The English Setter is a gentle, elegant dog known for his beauty and grace. With a rich history dating back to the 19th century, this breed originated in England and was developed primarily for bird hunting and retrieving. This breed's practice of crouching low, or “setting,” when they hunt game gives the dogs their name, according to the English Setter Association of America (ESAA).
The English Setter has a stunning long and silky feathered coat, giving the breed a majestic appearance. Their coat comes in various color combinations, including white with speckles of black, blue, lemon, or orange. English Setter dogs stand 23–27 inches tall and can weigh anywhere between 45–80 pounds.
Caring for an English Setter
Thanks to their hunting background, English Setters are an active breed. While quiet indoors, they enjoy (and need!) regular exercise, outdoor activities, and interactive games to help keep them physically and mentally stimulated.
But these dogs are just as good family pets as they are exercise and hunting partners. The English Setter temperament is friendly, gentle, and affectionate—but every dog is an individual. As people-orientated dogs, English Setters form strong bonds with their family and thrive on human companionship. They are also good with children and, when properly socialized and introduced, get along well with other pets.
Along with keeping your dog well exercised, the biggest commitment when bringing home an English Setter puppy is grooming their long coat. Brushing this dog at least two to three times a week is necessary to prevent knots and tangles.
English Setter Health Issues
English Setters are generally a healthy breed with an average lifespan of 12 years. But, like all dogs, they are predisposed to a few genetic health conditions. Pet parents may want to consider pet insurance for their dog when bringing their Setter home.
Congenital (meaning present at birth) deafness in dogs is most common in dogs with white coloring. And because English Setter puppies have a mostly white coat, deafness is a hereditary condition that can affect the breed.
Deafness can affect one or both ears, and a veterinarian can check your English Setter puppy’s hearing. But deaf dogs can live happy, relatively normal lives with a little special training.
Like many breeds with floppy ears, English Setters are prone to ear infections because moisture and debris can become trapped in the ear canal. Signs of an infection may include:
Excessive scratching at the ears
Elbow and Hip Dysplasia
Hip dysplasia and elbow dysplasia are both genetic conditions that can affect English Setters. This is when the joints in the hip or elbow don’t develop properly, leading to pain, reduced mobility, and eventually arthritis.
You can help minimize stress on your English Setter's elbows and hips by providing low-impact exercise (such as walking and swimming instead of running), and helping them maintain a healthy weight. Hip and elbow dysplasia can be managed with anti-inflammatory medications and joint supplements, but surgery might be recommended in severe cases.
English Setters can be affected by a hormonal disorder called hypothyroidism. This is a condition where the thyroid gland produces insufficient hormones—and can lead to weight gain, lethargy, skin issues, and other health problems. Dogs with hypothyroidism often need lifelong medication, but they typically live long and happy lives.
What To Feed an English Setter
Choosing a dog food formulated specifically for the life stage of your English Setter (puppy, adult, or senior) is crucial to meeting their specific nutritional needs and promoting overall health. Choose a dog food that meets the standards set by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO).
How To Feed an English Setter
English Setter puppies should eat three or four meals every day on a regular schedule. Adult dogs can thrive on twice-a-day feeding times, in the morning and at night. Free-feeding is never recommended, as it can contribute to obesity, which can exacerbate many medical problems.
How Much Should You Feed an English Setter?
The amount of food your pup needs varies from dog to dog. Factors that influence portions include your dog’s weight, age, health, and activity level. Your dog food packaging will give you guidance on how much to feed your dog, but your vet is the best resource.
Nutritional Tips for English Setters
Because English Setter dogs are susceptible to joint issues, they may benefit from joint supplements. Always talk to your vet before giving your dog supplements.
Behavior and Training Tips for English Setters
English Setter Personality and Temperament
The English Setter temperament is gentle, friendly, and easygoing, making this highly sociable dog an excellent friend for children and other pets (though, because of their history as bird dogs, a home with feathered pets might not be a good fit).
This breed possesses a mild-mannered, sensitive nature—and loves giving and receiving affection. They don’t like being left alone for long and just want to be by their human’s side.
Alert and watchful over their families and home, a usually quiet English Setter will bark to let you know if someone unfamiliar is approaching—even if it’s just a delivery person.
English Setter Behavior
English Setters are generally friendly and sociable, making them well-adjusted and confident dogs. They are not typically known to be anxious, fearful, or excessive barkers, aside from the occasional bark to alert you to something unfamiliar.
They are naturally inclined to explore their surroundings and can be curious about new sights and smells, so having a fenced-in yard is essential for keeping English Setters safe. Otherwise, they might wander off in search of an interesting scent.
English Setter Training
Train your English Setter with positive reinforcement methods, using praise, treats, and rewards to motivate and encourage desired behaviors. When training any dog, including English Setters, consistency and patience are key.
Early socialization and training are crucial, and a calm and gentle approach will help develop a well-mannered and well-adjusted dog.
Fun Activities for English Setters
English Setter Grooming Guide
English Setters are high-maintenance when it comes to grooming. With their regal and elegant appearance, they boast a beautiful long, silky coat in various color combinations, and they need at-home upkeep to keep their skin and coat healthy.
Regular brushing at least two or three times a week is essential to prevent matting and tangles in your Setter’s long coat. Pay extra attention to the feathered areas, such as the ears, chest, belly, and legs, as these are more prone to debris and tangles.
Monitor your English Setter’s eyes for signs of problems, such as redness, discharge, or cloudiness. Early detection can help prevent these issues from escalating. If any tearing or debris accumulates, use a dog-safe wipe or damp cloth to gently wipe their eyes.
Check and clean your dog’s ears regularly, as the English Setter’s floppy ears can trap moisture and lead to ear infections. Call your vet if you notice redness or odor in your pup’s ears or if they’re shaking their head excessively, which could indicate an infection.
Considerations for Pet Parents
Before bringing home an English Setter, pet parents should note several factors:
This is an active and energetic breed that requires lots of playtime.
The English Setter’s long and silky coat requires frequent grooming to prevent matting and tangles.
Positive-reinforcement training methods work best for this intelligent and sensitive dog.
Socializing English Setter puppies is essential to ensure they grow up to be well-adjusted companions.
Being aware of these aspects will help pet parents provide the love, care, and attention required to ensure the English Setter becomes a cherished and well-loved member of your family.
English Setter FAQs
Is an English Setter a good family dog?
Yes, English Setters are excellent family dogs and tend to form strong bonds. They are known for their friendly, gentle, and affectionate nature, making them great companions for families with children and other pets.
Do English Setters shed a lot?
English Setters are moderate shedders. They do shed throughout the year, but their shedding is lighter than some other breeds.
Are English Setters hyper dogs?
English Setters are an active breed, but they generally have a gentle and friendly temperament. They are not known for being overly excitable or hyper. With regular exercise and mental stimulation, they are well-mannered and well-behaved companions.
What’s the difference between English Setters vs. Irish Setters?
English Setters and Irish Setters are two distinct dog breeds. English Setters have a white coat with colored speckles, while Irish Setters have a solid chestnut or mahogany coat. Irish Setters are typically more extensive and exuberant, while English Setters may be slightly more reserved.
Both breeds are friendly and active, but Irish Setters generally have higher energy levels. Choosing between the two breeds depends on individual preferences and lifestyle considerations.
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