To attempt to define the complicated character of the Gordon Setter is perhaps the most difficult task any Gordoner can be asked to undertake. While it can be said that if there was a room full of Gordoners from all over the world, the stories they would tell about the exploits of their dogs would be much the same, this is equally true of any breed. These are perhaps characteristics, but not a reflection of the breed's true character.
The Gordon Setter is an extremely intelligent dog of bold character and whilst they can be very outgoing, in some company they can also be equally reserved. The deduction that can perhaps be made is that whilst you might be judging them, they have already made up their minds up about you. However, when they have made up their mind that they like you, then the roles are quickly reversed and they will soon become your owner.
Whilst in most cases the character - or perhaps a better word to use would be temperament - of the Gordon Setter is with people excellent, with other dogs they can have their moments, but after all do we always like everyone we meet?
They are leaders, and will nearly always want to be, in the company of other dogs, the Alpha figure.
Despite the outward bold impression they give - that they look the world in the eye without fear of anything - they have in most cases a very soft centre and subject to physical correction can soon become subdued and lose that lovely outgoing personality associated with the breed. They can, however, if not from the outset subject to an understanding but firm and fair regime, become wilful, destructive and dominant.
To get the best out of your relationship with a Gordon Setter you must challenge and channel their intelligence; if you do this, you will have a handsome, loyal and loving companion.
If you can not get them to do your bidding by the strength of your personality and their respect for you - a Gordon Setter is not for you.
In a family situation, a Gordon Setter is always ready for as much exercise as their owner is able to give them. With children they can be a loyal and protective friend - but be warned, no dog should be left on their own with a small child, in the best interest of both the dog and the child.
Gordon Setters can be determined to find out, and make up their own minds about situations. Once told not to do something, they can appear to observe their owners wishes. However, the chances are that sometime in the future (be it a day, week or a year later) it is more than probable that you will catch them trying again to find out for themselves. It's not that they are disobedient, just very curious by nature.
To encapsulate the Gordon Setter's character: they will never be sorry for their actions although at the time they will make a good show of being so. Sorry is not a word they understand, or pretend not to. They will only be sorry if you have managed to catch them before they were able to complete their actions.
What is for sure is that if you like the great outdoors and the company of an interesting and interested companion, you will never be sorry for becoming a member of that select band who are proud to say they are owned by a Gordon Setter.
The working abilities of the Gordon Setter are very often under-estimated, particularly by those who mistakenly believe the Gordon Setter's heavier build disadvantages them in the company of their more racy relatives.
The discerning, however, have long recognised the Gordon Setter's outstanding attributes: they are tireless and thoughtful workers. It has been estimated that a Gordon Setter can cover upwards of 50 miles in a day's work on a Grouse Moor.
To see Gordon Setters doing what they were bred for is to see them at their very best and, to see for the first time a Gordon Setter come on point when it scents birds, is a moment never to be forgotten.
Text reproduced here by kind permission of the Gordon Setter Association.