About Gordon Setters
Beauty, Brains, and Birdsense
These words describe the Gordon Setter. History suggests the existence of black and tan setters as far back as the 16th century in Scotland and England. The Duke of Gordon is credited with establishing the breed with its present characteristics in the 1820’s. George Blunt and Daniel Webster imported the breed to America in 1842, with the purchase of two dogs from the Duke of Gordon kennels, Rake and Rachael. These dogs founded the breed in this country, which the American Kennel Club officially recognized in 1892.
Gordons were initially bred as bird dogs, for hunting birds like pheasant and quail. Although the hunting instinct remains strong in the breed, Gordons are equally at home as companion dogs, obedience and agility competitors, and show dogs.
Gordon Setters are alert and lively, pleasant and exceedingly loyal. They tend to be devoted to members of their household, but are not overly friendly to strangers. As a general rule, Gordons tend to tolerate attention from people they do not know rather than seeking such attention.
There is no denying a Gordon would stay a “puppy” forever, but with proper techniques young Gordons can be trained without breaking their spirit. They are not a breed that responds well to heavy handed style obedience. Gordons are highly intelligent dogs, as quick to spot an advantage as to spot game. Basic obedience training will make your Gordon a better companion and a better canine citizen. Obedience classes, ranging from puppy kindergarten to advanced competition classes are available in most areas through local kennel clubs or humane societies.
Gordons are capable of adapting to a variety of living situations, as long as they are assured of the love of their masters. They do, however, need plenty of daily exercise to maintain peak physical and mental condition. Gordons need a safe, fenced area in which to run and play. They also need to be taken for frequent on-leash walks. This breed should never be allowed to roam freely because Gordons have a tendency to put their noses to the ground where the hunting instinct might lead them to follow a bird or a squirrel across a busy highway.
Children and Gordon Setters are a good combination, especially when the dog is introduced to children at a young age. Gordons tend to show strong protective instincts to their young charges. If a child persists in teasing a Gordon, the dog will tend to remove himself from the child’s reach rather than frighten a child by so much as a growl. If you have children, please remember that children are not always aware of how to treat a dog, and must be taught to respect the rights of the dog as a member of your household.
Many Gordons are great talkers. They can develop quite a vocabulary with various tones to express themselves. These might include pleasure at seeing the food dish prepared, needing a drink, greeting the family, or warning of strangers. Constant wagging of their tail seems to be part of their style as well.
As hunting companions, Gordons are frequently described as “personal hunting dogs,” with emphasis on the word personal. Gordons thrive when they share both hearth and field with their masters. They do not take well to being part of a kennel string.
*Some of the information included in this section has been adapted from the Gordon Setter Club of America pamphlet “Adopting a Gordon Setter” written by Chuck Petterson.