English Setter

Table of Contents

  1. Statistics Table
  2. About the English Setter
  3. General Appearance
  4. Owning an English Setter – What to Consider?
  5. English Setter Puppies
  6. English Setter Activities & Dog Sports
  7. History of the English Setter
  8. English Setter Clubs
  9. English Setter Rescue Groups
  10. English Setter Facts
  11. Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
English Setter
Group Classification AKC (American Kennel Club): Sporting
UKC (United Kennel Club): Gun Dog
CKC (Canadian Kennel Club): Sporting Dogs
ANKC (Australian National Kennel Council): Gundogs
RKC (The Royal Kennel Club): Gundog
FCI (Fédération Cynologique Internationale): Group 7 – Pointing Dogs; Section 2.2 – British and Irish Pointers and Setters
Bred for Finding, Setting & Retrieving Birds, Companionship
Known for Elegance, Charm, Friendliness
Popularity Moderate
Activities Hunting, Running, Hiking, Conformation Shows, Dog Sports
Measurements Height at Withers: Males 25-27 in.; Females 23-25 in.
Weight Range: Males 65-80 lbs.; Females 45-50 lbs.
Coat Type: Flat with Feathering
Color: White Ground with Belton Markings
Grooming: Daily Combing, Weekly Brushing, Occasional Bathing, Periodic Nail Trimming, Regular Tooth Brushing
Temperament Gentle, Affectionate, Friendly
Expectations Lifespan: 12 Years
Energy Level: Moderate
Exercise Requirements: 90 Minutes/Day, Daily Walks, Vigorous Running, Regular Exercise, Playing with Another Dog, Mental Stimulation
Breed Standards AKC English Setter Breed Standard
UKC English Setter Breed Standard
CKC English Setter Breed Standard
ANKC English Setter Breed Standard
RKC English Setter Breed Standard
FCI English Setter Breed Standard
Similar Breeds Brittany, Irish Setter, Irish Red and White Setter, Gordon Setter, Pointer

About the English Setter

The English Setter is a graceful and elegant breed, epitomizing both beauty and utility as a gun dog. They are one of the oldest gundog breeds, with roots that can be traced back to the 14th century in England. Characterized by their unique speckled coat and gentle demeanor, English Setters are as comfortable in the field as they are in the family home, making them a versatile and cherished breed.

General Appearance

Height and Weight

In terms of height, male English Setters typically stand between 25 to 27 inches, while females usually range from 23 to 25 inches in height.

When it comes to weight, males weigh approximately 65 to 80 pounds, and females tend to weigh between 45 to 55 pounds.

Proportion and Substance

The English Setter showcases a medium to large frame with a harmonious balance of strength and elegance. The body of this breed is slightly longer than it is tall, ensuring agility and endurance in the field. The build suggests the capacity for great strength and stamina with style and grace, reflecting the breed’s origins as a hunting companion, able to work tirelessly across varying terrain.

Coat Texture, Colors, and Markings

Texture: English Setters boast a medium-length coat that lies flat against their body, with the potential for a slight wave. The coat is silky to touch, especially noticeable on the ears, chest, legs, and belly.


  • Orange Belton
  • Blue Belton
  • Blue Belton & Tan (Tricolor)
  • Lemon Belton
  • Liver Belton

Markings: The English Setter’s coat presents belton markings ranging from distinct flecking to roan shading. There are no specific required markings recognized for the breed.

Note: The feathered coat of the English Setter lies flat without being wooly or curly. The color is white with darker hairs intermingled throughout known as “belton” markings. Consistent flecking of the darker-colored hairs is preferred and heavy patches of color are undesirable. Tricolor dogs have solid tan on the muzzle, above the eyes, and on the legs.


Skull: The top of the English Setter’s skull is oval or slightly rounded, with a distinct, but not exaggerated, occipital protuberance.

Expression: Characteristic of the breed, the expression of this setter is soft and kind, often giving the dog an appearance of alert contemplation.

Eyes: Medium in size, the eyes are somewhat oval and set well apart. Colors range from dark brown in the darker-coated dogs to hazel in the lighter variations. The overall expression should be gentle and friendly.

Ears: Set well back and low, the ears are even with or below the level of the eye. They should be moderately sized, of medium length, and have a velvety texture.

