The English Setter
The English Setter is a distinctive breed of
dog that’s closely related to the Spaniel.
It’s one of the oldest breeds of pedigree
hunting dogs – and it’s among the more
popular domestic breeds in the country. In
this article, we’ll take a closer look at the
English Setter – at where it came from, and
what it’s like to own.
Profile: what is an English Setter?
An English setter is a variety of sports dog
bred for hunting game and quail across
moorland. It would operate by finding an
airborne scent and following it to wherever
its quarry was hiding, before ‘setting’ down
on the ground in order to indicate the
presence of the game to the hunter.
It’s a dog that strikes a happy balance
between a range of qualities. It’s equipped
for both high-intensity bursts of exertion
and more long-distance tests of
endurance. It’s neither especially small nor
especially big, and has a medium-length fur
coat with long flourishes at the back of the
History: Where did the English
Setter come from?
English setters can trace their ancestry
back hundreds of years, to 16th century
France, where French and Spanish pointer
breeds were bred together to create an
entirely new sort of dog. It would not be
until later, however, that the English Setter
as we know it today would come to be.
The Victorian Era was a time of rapid
advance in the world of canine breeding.
It was a time when many different breeds
of dog were formally standardised,
culminating in the latter portion of the 19th
century with the first ever dog shows.
None of these changes had yet taken place
when a breeder named Edward Laverek
first brought the French and Spanish
setters to England. He noted that changes
in technology had made some of the
setter’s traits less useful – the breed’s habit
of ‘setting’, in order to indicate the
presence of game was no longer useful to
hunters with long-range weaponry. After
all, if the hunter was standing a long
distance away, he (and it usually was a he)
would be unable to see whether the dog
was sitting, standing or prone.
Laverack therefore decided to breed out
this habit, and instead have the new breed
crouch in a more upright position, so that
they could be seen from further away. The
new breed was consequently known
colloquially as the Laverack setter. It would
enjoy great popularity, not only among
hunters, but among domestic households,
Personality: What is an English
Setter like to own?
English setters are very warm, friendly and
sociable dogs, who are bred to work in
close conjunction with people thanks to
their breeding in hunting. They are strongwilled and independent and so require a
strong sense of discipline if problem
behaviours are to be avoided.
They’re also very vocal, and will bark at
those approaching the home.
For this reason, they make excellent guard
dogs – but this can be a problem, if it isn’t
addressed early on. English setters benefit
from early exposure to people, lights and
other dogs, and from short, interesting
training sessions rich in positive reenforcement and reward.
Any Special Issues?
Like all sports dogs, English Setters require
long periods of physical exercise. This is a
good opportunity for the owner to assert
themselves over their pet; insist that the
dog heel beside you when you’re walking
it, and you’ll avoid behavioural problems
associated with dominance – believe it or
not, allowing a Setter to walk ahead of you
can cause it to believe it is in charge!
Other problems can also arise from the
dog’s hunting background. They have a
strong sense of smell, and will follow any
scent that arouses their curiosity. This can
lead them to trying to escape, and to
becoming lost. It’s therefore important to
have a fence installed around your garden
– and a substantial one at that, since
English Setters are remarkably good at
jumping over obstacles and tunnelling
You can either do this yourself or hire a
professional to do it for you. Unlike longerhaired dog breeds, the English setter can
get away with being bathed only
Like many pedigree breeds, the English
Setter is predisposed toward a few
unpleasant health problems. The most
notable of these is hip dysplasia – a
problem whereby the thigh-bone does not
quite sit properly into the socket of the hipbone. This can be a painful and debilitating
condition, and so it’s important to screen
for it. Reputable breeders will be able to
provide you with proof of the good health
of both the mother and father of any
puppy, and so this should be insisted upon
before proceeding with any purchase. This
will ensure that your dog will be happy and
health for as long as possible!
English setters can potentially become
nuisance barkers, and are notoriously
difficult to housebreak. The solution to
both of these problems is a strong regimen
of discipline from very early on.
One of the most important tasks for
owners of English Setters is to keep its
distinctive, luxuriant fur coat in good
condition. This can be done through
regular combing a brushing.
Beeston Animal Health Ltd.,