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Gordon setter

Breed overview

  • Breed group — Sporting group (American Kennel Club)
  • Height — 23-27 inches
  • Weight — 45-80 pounds
  • Coat length & texture — Silky, medium-length, straight, or slightly wavy
  • Coat color — Coal black with clearly defined tan markings of either mahogany or rich chestnut. Tan markings should be above the eyes, on the sides of the muzzle, on the throat, chest, and inside of the limbs. Puppies are sometimes born with white spots on their chests or toes, but these generally fade as they age. A white marking on the chest is allowed in adults but should be small.
  • Exercise needs — High
  • Intelligence — High
  • Barking — When bored or excited
  • Life span — 10-12 years
  • Temperament — Confident, bold, alert, loyal, eager
  • Hypoallergenic — No
  • Origin — Scotland

Gordon setter fun facts

👉 Coming up with a pet name can be fun but tricky. Search no further! According to PetScreening’s 2024 database, the majority of our users name their male Gordon Setters Rex; Archie is the 2nd most popular male name. Meanwhile, most of our users with female Gordon Setters love Bailey and Bella equally.

  • The Gordon setter is the largest and heaviest of the four recognized setter breeds.
  • Gordon setters were one of the original nine dog breeds registered by the American Kennel Club in 1872.
  • Former Secretary of State Daniel Webster helped to introduce the Gordon setter in America. Alongside a friend, George Blunt, he brought two Gordon setters (one male and one female) into the United States in the 1840s. These dogs became the base for the Gordon setter population in America today.
Gordon setter side profile

Gordon setter temperament and characteristics 

Gordon setters make great family pets because of their affectionate and loyal natures, but they need to be in a home where someone is around for most of the day. Gordon setters can suffer from separation anxiety if left alone for a long time. If you are looking for a breed that is always up for an outdoor adventure, the Gordon setter may be the one for you.

These dogs mature fairly late compared to other breeds, so they remain playful throughout their lives. They are generally tolerant and protective of children. However, they may be too energetic for younger children. Gordon setters can get along well with other dogs, especially if they have grown up together. However, these dogs have a strong prey drive so they are not best suited to homes with cats and other small animals.

Gordon setters are not suitable for apartment living. They need a larger home with a fenced yard so they can burn off some of their excess energy. These dogs can be a little bit wary of strangers or visitors at first, but they soon warm up to new people once they get to know them.

Common Gordon setter health problems

Gordon setters are generally healthy dogs. However, like many dog breeds, Gordon setters are prone to developing some health conditions, including:

  • Progressive retinal atrophy . This is a group of inherited eye diseases that affect the photoreceptor cells in the eye. These cells deteriorate over time, eventually leading to blindness.
  • Hip dysplasia. This occurs when a part of the femur bone (femoral head) and the hip socket (acetabulum) is not correctly aligned. This can lead to lameness, pain, and inflammation around the affected area. Your vet may prescribe supplements for hip dysplasia. Surgery may also be recommended in more severe cases.
  • Gastric dilation volvulus. Also known as dog bloat, gastric dilation volvulus is a potentially life-threatening condition caused by excessive gas accumulation in the stomach. Symptoms to watch out for include a distended stomach, vomiting, and excessive drooling or panting.
  • Elbow dysplasia. This is a painful condition caused by the abnormal development of the elbow joint during growth. The elbow joint is made up of three bones; the ulna, radius, and humerus. If these don’t grow at the same rate, it can cause pain, lameness, and the onset of arthritis.
  • Cerebellar ataxia. This is caused by lesions or tumors in the part of the brain known as the cerebellum, which controls balance and movement. This can cause a wobbly gait, head tremors, and exaggerated limb movements.
  • Hypothyroidism. This is an endocrine disorder caused by an underactive thyroid. This can cause lethargy in dogs, as well as weight gain, and skin and coat changes.

👉 Obesity can be a significant health concern in Gordon setters. It can exacerbate joint issues, as well as metabolic and digestive health issues. So, feed your dog a balanced protein-rich diet and speak to your vet if you think your dog is overweight. 

Cost of caring for a Gordon setter

On average, you should expect to pay $1,000 to $2,000 for a Gordon setter puppy. The average cost of first-year vaccinations will cost anywhere between $75 to $100.

The cost of caring for a Gordon setter long-term will vary depending on any health condition that they may develop. For example, hypothyroidism tests can cost anywhere between $50 and $150, with monthly treatments costing around $30. However, more serious conditions such as hip dysplasia may require surgery which can cost anywhere between $3,500 to $7,000 per hip.

Pet insurance

Health insurance is a great way to reduce out-of-pocket expenses, especially if you sign up early in your pet’s life. However, make sure you read through the fine print to ensure that you’re getting the best coverage for your dog. Most pet insurance providers won’t cover any expenses related to a pre-existing health condition. In addition, they may not cover exam or routine care fees. If you’re struggling with the costs of pet insurance, you can also look into wellness plans or set up your own pet savings account.

Gordon setter resting

History of the Gordon setter

Gordon setters were originally bred in the 1600s as hunting dogs to track game, such as pheasant and quail, in the Scottish Highlands. They were originally named black and tan setters because of their distinct glossy black and tan coat. However, they were renamed Gordon setters after the fourth Duke of Gordon, who was integral to the breed’s development in the early 19th century. Most Gordon setters today can trace their lineage right back to the kennels at Gordon Castle in Moray, Scotland.

