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English Setter

Nicole Cosgrove

June 21, 2021


The English Setter is a large purebred from the UK once used as a hunting and favored by nobility and the wealthy because of its ability and refined good looks. There are two types, the field type also called Llewellins are smaller, quicker, have less hair and strong hunting instincts. The show type version, also called Laveracks, are larger, more feathered and tend to be a bit more laid back. Whichever type you get though the English Setter is said to be the more mild mannered setter out of the Irish, the Gordon and the English. The Setter part of its name refers to its job when used as a hunting dog, it would crouch low when it found birds so the hunter could throw over a net, when guns were used it acted more as a pointer. Because of their athleticism they do well in events like rally obedience and agility, and they also are great as therapy dogs and as companions.

The English Setter Dog at A Glance
Name English Setter
Other names Lawerack, Laverack and Llewellin (or Llewellyn) Setter
Nicknames None
Origin United Kingdom
Average size Large
Average weight 50 to 80 pounds
Average height 24 to 27 inches
Life span 10 to 14 years
Coat type Short,
Hypoallergenic No
Color White, yellow, orange, tan blue, black
Popularity Not very popular – ranked 96th by the AKC
Intelligence Very good – training will be quick
Tolerance to heat Good – can deal with warm weather but nothing too hot and not extreme
Tolerance to cold Very good – can handle very cold climates but extreme cold
Shedding Average – there will be some hair around the home
Drooling Low to moderate – not a breed prone to slobber or drool but some have a light drool on occasion
Obesity Very high – prone to over eating and weight gain, measure its food and make sure it gets enough exercise
Grooming/brushing Average grooming needs – regular brushing needed
Barking Frequent – barks a lot so training will be needed to control it
Exercise needs Very active – important it gets enough exercise each day
Trainability Moderate – some experience would help
Friendliness Excellent – very social and friendly with socialization
Good first dog Good – but best with experienced owners
Good family pet Excellent with socialization
Good with children Excellent with socialization
Good with other dogs Excellent with socialization
Good with other pets Good to very good with socialization – does have a high prey drive
Good with strangers Excellent and approachable with socialization
Good apartment dog Low – needs a yard and is too large
Handles alone time well Low – can suffer from separation anxiety
Health issues Average – has some issues such as hip and elbow dysplasia, hypothyroidism and deafness
Medical expenses $485 a year for basic health care and pet insurance
Food expenses $270 a year for dog treats and a good quality dry dog food
Miscellaneous expenses $595 a year for basic training, grooming, license, miscellaneous items and toys
Average annual expenses $1350 as a starting figure
Cost to purchase $450
Rescue organizations Several including Another Chance for English Setters, English Setter Rescue Association and All Setter Rescue
Biting Statistics Attacks doing bodily harm: 1 Maimings: 1 Child victims: 0 Deaths: 0

The English Setter’s Beginnings

The English Setter was once known as a Setting Dogge, named for what it was bred to do, point or set to game birds for hunters to find. There is evidence of Setter ancestors being around in the 1400 to 1500s. There is some evidence that some came from France. They were developed using the Spanish Pointer, large Water Spaniel and the English Springer Spaniel. Breeders wanted a dog that was excellent at finding and pointing to game and were great bird dogs.

By the 1600s setters were popular across Britain’s estates though they were not at that time yet specific breeds. There was still a lot of interbreeding occurring meaning that there was a lot of different looks and colors. Eventually breeders realized controlled the breeding would better get a dog more suited to the different terrains they needed it to work on.

In the 1800s the English Setter as we know it today began to emerge. Involved in its refinement was Edward Laverack who bred his own strain of Setter and another strain belonging to R Llewellin. For a while there were lines of setters referred to as either Llewellin Setters and Laverack Setters that were in high demand. Lavarack developed English Setters that did very well in dog shows but did not perform as well in field trials. Llewellin took those dogs and developed setters that did better at field trials.

In the late 1800s the English Setter came to the US. The American Kennel Club was formed in 1878 and the English Setter was one of 9 dogs the newly established club accepted. The English Setter is in fact the first dog registered, a Setter called Adonis holds the number one place.

