English Setter

Table of Contents

english setter portrait
Prepare to be whisked away on an elegant journey into the world of the English Setter, where grace, charm, and a wagging tail reign supreme! With their luxurious feathered coats, soulful eyes, and a spring in their step that rivals a dancer's, these majestic canines have captivated dog lovers for centuries.

Join us in this comprehensive guide as we explore everything you need to know about this breed, including their appearance, temperament, ideal environment, grooming, exercise requirements, training tips, dietary needs, health concerns, history, and more.

Best For

The English Setter is an ideal breed for families, singles, and seniors alike who seek a loyal, affectionate companion. Known for their gentle and friendly temperament, they thrive in active households that can provide them with ample exercise and mental stimulation.


OTHER NAMESLaverack Setter, Llewellin Setter
BREED GROUPSporting Group
HEIGHT23-27 inches
WEIGHT45-80 lbs
LIFESPAN12-14 years
irish setter running on the snow
Photo: KjellBrynildsen/Getty Images Signature


The English Setter is a medium to large-sized dog breed that’s known for its elegant and graceful appearance. Males typically stand between 25 and 27 inches tall at the shoulder, while females are slightly smaller, standing between 23 and 25 inches. Their weight can range from 45 to 80 pounds, with males being heavier than females.

The body of an English Setter is well-proportioned, with a strong, muscular build that showcases their athleticism. Their back is level and of moderate length, with a slight arch over the loin.

The chest is deep, extending down to the elbows, and moderately wide, allowing ample room for the heart and lungs. The ribcage is long and well-sprung, providing a good foundation for endurance. The tail is set low, carried straight or with a slight upward curve, and tapers to a fine point.

The head of an English Setter is long and lean, with a moderately defined stop that separates the skull from the muzzle. The skull is oval-shaped and slightly rounded, while the muzzle is straight and of equal length to the skull. The jaws are strong and capable of carrying game without damaging it. The nose is wide and well-developed, with open nostrils for optimal scenting ability.

The ears of an English Setter are set low and well back on the head, hanging close to the cheeks in a neat fold. They are of moderate length, reaching to the lower jaw when pulled forward. The eyes are medium-sized, dark hazel or brown in color, and have a soft, intelligent expression.

The coat of an English Setter is one of its most distinctive features. It is short and dense on the head and front of the legs, while the rest of the body is covered in a silky, flat-lying coat with feathering on the ears, chest, underside, back of the legs, and tail.

The coat comes in various colors and patterns, including white with black, orange, lemon, or liver-colored ticking, as well as tricolor combinations. Some English Setters may also have larger solid-colored patches, known as “belton” markings.

Overall, the English Setter’s appearance exudes elegance, strength, and agility. Their striking coat and expressive eyes, combined with their balanced proportions and fluid movement, make them a truly eye-catching breed.

irish setter playing at a lake
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The English Setter is renowned for its exceptional temperament and personality, making it a highly sought-after companion for families, singles, and seniors alike. Known for their gentle, affectionate, and friendly nature, these dogs are well-suited to a variety of living situations and get along well with people of all ages.

One of the most endearing qualities of the English Setter is their sociability. They thrive on human interaction and form strong bonds with their families.

This breed is known to be good with children, displaying patience and a playful attitude that make them excellent playmates. However, as with any dog, it is important to teach children how to interact respectfully with their canine companions to ensure a harmonious relationship.

English Setters are also generally welcoming towards strangers and other animals. They are not typically aggressive and tend to approach new people and pets with curiosity and a friendly demeanor. This makes them unsuitable as guard dogs, but their gentle nature and adaptability make them great candidates for therapy or assistance work.

Despite their friendly disposition, English Setters can be quite sensitive and emotional. They have a strong desire to please their owners and can become anxious or upset if they feel they have disappointed them. It is essential to use positive reinforcement and gentle training methods with this breed, as harsh corrections or punishment can lead to fearfulness or behavioral issues.

The intelligence of the English Setter should not be underestimated. These dogs are quick learners and enjoy engaging in activities that challenge their minds. They excel in various dog sports, such as agility, flyball, and scent work, which provide an opportunity to showcase their natural abilities and build a strong bond with their handler.

