordon setter.

Being a large-sized dog, Gordon needs three to five cups of high-quality food daily. Considering this, owning a Gordon means you have to make space in your monthly budget of about $60-$65.

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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