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Your Pet, Our Passion.

English Setter

The English Setter is a large yet elegant breed, symmetrical and substantial in build. Epitomising grace, strength and stamina, their coats are long, flat, silky and well feathered.

  • Dog suitable for non-experienced owners
  • Some training required
  • Enjoys vigorous walks
  • Enjoys walking more than two hours a day
  • Large dog
  • Some drool
  • Requires grooming every other day
  • Non hypoallergenic breed
  • Quiet dog
  • Not a guard dog
  • Great with other pets
  • Great family dog

Key Facts

Lifespan: 10 – 12 years
Weight:  27 – 36kg
Height:  61 – 69cm
Colours:  The rather old term ‘belton’ is used to describe their flecked colour patterning,
which can be lemon, orange, liver or blue (black), or tricolour
(a mix of blue belton and liver, or tan belton and tan) over a white background 
Size:  Large
UK Kennel Club Groups: Gundog


Family-friendly: 5/5
Exercise needs: 5/5
Easy to train: 3/5
Tolerates being alone: 1/5
Likes other pets: 5/5
Energy level: 4/5
Grooming needs: 3/5
Shedding: 3/5
Two white English setters looking at owner.


The English Setter is a friendly, amiable natured dog that bonds well with family, though is likely to be a little more reserved with strangers. Less enthusiastic or exuberant than some of the Setter family, they are easy going with other dogs and household pets.  

They are slow to mature and care should be taken to socialise and habituate sensitively, and never overwhelm them or take their tolerant nature for granted.

English Setter lying on the ground.

History and Origins

Country of Origin: England

The English Setter’s roots go back to the 1500s, when references to bird dogs that probably resemble the modern English Setter in some way were recorded. There was however, much competition and rivalry between landowners to develop their own specific Setter, and so the exact history is unclear with many variations!  

It’s likely the Setters are an offshoot of the various land spaniels brought over from Spain, with the possible addition of water spaniel, pointer and springer spaniel types. 

It’s generally agreed that Sir Edward Lavarack was the most instrumental in establishing the English Setter as a distinct and recognised breed. 

The English Setters original function was ‘setting’, crouching to indicate where birds were hidden, then either remaining in position whilst nets were thrown, or being asked to move on and push birds into the air to meet the hunter’s hawks (later guns, as falconry fell out of favour).

Health and Common Issues

As with many breeds, the English Setter can suffer from various hereditary eye disorders, and hip dysplasia (a condition that can lead to mobility problems). Eye testing and hip scoring of dogs prior to breeding is therefore important. Deafness may also occur as an inherited disorder and can be tested for from a young age.  

The breed club monitor the health of the breed carefully and should be contacted for the most up-to-date information and details of any DNA or additional testing they recommend. Breed Clubs can be found on the Kennel Club website. 

Exercise Needs

Expect plenty of walking with this breed, several hours per day through a variety of country locations – pavement walks are unlikely to keep an English Setter amused for long, and secure space for free running is important.

Space Requirements

The English Setter, while not the largest of the setters, is still a large dog, with a long coat that picks up a surprising quantity of mud, muck and leaf litter. A large garden, and moderate to large home are recommended, ideally with space for a wet muddy setter to dry off after walks. 

Better suited to countryside or leafy suburbs, this is not a dog that thrives in the town or city.

Nutrition and Feeding

Large breed dogs, as well as having large appetites, benefit from a different balance of nutrients including minerals and vitamins compared to smaller-breed dogs. The English Setter is prone to bloating and stomach problems; smaller, more frequent meals can help minimise this risk.

Grooming English Setter

English Setters do need a reasonable amount of grooming and trimming to keep them looking at their best. Regular trimming of the hair between their pads and under their ears is a must as air must be allowed into their ears to prevent infections. The feathering will need attention now and again. If showing this breed, considerably more attention will be required.

Training English Setter

Patience is the key with any Setter and the English Setter is no exception. The breed is predisposed to be distracted by birds both on the ground and in the air, and plenty of work must be put into building a bond, and on recall. This is not a dog who enjoys repetitive training for its own sake, but owners should try to slip training into every day activities instead, and exercise careful management until training is of a high enough standard that they will come back when called – most of the time!

Best Family Dog Breeds

The more reserved, sensitive nature of the English Setter means this is a dog better suited to families with older children, who enjoy long walks no matter what the weather. When young, the English Setter (particularly males) can be quite boisterous in play and unaware of their size, making them a risk to very small children and sometimes clumsy around very small dogs. 

Although patient and tolerant to a degree, the English Setter would prefer a quieter, more mature home. 

While many dogs are traditionally thought of as being good with children, all dogs and children need to be taught to get on with and respect each other, and be safe together. Even so, dogs and young children should never be left alone together and adults should supervise all interactions between them. 

did you know?

Did You Know?

  • Even amongst litters of show bred puppies, their freezing crouching behaviour can be seen almost as soon as puppies can walk!
  • ‘Belton’ is a very old term for the flecked colour pattern the English Setters coat displays. It’s also seen on Welsh Cobs and Clydesdale horses. 
  • President Franklin D. Roosevelt owned around seven dogs while he was in the White House, one was an English Setter called Winks. 
  • The English Setter was once used as a status symbol and it was illegal for commoners to own one in the early 17th century, the nobles believed this was the best way to prevent the breed from becoming weak stock. 
  • English Setter’s are quite an old breed and can be traced back at least 400 years.

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