Judging The Gordon Setter


  • February 20, 2019
  • By Gary L. Andersen

From the February 2019 Issue of ShowSight. Click to subscribe.

When judging the Gordon Setter remember it is the heaviest of the four Setters, having more bone and body. Gordons are a single person walking hunting dog. They have a unique front movement. The other three Setters are used more for open field work, the Gordon work heavier brush and because of this, the front legs lift up and then fold back at the pasterns so the feet do not get caught in the brush.

Look for a black and tan dog with plenty of substance and is good sized. Active, upstanding and stylish, capable of doing a full day’s work in the field suggesting strength and stamina rather than speed. They are equally at home as companions dogs, obedience, agility, field competitors and show dogs. The head is fairly heavy and finely chiseled. His bearing is intelligent, noble and dignified, showing no signs of shyness or aggressiveness. Clear colors and either a wavy or straight coat are acceptable. A dog of well balance in all points is preferred to one with outstanding good qualities and defects. A smooth, free movement with high head carriage is typical. Many of the words used in this description are taken from the official AKC standard.

The suggested height is 24 to 27 inches for a male and 23 to 26 inches for a female. This is a wide scale. You can have females and males of the same size in the ring, a 24 inch male with the substance of the Gordon is as good as a 27 inch dog. You may see dogs over 27 inches and our standard says that as long as the proportions are correct, it is ok. To me, going below our standard is more of a fault than going over. A 22 inch female is getting into the Spaniel size. Dogs should weigh 55 to 80 pounds and bitches 45 to 70 pounds. Again showing the substance of our breed. We want our breed shown in field condition, hard muscles not overly fat or under weight as this hinders the working ability. Again, the weight to height ratio makes him heavier than the other Setters. The proportion of the Gordon should be square when measured from the forechest to the back of the thigh verses withers to the ground. The English and Irish Setters are slightly longer than tall.

The head should be deep rather than broad, we do not want an elegant head. The eyes are dark brown, the darker the better, good sized, oval rather than round and not deep set, nor bulging. The eye rims should be tight and pigmented. The ears are set low on the head, preferably on the line of the eye, they are fairly thin and large, well folded and carried close to the head. The skull is widest between the ears, nicely rounded and good sized. There should be a clearly indicated stop. The muzzle is fairly long, not pointed either as seen from above or to the side. The muzzle should be fifty percent of the length of the head and should be parallel to the line of the skull. The flews should not be pendulous. The nose should be broad with open nostrils and black in color. Snow nose is very common and should not be penalized. The lip line from the nose to the flews shows a sharp, well defined square contour. A strong under jaw also helps fill out the muzzle so there isn’t any snippiness. A scissor bite is preferred, but a level bite is not a fault.

The neck should be long, arched and lean flowing into the shoulders. The throat should be as dry as possible. The neck must be long enough to pick up the downed game and bring it back to the shooter. The topline should straight with a moderate slope to it. The body should be short from shoulders to hips. The chest is deep reaching to the elbows, but not too broad to hinder the front leg movement. The ribs should be well sprung and long to allow room for heart and lungs. There should be a pronounced forechest. The loin is short, strong and broad with no arch. The croup is nearly flat with a slight slope to the tailset. The tail is thick at the root finishing in a fine point and should reach to the hock. The placement of the tail is important for correct carriage. The placement is judged in relationship to the structure of the croup. The tail is also a barometer to temperament.

The shoulders should lay well back. The tops of the shoulders should be close together. When viewed from the behind the neck should flow into the shoulders in smooth line and gradually widen from neck to shoulder. The angle of the shoulder blade and upper arm should be 90 degrees. The front legs should be straight and well boned, not bowed, with the elbows not turning in or out. The pasterns are short, strong nearly straight with a slight spring. Dewclaws may be removed. Catlike feet with well arched toes with plenty of hair between them and full toe pads. The feet do not turn in or out.

The hind legs are long from hip to hock, flat and muscular. The hock is short and strong when standing they should be perpendicular. The stifle and hock joints should be well bent and not turned in or out. The feet are the same as the front.

The coat should be long and straight, a wave is permissible, but not curls. The hair will be the longest on the ears, under stomach and on the chest. 
The tail feathering is long at the root and tapers to the tip forming a 
triangular appearance.

Considering color when judging, the Gordon is primarily a black dog with tan markings, which can be a rich chestnut or mahogany shade. This color can go from a very light chestnut to a very dark mahogany. Black penciling on the toes is allowed. The borderline between the colors should be clearly defined. There should not be tan hairs in the black. The tan markings are as follows: 1. Two clear spots above the eyes, not over ¾ of an inch in diameter. 2. On the sides of the muzzle, which should not reach the top of the muzzle from one side to the other. 3. On the throat. 4. Two large clear sports on the chest, (looks like a bow-tie). However on a darker dog these spots may appear to be a darker brown, this is acceptable. 5. On the inside of the hind legs showing down the front of the stifle and broadening out to the outside of the hind legs from the hocks to the toes. It should not completely eliminate the black on the back side of the hind legs. 6. On the forelegs from the corpus or a little above downward to the toes. 7. Around the vent. 8. A white spot on the chest is allowed, the smaller the better. This is the only disqualification for the Gordon; Predominantly tan, red or buff dogs.

A bold strong driving free-swinging gait is desired. The head is carried up and the tail is constantly flagging while the dog is in motion, as mentioned earlier, this is a barometer to temperament as well as his “rudder”. He should be straight coming and going with a powerful reach and drive on the side gait. The overall appearance of the moving dog is one smooth-flowing, well balanced rhythm, in which the action is pleasing to the eye, effortless, economical, harmonious and powerful.

The Gordon Setter is alert, gay, interested and confident. He is fearless and willing, intelligent and capable. He is loyal and affectionate, yet is strong minded enough to stand the rigors of training. They are slow maturing, so sometimes this doesn’t show up early in life. The field trainer that we used always left Gordons in the puppy class until they were over two years of age.

In 2002 the Gordon Setter Club of America put the 100 point scale back into our standard. It is as follows:

Head and neck, eyes/ears 10

Body 15

Shoulders, forelegs/feet 10

Hind legs/feet 10

Tail 5

Coat 8

Color/markings 10

Temperament 10

Size/general appearance 15

Gait 12

Some points to remember when judging the Gordon Setter:

• Inch per pound the Gordon is the biggest Setter.

• Should have a deep head with a squared off muzzle.

• Muzzle perpendicular to back skull.

• Topline is a smooth line from the back of the skull to the tail set.

• No sharp angles.

• Square dog.

• The dog is to be shown in field weight and muscular.

• Must be black and tan.

• Large boned.

• Smooth and powerful moving.

• Style plus soundness equals TYPE.

• It takes the sum of the whole dog or the complete standard to make the ideal Gordon Setter.

Bio for Gary L. Andersen

Gary has been involved with Gordon Setters since 1972. I have owned and showed all four Setters, English Cockers and Smooth Fox Terriers. I have been judging Gordons since 1993. I now judge BIS, Sporting and Non-Sporting groups, Working Group, Toy Group and half the Hound Group. I am the Judge’s Education Chairman for the Gordon Setter Club of America and co-chair of the Irish Red and White Setter Club of America.

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