Menu toggle icon.
Menu toggle icon.

Judging the Gordon Setter

Gordon Setter Dog Breed Judging - Sporting Group


When judging the Gordon Setter remember it is the heaviest of the four Setters, having more bone and body. Gordons are a single person walking a hunting dog. They have a unique front movement.

The other three Setters are used more for open field work, the Gordon works the heavier brush and because of this, the front legs lift up and then fold back at the pasterns so the feet do not get caught in the brush.

judging the gordon setter


What You Should Look for When Judging the Gordon Setter

Look for a black and tan dog with plenty of substance and is good-sized. Active, upstanding, and stylish, capable of doing a full day’s work in the field suggesting strength and stamina rather than speed. They are equally at home as companions dogs, obedience, agility, field competitors and show dogs.

The head is fairly heavy and finely chiseled. His bearing is intelligent, noble and dignified, showing no signs of shyness or aggressiveness. Clear colors and either a wavy or straight coat are acceptable. A dog of well balance in all points is preferred to one with outstanding good qualities and defects. A smooth, free movement with high head carriage is typical. Many of the words used in this description are taken from the official AKC standard.


Judging the Gordon Setter – Height, Weight & Proportion

The suggested height is 24 to 27 inches for a male and 23 to 26 inches for a female. This is a wide scale. You can have females and males of the same size in the ring, a 24 inch male with the substance of the Gordon is as good as a 27 inch dog.

You may see dogs over 27 inches and our standard says that as long as the proportions are correct, it is ok. To me, going below our standard is more of a fault than going over. A 22 inch female is getting into the Spaniel size.

Dogs should weigh 55 to 80 pounds and bitches 45 to 70 pounds. Again showing the substance of our breed. We want our breed shown in field condition, hard muscles not overly fat or under weight as this hinders the working ability. Again, the weight to height ratio makes him heavier than the otherSetters.

The proportion of the Gordon should be square when measured from the forechest to the back of the thigh verses withers to the ground. The English and Irish Setters are slightly longer than tall.

judging the gordon setter


Gordon Setter Head: Eyes, Ears, Skull, Muzzle, Nose & Jaw

The head should be deep rather than broad, we do not want an elegant head.

The eyes are dark brown, the darker the better, good sized, oval rather than round and not deep set, nor bulging. The eye rims should be tight and pigmented.

The ears are set low on the head, preferably on the line of the eye, they are fairly thin and large, well folded and carried close to the head.

The skull is widest between the ears, nicely rounded and good sized. There should be a clearly indicated stop.

The muzzle is fairly long, not pointed either as seen from above or to the side. The muzzle should be fifty percent of the length of the head and should be parallel to the line of the skull. The flews should not be pendulous.

The nose should be broad with open nostrils and black in color. Snow nose is very common and should not be penalized.

The lip line from the nose to the flews shows a sharp, well defined square contour. A strong under jaw also helps fill out the muzzle so there isn’t any snippiness. A scissor bite is preferred, but a level bite is not a fault.


Gordon Setter’s Neck, Topline, Chest, Loin & Tail

The neck should be long, arched and lean flowing into the shoulders. The throat should be as dry as possible. The neck must be long enough to pick up the downed game and bring it back to the shooter.

The topline should straight with a moderate slope to it. The body should be short from shoulders to hips.

The chest is deep reaching to the elbows, but not too broad to hinder the front leg movement. The ribs should be well sprung and long to allow room for heart and lungs. There should be a pronounced forechest.

The loin is short, strong and broad with no arch. The croup is nearly flat with a slight slope to the tailset.

The tail is thick at the root finishing in a fine point and should reach to the hock. The placement of the tail is important for correct carriage. The placement is judged in relationship to the structure of the croup. The tail is also a barometer to temperament.

judging the gordon setter


Gordon Setter’s Shoulders, Front Legs & Hind Legs

The shoulders should lay well back. The tops of the shoulders should be close together. When viewed from the behind the neck should flow into the shoulders in smooth line and gradually widen from neck to shoulder. The angle of the shoulder blade and upper arm should be 90 degrees.

The front legs should be straight and well boned, not bowed, with the elbows not turning in or out. The pasterns are short, strong nearly straight with a slight spring. Dewclaws may be removed. Catlike feet with well arched toes with plenty of hair between them and full toe pads. The feet do not turn in or out.