New Lease on Life

After the second world war English Setters were very popular in the UK especially, from the sixties to the eighties. But by the 2000s it was listed on the vulnerable native breed list with just a little over 200 puppies being registered. In Italy it is far more successful as it is used still as a working gun dog, however it saw a big decline even there going from 20,999 registered puppies in 2002 to 14,510 in 2011. In the US it has grown recently in popularity moving from 101 in 2010 to 87 in 2001 but down again to 96th today.

The Dog You See Today

The English Setter is a large dog weighing 50 to 80 pounds and stands 24 to 27 inches tall. It has a flat, medium to long coat that is silky and has long feathering in places like the chest, back of its legs, the neck, ears belly and tail. Common colors are blue, black, orange, tan white and yellow. It has a long strong neck, deep chest, powerful hindquarters, a long tail and is a lean and long dog. In some places the dewclaws are removed. It has a slightly domed head, a deep muzzle and eyes that are dark, large and round. The nose is black or brown and the nostrils are wide. It has ears that hang down and are set low and back covered in long silky hair.

There is a some difference between how the show and field setters appear. Show types tend to have longer more flowing and attractive coats and that requires more grooming. Field types have shorter coats that need less care. Field setters are smaller usually and have more distinctive spotting on their coats. Both differences are practical, less feathering means less burs getting caught in the coat and more spotting means it is easier to see. While show dogs are still capable of being a hunting dog still, the field dogs bred for it are faster and have a better nose.

The Inner English Setter


The English Setter is a very good watchdog, it is alert and will bark to let you know if there is someone trying to get into your home. It is not an especially protective dog though so may not act to defend you. It could be good for new owners but is best with those with experience. It is an affectionate and intelligent dog, lively and social but also gentle and sensitive. It is a frequent barker though so you will need to train that to control it.

Some English Setters are more strong willed than others, those who are from working likes tend to be more so. They have a mischievous side to them, are very friendly and love to hang out with people and be involved with anything going on. It needs lots of physical and mental stimulation along with plenty of attention so it needs owners who are active, strong leaders and around rather than out all the time. Structure is important for this breed and it should not be left out alone in the yard all day. It can suffer from separation anxiety and if under stimulated or ignored it can become destructive and vocal.

Living with an English Setter

What will training look like?

English Setters are moderately easy to train for people with experience who are able to be firm and consistent and get around its stubborn side. Results will be gradual but they will happen. Be careful though, if you push it too hard or use harsh methods it can refuse, even bracing their legs so you cannot even move it. Be persistent and use positive techniques and keep in mind that this breed has a long memory which is great for when it needs to remember something it has learned in training, but not so great if its allowed to learn bad habits. Sessions should short and interesting and use praise to encourage it and motivate it.

It is also slower than some breeds to house train so patient will be needed there too. Set a schedule that has regular breaks for it and stick to them. Socialization is another important aspect of its upbringing and should be started as soon as you have the dog home with you. Introduce it to different people, places, sounds, animals and situations. Let it get used to them and teach it the appropriate responses to them.

How active is the English Setter?

English Setters are very active dogs, and field types are more so in general than show types. It has a lot of endurance, can put on bursts of speed, and needs at least a couple of hours a day to stay happy and healthy. It needs owners who are completely committed to ensuring the dog gets the exercise and mental stimulation it needs and who enjoy being active themselves. While it does tend to be lazy and calm when indoors it is still not best suited to apartment living, it should have access to a yard or some land. If it does not get enough exercise it will become restless, hyperactive, destructive and vocal. If you have a field type some will not be content with just some long walks and will need a mixture of more vigorous games suited to.

Caring for the English Setter

Grooming needs

There will be a moderate to high amount of grooming and maintenance to do with an English Setter depending on whether you need to keep it to high show standards or not. The long feathering tangles easily, and collects burs and debris so regular daily brushing is needed, or at least 3 to 4 times a week. It sheds an average amount and there will be seasonal shedding times where that is even more so frequent vacuuming will also be needed. If you do not want dog hair around the home this is not the breed for you. Only bathe when it it is really needed, in between there is the option to do a dry shampoo now and then. Bathing too often, even using a proper dog shampoo can damage the natural oils in its skin. The feet will need regular trimming and it will need professional trimming at least every 3 months too.

