Gordon Setters

Gordon Setters are a Scottish breed and the largest of the “Setter” family. This black and tan Setter originated in the kennels of the Scottish nobleman Alexander Gordon (the Duke of Gordon 1743-1827) and were bred for hunting quail and pheasants. To this day they remain one of the most loyal and finest hunting dogs but are now more known for their most endearing trait of devotion to you as your companion and a family friendly dog. The term “Gordon Setter” was officially recognized as a breed in 1873.

Gentle, lovable, affectionate and engaging, these canines are committed to your household and make excellent watch dogs. They are extremely intelligent social animal with expressive eyes and have plenty of energy. They require a minimum of 1 hour of exercise a day, grow to between 23 to 27 inches (58 – 69cm) and weigh on average between 45 to 70 pounds (20 – 32 Kg).

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Black & Tan setting dogs were known in Scotland as early as 1620, but it was their presence in the kennels of the fourth Duke of Gordon 200 years later that brought them to prominence. The Gordon Castle Setters had first-class hunting skills and were beautiful as well. It was written of them: “They are not fast dogs, but they have good staying power and can keep on steadily from morning until night. Their noses are first class and they seldom make a false point. When they stand, you may be sure there are birds.”

Today’s black & tan setters officially took the name “Gordon Setters” in 1924. Early versions of the Gordon Setter breed came in a variety of colours, Tricolour, Red, as well as Black and White but legend has it the black and tan coloring was preferred by the Duke and that is why it became the standard colours of this stunning breed.

At the first official dog show, a Black & Tan “Gordon Setter” by the name of Dandie took first prize for all Setters. Dandie’s pedigree was traceable back to the kennels of the Duke of Gordon.

Rake & Rachel the very first Gordon Setters exported to North America and were purchased in 1842 by Daniel Webster and George Blunt. The breeding pair were the cornerstone for the breed in the USA and came directly from the kennel at Gordon Castle! In 1892 the American Kennel Club (AKC) recognized the Gordon Setter and the Gordon Setter Club of America, Inc. was inaugurated some 30 years later in 1924. The Gordon Setter breed currently ranks 88th among the 155 registered by the AKC.

Gordon Setter Characteristics


Gordons Setters are generally a healthy breed, but like all purebreds they are prone to specific conditions and diseases. There are no guarantees but it’s important to be aware of them if you’re buying with a Gordon.

Hip & Elbow Dysplasia: These are genetically inherited conditions. Hip Dysplasia is when the femur doesn’t fit properly into the hip socket, a “displacement” of the hip. While it’s possible a dog may limp or start favouring one or both rear legs it is possible that there are almost no signs of discomfort. Elbow dysplasia is also heritable The repetitive movement of the hip joint affects Gordons as they age and arthritis can develop. All Elevage Marie Fils Gordon Setters are screened for this genetic trait but we suggest weight management and avoiding high-calorie diets that add extra stress on hip joints.

Hypothyroidism: A condition that affects the thyroid gland. Signs to look for include low energy levels, loss of responsiveness, weight gain and droopy eyelids. Additional signs could be fur that begins falling out and becomes brittle and coarse. Medication is available and Gordons receiving thyroid treatment daily live a full and happy life.

PRA (Progressive Retinal Atrophy): A progressively degenerative eye disorder causing blindness. Luckily early detection of PRA is possible and Gordons use their other senses to compensate for blindness. Should your dog go blind then keep furniture in place to avoid disrupting your dog’s routine. Elevage Marie Phil does not breed any Gordon that has shown signs of PRA.

Bloat/Torsion (Gastric Dilatation Volvulus): Gordon Setters are a higher risk dog for bloat. We recommend waiting an hour after your dog has eaten before allowing vigorous exercise. You should suspect torsion/bloat if your Gordon is retching, drooling and has a distended abdomen. Males are more at risk than females. If you notice these symptoms, call and bring your dog to the vet as soon as possible.

Care & Feeding

Gordon Setters puppies are warm, affectionate pets that want to play as much as you will let them! Avoid heavy exercise early in their growth period to curb damage to developing joints. At about 2 years old adult Gordons are excellent full on exercise companions. They need daily heavy exercise, so feel free to jog or even bicycle with them. Hour long walks and tons of fetch will make for a happy and content companion and augment their health. While Gordon Setters are intelligent and easy to train, they do require consistency and a firm command or they will take advantage of you. Leadership without a strong hand or any anger will get you an obedient loving dog.

Housetraining is a relatively easy chore with most Gordon Setters puppies, but there can be exceptions. Like any puppy schedules and consistency is the key. WWe may suggest that you consider crate training to keep your Gordon from chewing and gnawing on your furniture and provide a safe haven that your puppy knows it can rest. Be patient, remember housetraining is a long process and while your puppy may know what they are supposed to do they may not have the bladder control until they are about 4 months old. Early on frequent pee breaks and walks will help avoid unexpected accidents.

As wild and rambunctious as a Gordon Setter puppy can be, they are completely changed in their adulthood with quiet and sedate characteristics. They are loyal gentle family dogs that are wonderful companions that will just as happily couch potato with you as running, hiking or hunting with you.

Feeding your Gordon Setter, kibble or raw food diets

An adult Godron Setter on a kibble diet requires a daily amount of 2-3 cups divided into two meals, of high-quality dry food a day. The exact amount required depends on their size, age and activity level. The quality of dog food you buy also makes a difference, the better the dog food, the further it will go toward nourishing your dog.

Raw dog food diets are not recommended by the American Veterinary Association and tend to be more expensive than dry food diets. They also tend to require more prep-time but advocates swear it provides a better dental health, shiner coat, and overall health as it requires a mindful approach.  A raw diet usually consists of organ meat, muscle meat, whole or ground bone, raw eggs and some fresh fruits and vegetables. Always consult your veterinarian prior to attempting a raw food diet.