Muzzle: The muzzle is moderately long with a fairly square end. The depth of the muzzle should be half the length of the head, ensuring a strong jaw. The muzzle is well-chiseled under the eyes

Nose: The nose color complements the color of the coat. So, a dark-colored English Setter would have a black or dark-colored nose, while lighter variations might have a lighter nose color.

Bite: The English Setter possesses an even or a scissors bite, where the upper incisors fit closely over the lower incisors.


The tail of the English Setter is an extension of the spine, lending balance to the dog’s overall appearance. It serves as an indicator of mood and intention, especially when the dog is at work in the field.

Positioned nearly level with the croup, the tail extends to a length where it reaches the hock. It’s carried straight or slightly curved, but should never be raised too high. The feathering on the tail is long, forming a fringe that diminishes in length towards the tip.

The breed’s tail is not docked, allowing it to wave easily when the dog is in motion. It showcases the breed’s grace and fluidity, whether at a trot in the show ring or in pursuit of game in an open field.

Owning an English Setter – What to Consider?

Owning an English Setter is a commitment to a companion that is both gentle and active. As a breed deeply rooted in hunting traditions, the breed requires consistent engagement, both mentally and physically. Whether a show dog, hunting companion, or simply a family pet, there are several things to consider to ensure this dog will live a fulfilling and happy life.

English Setter Health

The English Setter is generally a healthy breed, but like all breeds, these dogs can be subject to certain health conditions. Recognizing early signs and preventative care play a crucial role in ensuring the longevity and well-being of the dog.

English Setters typically have a life expectancy of 12 years. Regular check-ups with a veterinarian and a balanced diet can promote a healthier and potentially longer life.

Potential Health Risks

The English Setter, like all breeds and mixed breeds, may be prone to certain health issues. Prospective owners should be aware of the following conditions that have been identified in some English Setters:

Hip Dysplasia: This is a condition where the hip joint doesn’t develop properly, leading to arthritis and pain. It’s essential to have regular check-ups and be cautious of over-exerting the dog at a young age.

Elbow Dysplasia: Similar to hip dysplasia, this condition affects the elbow joint, causing pain and limiting movement.

Deafness: English Setters can be born deaf or develop progressive hearing loss. Puppies should be tested for deafness, especially if their coats are predominantly white.

Hypothyroidism: This is a disorder of the thyroid gland that can lead to various symptoms, including lethargy, weight gain, and skin issues.

Allergies: Some English Setters can develop allergies that can manifest as itchy skin. Regular check-ups can help to identify and manage allergic reactions.

Osteochondrosis Dissecans (OCD): This is a painful joint condition that can develop in rapidly growing puppies. It’s essential to monitor the diet and exercise of young dogs to ensure they don’t grow too quickly.

In addition to being aware of these potential health risks, it’s crucial to establish a regular veterinary check-up routine to detect and address any health issues early. Routine exams, especially as the dog ages, can help with early detection and management of common health problems, allowing the English Setter to lead a healthy and happy life.

English Setter Personality

The English Setter is often described as a “gentleman by nature,” with its temperament being one of its most endearing qualities. Gentle, calm, and friendly, English Setters are known for their affectionate nature, making them excellent companions for families.

For novice dog owners, the English Setter is a welcoming choice. The breed’s even-tempered and gentle nature often fits well with those who may be new to dog ownership. These dogs have a moderate sensitivity level, responding best to positive reinforcement. Harsh training methods are not suitable for these gentle souls; instead, a kind word and a gentle touch yield the best results.

While sociable and affectionate, English Setters prefer to be in the company of their human family or other pets rather than being left alone for extended periods. Isolation can sometimes lead to unwanted behaviors or signs of anxiety.

When it comes to interactions with other dogs, English Setters typically exhibit a friendly demeanor. Aggressive behavior is uncommon, and many setters relish playtime with their canine counterparts. This same gentle nature extends to children, making these dogs patient and loving family pets. As always, it’s important to ensure that interactions between dogs and young children are supervised to guarantee safety for both parties.

Lastly, strangers will often find a warm reception from an English Setter. They may initially bark to signal an approaching person, but after a brief introduction, they tend to be amicable and sociable. The overarching personality of the English Setter is one of mildness, kindness, and a genuine love for companionship.

