The low down on English Setters

The English Setter dog breed was named for its practice of “setting,” or crouching low, when it found birds so the hunter could throw his net over them. After the development of the gun, the dog was developed so he would stand in the more traditional Pointer style. The English Setter is still used as a hunting dog today as well as a family companion.

Known as “the moderate setter,” the graceful English Setter’s love of people and easygoing nature can make him a super friend for an active family as well as a fine hunting dog. He’s not as rollicking as the Irish setter nor as standoffish toward strangers as the Gordon Setter. Gentle, kind, and affectionate, he’s devoted to his family, sociable with strangers, and gets along just fine with kids.

While he isn’t precise enough to achieve the highest scores in obedience competition, he is moderately easy to train. The English Setter is a good watchdog and will bark to alert his people that someone is approaching the house. Once he’s introduced to guests, however, he happily accepts their presence. All these qualities make him a good choice for a first-time dog owner who appreciates this breed’s beauty and sweetness and can provide him with the exercise he needs.

English Setters are quiet indoors, but outside they love to run and play with other dogs and people. A daily run, off-leash play in a fenced area, or an energetic hike through a nearby park or wilderness area will be just this English breed’s cup of tea.

While he’s generally mild mannered and sensitive, the English Setter can be a little willful. Counter that tendency with kind but firm training from early puppyhood, and set boundaries so he knows exactly what you expect.

Avoid harsh training techniques. A spoonful of sugar — in the form of praise or a treat when he does what you like — will work much better than an angry voice. His tendency toward independent decision making — he’s been bred for centuries to work at a distance from the hunter — means you must find interesting ways to hold his attention and teach him what you want him to know.

Because they’re so athletic, English Setters excel at activities such as agility and rally obedience. They can also make super therapy dogs with their easygoing disposition and love of people. Birders may like him, too. When he sees birds, he stands still and leans forward intently, sets, or points, one paw raised in the air.

Of course, hunting comes naturally to most English Setters, and they make an excellent choice for the hobby hunter or for someone who may want to compete in hunt tests or field trials. If you are interested in hunting with your English Setter, look for a breeder who breeds his dogs for their hunting skills and has proven hunting instincts in his lines, which will assure that you have better success.

Like many sporting dogs, the English Setter is divided into two types. Those bred for the field have less feathering — long fringes of hair, usually on the legs, belly, and tail — and their coat is not as abundant. They are somewhat smaller than English Setters bred for the show ring. You may hear them called Llewellin or Llewellin-type English Setters after the British gentleman who most influenced their development. They are said to have more instinct for hunting than the show lines of English Setters, known as Laverack or Laverack-type English Setters. Edward Laverack was the first recorded breeder of English Setters. His dogs Ponto and Old Moll, acquired in 1825, were the foundation of the breed.

If you want a beautiful, mellow dog with the potential to become your partner in all sorts of activities as well as a beloved family member, the English Setter is one to consider. His lovable disposition and lively spirit will inspire your devotion.


Setters as a type of hunting dog were known in England as long as 400 years ago. They were probably a cross of several types of hunting dogs, including pointers and spaniels. The modern English Setter was developed in the 19th century by Englishman Edward Laverack and Welshman R.L. Purcell Llewellin.

Laverack purchased his first two dogs, Ponto and Old Moll, from Rev. A. Harrison in 1825, and they became the foundation of the breed. Laverack concentrated on developing a Setter that was gentle and companionable. He probably added Pointer and Irish Setter to his lines and produced dogs that did well in the show ring but poorly in field trials.

Llewellin started with Laverack-type dogs but worked to improve their performance in the field. He crossed them with Gordon Setters and other breeds to improve their scenting ability and speed.

Both types of English Setters came to America in the late 1800s. Laverack’s line became the foundation for the show setters of today and Llewellin’s line for the field dogs.

Setters today have a unique appearance, with their sculpted heads, athletic bodies, and long feathery tails. The show dogs tend to be a bit larger than the field dogs. They have a more luxurious coat and differ slightly in coat pattern.

Patches of colour are often seen in field English Setters, but they aren’t desirable for show dogs. Of course, they don’t make a bit of difference if your English Setter is a family companion. The show dogs are capable of hunting, but the field dogs tend to have a keener nose and greater speed.

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