Showsight Presents the English Setter

ENGLISH SETTER Q&A

ENGLISH SETTERS ARE THE MOST GENTLE, SWEET AND LOVABLE DOGS THAT YOU WILL EVER MEET. I FREQUENTLY DESCRIBE THEM AS ‘TENDERHEARTED.’ THEY ARE ATHLETIC, BUT ARE TOTALLY THE HAPPIEST TO BE CUDDLED WITH YOU ON THE COUCH. SMART, DEVOTED, LOYAL AND THE EPITOME OF A CLASS CLOWN. HOWEVER, THEY WILL STEAL YOUR PIZZA IF YOU’RE NOT VIGILANT ON PROTECTING YOUR FOOD! ” “

even the Brittany. On the downside, heavy coats can disguise a multitude of structural problems that can be masked by precise grooming. Th e coats that are seen on English Setters today make them totally impractical for a dog working in the fi eld and almost impossible to maintain. Dog handling legend, Will Alexander, said it best when he stated in an interview, “It’s hard work. For every 15 minutes of fame there are 23 hours 45 minutes working on your dog.” Do I see any preferences for color or markings in the show ring? Well, there shouldn’t be, but some judges do have preferences; usu- ally orange. Th e most common colors in English Setters are blue belton (the ground color is white with black hairs that fl eck through the white), orange belton (orange takes place of the black) and tri- color. Head and ear patches are acceptable. When I fi rst started out in English Setters it was extremely di ffi cult to exhibit a blue belton or tri-color. I also think that an orange belton that is more roan in color has a much easier time of fi nishing than a blue roan. Judges, in general, seem to favor orange dogs even if a blue or tri is more structurally sound. Even today most top-ranked English Setters are orange because I think they are easier to exhibit, and judges wrong- ly believe they are more desirable. I even had a very well-respected judge tell me that she would never put up a blue in the Group ring because she said the dark color ruined their expression. Ridiculous! I have had blues, oranges and tri’s and I have no color preference. It should be more about how the dog is put together, not about the color. What is the English Setter like at home? In the fi eld? English Setters are the most gentle, sweet and lovable dogs that you will ever meet. I frequently describe them as “tenderhearted.” Th ey are athletic, but are totally the happiest to be cuddled with you on the couch. Smart, devoted, loyal and the epitome of a class clown. How- ever, they will steal your pizza if you’re not vigilant on protecting your food! Th ey truly are the perfect family dog and great with kids. I would never sell a dog if the intent of the buyer was to keep the dog kenneled or con fi ned outside. Th ey would be miserable. Several years ago, I was going through chemo and was horribly sick as well as bald. I had this very sweet ES bitch that would sleep at night with her neck and head wrapped around my bald head. I never taught her to do that, she just sensed that I needed her. If grooming is not an issue, I highly recommend this breed as a companion. In the fi eld, they are tireless workers. Nothing is more beau- tiful than watching an English Setter working the fi eld. Here in Texas where we have high temperatures and humidity, you have to be cautious of them getting over-heated because they won’t stop until they drop. Most owners who hunt their dogs generally cut o ff their feathering, so they don’t collect burrs. Any potential owner needs to remember that, at heart, English Setters are Sporting dogs and natural hunters. Th ey will be just as fascinated by squirrels and

Th ey frequently would be beaten by dogs that were mediocre, but had style. Style is illusive, but it is an important quality. How does my breed’s head di ff er from those of its Setter cousins? English Setters are the “medium” of the Setter cousins. One of my early ES mentors described the side pro fi le of an English head is like two bricks sitting on top of each other. Th at analogy stuck with me and is stated in the standard; the side silhouette head-planes are parallel with a well-de fi ned stop. Most importantly English Setters should have fl ews! I have seen a tendency of some ES having snipey fl ews instead of the desirable squared contoured muzzle. Whereas Irish Setters have a long and lean head and the Gordon Setters have a deep, slightly broader skull, the English Setter’s skulls should be of medium width with a distinct occipital protuberance. I consider the ES’s eyes as the gateway to the soul; dark, slightly round and fully-pigmented around the rims, giving the ES the beautiful soft- ness of expression. How does my breed’s silhouette di ff er from that of its Setter cousins? Gordon Setters are more square, heavier and bigger boned in silhouette, whereas the Irish has a longer, leaner pro fi le with a re fi ned head. English Setters are more moderate, not as long as the Irish, but not as squared as the Gordon. Th e topline of the English Setter should be level or slightly higher at the shoulder than at the hips forming a fl owing outline of medium length. Again, the adjec- tive that best describes the ES is “moderate” in comparison to the other Setters. Is there such a thing as too much feathering on an English Set- ter? It is important to remember that English Setters are Sporting dogs and excessive feathering inhibits the dog in the fi eld. When you look back to top-winning dogs of the 1970s and ‘80s, the ES carried moderate coats. You can see this if you look at old annuals of the English Setter Association of America. Th e old types didn’t have the excessive coats seen today. Breeders wanted pretty, elegant dogs, but they were also hunting them. When I fi rst started in Eng- lish Setters, my mentor warned me against overly trimming my dog. Although you were expected to clipper the throat and ears, the neck and body were lightly blended with thinning shears and stoned. Trimming the undercarriage was considered a big “no-no” and dogs were expected to look more natural. Excessive grooming was thought to detract from the dog. Th is trend shifted in the early 1990s when a top-winning Gordon was shown extremely sculpted at Westminster. Th ere was an immediate swing with other exhibi- tors following the same pattern of grooming. Now English Setters are meticulously trimmed with striping knives and fi ngers on their back coat so that it is shorter and tighter to an extreme. Lush, long feathering is considered a must if you plan on exhibiting your dog. Plus, let’s face it, judges expect the dogs to have excessive coats because they look like a special. However, this is true of a lot of Sporting breeds like the Cocker Spaniels, Goldens, all the Setters,

SHOWSIGHT MAGAZINE, JUNE 2020 | 207

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