English Setters are known for their keen sense of smell, which is a testament to their hunting heritage. They were bred to locate and “set” game birds, crouching low to the ground to indicate the presence of prey.

While many English Setters today are companion animals rather than working dogs, their scenting abilities and natural instincts can still be seen in their behavior. This breed may have a strong prey drive and may be inclined to chase after birds or other small animals if given the opportunity.

It is important to note that the temperament of an individual English Setter can vary depending on factors such as genetics, early socialization, and life experiences.

To ensure a well-rounded and confident dog, it is crucial to expose puppies to a variety of people, pets, and environments from a young age. Proper socialization and training can help to prevent potential behavioral issues and ensure a happy, well-adjusted adult dog.

english setter at an open field
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Ideal Environment

Ideal Owner

The ideal environment for an English Setter is one where they can receive plenty of love, attention, and mental stimulation. As a sociable and affectionate breed, they thrive in households where they can be an integral part of family life and interact with their owners regularly.

They are well-suited to families, singles, and seniors who can devote time to nurturing their bond and providing the necessary care and engagement.

Other Pets

English Setters generally get along well with other pets, including dogs and cats, particularly when introduced at a young age.

Their friendly and adaptable nature makes them excellent companions for multi-pet households, as long as proper introductions and socialization are carried out. However, due to their hunting instincts and strong prey drive, it may be necessary to supervise interactions with smaller animals such as birds or rodents.

Physical Environment

In terms of physical environment, the English Setter is a relatively versatile breed that can adapt to various living situations, including apartments, suburban homes, and rural properties. However, they do require ample space to move around and stretch their legs.

A securely fenced yard is highly recommended, as it provides a safe area for them to explore, play, and burn off energy. It is important to remember that this breed is prone to wanderlust and may attempt to escape if they catch an interesting scent, so ensuring a secure outdoor space is crucial.

Climate Adaptability

When it comes to climate adaptability, the English Setter can tolerate a range of temperatures but may struggle in extreme conditions. Their silky coat provides some insulation against the cold, but they are not ideally suited to harsh winter climates.

In colder weather, it may be necessary to provide extra warmth in the form of a dog coat or indoor shelter. Conversely, the breed may also be sensitive to excessive heat. In hot climates or during heatwaves, it is essential to provide ample shade, fresh water, and limit outdoor activity during the hottest parts of the day to prevent overheating.

english setter's face close up
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The English Setter has a distinct, silky coat that requires regular grooming to maintain its appearance and health. Proper grooming not only keeps the coat looking beautiful but also helps to remove loose hair, prevent matting, and minimize shedding.

Coat Care

It is recommended to brush your English Setter at least two to three times per week using a slicker brush or a pin brush. This helps to remove dead hair, dirt, and debris, and prevents tangles from forming in their feathering.

Pay particular attention to areas prone to matting, such as the ears, chest, legs, and tail. For stubborn tangles, a metal comb can be used to gently work through the mats without causing discomfort to your dog.

Occasionally, you may need to trim the hair between your English Setter’s footpads to prevent matting and keep them comfortable while walking. Using a small pair of scissors, carefully trim any excess hair to maintain a neat appearance and prevent debris from accumulating.

Bathing your English Setter every four to six weeks, or as needed, will help keep their coat clean and free of dirt.

Use a gentle, dog-specific shampoo to avoid stripping the natural oils from their coat. After bathing, towel-drying and using a hairdryer on low heat can help speed up the process and prevent your dog from getting chilled. While drying, brush the coat to remove any remaining tangles and ensure the hair lays flat.

Ear Care

In addition to regular brushing, it’s essential to check the dog’s ears weekly for signs of infection, excessive wax build-up, or debris. The English Setter’s long, folded ears can trap moisture and create a breeding ground for bacteria.

To clean the ears, use a dog-safe ear cleaner and cotton balls, avoiding the use of cotton swabs, which can damage the delicate inner ear structures. If you notice redness, swelling, or a foul smell, consult your veterinarian for advice.

