Gordon Setter

Temperament: Affectionate, Confident, Bold

  • Height: 24-27 inches (male), 23-26 inches (female)
  • Weight: 55-80 pounds (male), 45-70 pounds (female)
  • Life Expectancy: 12-13 years
  • Group: Sporting Group 

The Gordon Setter, the black avenger of the Highlands, is a substantial bird dog named for a Scottish aristocrat. Athletic and outdoorsy, Gordons are bold, confident, and resolute in the field, and sweetly affectionate by the fireside.


The Gordon Setter is a good-sized, sturdily built, black and tan dog, well muscled, with plenty of bone and substance, but active, upstanding and stylish, appearing capable of doing a full day’s work in the field. He has a strong, rather short back, with well sprung ribs and a short tail. The head is fairly heavy and finely chiseled. His bearing is intelligent, noble, and dignified, showing no signs of shyness or viciousness. Clear colours and straight or slightly waved coat are correct. He suggests strength and stamina rather than extreme speed. Symmetry and quality are most essential. A dog well balanced in all points is preferable to one with outstanding good qualities and defects. A smooth, free movement, with high head carriage, is typical

About the Gordon Setter

Gordons are the largest and most substantial of the setters—a big male might stand 27 inches at the shoulder and weigh 80 pounds. The stunning coat is a glistening black, with tan markings and long hair on the ears, belly, legs, chest, and tail. Tan spots above the bright brown eyes point up a wise and willing expression. Like other Scots breeds, from the compact Scottish Terrier to the majestic Scottish Deerhound, Gordons were built to withstand their homeland’s tough terrain and foul weather.

NUTRITION Feeding the Gordon Setter a diet high in protein (over 26 percent) is not recommended, as health issues can result by forcing rapid growth. Fiber content of at least four percent is best to ensure firm stool. Feed high-quality dry dog food, wet food, and, if desired, small amounts of healthy additives such as chicken and salmon, fruits, and cooked, fresh vegetables, provided they are listed as safe foods on the AKC website. Sodium can be dangerous—always feed “no salt.” Gordons should be lean, not overweight, so that a clearly defined “waist” can be seen. Bloat can be a risk in the breed, and owners should never exercise the dog one-half hour before or after feeding. Clean, fresh water should be available at all times.

GROOMING Brushing at least weekly is essential to prevent matting. Shedding is minimal if the dog is brushed regularly. Monthly grooming recommended for health includes trimming the hair on the feet, trimming the nails, trimming inside and around the ears, trimming around the vent/tail area, and checking the teeth for plaque. Bathing monthly is recommended. Dry skin and dandruff can be prevented with bathing and conditioning.

EXERCISE Gordons were bred to be personal hunting dogs, and they also served as nannies. They live to be cuddling by your side or at your feet, as well as running in a field. Their genetic makeup calls for them to have a drive to run, so they do need exercise. They can live in an apartment but if so, they need daily exercise, which can be met by walking, jogging, or biking with the dog. If they have a yard in which to run, they will self-exercise, though a Gordon will always be happiest doing something with their bonded owner. Being with their owner is what they live to do. Caution: To prevent bloat, never exercise the dog one-half hour before or one-half hour after feeding.

TRAINING A few, simple lifesaving training commands are mandatory. A puppy or dog must be trained to know the command “come,” and to come when called; to know his name and respond; and to obey the word “no.” Gordons are stubborn yet very soft and loving, and they live to please their owner. They are very smart and learn quickly. The best training is for them to have a job to do, and the best job they can have is spending time with their owner—whether being trained or having fun. They are closely bonded to their family and live to be with them, but they are fine being alone when family is away. Early socialisation and puppy training classes are recommended for Gordon puppies and help to ensure they grow into well-adjusted, well-mannered companions.

HEALTH Gordons are generally healthy dogs, but there are a few concerns to be aware of bloat, a sudden, life-threatening stomach condition, can occur in the breed. Gordon owners should learn the signs of bloat and what to do should they occur. Cancer is the most common cause of death for elderly dogs—in all breeds. There is not one specific type of cancer more prevalent in Gordons; young dogs dying of cancer is unusual. Responsible breeders will test their stock for conditions the breed can be prone to, including screening for elbow and hip dysplasia and eye conditions, and DNA testing for a number of health-related issues.

Recommended Health Tests from the National Breed Club:

  • Hip Evaluation
  • Elbow Evaluation
  • Ophthalmologist Evaluation
  • PRA Optigen DNA Test

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