The word setter was coined as early as the 1500s because these dogs would locate a bird and then sit or lie down to show the hunter where it was. Today, there are four types of setters recognized by the American Kennel Club:

  • Irish red and white setter
  • English setter
  • Irish setter
  • Gordon setter

The Gordon setter was officially recognized as a breed by the American Kennel Club in 1878 as the black and tan setter. However, it wasn’t until 1924 that the AKC finally accepted the name Gordon setter as a registered breed.

Caring for your Gordon setter

Caring for a new puppy of any breed can be daunting. You’ll need to make your first trip to the vet and schedule your dog’s vaccinations. We also recommend that you puppy-proof your home because Gordon setter puppies have limitless energy and confidence — they will investigate anything within reach! You will want to pay special attention to anything that can be easily swallowed such as paper clips, jewelry, and rubber bands.

We realize that it’s not a nice thing to think about, but we also recommend signing up for FidoAlert. This pet service provides a free Fido ID and tag so you’re prepared if your dog escapes out of your yard and gets lost.


Gordon setters are hardworking, intelligent dogs that need at least two hours of rigorous exercise every day. These dogs were built to work for long hours at a time, so you must consider this before deciding if a Gordon setter is the right puppy for you. Homes with plenty of space and regular interaction are essential for this breed.

In warm weather, allow your Gordon setter to splash about in a pool to help keep them cool. These dogs love to retrieve toys, so throw one or two into the water and watch them work! Make sure your dog has constant access to fresh water and shade in hot weather because they are prone to heat stroke and heat exhaustion. Gordon setters tolerate cold weather because they originated in the Scottish Highlands.

Gordon setter running in water


The Gordon setter has a glossy black and tan coat that’s medium in length. They have extra feathering around the ears, abdomen, chest, back of the forelegs and hindlegs, and tail. According to the American Kennel Club standard, the coat can be either straight or slightly wavy but never curly.

The coat should be brushed at least twice a week with a bristle brush and a metal rake comb to remove any mats and tangles—especially if they have been playing outdoors. You should pay special attention to the long feathering around the chest as this can tangle easily. Bathing should be done every 2-4 weeks with a dog-specific shampoo. Excessive bathing can cause dry skin issues, so only bathe when needed to keep their coat in good condition.

In addition, you will need to regularly check and trim your dog’s nails once a month. You will also need to check and clean their ears weekly, alongside teeth brushing at least 2-3 times a week.

Diet and nutrition

Gordon setters are prone to obesity, requiring a diet that’s high in protein, especially poultry. It should also contain healthy fats and vegetables for optimum health. Furthermore, omega-3 supplements will help to promote a healthy coat and skin.

Choosing the right amount of food is essential for your dog’s long-term health. As a general guide, Gordon setters require 2-3 cups of high-quality dry and wet food per day. You can even consider a raw canine diet. However, you should speak to your vet for accurate food portioning, especially if you think your dog is becoming overweight. Healthy Gordon setters should be lean with a clearly defined waist.

Training your Gordon setter

Gordon setters are highly intelligent, however, they can be stubborn at times. They also have a short attention span, especially when they get bored! These dogs require a firm, consistent form of positive reinforcement training. Gordon setters require early socialization and training from puppyhood to make sure they understand what is expected of them. Without appropriate training, these dogs can become domineering.

Due to their intelligence, Gordon setters also need regular mental stimulation in the form of games, puzzles, and even agility courses. Frequent short training sessions are best for this breed rather than long, repetitive sessions. Make training fun but consistent to get the most out of this breed.

Gordon setter training

Breeds similar to the Gordon setter

Not quite sure that a Gordon setter is right for you? Even if you are, it’s worth taking the time to research and consider other similar breeds. Here are a few to get you started:

  • German shorthaired pointer. This breed is also a natural game hunter with an incredibly loyal devotion to their owners. These playful dogs generally get along well with children, as well as other dogs and cats.
  • Labrador retriever. These dogs tend to be larger and stockier than Gordon setters. However, they have the same playful natures, high intelligence, and devotion to their owners. Labrador retrievers are generally better for first-time dog owners because they are more stranger and child-friendly.
  • English setter. The English setter is very similar in appearance to the Gordon setter. Both breeds are energetic and intelligent. However, English setters are generally more social and vocal than Gordon setters.

Frequently asked questions

Is a Gordon setter a good family dog?

Gordon setters are devoted, attentive, loyal, and protective, which make them great family pets. However, they are better suited to families with older children because they may be a bit too energetic and boisterous for toddlers.

Do Gordon setters get along well with other dogs?

Gordon setters generally get along well with dogs that they have grown up with. However, they can be wary of unfamiliar dogs. Regular socialization and training from puppyhood can help to curb this problem. Gordon setters are natural hunters, so they are not best suited to homes with smaller pets such as cats.

Are Gordon setters good for first-time dog owners?

Gordon setters are large, solid-built dogs with a willing temperament. However, they can be stubborn and independent-minded. So, these dogs need an owner who can be consistent and firm with training. Gordon setters should never be left alone for long periods because they can suffer from separation anxiety, which can lead to destructive behaviors.

Are Gordon setters calm?

Gordon setters generally have a playful yet gentle temperament, which makes them great family pets. However, they can be wary around strangers until they get to know them. Gordon setters also have a very high prey drive, so you should take care when around other smaller pets like cats.

How much exercise does a Gordon setter need?

Gordon setters were bred to be hard-working hunters. So, they require at least two hours of vigorous exercise every day. This can be in the form of long outdoor walks and interactive games.