Dental Care

Dental care is another important aspect of grooming for English Setters. Regular teeth brushing with a dog-specific toothpaste and toothbrush can help prevent dental issues such as tartar build-up, bad breath, and gum disease.

Begin dental care when the dog is young to acclimate them to the process and aim to brush their teeth at least two to three times per week.

Nail Trimming

Nail care is also essential for maintaining your English Setter’s overall health and comfort. Regular nail trimming or grinding will help prevent overgrown nails that can cause discomfort and potentially lead to injuries.

It’s recommended to trim your dog’s nails every three to four weeks, depending on their activity level and the surfaces they walk on, which can naturally wear down the nails. Be cautious not to cut the quick, the blood vessel within the nail, which can cause pain and bleeding.

two english setter puppies playing tug-of-war
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English Setters are an active and energetic breed with a significant need for exercise to maintain their physical and mental well-being. As a breed originally developed for hunting, they possess a natural athleticism and endurance that requires an outlet in the form of regular physical activity.

Exercise Amount & Types

It is recommended that English Setters receive at least one hour of exercise per day, though individual needs may vary depending on factors such as age, health, and energy levels. This exercise can take various forms, from brisk walks and off-leash playtime in a securely fenced area to more structured activities like jogging or hiking.

Dog Sports

In addition to daily walks, English Setters greatly benefit from engaging in activities that tap into their natural instincts and abilities. For example, participating in dog sports can provide both physical and mental stimulation, helping to keep your Setter happy and well-rounded.

Some popular dog sports for this breed include agility, flyball, scent work, and obedience trials. These activities not only challenge your dog physically but also mentally, as they require focus and problem-solving skills.

English Setters also excel in field trials and hunting tests, where they can demonstrate their prowess in locating and pointing game birds. Participating in such events allows your Setter to utilize their innate skills and provides a sense of purpose and fulfillment.

Exercise Precautions

When exercising your English Setter, it’s essential to consider their safety and well-being. In hot weather, avoid strenuous activities during the warmest parts of the day, and always provide access to fresh water and shade. In colder climates, monitor your Setter for signs of discomfort or cold intolerance and consider providing a dog coat for added warmth during outdoor activities.

Keep in mind that English Setters are prone to wanderlust and may be easily distracted by interesting scents. When off-leash, ensure that your dog is in a secure area or has a reliable recall to prevent them from wandering off or getting into dangerous situations.


English Setters are known for their intelligence and eagerness to please, which makes them relatively easy to train. However, their sensitive nature and independent streak can sometimes pose challenges during the training process. Understanding their temperament and employing positive reinforcement techniques can greatly enhance the success of training your English Setter.

When it comes to training, consistency and patience are key. English Setters respond best to gentle, reward-based methods that focus on praise, treats, and play as motivators. Harsh corrections or punishment can cause fear or anxiety in this sensitive breed, potentially leading to behavioral issues or a breakdown in trust between dog and owner.

Start training your English Setter from an early age, beginning with basic obedience commands such as sit, stay, come, and heel. Socialization is also crucial during the early stages of development, as it helps to shape a well-rounded and confident adult dog. Expose your puppy to a variety of people, animals, and environments to build positive associations and develop their adaptability.

While they are intelligent and quick learners, they may occasionally exhibit stubbornness or become easily distracted by their environment. To overcome these challenges, keep training sessions short, engaging, and varied to maintain their interest. Break down complex tasks into smaller, achievable steps and always end on a positive note to boost confidence and motivation.

English Setters excel in various dog sports, such as agility, flyball, and scent work, which not only provide physical exercise but also mental stimulation. Incorporating these activities into your training routine can help harness their natural abilities and strengthen the bond between you and your dog.

As hunting dogs, English Setters have a strong prey drive and may be inclined to chase birds or other small animals. Training a reliable recall command is essential to ensure your dog’s safety and prevent them from wandering off when off-leash.

english setter outdoors
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Diet & Nutrition

A balanced and nutritious diet is essential for maintaining the overall health and well-being of your English Setter.

