We are active members of the Gordon Setter Club of America. We donate our time and resources to support Field Trials, Hunt Tests, Specialty Shows, Supported Entries, Breed Rescue, and field training days in support of Gordon Setters and the running of regional Gordon Setter Club of America business.
The primary purpose of this website is to educate and share our knowledge from nearly 25 years experience with the breed. Yes, occasionally we offer puppies and this site helps get the word out. We breed infrequently with quality our primary goal, not quantity. We have never had multiple litters going at one time, as some do. We’ve never had more than 1 litter in the same 12 month period. We plan our litters carefully with several objectives in mind. These objectives are to preserve and improve hunting drive, stamina, style, trainability, conformation, temperament, and health. Because of our broad network, we are able to reach out and select from the best available dogs in the breed and not be limited to use just what is sitting in our kennel. We are not kennel blind and fairly evaluate the potential to improve the breed and our lines with every breeding.
For more on what we believe makes a well bred Gordon Setter –
Beauty, Brains, and Birdsense.
We are dedicated to the improvement and preservation of the Gordon Setter breed as represented by the American Kennel Club and the Gordon Setter Club of America. We enjoy Gordon Setters big and small but have a strong preference for those that fit right in the middle of the breed standard. We especially admire those Gordon Setters that have demonstrated the correct conformation to become a bench Champion AND excel in the field by earning a Field Trial Championship. These are known as Dual Champion dogs. While we do not compete in the arena of field trials ourselves, we strive for a balance of upland hunting, companionship, and conformation. We admire, support, and will draw genetics from conformationally balanced proven hunting and field trial lines at every possibility.
The first B – Bird sense
All game birds are not created equal, and neither are all bird dogs. In regions with high hunting pressure, Ruffed Grouse are difficult game birds to hunt. It takes a pointing dog with a boatload of experience and bird sense to hunt them well. Ruffed Grouse tend to sneak off on the pointing dog and then if pressured just a little more, flush with a thunderous whir. Somewhere someone said it takes 500 grouse contacts to make a grouse dog. Some dogs never get enough experience, others do but just never figure it out. Only dogs that have the right combination of bird sense, training, and experience will reliably point Ruffed Grouse.
When properly conditioned a Gordon should be capable of doing a full day of work. They are not the fastest dogs afield but neither should they plod along. Our Gordons can hunt several days back to back for much of the season. With proper nutrition and rest, they improve in stamina and endurance as the season goes on. As expected, cooler weather helps since black dogs don’t tolerate full sun and warm temps well.
A truly useful pointing dog simply must hunt beyond gun range, show a keen interest in seeking birds and express an efficient work-man-like attitude. In heavy cover, a pointing dog that hunts at the range we prefer will be out of sight much of the time. Most importantly though, when properly trained, they do not need to be called to check in, they do it on their own. An electronic beeper collar or modern GPS tracking system is helpful for keeping track of the dog in heavy cover. This style of hunting (with the dog out of sight) can be uncomfortable to the uninitiated. If the dog is honest, holds point for great periods of time and doesn’t creep, you will cover larger tracts of ground more efficiently than with close working dogs. To our ears, a point signal from deep in a poplar stand is what it is all about.
Some people have said, and we’ve read it in major hunting dog rags; dogs that compete in the show ring do not perform as well as pure “field strain” dogs. This is mostly bunk. Trotting a dog in a ring on a leash doesn’t change its qualities as a hunting dog. The fact that “Dual Champion” dogs exist today simply disproves it. Dogs become Dual Champions by kicking some serious dog butt in the field. They must display high levels of drive and bird sense. There are no gimmies in the field trial world. What is true is that it’s very difficult to breed and train a dog that can be competitive in both the field trial world and on the bench. This is why there are just a handful of Gordon Setter breeders in the U.S. up for this challenge. There are about 60 Dual Champions in the breed’s history. We admire these breeders and trainers for their success and will tap into their bloodlines at most every opportunity.
That said, there are some Gordon Setters parading around show rings that haven’t seen a bird in two generations. In other cases they may have AKC Junior Hunting titles but the owners don’t take hunting seriously. At times non-hunting kennels will put JH’s on dogs to demonstrate some degree of hunt. In our opinion, a JH title demonstrates a dog will point, if only for a second or two, but does not say much about drive, range, stamina, boldness, independence, style, intensity, or biddability. The AKC hunt test program is a wonderful way to get into pointing dog training and testing. The JH test level provides minimal pressure and very modest expectations, it’s fun for novices but doesn’t prove much.
Most dogs with reasonable natural ability and basic training can earn a JH title. If you’re looking for a companion for walks in the woods maybe twice a year when you’ll carry a shotgun, then any old dogge’ might be acceptable to you, and that’s very OK with us. Just be sure you know what you are getting.
Others have suggested that hunters looking for close working gun dogs should stay away from field trial line dogs. Again, this is simply wrong. Trialing is hard, tough, gritty, and expensive work. It proves a dog’s physical and mental soundness, it’s ability to cover ground, seek objectives, find and handle birds while demonstrating boldness and an appropriate degree of independence. These are traits that make great hunting dogs. FT Champions are awarded under judgment and witnessed by scores of people and not the opinion of the breeder/owner. One can reign in big going dogs with training if needed, but it’s infinitely more difficult to make lazy dogs lacking drive work harder.
If you really want an upland bird dog that hunts slow or inside gun range we suggest you look for a nice flushing or retrieving dog, no kidding. You and your dog will both be a lot happier. We’ve gunned over and hunted with folks that have truly great flushing and retrieving dogs. If you go that way be prepared to do some homework.