Having floppy ears makes it more prone to ear infections so to help prevent those check its ears once a week for signs like bad odor, redness or discharge. Wipe them clean using a dog ear cleanser or damp cloth but no inserting anything into them. Teeth should be looked after too, brush at least 3 to 4 times a week if not daily. Its nails will need to be trimmed if it is not naturally wearing them down with activity, this can be done by you with knowledge and the right tool, or you can have the professional groomer do it for you. Dog nails are not like human’s, theirs have nerves and blood vessels in the lower part of them so care has to be taken not to cut through those, it hurts the dig and causes bleeding.

Feeding Time

An English Setter will need about 2 to 3 cups of a good quality dry dog food, split into at least two meals a day. How much exactly can vary from one Setter to another depending on its level of activity, metabolism rate, age, health and build. Take care to measure its food as this breed is prone to obesity.

How is the English Setter with children and other animals?

Most English Setters get on very well with children, especially with early socialization and when raised with them. They play well together, help each other burn off some energy and can be quite mischievous together at times too! It is gentle with them and affectionate and most are very tolerant even of younger children who are not yet old enough to be more careful with where they pull and prod. Make sure though you still teach your child how to be kind when playing and stroking dogs and supervision is always a good idea when they are young and pulling hard on tails and ears, just for your poor dog’s sake! Some breeders will sell dogs to home with young children but some prefer to sell to homes where the children are older than 6 and are less rough.

This breed does very well with other dogs and enjoys making friends and playing with them, especially with socialization. It can get along with other pets especially with socialization and when raised with them, but having that bird hunting background, it is probably best not in a home with pet birds. If that is not possible keep them separate!

What Might Go Wrong?

Health Concerns

The life span of this breed is 10 to 14 years and it is a fairly healthy breed but there are health issues that can occur such as deafness, autoimmune thyroiditis, hypothyroidism, hip and elbow dysplasia, allergies, food sensitivities, cancer, weight gain, von Willebrand’s, ear infections and eye problems.

Biting Statistics

When looking at reports from the US and Canada concerning dogs attacking people and causing bodily harm over the last 35 years, the English Setter comes up once. Its victim was an adult not a child, and while it did not result in a death, it did maim, so the victim was left with permanent scarring, dismemberment or disfigurement. While it is true there are some dogs who are more aggressive than others, it is also true that all dogs can have a bad day, or be poorly raised and snap. Owners need to be responsible and make sure their dogs are properly exercised, stimulated, loved, socialized and trained. This can help lessen the chances your dog has that bad day. As it is English Setters definitely rank in the bottom 30% of dogs likely to attack people.

Your Pup’s Price Tag

On average an English Setter puppy is going to cost about $450 for a pet quality dog from a decent breeder. For show quality dogs or for field trial dogs you are going to pay a lot more, up to several thousands of dollars from a top breeder. From a rescue or shelter you can adopt a dog, give it a chance at a new home and only pay $50 to $300 which will include the medical needs already taken care of for you. Make sure you research the breeders you are considering, avoid puppy mills, backyard breeders, pet stores and places where they mistreat the animals or have no real skill or knowledge.

When you have found your dog you will need to take it to a vet for some tests and procedures. It needs to be dewormed, have some blood tests, be vaccinated, micro chipped, neutered or spayed and have a physical examination. These will cost you about $300. You should also have some things for it at home like a crate, collar and leash, bowls and such. These will cost another $180 or so.

Then there are yearly costs as well for things like medical care, food, training and such. Dog treats and a good quality dry dog food will cost about $270 a year. Miscellaneous costs like various items, grooming, basic training, toys and license will come to around $595 a year. Medical basics like flea and tick prevention, check ups and shots along with pet insurance is going to be about $485 a year. The annual estimated starting figure for taking care of an English Setter is $1350.


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The English Setter is an elegant and gentle dog, it gets along well with everyone and is very affectionate and loyal. It does need a lot of care in terms of grooming though and it also needs a lot of exercise, this is not a dog for people who like to relax and chill! It does bark a lot so training will be important to control that. If you are not going to be home often, and you have neighbors who will not appreciate a barking and lonely dog, this is not the breed for you.

Nicole Cosgrove

Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts' knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.

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