What to Feed & How Much

When choosing food for your dog, look for high-quality commercial options such as dry kibble, wet food, or raw food that follow the guidelines set by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). These guidelines ensure that the food meets the nutritional requirements necessary for your dog’s growth, development, and maintenance.

The amount of food your English Setter requires depends on factors such as their age, weight, activity level, and individual metabolism. As a general guideline, puppies between 8 to 12 weeks old should be fed three to four times per day, while those between 3 to 6 months can be fed three times daily. As your puppy grows and reaches adulthood, you can gradually transition to feeding them twice per day.

Adult English Setters, depending on their size and activity level, may require anywhere from 2 to 3 cups of dry food per day, divided into two meals. It’s important to monitor your dog’s weight and adjust their food intake accordingly to prevent obesity, which can lead to various health issues.

When feeding your English Setter, be mindful of their caloric intake and avoid overfeeding treats or table scraps, as these can contribute to weight gain and an unbalanced diet. Treats should be used sparingly and in moderation, preferably as rewards during training sessions or as occasional indulgences.

It is worth noting that individual dogs may have specific dietary needs or sensitivities, which may require adjustments to their diet. If you notice signs of food allergies, such as skin irritations, digestive issues, or changes in energy levels, consult your veterinarian for guidance on selecting an appropriate diet.


Fresh water should always be available to your English Setter, ensuring they stay well-hydrated throughout the day. Check their water bowl regularly and refill it with clean water as needed.

english setter running in an open field
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English Setters are generally healthy dogs with a life expectancy of 12 to 14 years. However, like all breeds, they may be prone to certain health issues. Being aware of these potential concerns can help you take preventive measures and ensure your dog’s well-being.

Some common health issues associated with English Setters include:

Hip Dysplasia: This is a genetic condition in which the hip joint develops abnormally, leading to arthritis and pain. Regular check-ups and maintaining a healthy weight can help manage this condition and prevent further complications.

Elbow Dysplasia: Similar to hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia is a developmental issue that affects the elbow joint. It can cause discomfort and reduced mobility. Early diagnosis and appropriate treatment can help minimize the impact on your dog’s quality of life.

Hypothyroidism: This condition occurs when the thyroid gland does not produce enough hormones, resulting in symptoms such as weight gain, lethargy, and skin issues. Hypothyroidism can be managed with medication and regular monitoring of thyroid levels.

Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA): PRA is an eye disease that causes gradual deterioration of the retina, potentially leading to blindness. Regular eye exams can help detect this condition early, allowing for better management and support for your dog.

Deafness: English Setters may be predisposed to congenital deafness, which can affect one or both ears. Early detection through hearing tests can help owners accommodate their dog’s needs and ensure a good quality of life.

To maintain your English Setter’s health, a balanced diet that meets their nutritional requirements is essential. Feeding high-quality food that follows AAFCO guidelines can contribute to their overall health and help prevent obesity-related issues.

Regular veterinary check-ups are crucial for early detection and treatment of any health concerns. Ensure your English Setter receives routine vaccinations and preventative care, such as heartworm, flea, and tick medications, to protect them from common parasites and diseases.

english setter standing on grass
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The English Setter has a rich history that dates back over 400 years, originating in England as a breed developed for bird hunting. Their primary purpose was to locate and “set” (crouch low) before game birds, allowing the hunters to approach and either throw a net or use a falcon to catch the prey.

The breed’s development involved crossing various breeds, including the Spanish Pointer, Water Spaniel, and Springer Spaniel, to create a dog with exceptional scenting abilities, agility, and endurance.

In the early 19th century, two Englishmen, Sir Edward Laverack and R. L. Purcell Llewellin, played pivotal roles in refining the breed and establishing the modern English Setter we know today. Laverack aimed to develop dogs with elegant appearance and excellent hunting ability, while Llewellin focused on enhancing their field performance.

Through careful breeding and selection, these men established distinct lines within the breed, known as the Laverack and Llewellin strains. Today, both show-bred (Laverack) and field-bred (Llewellin) English Setters exist, with some differences in appearance and temperament between the two types.

The English Setter’s popularity grew in the United States during the 19th century, thanks in part to its excellent hunting abilities and striking appearance.