English Setter Feeding and Nutrition

Feeding an English Setter requires understanding the dog’s specific nutritional needs at each stage of life. Puppies have different dietary needs compared to adult dogs, and those needs change as they mature.

When feeding an English Setter puppy, it’s essential to provide the pup with high-quality puppy food that’s rich in essential nutrients to support rapid growth. Puppy food formulas typically have the right balance of proteins, fats, vitamins, and minerals that a growing puppy needs. For the first few months, puppies will generally require multiple smaller meals throughout the day to sustain their energy levels.

As English Setters transition to adulthood, their dietary needs change. An adult English Setter typically requires a well-balanced diet that includes protein, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, and minerals. The exact amount of food a mature English Setter needs can vary based on the dog’s age, activity level, metabolism, and overall health. On average, many adult English Setters do well on about 2 to 2.5 cups of high-quality dog food divided into two meals a day.

However, always be guided by the recommendations provided by the dog food manufacturer and, more importantly, consult with a veterinarian or canine nutritionist to determine the ideal amount and type of food for the individual dog.

Feeding charts can be a helpful tool to gauge the amount of food required, but it’s essential to monitor the dog’s weight and make adjustments as necessary. Overfeeding or underfeeding can lead to health issues, so being vigilant about portion sizes and feeding routines is crucial.

It’s also worth noting that English Setters can sometimes be prone to obesity, especially if they aren’t getting enough exercise. Treats should be given in moderation and factored into the dog’s daily caloric intake to be sure the dog is maintaining a healthy weight.

English Setter Training

The English Setter is known for its amiable disposition, but like all breeds, it benefits from consistent training to become well-mannered and responsive. Training an English Setter can be a rewarding experience due to the breed’s willingness to please and its affectionate nature.

The breed’s intelligence is evident in the English Setter’s ability to grasp new commands, but these dogs also have an independent streak, which might sometimes be mistaken for stubbornness. Positive reinforcement methods, such as treats, praise, and play, tend to yield the best results. Harsh corrections or training techniques can be counterproductive, as they might cause the dog to become hesitant or even fearful.

Barking is a trait that some English Setters might exhibit, especially if they are alerting their owners to something unusual in their environment. While it’s natural for these dogs to bark occasionally, it’s beneficial to train them to stop on command or to reduce excessive barking.

Another aspect to consider is the breed’s inherent bird-hunting instincts. The English Setter has a natural “birdiness” and might be inclined to chase after birds or even other small animals. Training these setters to have a reliable recall, and working on impulse control, can be particularly important, especially in open areas.

The potential for wanderlust is another factor to consider. While these dogs are typically devoted to their families, the allure of chasing a scent or exploring a new area can be tempting. It’s crucial to ensure they’re in a secure area or on a leash during walks to prevent them from wandering off.

Predatory instincts are generally low in English Setters compared to some other breeds, but it’s always wise to monitor interactions with small pets and unfamiliar animals.

English Setter Exercise

English Setters, with their sporting dog lineage, naturally possess a high degree of energy and stamina. Catering to their exercise needs is essential for their physical and mental well-being. The breed’s energy level often surprises many, given the dog’s gentle and laid-back demeanor indoors.

These dogs thrive when they receive regular and ample opportunities to stretch their legs and run. This exercise not only taps into their athletic prowess, it also helps to manage their weight and overall health. A long, brisk walk, or even better, a run in a secured open area can be beneficial for them.

The intensity of their play and exercise sessions can vary depending on individual dogs and their age. Younger English Setters are notably more energetic and require more vigorous activities, while older ones might prefer moderate exercise.

Playfulness is another hallmark of the breed. Engaging this breed in interactive games, like fetch or tug-of-war, can be both fun and rewarding. It not only provides physical stimulation but also reinforces the bond between the dog and the family members.

However, it’s essential to remember that while physical exercise is crucial, mental stimulation is equally important for the English Setter. Activities that challenge the dog’s mind, like puzzle toys or obedience training sessions, can be very satisfying for this strong and gentle breed.

