Dog Breed Review

English Setter




The English Setter is one of the oldest gun dog breeds around and you know them for their unique feathering on their medium size frame.

Although the breed has fiery stamina during long distance hunts, the Setter is a calm and gentle dog when at home. Moreover, it is their elegance and charm that has won them the claim: “the gentleman of the dog world.”

But, of course, there’s much more to this breed than their sterling reputation at home.

So what makes this breed such a wonderful addition for you and your home?

Here is what you need to know about the English Setter.


As the introduction hints, the English Setter is one of the oldest gun dog breeds in the world. It’s not exactly clear as to where the breed originally comes from. However, some believe it’s most probable that the Setter comes from Asia or Europe.

That aside, most believe the English Setter originates as far back as the 14th century. That said, the modern version of the English Setter owes its development to England from the mid 1800’s. 

Initially, the breed was for bird hunting purposes. Hunters would use the English Setter to go tracking and finding birds. The Setter was so intelligent and obedient, that once the bird was found, the dog would crouch over the bird motionless and then would lift its paw to signify the bird’s position. The second half of the battle meant once the hunters would arrive, they would show up with their nets. It was the Setter’s job to chase or drive these birds into the nets.

The man most responsible for the breed’s development was Edward Laverack. Laverack would end up breeding English Setters throughout the 1920’s, which were famously known as Laverack Setters. These dogs were known for their exquisite hunting abilities as well as their elegant appearance. As guns became the most common choice for hunting, the breed would find a different role, the show ring.

Throughout the 20th century, the breed found success winning multiple Best in Show awards from Crufts to Westminster. In fact, a dog by the name of Rock Fall Colonel is famously  for winning a total of 100 Best in Show competitions. 

Imports of the breed into the United States came in the 1870’s. The English Setter would become one of the first purebred dogs to gain recognition with several other sporting breeds in 1878.

Interestingly, the English Setter did receive the first American Kennel Club registration number. The dog’s name, Adonis. Shortly after, the United Kennel Club gave the breed full recognition in the early 1900’s. 

Today, the breed is more illustrative as a companion dog, with the same working abilities as a gun dog. The intelligent English Setter is still an active dog, that can compete, be athletic, and track down quarry. According to the American Kennel Club’s registration rankings, the Setter is the club’s 102nd most popular breed.


The English Setter is a medium size breed. According to the standards put out by the AKC, males should stand between 25 to 27 inches, while females range between 2 to 25 inches. With regards to the breed’s weight, the males should weigh between 65 to 80 pounds and females ranging from 45 to 55 pounds.

The UKC seems to like the breed at a smaller rate. Males should stand at 25 inches, females at 24 inches. Males should weigh 55 to 70 pounds, while females should range between 50 to 60 pounds.

Personality and Temperament

English Setters are calm and gentle, of course, once you socialize them at an early age. This is a breed that can be ferocious out in the fields, with great amounts of stamina, and turn it off like a switch to a button. Their calm and gentle temperament makes them very loving an lovable. This very nature earns the breed the distinction of being the “gentleman of all dogs.”

With strangers and children, again, with an early start at socialization, this is a friendly and merry breed. They enjoy the company of their people and can be very warm with unfamiliar faces. That is, once that person earns their trust. Their aggressive and always ready mentality at work should never follow them as companions. In fact, the opposite should be true, making them a joy at home.

The English Setter should never be fearful or shy. Their demeanor shall never be vicious. You may need to watch them around smaller children and dogs, but for the most part, this is a breed that can get along with just about anyone.

They are a very intelligent breed, that is highly trainable and agreeable. This isn’t an apartment dog, they do need space and exercise. 

An English Setter should do fine with most climates but is more ideal with temperate conditions. For instance, their feathery coats may not be the most ideal in extreme heat environments.

All in all, this is a very warm and inviting breed. They can get along with all, including pets and smaller children. The breed should be a part of all family functions and trips, as they don’t do well with being alone. Being alone for long periods of time can lead to obnoxious and destructive behavior. The breed is better off for someone with an active lifestyle, or for someone willing to give the breed a role or purpose.


If all goes well with your English Setter, you should be able to get 10 to 12 years of a life expectancy. This is a breed with a few floating health conditions to be wary about. 

When you buy an English Setter, make sure you make a purchase from a breeder with a good reputation. The breed should be able to provide you with the proper documentation and health clearances. On top of that, you should schedule regular visits with your veterinarian to ensure the maximum of health.

