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English Setter Dog Breed Information

General Information:

Height: 24 inches (61 cm) for females up to 27 inches (69 cm) for males.
Weight: 65 to 80 lbs.
Life Span: 11 to 12 years
Coloring: Mostly white coat with flecks: valid combinations are white with black (blue belton), white with orange flecks (orange belton), white with orange flecks and lighter nose (lemon belton), white with liver flecks (liver belton), or “tricolour” which is blue or liver belton with tan markings on the face, chest, and legs.
Area of Origin: England
Similar Breeds: Irish Setter, Gordon Setter

History and Origin:

The original hunting or field type of dog was called the Llewellin Setter and was smaller with less hair and a broader head than the English Setter. Yet all of the hunting dogs have strong hunting instincts and therefore needed a lot of exercise which they got during the hunt.

The show dog English Setter is tall with silky hair and a long narrow head. The personality of the show dog is laid back in comparison to the hunting dog. One of the oldest of all gundog breeds is the English Setter. It was over 400 years ago in England that this breed of hunting dog was developed. The original English Setter came from the Spanish hunting lines and was at first called the Setting Spaniel.

The term setting dogges is a very old old term that described the original hunting dogs and setters. The English Setter was bred to find the bird and point and set so that the hunter can find both the dog and the game. The English Setter was one of the first trained bird dogs in England over 400 years ago. The Spanish Pointer, the English Springer Spaniel and the Water Spaniel.

These setting dogges were becoming established and more widespread by the 17th century on the larger British Estates. Still later there would be more individual breeds of setters developed. The dogs were interbred so that certain colors would come to the forefront for a while and then the breeding would turn to hunting qualities instead of looks. Dogs were bred according to the terrain they hunted in.

Setters, while not being scent hounds, do seek their prey silently by scent. When the dog found its prey it freezes and does not chase the animal. They drop into a pointing crouch and “set” there. This stance is how the name setter came to be. After setting for the prey the dog will then move forward slowly on the hunters command. By the mid-1600s guns were used for hunting by the people who owned land and were called the landed gentry.

For most English Setters the drive or instinct to hunt was inbred. In his book in 1876 Arnold Burges wrote that the pure blooded English Setter was the “best animal for American upland shooting.” The modern version was developed in the 19th century in England by R. Purcell Llewellin who briefly lent his name to the breed. The Llewellin Setter is essentially the English Setter that can trace its heritage back to either the Llewellin Setter or the Laverack (Lawerack) Setter.

The first English Setter that came to the United States came from the Laverack line in 1874. The descendent of this setter whose name is Count Noble was one of the first working setters and is commemorated in the Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh. The breed took hold and grew quickly in the Midwestern United States. The English Setters in the United States and Canada are placed in the Sporting Group, and in the UK they are in the gundog group. The breed has won best of show at England’s Crufts in 1964, 1977, 1988. At the prestigious New York City Westminster Club show the English Setter won once in 1992.

The English Setter was the first pure bred dog accepted into the newly formed American Kennel Club in 1878.The very first registration that was accepted by the USAKC was an English Setter. The breed was especially popular during the 1960’s, 70’s, and 80’s. Registrations in 1974 were at 1344. 2011 was declared the year of the setters because of the increase in numbers and change in ranking from 101k to 87.

Personality and Temperament:

This breed is both strong willed and polite, mischievous and loving. Those that come from the working lines are more strong-willed than those who are bred for show only. The English Setter is a people oriented dog, full of energy and fun, great family dogs if you have the time and energy for them.

Obviously if you are a hunter they might be the perfect dog for your household. They need a lot of exercise – maybe 2-3 hours per day – and they can get that going hunting with you. On the other hand they can be couch potatoes when living inside. They are very happy companion animals, overly friendly and adore children.

They have above average intelligence and are ranked 37th in The Intelligence of Dogs by Stanley Coren. They can be overly sensitive and very gentle. However the overriding factor is they are very mild mannered, the most mild mannered of all the setter breeds. This lends to their sociability with other dogs, pets or people. The worst thing you could do is to leave them alone all day. They can be destructive if you do.

There worst traits are separation anxiety and stubbornness. The English Setter suffers miserably from separation anxiety, even more than any other dog breed. They really need the companionship of others. Those others do not have to be human though. They can be another animal or family pet and the English Setter will be satisfied, but they cannot be left alone. If they are left alone they tend to turn to destructive behavior such as barking and chewing.

