The English Setter is a medium to large dog with a sweet yet alert expression, and a sturdy build. The weight of the English Setter is 35-45 pounds, and the height is around 22-24 inches for females and 24-25 inches for males. The English Setter has a dense, straight, silky coat, and the coloring of the coat can vary, and includes white with colored flecks or markings that may be lemon, blue, liver, or orange, and tri-color.
English Setter Temperament
A lively and spirited dog with grace, energy, enthusiasm, and a sweet nature, the English Setter has plenty to offer to families. This is a devoted and responsive dog that loves to shower his family with affection and devotion. The English Setter loves the companionship of his owners and family, and is a very sociable creature. These dogs have plenty of energy, and will thrive on spending time with their loved ones enjoying some activity and exercise. The English Setter does not like to be neglected and left alone for long periods, and is therefore not suited to those that do not have the time to commit to looking after and paying attention to a pet. This said, the sweet nature of the English Setter means that he is well suited to both experienced and inexperienced owners.
The English Setter loves children and gets along very well with them, although his size and energy levels may prove a problem around very young children. He also tends to get along well with other pets as well as strangers, and has a very sociable disposition. Some English Setters can be willful and stubborn, and this can lead to resistance. They have very good memories and are quick learners, but can also develop bad habits that can be difficult to break. You may find that the English Setter is slow to housebreak.
The English Setter is a medium shedder, which means that he may not be best suited to those with allergies. You will need to brush and comb his coat a few times a week to keep it in good condition and to avoid matting. During heavier shedding periods, you may need to step up the grooming. The hair on the tail and feet may need to be trimmed occasionally, and you should check the ears of the English Setter for hygiene reasons and to reduce the risk of infections.
The tradition of "setting" dogs began with a single type of Spanish Spaniel at some point in the 1300s (according to written records of the time.) The Spanish Spaniel would track birds through the undergrowth, find them, and then lie down in a "pointing" position, allowing the hunter to throw a large net over the area (including the dog itself!) in order to trap flushed birds on their attempt to escape.
However, as useful as a net is for hunting purposes, a rifled gun is more useful still--and the old Spaniel "pointers" were becoming quickly obsolete as gun hunting became more common in the early 19th century. Thanks to the efforts of two gentleman breeders - Laverack and Llewellyn, who lend their names to the two variants of the general English Setter--the modern upright setter was created through selective breeding. The Laverack Setter was created more for attractiveness and genetic purity, making the Laverack variant of the English Setter breed more common in show rings, while the Llewellyn Setter was created more for simple hunting efficiency and power, making the Llewellyn variant of the English Setter more common in the open country, staring down a fat grouse and waiting for his master to arrive with the rifle and the reward.
To understand the problems in training an English Setter, it's necessary to understand the English Setter's genetic instincts. The English Setter was bred to track small animals through the fields, to stalk them silently, to stare them down, and then simply to sit and wait for the master to arrive. In other words, the English Setter's instincts make it into an autonomous partner in the hunt--a dog who can operate independently, performing his job so that the human can perform his job and both can profit. The English Setter's instincts do not make it into a passive recipient of commands.
But unless you're using your English Setter for hunting, you really do need to train your dog--any urban exercising, indoor living, or other social situations demand that you have a well-behaved, non-destructive, and socially-adapted Setter. So "to train or not to train" is not really the question; it's an obligation. What the prospective trainer needs to understand, though, is that training an English Setter can often be an onerous obligation indeed.
Training should begin early and should focus, early on, on adapting the English Setter to both housebreaking rules and to other household animals. The English Setter, who spends most of his or her time outside, does not take easily to housebreaking, and you should expect to spend several months of training in this area alone. Other animals and children should also be introduced to the Setter early on, since the Setter's natural hunting instincts can easily take over with animals he or she meets in later life--although the Setter isn't violent as a rule, even when hunting, you probably don't want your dog sneaking around and mesmerizing your cat on a regular basis.
Physical commands (heel, sit) and the like should be phased in once the basic areas of housebreaking and socialization are brought in. Physical commands should also be introduced slowly--since the Setter's skeleton is still developing during the early years of his or her life, too-strenuous physical activity early on can lead to serious problems with joints or bones in later years.
Above all: trainers should make sure to use positive methods of reward and motivation when training this breed, not negative methods--even including harsh tones of voice. The Setter is an extremely sensitive breed, and harsh tones of voice from a Setter's master will usually cause the dog to regress into instinctual behavior--which, as we've said, is not the most useful behavior in the world for training purposes.
The life expectancy of the English Setter is around 10-12 years, and this is generally a healthy and hardy breed with fewer health problems than many other breeds. Some of the health problems and disorders that have been linked to the English Setter include cancer, thyroid problems, HD, and deafness. Puppies should come with a BAER certificate, and parents of the English Setter puppy should have OFA and CERF certificates.