Gordon Setter: Dog Breed Characteristics & Care

History, Care Tips, and Helpful Information for Pet Owners

A side profile of a Gordon setter standing in grass

Capturelight / Getty Images

The Gordon setter is a medium-large sporting dog breed from Scotland with a silky, medium-length double coat that comes in black with tan accents. There’s feathering on the ears, chest and stomach, legs, and tail. And typically the tan is on the muzzle and throat, lower legs, eyebrows, and rear. The breed’s coat served to protect it from the terrain and weather as a hunting dog in Scotland. These dogs are still natural athletes, and they tend to be quite devoted to their humans.

Breed Overview

Group: Sporting

Height: 23 to 26 inches (female), 24 to 27 inches (male)

Weight: 45 to 70 pounds (female), 55 to 80 pounds (male)

Coat: Medium-length double coat

Coat Color: Black and tan

Life Span: 12 to 13 years

Temperament: Energetic, affectionate, courageous

Hypoallergenic: No

Origin: Scotland

Characteristics of the Gordon Setter

Gordon setters generally have a loyal and affectionate temperament with their owners. They are quite smart and eager to please. A high energy level also helps to shape their personality, and they need lots of exercise every day.

Affection Level High
Friendliness Medium
Kid-Friendly  Medium
Pet-Friendly  Medium
Exercise Needs  High
Playfulness  Medium
Energy Level  High
Trainability High
Intelligence  High
Tendency to Bark  Medium
Amount of Shedding Medium

History of the Gordon Setter

The Gordon setter can trace its ancestors back to the 1600s, but the breed really started to take shape during the 1800s. People in Scotland and around the United Kingdom wanted a bird-hunting dog that would “set,” or quietly lie down when it located prey. Different setter breeds arose with the Gordon being the heaviest of the bunch, suitable for the rugged landscape in Scotland. 

Alexander Gordon, the fourth Duke of Gordon, bred what were then called black and tan setters at the kennels of Gordon Castle. These dogs initially resembled the English setter. But adding other breeds, including black and tan collies, bloodhounds, black pointers, and black setters, helped to shape the modern Gordon setter. 

The breed first arrived in the United States in 1842. And the American Kennel Club first recognized it in 1878. The breed’s official name went from the black and tan setter to the Gordon Castle setter and finally to the Gordon setter in 1924.

Gordon Setter Care

Plan to spend ample time exercising this athletic breed. Gordon setters also need regular grooming to prevent tangles and mats. And they should receive training and socialization from a young age.

Exercise

Plan to spend at least two hours per day exercising your Gordon setter. These dogs were bred to run and have good endurance. You can meet their exercise needs via long walks, jogging, cycling, hiking, and vigorous playtime. Dog sports also can provide mental challenges as well as physical activity. 

Be sure always to keep your dog on a leash or in a securely fenced area when outdoors. This breed has a high prey drive and might ignore your recall efforts if it sees prey it wants to chase.

Grooming

Brush your dog’s coat at least once or twice per week to remove loose fur and prevent mats and tangles. Pay special attention to the areas with feathering, as they tend to tangle easily. Expect periods of higher shedding often in the spring and fall, during which you should increase your brushing frequency. 

Bathe your dog roughly once a month, depending on how dirty it gets. And check its nails monthly to see whether they’re due for a trim. Plus, look in its ears at least weekly for wax buildup, debris, and irritation. And brush its teeth every day.

Training

Training and socialization should ideally begin when your Gordon setter is a puppy. A puppy class can help to teach your dog basic commands and manners. This breed typically responds well to training, especially when positive-reinforcement methods are used. 

Moreover, allow your Gordon setter to meet different people and other dogs from an early age. This will help to curb its reserved nature around strangers. The breed is moderately good with other dogs but might perceive smaller household pets as prey.

Three Gordon setter puppies
Cindie Fearnall / Getty Images
Two Gordon setters running
Brighton Dog Photography / Getty Images
A Gordon setter headshot in the snow
Marc Doorakkers  500px / Getty Images

Common Health Problems

This breed is generally healthy, but it is prone to some hereditary health issues, including: 

Diet and Nutrition

Always have fresh water accessible for your Gordon setter. And provide a quality, nutritionally balanced canine diet. Discuss both the type of food and the amount with your veterinarian. It’s typical to feed two measured meals per day. But this breed is prone to bloat and potentially life-threatening stomach twisting, which can arise from eating too quickly. An option to help prevent this is feeding smaller, more frequent meals. 

Where to Adopt or Buy a Gordon Setter

Gordon setters are a somewhat common dog breed, so it is possible to find one in need of a home at an animal shelter or rescue group. You just might have to wait for longer than you would with the highly popular breeds. See whether you can get your name on a breed wait list at your local shelters. If you’re looking for a puppy from a reputable breeder, expect to pay around $800 to $2,000 on average.

For further information to help connect you with a Gordon setter, check out:

Gordon Setter Overview

Pros
  • Affectionate and loyal

  • Typically responds well to training

  • Good for an active owner

Cons
  • Needs lots of daily exercise

  • Typically not ideal for an apartment

  • High prey drive

More Dog Breeds and Further Research

As with any dog breed, do thorough research first before bringing home a Gordon setter to ensure that the breed is right for your lifestyle. Talk to Gordon setter owners, rescue groups, reputable breeders, and vets. And spend some time around the breed too if you can.

If you’re interested in similar breeds, check out:

There’s a whole world of potential dog breeds out there—with a little research, you can find the right one to bring home!

FAQ
  • Are Gordon setters good family dogs?

    In general, Gordon setters with proper training and socialization are moderately good with kids. But they might be too energetic for a household with young children.

  • Are Gordon setters aggressive?

    Gordon setters tend to be moderately open to meeting strangers, and they do have a protective streak. But with training and socialization from an early age, this typically doesn't turn to aggression.

  • Are Gordon setters good apartment dogs?

    Gordon setters do best with a house and yard, rather than an apartment. They are large dogs, and they ideally should have a secure space where they can run freely every day.

Article Sources
The Spruce Pets uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Gordon Setter. American Kennel Club.

  2. Gordon Setter Puppies and Dogs. Adopt a Pet.