The English Setter is as stubborn as they are intelligent. They can be manipulative and they can be extremely stubborn if you push them. You might be walking your English Setter and you are going too fast for her. She just might decide to just stop walking, stiffen her legs and refuse to move, or she might just sit down and refuse to move. As we have said before, the English Setter needs consistent, persistent leadership from you. IF YOU DO NOT LEAD, THE ENGLISH SETTER WILL.

Exercise & Training:

The stubbornness and the intelligence we just discussed is one of the reasons it is so hard to housebreak an English Setter. It can take four to six months to accomplish this. Even though the English Setter is ranked 37th in the book The Intelligence of Dogs by Stanley Coren, their stubbornness can get in the way. You will need a lot of patience and you will need to be able to crate your setter during the training process.

Housebreaking Your English Setter

As we have said repeatedly, housebreaking is very difficult with the English Setter. This activity is the most important training aspect and something that should begin as soon as you bring your puppy or rescue home. Inability to housebreak is the number one reason why people surrender their dogs to shelters.

Start now! Here is a process that some have found very successful in this endeavor. Remember you are dealing with a very smart but very obstinate dog. Follow these steps:

  • Feed in the same bowls at the same time in the same place every day.
  • Pick up the bowls and the water immediately after the dog is finished.
  • Take him outside immediately after eating and show him where you would like him to potty. After a few days you won’t have to take him right away but rather wait until he is ready.
  • Once he starts to walk in circles he is ready. Pick him up, speak softly and affirmatively to him.
  • Use the same door to take her outside each time so he gets used to it.
  • Don’t rush him. Give him the time he needs to be comfortable. Praise him when he is done.
  • As soon as she has eliminated bring her back in. This trip is about pottying not playing.
  • Make sure you have a kennel that is one size larger than he is in order to crate him when you are not home. The crate is not for punishment but safety and a comfortable den when you are not around.
  • Keep a bag of treats with you all the time so that when she is successful at pottying you can immediately reward her.
  • Anyone who is going to watch her must follow the same procedure so she knows everyone is on the same page;

Their intelligence allows the English Setter to be trained to do anything any other dog can do. They are not however good herders no matter how much you attempt to train them to do so. They are easily distracted in outdoor environments. The English Setter is extremely sensitive and need to be trained with positive reinforcement not negative. Treats and praise work much better than yanks and yells. Be persistent but kind and remember they will remember what they learned good and bad.

If you have a show dog then when it comes to exercise a long walk every day but some game playing will satisfy their exercise needs. However if your English Setter comes from the “hunting and field line”, they will need a lot more exercise. If they don’t get enough exercise they will find other ways to let their energy out much in the same way as they deal with separation anxiety. They will need long walks, lots of games and preferably a local dog park where they can run freely.

The English Setter, being a hunting dog, will have a tendency to wander and should not be left off leash anywhere that is not secure. The dog should not have the freedom to run loose in any place that is not fenced in.

The English Setter has the tendency to overeat if allowed to and they will gain weight easily. You need to monitor what they eat.


The English Setter needs considerable grooming in order to keep their coats mat free. They should be brushed a couple times a week with their nails trimmed every few months. Show dogs will have longer, fuller coats that will need a lot more brushing than the hunting dogs. Both types of English Setters will shed extensively. You could find your house, your car and your clothes covered with dog hair.

The English Setter has a long flat coat that sheds heavily at least two times per year. They need to be brushed at least 3-4 times a week and daily during the times when they “blow their coat”. However at the same time don’t give your English Setter a bath. Not only will they hate it, it is not really good for them. If you do bathe them make sure they are dried completely and thoroughly. Clean his ears regularly. Trim the hair around the ears, eyes and paws. Also clean the ears and eyes on a regular basis as this will prevent any chance of an infection. Be especially careful with the ears as they are prone to infection.

Health and Wellness:

All dogs can be affected by genetic health concerns or problems. With most of the English Setters there are the possibilities of congenital deafness, autoimmune thyroiditis, canine hypothyroidism and elbow dysplasia, hip dysplasia along with allergies to food and skin issues.

It is also possible that some English Setters might have cancer as this is the second most common cause of death among the breed, with old age being the number one cause.

Most English Setters live to be 11-12 years of age but some have lived to 15 or 16.

Interesting Facts about the English Setter:

  1. They are called setters because they set on point. This means they bring their head and body down into a straight line and set or stay there until released.
  2. English Setters also go by the names: Lawerack, Laverack, Llewellin Setters
  3. The average litter size for this breed is around six puppies

Organizations dedicated to the English Setter:

Breeds Similar to English Setter Dogs:

Breed Information English Setter

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