This Scottish breed has been established since the 17th century and takes his name from Gordon Castle, where he was developed by the fourth Duke of Gordon. Dressed in sophisticated black and tan, the Gordon Setter is the heaviest and most muscular of the three setter breeds. In the field, his job is to find and point gamebirds, working at a slow, methodical pace. Hunters appreciate his intelligence and scenting ability, but his good qualities aren’t limited to the field. The Gordon also makes an excellent companion dog—if you can give him the daily exercise he needs. Here’s what you need to know if you’re considering acquiring a Gordon Setter.
Is the Gordon Setter the Right Dog for You?
The Gordon Setter is loving and mild-mannered, but that doesn’t mean he’s not active. Choose a Gordon 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 also enjoys participating in dog sports such as agility, obedience, rally and tracking.
The gentle and protective Gordon can be a good choice for families with children. He’s tolerant toward toddlers and energetic enough to play catch for hours on end. He also gets along well with other pets such as cats if he’s raised with them. Gordon Setters are alert and will bark to let you know that someone is approaching the house. They are reserved toward strangers, preferring to save their affection for their families.
The Gordon is smart and easy to train with positive reinforcement techniques. Be patient and gentle, and he’ll respond eagerly. He’s not necessarily a barker, but he is vocal, expressing himself with mumbling and grumbling to tell you about his day, what he thinks of his meals and that it’s probably a good time for you to take him for a walk.
The Gordon’s thick, longish coat needs 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 Gordon Setter needs to live in the house. It’s an unhappy Gordon who is relegated to the backyard with little or no human companionship.
Variations of the Gordon Setter
There are some differences between Gordon Setters bred for the field and those bred for the show ring, but the chasm is not as wide as it is in other sporting breeds. The breed has a weight range of 45 to 80 pounds, with field-bred dogs falling on the smaller end of the scale. Both types make good companions.
6 Tips to Bring Home a Healthy Gordon 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 on the website of the Gordon Setter Club of America, and choose one who adheres to the GSCA Code of Ethics.
- 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 Gordon Setters aren't apparent in puppyhood, but by adopting an older dog, most of them can be ruled out. Gordon Setters can live 10 to 12 years, so an adult dog will still be a part of your family for a long time to come.
- Puppy or adult, take your Gordon 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 Gordon Setters
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.
Gordon Setters have some health conditions that can be a concern, especially if you aren’t cautious about whom you buy from. They include hip and elbow dysplasia, progressive retinal atrophy, autoimmune hypothyroidism and gastric torsion.
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 eye clearances from the Canine Eye Registry Foundation. You can check the website of the Canine Health Information Center to see if a breeder’s dogs have these certifications.
Pet Insurance for Gordon Setters
Pet insurance for Gordon Setters costs more than for mixed breed dogs. This is because Gordon 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 Gordon Setters are susceptible. The best time to get pet insurance for your Gordon 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.