Some people prattle on how they never kill a bird that’s not pointed – blah, blah, blah. If the dog is 100 yards to the right, and a grouse flushes 15 yards off the left I will generally try to kill it. I expect anybody with me to do the same if they wish. This is a training opportunity to teach hunt dead on a bird not marked down, to encourage the dog to check in regularly because the shotgun is where the action is, and to get yet another retrieve. Often enough the dog comes in to hunt dead and finds a live bird still holding. Bingo! We have a superb opportunity which the dog thinks I created. Dogs get pumped up and hunt harder after each bird contact, especially if they’ve been on the ground a while and have the edge worn off.
We generally let beginning wing shooters shoot all flown birds while hunting, even if the dog pressured it. Woodcock are the exception, they must be pointed 100% of the time. This is due to the fact that reflushes with woodcock are common, birds are usually plentiful, and many of the them flush low in heavy cover which compromises safe shooting. Plus, I may have beginners load for grouse when walking but then switch to a spreader load for that first shot when coming up to a point. The right choke and load combination, such as switching to spreaders for birds pointed in heavy cover while working a solid point will easily double the number of times a novice connects on birds. The only reason we’ll need grouse dogs in the future is if we create grouse hunters today.
If a dog accidentally bumps a grouse, it won’t be shot by me and 90% of the time, won’t be shot at all. But if my child, novice, guest, or a beginning wing shooter is along and they can take a safe shot (a rare confluence of events) we want them to go for it. Beginners should have as much encouragement as possible and there is simply nothing better for them than connecting on a flown bird after an hour or two of hiking through cover. We’re not going to limit their opportunity to shoot that rare (to them) bird flying straight away simply because the bird and dog didn’t play by the “etiquette” standards some snob-nosed pointing dog people tout. Good dogs with sound handling and training can take the very occasional shot at a bumped bird without degrading their bird work.
We use a copious number of quail each year training and testing our dogs. And we are not above a canned pheasant hunt from time to time. We are a hunting family and our dogs are proven on wild birds, not just farm raised poultry. As such, we concentrate on quality bird work on hard sought birds under real world conditions. This is where we judge our dogs and we aren’t going to mislead anyone with a ton of pictures taken under artificial conditions. Wild hunting conditions are challenging situations to get pictures – but we’re working on it.
The second B – Brains
Hunting dogs are not generally noted for extreme intelligence, particularly in the obedience ring where Border Collies seem to rule. However, a bird dog with above average intelligence can get you farther, faster than working with a dolt. We look for a Gordon Setter that is biddable, takes training well, is mentally stable, and tough enough to actually enjoy hard work. We look for lots of personality and a pleasant, sweet disposition. Or as a visitor to Castle Gordon in Scotland remarked 170 years ago, “A most pettable dogge”.
A Gordon can earn difficult obedience titles with dedicated owner / handlers. A dose of patience, a sense of humor, some true dog training skill, and an understanding of their Scottishness will go a long way.
Some people will quickly explain that their dogs are absolute geniuses capable of reading minds and outsmarting their attempts to train them. Tamdhu Gordon Setters are not geniuses, they only read at a third grade level and struggle with second grade math. SAT scores are available on request.
Seriously though, intelligence is a product of many factors; good genetics, sound temperaments in the sire and dam and proper social development. Tamdhu pups begin mental and social development on day two of life when we initiate proven specific techniques to foster neural development. We use structured social development tools and provide a rich stimulating environment throughout the first eight weeks. We then expect puppy owners to continue providing an enriched, engaging environment. Think of mental and social development as an open window. We work hard to provide you a puppy with a wide open window thru which much can pass. How quickly and tightly that window closes is up to you the owner. In poor situations the window was never opened very far and slams nearly closed in 6 months. In skilled, stimulating environments it stays open for years.
Never accept a puppy separated from the litter at less than 8 weeks of age. If the breeder insists that it’s ok to sell pups before eight weeks, they are very wrong and should be avoided. The “magic of seven weeks” is an old fashioned concept that just needs to go away. Usually you are dealing with a breeder who may be lazy or ignorant, but too often is both. Important social and mental development occurs at this age which can not be effectively replicated or revisited later. Among others issues, dog on dog aggression and separation anxiety are linked to early separation from the dam and litter. This is not our opinion, it’s a fact. Caring for a litter beyond 6+ weeks of age is a lot of work, reputable breeders don’t take shortcuts here.
When you look into the eyes a well bred and socialized Gordon Setter you should see a calm, intelligent look, not chaos. They should be comfortable with human eye contact and not see it as a threat or challenge.
The third B – Beauty
We believe a Gordon Setter that is conformationally correct and structurally sound to be the basis for a quality sporting dog. Correct angulation, limb movement and an overall solid structure make up the basis for efficient ground covering ability as well as long term soundness. A well bred Gordon Setter in full, fluid motion is a truly remarkable sight.
Gordons come in a wide variety of sizes and they are almost always black and tan. A white spot in the middle of the chest, sized from just a few hairs to a large blaze, is common in just about every litter. The original Gordon Setter bred by the Duke of Gordon were tri-colored, the Duke’s favored color. The AKC came along and with pressure from show fanciers, established black and tan as the preferred coloration with an emphasis on minimizing white. Occasionally red or liver colored Gordon Setters appear. Some breeders suggest and market these as “rare”, they are not. Red / liver Gordons may be registered but can not be shown. A genetic test is available to help breeders identify red gene carriers and their prevalence continues to drop.
The coat can vary from very short to long and flowing. It can be straight (preferred in the standard) or be wavy. Some have wooly coats, others are sleek. The eye should be intelligent, tight and the darker the better. Our ideal Gordon has a medium length, straight coat. This doesn’t always please the bench judge but it is tolerable for field work where excessive coat may be a hindrance. In truth most Setters get a bit of grooming before heading into the field, especially if burrs are expected.