English Setter Grooming

The English Setter, known for its beautiful, flowing coat, requires regular grooming to keep it looking its best and to maintain its health. This breed’s coat is not only aesthetically appealing but also functional, having originally been meant to protect the dog from brambles and underbrush during hunting sessions.

Grooming an English Setter is relatively straightforward, but consistent care is key. The breed’s coat can range from flat to slightly wavy and is of medium length. Regular combing and brushing, at least a few times a week, will help to prevent tangles and matting while also distributing the natural oils of the skin. This routine not only ensures that the coat remains silky and lustrous, it also offers a chance to check for any skin issues, ticks, or other potential problems.

While English Setters are not considered heavy shedders compared to some breeds, they do shed year-round, with some increased shedding typically seen in the spring and fall. Regular brushing aids in managing and reducing the amount of loose hair around the house.

Beyond brushing, regular ear cleaning is essential for the English Setter. The breed’s floppy ears can be prone to infections if not kept clean and dry. Checking the ears weekly and cleaning as needed can help to prevent potential issues from becoming chronic problems.

Additionally, like all breeds, the English Setter benefits from regular nail trims to prevent overgrowth, which can lead to discomfort or even injury. Dental care, including brushing the teeth or providing dental chews, helps to maintain good oral health and fresh breath.

Living with an English Setter

Life with an English Setter can be a delightful experience, but understanding the breed’s unique needs and preferences will ensure both the dog and its human companion enjoy a harmonious life together.

For those residing in apartments, it’s worth noting that while English Setters can adapt to apartment living, they do require ample daily exercise to expend their inherent energy. A lack of activity can result in restlessness or unwanted behaviors. However, with sufficient exercise and mental stimulation, they can be quite content in smaller spaces.

Given the breed’s origin as a bird dog in the somewhat chilly British Isles, English Setters generally fare well in cooler weather. Their medium-length coat offers protection against the cold, but it’s essential to monitor them during extreme conditions to ensure they’re not exposed for extended periods. Regular grooming also helps to maintain the insulating properties of their coat.

On the other hand, in hot weather, care should be taken. Like many dogs, English Setters can be susceptible to heat exhaustion or heat stroke. It’s crucial to provide them with plenty of shade and fresh water, and to avoid intense physical activities during the peak heat hours of the day.

In essence, living with an English Setter means understanding the breed’s sporting dog lineage while also catering to the affectionate and sociable nature of these dogs. Providing them with a balanced mix of exercise, mental stimulation, and loving companionship all but guarantees that life with this breed will be both rewarding and fun-filled.

English Setter Puppies

The arrival of English Setter puppies brings a bundle of joy and energy into the household. These puppies, with their soft coats and expressive eyes, quickly endear themselves to their families. However, it’s crucial to remember that this phase of their life is foundational. The experiences, training, and care they receive during this period will greatly influence their temperament and behavior as adults.

Caring for English Setter Puppies

Raising an English Setter puppy requires a combination of proper nutrition, early socialization, consistent training, and regular health check-ups.

Nutrition plays a pivotal role in the healthy development of the puppy. A diet rich in essential nutrients supports the pup’s rapid growth and ensures it matures into a strong and healthy adult. It’s advisable to consult with a veterinarian to determine the best food and feeding schedule tailored to the specific needs of the puppy.

Socialization is another key aspect of raising a well-adjusted English Setter. Introducing the puppy to a variety of experiences, environments, people, and other animals during their early months helps them grow into confident and sociable adults. Positive experiences during this critical period can prevent the development of unnecessary fears or aggressive behaviors later in life.

Consistent training from a young age is vital. English Setter puppies, like all young dogs, can be playful and a bit mischievous. Establishing boundaries, teaching basic commands, and reinforcing positive behaviors will set the stage for a well-behaved adult dog. Using reward-based training methods is often the most effective approach with this breed.

Lastly, regular vet check-ups and vaccinations are essential to monitor the puppy’s health and protect them from various infectious diseases. Following a recommended vaccination and deworming schedule will ensure the puppy stays healthy and gets a great start in life.

English Setter Activities & Dog Sports

Originating as bird dogs, English Setters possess a natural athleticism and a keen sense for various activities and dog sports. Engaging them in these activities not only taps into their inherent skills, it also provides an excellent outlet for their energy and an opportunity for bonding with their owners.

