Tag Archives: care

The Puppy Play Ground

Debbie Slaski Bjerkestrand Play groundWhat a superb idea and so inexpensive! Our friend Debbie Slaski Bjerkestrand of Orlando, Florida shared this photo of her DIY Puppy Adventure Box along with details on this fun place.

Raising a healthy, well socialized and well-adjusted litter is very hard work. This idea of stringing textured items from PVC pipe to keep the puppies minds active and engaged while exploring their environment is perfect for raising puppies who blend right in to their new families. This is what “Buy From a Breeder” is all about, not just the time and energy we put into raising our pups, but more importantly the care we take to ensure they have a terrific start to their long life as a family pet.

All the details can be found on the Avidog website which offers you an option to purchase the Puppy Adventure Box fully outfitted or you can purchase the Adventure Box naked and add your own items at home. For DIYers like Deb (and me) the site also offers free step by step instructions for building this yourself.

This link will take you to Avidog Puppy Adventure Box | Puppy Activity Box.

Thanks so much for sharing Deb, don’t forget to share pictures of puppies at play!

Gordon Setter Health Clearances before Breeding

meet n greet
Photo by Bob Segal

As with any question, ask several breeders the same question and you’ll get several different answers. When it comes to acting responsibly as a breeder to bring healthy Gordon Setter puppies into the world it’s agreed that completing certain health clearances on breeding animals before any mating occurs should be a priority. However, ask any breeder which tests are necessary or which certifications are the most important – that could become a topic for debate. For purposes of this article, we are listing the screening tests that address health issues that pertain to the Gordon Setter along with where to obtain or find proof of existing certification. These screening tests are suggested tools that will prepare you to make informed breeding choices that will affect the health of many future generations of Gordon Setters. OFA Sticker

Canine Hip Dysplasia (CHD) – screening/certification organizations. Click any of the active links below to be taken directly to that website for complete information.

Elbow Dysplasia

  • OFA
  • OVC (discontinued – certifications from 2007 – 2012 are available in a searchable database.)

Eye Examination by a boarded ACVO Opthalmologist:

RCD4 Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA Late Onset)

Cerebellar Degeneration (CD) ( Cerebellar Cortical Abiotrophy CCA or Cerebellar Ataxia CA)

As a breeder it would be also important to understand the role CHIC plays for future genetic research. Canine Health Information Center (CHIC)  Please see our previously published article by Jerold S. Bell DVM The CHIC DNA Repository for Gordon Setter for more complete information regarding this organization. Briefly Dr. Bell’s opening stated… “The CHIC DNA repository is a joint project of the AKC Canine Health Foundation (CHF), the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA), and the Canine Health Information Center (CHIC). It is open to all breeds of dogs. The stated objectives of the program are to: Facilitate more rapid research progress by expediting the sample collection process; Provide researchers with optimized family groups needed for research; Allow breeders to take advantage of future DNA based disease tests as they become available; and to Foster a team environment between breeders/owners and the research community improving the likelihood of genetic discovery.” Additional Links:  GSCA Health Survey 2004 Results


Ushering in a New Era of Gun Dog Training

Many thanks to Polly Cisco for sharing this field training site:

The Positive Gun Dog Association, Ltd. is a network of enthusiasts, hunters, positive trainers and breeders dedicated to advocacy and education within the gun dog industry. Our aim is to demonstrate the applicability of positive training techniques for creating reliable, competent, motivated hunting dogs. By working together to build an awareness of the power of positive training, we hope to literally shift the training methods used in this niche from traditional, aversive methods to positive, dog-friendly ones. Please consider joining forces with us to accomplish this goal.

Positive Gun Dog Association, Ltd » Ushering in a New Era of Gun Dog Training.Positive Gun Dog Association

Grooming the Gordon Setter by Heidi Moon

Please join me in thanking Guest Blogger – Heidi Moon for sharing the grooming lessons she wrote. We think you’ll find this is the perfect thing to share, especially with your puppy buyers who just want their pet to look well trimmed and don’t want to pay for a salon grooming every time the dog gets shaggy. Best of all you don’t have to worry about printing copies, you can send them to our blog and they’ll have these at hand whenever they need them…how sweet is that? (Don’t forget to remind them to click our “follow button” so they get all our good stuff!)