Along with the Shar Pei, Bernese Mountain Dog and Tibetan Mastiff, the English Setter ranges in the same neighborhood for OFA’s Hip Dysplasia incidental rate rankings. In fact, this breed ranks at 65th, according to the survey by the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals. The breed has the same dysplastic rate as the Shar Pei at 16.0%. Hip Dysplasia is a painful malformation of the hip that can lead to discomfort and lameness.

One of the bigger issues with this breed is issues arising with Hypothyroidism. 31.4% of all English Setters, that were part of Michigan State University’s survey were found to have this hormonal condition. Also, the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals lists the breed as the highest rate for autoimmune thyroiditis. It’s very important to test your Setter, because it is likely that the Michigan State University study under states the percentage of Setters with Hypothyroidism. 

Deafness is another key problem with this breed. The Setter was found to have  a 12.4% incidence rate for congenital deafness, according to the Louisiana State University findings.

Atopic Dermatitis is the second most common allergic skin disease found in dogs. This is a key problem for the breed, that can occur from grass, house dust, and mold spores. Runny eyes, runny nose, red irritation marks around the body and skin infections are all consequences.

Finally, the breed does face issues with Elbow Dysplasia. In fact, the English Setter is 24th at 15.6%. Other breeds like Bloodhounds, American Pit Bull Terrier face similar incidental rates. Elbow Dysplasia is particular within large breeds, which is the result of abnormal growth and development in the elbow causing pain and lameness. 


What the English Setter needs and wants is a big loving family with affection and attention centering around him. In return, you get a very gentle and loving dog, that will be incredibly loyal and mellow around the house. Again, this is a breed that knows how to turn it on and off when it comes to work and companionship.

Early training and socialization is an essential element for this breed. This will teach them to be interactive and obedient down the road. Your English Setter may be very active and hyper for the first few years and one of the ways of curtailing that is by consistent and positive reinforcement. This will help take care of their habits such as barking and digging. This is a breed that does like to jump up and down plenty. You may require a bigger fence or create a better area to fence the dog inside. English Setters need access to the outside, but should be indoor dogs.

Regular exercise for about 40 to 60 minutes per day is crucial. This is why the breed does well with joggers, or owners who enjoy longer walks. Dog parks are a great way for your English Setter to interact with other canines. Training them young, especially with a breed of this caliber, can result in a dog that will do just about anything you ask for in the show ring. 

Trimming their nails, checking their coats for infections, ticks, and other nuances is key. Check their ears for bacterial build up and bathe as you seem necessary.


Your English Setter may not require the same amount of volume in food as others do. A lot can depend on how often and much your Setter eats. For instance, their age, their activity rate and metabolism all play into consideration.

With that in mind, it appears most English Setter owners recommend around 2 to 3 cups of high quality dry kibble daily. Meat should be the first ingredient, and your dog should replenish around 1200 to 1300 calories per day. If you have a working dog, of course, it’ll be more caloric intake. You should feed your dog top quality dog food, with labels of medium to large breed food.

As always, you should provide your English Setter with fresh drinking water, the most essential ingredient.


Anticipate brushing your English Setter 2 to 3 times per week. They are seasonal shed-artists, who do unleash their coats voluminously once a year. You know this breed from their feathery coats with feathering on the chest, belly, their ears and hinds. The coat shouldn’t curl or feel wooly. On the contrary, the coat should be flat and have a good length to it.

According to the American Kennel Club, the Setter has the following color schemes: Blue belton, tri color blue belton and tan, lemon belton, liver belton, and orange belton.

Fun English Setter Facts

  • The breed’s ancestry is a mix of large water spaniel, Spring Spaniel and Spanish Pointer.
  • There are two strains; Laverack Setter and Llewellin Setters. 
  • According to the Daily Mail, the English Setter is on the UK’s “vulnerable breed list.” For instance, the numbers of registrations between 2010 and 2011 fell by 33 percent.
  • In Stanley Coren’s the “Intelligence of Dogs,” Coren ranks the English Setter 37th most intelligent.

Closing Words

Aside from a few health hurdles, the English Setter is the perfect dog for someone who wants a reliable and sweet jogging buddy. This is a breed that enjoys being a part of the family and the family’s endeavors.

From their days as resilient and trustworthy gun dogs, to their time as successful show dogs, the Setter as a home companion is still the reigning gentleman of the dog world.


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