The hind legs are long from hip to hock, flat and muscular. The hock is short and strong when standing they should be perpendicular. The stifle and hock joints should be well bent and not turned in or out. The feet are the same as the front.


Gordon Setter’s Coat

The coat should be long and straight, a wave is permissible, but not curls. The hair will be the longeston the ears, under stomach and on the chest.

The tail feathering is long at the root and tapers to the tip forming a triangular appearance.

judging the gordon setter


Colors & Markings of the Gordon Setter

Considering color when judging, the Gordon is primarily a black dog with tan markings, which can be a rich chestnut or mahogany shade. This color can go from a very light chestnut to a very dark mahogany. Black penciling on the toes is allowed.

The borderline between the colors should be clearly defined. There should not be tan hairs in the black.


Gordon Setter’s tan markings are as follows:
  • Two clear spots above the eyes, not over ¾ of an inch in diameter
  • On the sides of the muzzle, which should not reach the top of the muzzle from one side to the other
  • On the throat
  • Two large clear sports on the chest, (looks like a bow-tie). However on a darker dog these spots may appear to be a darker brown, this is acceptable
  • On the inside of the hind legs showing down the front of the stifle and broadening out to the outside of the hind legs from the hocks to the toes. It should not completely eliminate the black on the back side of the hind legs
  • On the forelegs from the corpus or a little above downward to the toes
  • Around the vent
  • A white spot on the chest is allowed, the smaller the better. This is the only disqualification for the Gordon; Predominantly tan, red or buff dogs


Judging the Gordon Setter Movement: Gait

A bold strong driving free-swinging gait is desired. The head is carried up and the tail is constantlyflagging while the dog is in motion, as mentioned earlier, this is a barometer to temperament as well as his “rudder”. He should be straight coming and going with a powerful reach and drive on the side gait. The overall appearance of the moving dog is one smooth-flowing, well balanced rhythm, in which the action is pleasing to the eye, effortless, economical, harmonious and powerful.

judging the gordon setter


Final Thoughts on the Gordon Setter

The Gordon Setter is alert, gay, interested and confident. He is fearless and willing, intelligent and capable. He is loyal and affectionate, yet is strong minded enough to stand the rigors of training. They are slow maturing, so sometimes this doesn’t show up early in life. The field trainer that we used always left Gordons in the puppy class until they were over two years of age.


In 2002 the Gordon Setter Club of America put the 100 point scale back into our standard.
It is as follows:
  • Head and neck, eyes/ears 10
  • Body 15
  • Shoulders, forelegs/feet 10
  • Hind legs/feet 10
  • Tail 5
  • Coat 8
  • Color/markings 10
  • Temperament 10
  • Size/general appearance 15
  • Gait 12


Some points to remember when judging the Gordon Setter:
  • Inch per pound the Gordon is the biggest Setter.
  • Should have a deep head with a squared-off muzzle.
  • Muzzle perpendicular to back skull.
  • Topline is a smooth line from the back of the skull to the tail set.
  • No sharp angles.
  • Square dog.
  • The dog is to be shown in field weight and muscular.
  • Must be black and tan.
  • Large boned.
  • Smooth and powerful moving.
  • Style plus soundness equals TYPE.
  • It takes the sum of the whole dog or the complete standard to make the ideal Gordon Setter.



Are you looking for a Gordon Setter puppy?

The best way to ensure a long and happy relationship with a purebred dog is to purchase one from a responsible breeder. Not sure where to begin finding a breeder? Contact the National Parent Club’s Breeder Referral person, which you can find on the AKC Breeder Referral Contacts page.


Want to help rescue and re-home a Gordon Setter dog?

Did you know nearly every recognized AKC purebred has a dedicated rescue group? Find your new best friend on the AKC Rescue Network Listing.


Gordon Setter Dog Breed Magazine

Showsight Magazine is the only publication to offer dedicated Digital Breed Magazines for ALL recognized AKC Breeds.

Read and learn more about the bold Gordon Setter dog breed with articles and information in our Gordon Setter Dog Breed Magazine.


Error embedding FlippingBook shortcode, please check the flipbook url. (