The breed quickly gained favor among American hunters and dog enthusiasts, who appreciated their combination of grace, athleticism, and keen scenting skills. In 1878, the English Setter became one of the first nine breeds to be officially registered by the American Kennel Club (AKC).

Throughout history, the English Setter has been featured in various works of art, literature, and popular culture, often depicted as a loyal and dignified companion. The breed has been immortalized in paintings by renowned artists such as George Stubbs and Edwin Landseer, showcasing their elegant form and classic beauty.

Additionally, English Setters have been featured in literature, including works by prominent authors like Ernest Hemingway and William Faulkner, who both owned and admired the breed.

In recent years, the English Setter has gained recognition in various dog sports and competitions, excelling in events such as agility, obedience, and field trials. The breed’s natural athleticism, intelligence, and desire to please make them strong competitors in these activities.

Furthermore, their gentle and affectionate nature has endeared them to countless families as beloved pets and companions.

Despite their many qualities, the English Setter has experienced a decline in popularity over the past few decades. Efforts are being made by breed enthusiasts and clubs to raise awareness and promote the breed’s many virtues.

Parent Club

The breed club for English Setters in the United States is called the English Setter Association of America (ESAA). Founded in 1938, the ESAA is dedicated to the preservation, protection, and promotion of the English Setter breed.

The organization provides resources and support to breed enthusiasts, including information on breed standards, health, events, and responsible breeding practices. To learn more about the English Setter Association of America and access their resources, visit their website here.

Breed Standard

A breed standard is a set of guidelines established by breed clubs or kennel organizations, defining the ideal appearance, temperament, and physical traits of a specific breed.

It serves as a reference for breeders, judges, and enthusiasts to evaluate and maintain a breed’s unique qualities. Covering aspects like size, appearance, and temperament, breed standards are used in dog shows and competitions to assess individual dogs against the ideal representation of their breed.

You can check the English Setter’s breed standard set by the American Kennel Club (AKC) here.

english settter puppy
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When considering acquiring an English Setter, it’s essential to prepare for the responsibility of owning this active and intelligent breed. Research their temperament, exercise needs, and potential health issues to ensure they are a good fit for your lifestyle.

If you decide to buy an English Setter, make sure to choose a reputable breeder who prioritizes health, temperament, and responsible breeding practices. Alternatively, consider rescuing an English Setter in need of a loving home. Both the American Kennel Club (AKC) and the ESAA can assist you in finding rescue organizations and available dogs.

Adopting a rescue dog can be a rewarding experience, giving them a second chance at happiness while providing you with a loyal companion.


Are English Setters prone to excessive barking?

English Setters are not typically known for excessive barking. However, like any dog, they may bark when they sense danger or need to alert their owners. Proper training and socialization can help manage barking behavior.

Are English Setters hyper dogs?

While English Setters are energetic and active dogs, they are not generally considered hyper. They require regular exercise and mental stimulation to keep them happy and well-behaved. With proper exercise, they are usually calm and gentle indoors.

Do English Setters have a sweet temperament?

Yes, English Setters are known for their sweet and affectionate nature. They are friendly, gentle, and good with children, making them excellent family pets.

Can English Setters be left alone for long periods?

English Setters are social dogs that thrive on companionship and may experience separation anxiety if left alone for extended periods. It’s best to gradually condition them to short periods of alone time and provide them with interactive toys or puzzles to keep them occupied.

Are English Setters good with other pets?

Generally, English Setters get along well with other pets, especially if they are socialized from a young age. Their friendly and adaptable nature allows them to coexist peacefully with other dogs and even cats.

How much exercise do English Setters need?

English Setters are an active breed and require daily exercise to keep them healthy and happy. At least an hour of physical activity, such as walks, runs, or play sessions, is recommended to satisfy their energy levels and prevent boredom.

Are English Setters easy to train?

English Setters are intelligent and eager to please, which makes them relatively easy to train. However, their sensitive nature and occasional stubbornness require patience and consistency during training. Positive reinforcement techniques, such as praise, treats, and play, are most effective for this breed.

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