Field Trials: Given the breed’s history as a gun dog, field trials are a natural fit for English Setters. These events test their abilities to locate and “set” game birds, mirroring the tasks they were originally bred to do.

Obedience: English Setters can demonstrate their trainability and responsiveness in Obedience Trials, where they perform a series of commands and routines in concert with their handlers.

Agility: While they might not be the first breed that comes to mind for Agility Trials, English Setters can indeed navigate obstacle courses with enthusiasm and agility, competing against the clock and showcasing their versatility.

Rally: This sport combines obedience with agility elements, offering a less structured environment where English Setters can showcase their skills and their bond with their handlers.

Scent Work: Tapping into the breed’s keen sense of smell, an English Setter can be trained for scent work, where it locates specific scents in a variety of environments.

Therapy Work: With their gentle and affectionate nature, many English Setters also excel as therapy dogs, offering comfort and companionship to people in hospitals, schools, and nursing homes.

Conformation Shows: These events provide an opportunity for English Setters to display their adherence to the Breed Standard. At these shows, judges evaluate the dog’s appearance, temperament, and overall conformity to the breed’s ideal characteristics, highlighting those that best represent the English Setter’s form and its legacy.

The breed’s combination of athleticism, intelligence, and temperament makes the English Setter well-suited for a variety of activities and dog sports. Whether these dogs are competing at a high level or simply enjoying these activities recreationally with their owners, they are likely to thrive when their natural talents are recognized and nurtured.

History of the English Setter

The English Setter has a rich heritage that traces back over several centuries, weaving a tale of refinement, hunting prowess, and unwavering companionship.

Originating in England, the breed’s name gives a nod to its primary function and behavior while working in the field. When the dogs detected game birds, they would “set” or crouch low, indicating the bird’s position to the hunter. This behavior distinguished them from other bird dogs and gave rise to the setter’s distinctive name.

The breed’s development is credited to a mix of spaniel and pointer bloodlines, which were meticulously bred to produce the ideal bird dog. By the 19th century, dedicated breeders like Sir Edward Laverack and R. Purcell Llewellin made significant contributions to refining the breed, leading to the English Setter’s elegant appearance and proficient hunting abilities that are recognized today.

While the primary purpose of the English Setter was to assist with hunting birds, the breed’s gentle demeanor, striking looks, and loyal nature quickly endeared these dogs to households as beloved companions. Their reputation transcended beyond hunting circles, leading them to become one of the first breeds recognized by purebred dog registries and dog show organizations.

Although initially bred as hunting companions, the breed’s gentle disposition, eye-catching aesthetics, and unwavering loyalty made them favorites in households as treasured pets. Their charm wasn’t limited to hunting aficionados, and they soon gained acclaim in dog show arenas.

The English Setter earned official recognition by the mid-19th century. The breed holds a special distinction in the United States as one of nine original “charter breeds” recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC) in 1878. This early acknowledgment cemented the breed’s place among America’s Sporting dogs. Internationally, the Fédération Cynologique Internationale (FCI) has also recognized the breed, and in its homeland, The Royal Kennel Club in the UK has consistently celebrated and supported the enduring legacy of the English Setter.

Today, the breed’s journey from the English countryside to homes across the globe highlights the versatility, charm, and lasting appeal of these stylish gun dogs. Valued both as an efficient hunter and a loyal family member, the English Setter continues to hold a distinguished place in the world of purebred dogs.

English Setter Clubs

Being a breed of such renown, the English Setter enjoys support and celebration from breed-specific clubs around the world. These clubs, dedicated to the preservation, education, and welfare of the English Setter, play a crucial role in bringing together enthusiasts, breeders, and potential owners.

In the United States, the English Setter Association of America (ESAA) stands as a prominent organization dedicated to promoting the breed’s well-being through social and competitive events, and by offering resources to breed aficionados. The ESAA is deeply committed to the health, training, and public awareness of the English Setter.

Canada has its dedicated enthusiasts as well, with organizations such as the English Setter Club of Canada (ESCC) taking the lead in championing the breed. The ESCC fosters a sense of community among English Setter lovers in the provinces, organizing events and providing resources that resonate with the breed’s rich heritage.

