Lively and lovely, the English Setter is a medium-size pointing breed that originated in Britain. In the field, his job is to find and point gamebirds, and he is prized for his exceptional nose and good memory. For both hunters and pet owners, he stands out for his distinctive feathered coat and gentle good nature. Of the three Setter breeds, he is the smallest, weighing from 35 to 80 pounds, depending on whether he is bred for field or show ring. Here’s what you need to know if you’re considering acquiring an English Setter.
Is the English Setter the Right Dog for You?
The English Setter loves to run, but given his daily quota of exercise, he is a calm, sweet housedog. The English Setter is friendly and mellow, and he can be a good choice for families with children. He also gets along well with other pets such as cats if he’s raised with them. English Setters are alert and will bark to let you know that someone is approaching the house.
Choose an English Setter if you are an active person who can give him the exercise he needs. A long walk or a half-hour run will do, or you can take him hiking or run him alongside your bicycle, safely leashed, of course. He’s also a super competitor in dog sports such as agility, obedience and rally and can be an excellent therapy dog.
English Setters need frequent combing to prevent or remove mats and tangles. A bath every six weeks or so doesn’t go amiss. In addition, trim the nails as needed, brush the teeth, and keep the ears clean and dry to prevent infections.
Last but not least, it should go without saying that a people-loving dog like the English Setter needs to live in the house. It’s an unhappy English Setter who is relegated to the backyard with little or no human companionship.
Variations of the English Setter
Unlike some sporting breeds, there are few differences between English Setters bred for the field and those bred for the show ring. Field-bred dogs are slightly smaller and have less coat, but an English Setter bred for conformation may well be capable of performing in the field. Both types make good companions.
When he’s well taken care of, the English Setter has a gorgeous white coat flecked with tan (orange belton) or black (blue belton). Others are tricolor, having black flecks on the coat and tan points on the muzzle and legs.
6 Tips to Bring Home a Healthy English Setter Puppy
- Don’t ever, ever, ever buy a puppy from a pet store. You’re more likely to get an unhealthy, unsocialized and difficult to housetrain puppy and will be supporting the cruelty of high-volume puppy mills.
- Find a good breeder who will match you with the right puppy, and will without question have done all the health certifications necessary to screen out health problems as much as possible. Start your search for a good breeder with the English Setter Association of America.
- Do not purchase a puppy from a breeder who cannot provide you with written documentation that the parents were cleared of health problems that affect the breed. Having the dogs "vet checked" is not a substitute for genetic health testing.
- Consider an adult dog from a shelter or a rescue group. Many of the health problems in English Setters aren't apparent in puppyhood, but by adopting an older dog, most of them can be ruled out. English Setters can live 12 to 14 years, so an adult dog will still be a part of your family for a long time to come.
- Puppy or adult, take your English Setter to your veterinarian soon after adoption. Your veterinarian will be able to spot visible problems, and will work with you to set up a preventive regimen that will help you avoid many health issues.
- Make sure you have a good contract with the seller, shelter or rescue group that spells out responsibilities on both sides. In states with “puppy lemon laws,” be sure you and the person you get the dog from both understand your rights and recourses.
Health Issues Common to English Setter
All purebred dogs have the potential to develop genetic health problems, just as all people have the potential to inherit a particular disease. Run, don’t walk, from any breeder who does not offer a health guarantee on puppies, who tells you that the breed is 100 percent healthy and has no known problems, or who tells you that her puppies are isolated from the main part of the household for health reasons. A reputable breeder will be honest and open about health problems in the breed and the incidence with which they occur in her lines.
English Setters have some health conditions that can be a concern, especially if you aren’t cautious about whom you buy from. Hip and elbow dysplasia are most common. Other problems that may be seen are hypothyroidism, allergies and congenital deafness.
Ask the breeder to show evidence that both of a puppy’s parents have hip and elbow clearances from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals and OFA BAER (Brainstem Auditory Evoked Response) test results for hearing. You can check the website of the Canine Health Information Center to see if a breeder’s dogs have these certifications.
Pet Insurance for English Setters
Pet insurance for English Setters costs more than for mixed breed dogs. This is because English Setters are much more likely than mixed breed dogs to make claims for hereditary conditions that are expensive to treat.
Embrace pet insurance plans offer full coverage for all breed-specific conditions (excluding those that are pre-existing) to which English Setters are susceptible. The best time to get pet insurance for your English Setter is when he’s a healthy puppy. You can’t predict what will happen in the future, and pet insurance is the one thing you can’t get when you need it the most.