English Setters are exceptional bird hunters and boisterous, amiable company. Like all setters, they are named for the distinctive crouching stance—known as ‘setting’—that they take on the hunt. Their mid-length white coat is distinctively marked with orange, black, and liver flecks, in a coloring known as ‘belton.’ These medium-sized, energetic dogs have a friendly, refined quality. Fans of the breed categorize them into field and show varieties, with the hunting type having a slightly smaller frame that is thought more agile in the field. English Setters can be rambunctious and mischievous when they aren’t given enough exercise, but they are usually laid back at home when kept busy through the day.
English Setters are sometimes called Laverack or Llewellin, which are the two varieties of the breed.
English Setters have a flat coat with long feathering on their ears, tail, belly, chest, and the back of their legs. The coat color is belton—predominantly white with flecks of another color. They can be blue belton (with black flecks), orange belton, lemon belton, liver belton, or tricolor (blue belton with tan on face and legs).
Average Height: 23-27 inches
Male: 60-85 pounds
Female: 55-75 pounds
Breed Standard & History
With their elegant profile and soft expression, English Setters have a gentlemanly quality. They are graceful, strong, and swift in movement, and always alert in the field or at play. English Setters carry their long, sculpted head proudly atop their arched neck. Viewed from the side their muzzle is long and squared, and their silky, pendant ears are slightly rounded. They have a merry disposition, and are outgoing and friendly towards all.
For more than 400 years, English Setters have been in the field in England hunting grouse, pheasant, and quail. Then and now, the breed crouches down when they catch the scent of a bird, letting the hunter know where their quarry is so they can flush it and catch it with a net or shoot it down. English Setters' ancestors are thought to include Spanish Pointers, Water Spaniels, and English Springer Spaniels.
The two modern varieties of English Setters were developed in the mid-1800s by Edward Laverack and Purcell Llewellin, from whom the dogs draw their names. While both types are beloved as companions, Laverack developed his dogs with the show ring in mind, while Llewellin focused on developing the breed's scenting and athleticism in the field. The Llewellin variety is usually smaller than the Laveracks.
Both types of English Setters were imported to the US in the late 1800s and quickly became popular hunting dogs. They were officially recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1884.
AKC Breed Category
If kept busy and exercised frequently, English Setters are sweet and calm. Without a job to do or with too much downtime on their paws, Setters will turn to nuisance behaviors to show their frustration or pass the time. They will happily play with you for the length of the day if you are game. English Setters are courageous and take new situations and people in stride.
Are English Setters Good with Kids? English Setters are a kid-friendly dog who enjoy playing with tykes of all ages. Indeed, they are so tolerant of rambunctious behavior, it's important that adults keep a close watch so little kids don't get unintentionally rough with them.
(Note: Every dog has a unique personality and distinct life experiences that affect his disposition. As a rule, adults should always supervise playdates between kids and their four-legged friends.)
Are English Setters Good with Other Pets? English Setters love having playmates, and that includes other dogs they live with. They are also welcoming and friendly with dogs they meet at the park or on their walks. They can live with cats and other small animals when they are socialized with them from an early age, though they shouldn’t be left alone with little animals.
English Setters see everyone as a friend, so they don't feel compelled to protect themselves or their people.
Are English Setters Good Guard Dogs? English Setters are a laid-back breed and not prone to barking, unless they develop the bad habit in their youth. They may let you know someone’s at the door, or they may assume you’ve got it covered. They are also so sweet-natured they’ll likely welcome intruders into your home. The upshot is: pass on the English Setter if you’re looking for a guard or watchdog.
English Setters are energetic, but they are also laid back. When you get tired, they’ll probably be ready to head inside to relax as well.
- The English Setter will escape the yard by digging or jumping, if given the chance: your yard must be properly secured.
- Always walk your English Setter on leash because they have a tendency to wander.
- They might become nuisance barkers if not trained out of the bad habit during their youth.
- They require patience during housetraining.
- Their medium-length coat requires a bit of extra attention.
- They may become sedentary as they age, so keep them on the move.
- They’re prone to overeating if given the chance.
English Setters should live indoors with their family, where they'll be polite and amiable company. Their favorite things are playing, exercising, and relaxing with their people. They shed, but not profusely, so fur doesn't usually collect in mounds.
This breed needs to spend a good amount of time outside every day getting exercise and playing. English Setters benefit from having a yard to cavort in, but it should be well secured and they probably shouldn’t be left alone outside. They are escape artists who can dig or jump their way out of most enclosures, and are prone to wandering.
A healthy English Setter requires about an hour of physical activity each day to remain healthy and fit. When Setters get a little older, they sometimes need extra encouragement to get their daily exercise.
English Setters are sporting dogs who have the stamina to stay alert and on the move through long days in the field.
Activity distance rating
- Running Miles: A healthy, adult English Setter will happily run by your side for three to five miles.
- Hiking Miles: English Setters make excellent hiking companions, though they should be on leash at all times. The breed can easily hike five to seven miles with you—just be sure to stop occasionally and bring enough water for all.
Generally, this breed requires about 2 to 3 cups of good quality dry dog food each day given in two feedings. This will vary, however, based upon your English Setter’s activity level and age. Talk to your veterinarian about the optimal diet and quantity of food for your Setter.
English Setters don’t enjoy spending time alone, and they’ll develop destructive habits when left in solitude too frequently. Acclimate your English Setter to being alone for an hour or so when they are young. Crate training is helpful so they have a comforting place to rest and play with their favorite toy while you are out.
Health and Grooming
Brush your English Setter’s coat most days of the week to keep it shiny and free of matting and tangles. They need a bath only every month or so, unless they roll in a mud puddle. Wash your English Setter’s ears weekly with a gentle, dog-friendly cleanser to prevent dirt buildup that can cause infections. Brush your Setter’s teeth several times a week, and trim their nails every month or so to prevent cracking.
Common Health Issues
Some breed-specific health concerns that may affect the English Setter include:
- Hip and elbow dysplasia
- Osteochondritis dissecans, a joint disorder
- Progressive retinal atrophy
You can minimize serious health concerns in an English Setter by purchasing from a reputable breeder who engages in responsible breeding practices, and through screening for common diseases and conditions.
English Setters are smart and willing to please, but they are strong-willed and easily distracted by birds flying around the neighborhood during training. They will learn the basics in time as long as you remain consistent and offer ample positive reinforcement.
Continued training is an excellent way to keep your English Setter busy and active, and to prevent them from indulging their layabout tendency. They’ll excel in agility training, advanced obedience training, and dog sports, including dock jumping and flyball.
Sporting Dog Training
English Setters are crackerjack hunters, eager to show off their skills during field training.
No. English Setters’ long coats shed and, as a result, they leave pet dander in your home. Pet dander is the primary cause of pet-related allergies.
English Setters are natural upland hunters. Grouse, quail, and pheasants are their quarry of choice. However, they also love water and will splash in to retrieve a duck if that's where the hunting takes them.
Yes. English Setters are strong swimmers and enjoy splashing around in the water. Playing fetch with a stick in the water is a good way to exercise this energetic breed in the summer.