In the United Kingdom, the English Setter Association stands as a testament to the breed’s long-standing history and its roots in British culture. Founded in 1951, it is a hub for all things English Setter, from organizing breed-specific events to fostering an informed and passionate community of admirers.

Involvement with these breed clubs provides a wealth of information, camaraderie, and support for anyone keen on immersing themselves in the world of the English Setter.

English Setter Rescue Groups

The charm and elegance of the English Setter have won the hearts of many. Yet, like many dogs, they may occasionally find themselves in need of rescue or rehoming. Rescue groups dedicated to the breed step in during these moments, offering a lifeline to English Setters in need.

In the United States, organizations like Above and Beyond English Setter Rescue have been at the forefront since 2004, tirelessly saving and rescuing dogs that require assistance. The group’s dedication ensures that these dogs, which might have once faced uncertainty, are provided with another chance at a happy, loving life.

In Canada, the English Setter Club of Canada Rescue plays a pivotal role in protecting dogs that come under distress. The organization’s volunteers provide necessary care, support, and temporary homes for English Setters in need, with the aim of placing them in environments where they can thrive.

In the United Kingdom, the English Setter Rescue UK focuses on rehoming and providing care to English Setters in need. Additionally, the English Setter Association itself operates a dedicated rescue group, demonstrating its profound commitment to the well-being and future of the breed in its native land.

English Setter Facts

Natural Bird Dogs: English Setters possess a natural inclination towards bird hunting. This is evident in their “setting” behavior, where they crouch low near hidden game birds to signal their location to hunters.

Early Documentation: The English Setter’s history can be traced back to as early as the 14th century, with some literature and artwork showcasing dogs that resemble the modern breed.

Diverse Lineage: English Setters are believed to have evolved from a mix of spaniels and pointers, which is evident in their keen sense of smell and pointing behavior.

Exercise Enthusiasts: Despite their calm demeanor indoors, English Setters are quite active outdoors. Regular exercise is a must to keep them happy and healthy.

Highly Trainable: With their intelligent and eager-to-please nature, English Setters can be trained effectively for many sports and activities. However, a gentle approach is advised, given their sensitive disposition.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What type of dog is the English Setter?

The English Setter is a member of the Sporting Group, originally bred for hunting game birds. Characterized by its unique “belton” coat pattern, this breed is admired for its beauty as well as for its keen sense and ability to “set” when it locates hidden birds.

Do English Setter dogs shed?

Yes, English Setters shed. Their silky, medium-length coat undergoes regular shedding and requires consistent grooming to keep it in top condition. Brushing and combing several times a week can help to minimize loose hairs and keep the coat healthy.

How big does an English Setter get?

English Setters are medium to large dogs. Males typically stand between 25 and 27 inches tall at the shoulder, while females generally measure from 23 to 25 inches. Weight can vary, but most English Setters fall within the range of 45 to 80 pounds, depending on their gender and overall build.

How fast can an English Setter run?

English Setters are agile and swift, traits honed from their hunting ancestry. While not as fast as some sprinting breeds, these setters can reach speeds up to 35 miles per hour. Their speed, combined with stamina, make them excellent bird dogs in open fields.

How long do English Setter dogs live?

English Setters typically have a lifespan of 12 years. With proper care, regular veterinary check-ups, and a healthy diet, some can live even longer. Like all dogs, their lifespan can be influenced by genetics, overall health, and environmental factors.

Can an English Setter be left home alone all day?

While English Setters are relatively adaptable, they thrive on companionship and activity. Leaving them alone for extended periods can lead to boredom and potentially destructive behaviors. If an owner must be away for long durations, it’s beneficial to provide enrichment activities or arrange for periodic check-ins throughout the day.

Are English Setters high or low maintenance?

English Setters are considered moderate to high maintenance, primarily due to their grooming needs. Their feathered coat requires regular brushing to prevent matting and tangling. Additionally, as active and intelligent dogs, they need consistent exercise and mental stimulation to stay content.

Do English Setters bark a lot?

English Setters can be vocal, especially if they’re bored, anxious, or trying to alert their owners to something in their immediate environment. While they don’t typically bark excessively without reason, it’s essential to address any underlying causes of excessive barking, such as a lack of exercise or mental stimulation.

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