English Setter - the right dog for me?

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I'm looking for a gentle, loveable family pet - is a setter a good choice?
Yes, they make excellent companions, but you must remember that an English Setter is a commitment for up to 14 years. They are large 5dogs - up to 26" at the shoulder, and can weigh 80 lbs. If you have young children, bear in mind that any large dog can easily knock a small child over, unintentionally. Setters are very hairy and tend to drool, and bitches moult twice a year. If you are house proud you may regret your purchase! Because of their height, they can reach high shelves, curl up on the settee and empty kitchen worktops with the greatest of ease. Puppies will chew everything within reach (and a lot you thought you had put out of reach). A dog can ruin your garden in no time (and a garden can ruin your dog - many garden plants are poisonous).
Should I look for a puppy or an older dog?
Most people look for a puppy but older dogs are also available from time to time. MESS keeps a register of dogs for sale - the Puppy Register, but it also has details of older dogs. English Setter Rescue Association also has a small number of dogs in need of new homes. Most older dogs will settle into their new home very quickly.
How much will it cost?
Keeping a dog is not cheap these days - apart from the initial purchase price of around £650, there is the cost of feeding, annual vaccinations and possible veterinary treatment to bear in mind. Pet insurance is strongly recommended - veterinary treatment these days is excellent but comes at a price.
I'd love to have a top-winning show dog …..
If so, you will need to buy a puppy with show potential, so ask the advice of the breeder before you select your pup. You will need to take the puppy to Ringcraft classes to learn the requirements of the show ring. Trimming is an art you will need to learn as well. Again, the breeder will advise. Not all puppies end up as winners - a great deal of luck as well as dedication is required.
I enjoy country sports, and would like to use my setter as a working gundog.....
The vast majority of the English Setters born each year are from 'show' lines. This is not an indication of their potential in the ring (if only!), but is an indication of their bloodlines. Many years ago the breed split into show and working lines. The show lines were developed for greater beauty, longer coat, and increased substance, and these lines now have considerably reduced game-finding instinct and trainability. The working lines (considerably rarer) have retained their strong game-finding instincts, and will usually quarter and point from a very early age instinctively. They share their cousins' affectionate and friendly nature. However they need a vast amount of exercise and mental stimulation and are not well suited to a 'pet' environment. If you want to use an English Setter for shooting, trialling or hawking it is essential that you research this very carefully and see the breed working before you take one on. A show bred dog will not have the ability to work satisfactorily, and will not have the necessary trainability to enable it to work at the level required. 
Are bitches more affectionate than dogs?
No, both are very loyal. The only consideration is that bitches will come into season every 6-9 months, and must be carefully supervised if you don't want unwanted additions to the household. Bitches are a couple of inches smaller than dogs and weigh less. It is not recommended that you buy a pup with a view to having it neutered when older - the dog's coat will be adversely affected by the change in hormones and will become dense, curly and unruly.
What about exercise?
It is important that puppies are not over-exercised as their joints and muscles are not mature enough. However, once a dog is adult, it will need plenty of exercise both on and off the lead. Safety is an important consideration - a setter will happily gallop half a mile away from you, so exercise on a postage-stamp of grass will not be sufficient. If you want a dog who never goes further than a yard from your heels, look to another breed. Oldies will be quite happy to laze in front of the fire, but only after a good outing. Most setters remain very active into old age.
Is training important?
Yes, vital. All adorable puppies grow up and turn into adolescent hooligans before you know it. Firm but patient training is very important. A dog that won't walk well on the lead is tiresome in the extreme and hard to exercise. All dogs should be taught what is acceptable behaviour in the house and outside. Training the dog to come when called is a lesson that could save its life.
You still haven't put me off ….
Good! Learn all you can about the breed before you finally decide. You are very welcome to attend our shows and events to meet us and our dogs to discuss any concerns. If you decide on an English Setter, you will be assured of a devoted companion for many years.