Thanks again Heidi, you’re awesome!

“Please note, these grooming instructions apply more to grooming a pet than for show competition” Heidi Moon
The Gordon Setter breed standard says the coat
  – “Should be soft and shining, straight or slightly waved, but not curly, with long hair on ears, under stomach and on chest, on back of the fore and hind legs and on tail.”

Grooming Equipment NeededSuggested Grooming Tools

A pair of straight shears (at least 7 inches long), a pair of thinning shears – 42 or more teeth work best (don’t skimp on quality when purchasing your shears, you’ll only end up regretting it). A medium/coarse comb, a medium-sized slicker brush, a wire pin brush, a nail trimmer (preferably not the guillotine type) clotting powder such as Kwik Stop (for accidents when trimming nails). A quality dog clipper such as the Andis AGC or Oster A5 models. Useful clipper blades to own are a #10, #7F, and a #5F (the Andis and Oster blades are interchangeable). Other useful tools to own are the Mars Coat King Stripper (18-Blade), a toothbrush, toothpaste, and a dental tools for scraping excess tarter.

Grooming Procedure

The purpose of trimming any dog is to make it resemble as closely as possible the Standard of it’s breed. For instance, if a particular Gordon has a large head and a light body, it would be best to trim the head closely and leave the body coat thick. On the other hand, a dog with a small light-boned head would be trimmed more closely on the body and not as fine on the head. These are extreme examples, just chosen to give the idea behind the suggestions which follow. The end result of the advice is to enable you to trim your dog so it presents the appearance of a well-balanced Gordon Setter type.

In order to do a good job of grooming your Gordon, he/she must be accustomed to the routine and stand reasonably still while you’re working on him. It’s important to start with your puppy, beginning as early as possible. Place the puppy on a slip-proof table or crate top. It’s not advisable to use a grooming arm on a restless puppy as they may slip off the table and sustain injury, even if you are standing right next to them.


Clipping from under chin down the neck.
Clipping from under chin down the neck.


Using a #7F blade on the electric clipper (a #10 can be used when you become more proficient with the clipper, however the #7F leaves nice length of coat), begin at the chin and run the clippers down under the throat to a point about two inches above the breast bone.

Clean hair under and behind ear
Clean hair under and behind ear

327_finished_neck_throatThen, working back, clean out hair around and under the ears. For the sides and top of the neck, start clippers directly behind the occiput and bring back in one continual sweep, in a slanting line down the neck and across the shoulder to the top of the shoulder blade. If there are any clipper marks on the shoulder or neck after this, they should be removed with thinning shears.

Avoid pushing in on the clippers where the neck joins the body. Do not use the clippers at all on the very top of the neck. Clean entire face with the clipper. This is the best way to remove the whiskers which should be taken off to give a clean outline to the jaw.  Go over the sides of the head also, and slightly on the top to give a “nicely rounded skull”. Ears are trimmed with the #10 blade, one-third of the way down and blended into the longer hair.

Clip top of head
Ears clipped 1/3 way down.
Use thinning shear to smooth neck and back coat

Never stop a trim abruptly – always finish off using the coarser blade or thinning shears to blend into the longer hair. Thinning shears are always used in combination with a comb. Holding thinning shears pointing in the direction of the hair, thin and comb out hair as you go along. It is better for beginner to use the longer-cutting blades and advance to the closer-cutting blades as they become more proficient.

Excess neck and back coat can be trimmed using your thinning shears or removed with a Mars Coat King Stripper. The Coat King works beautifully when the dog is still wet, in the tub – but be careful not to get too carried away!

Use clipper or thinning shear to remove hair on leg

The excess hair on the front and sides of the front legs can be trimmed with your thinning shears or carefully clipped with a #5F blade (don’t clip too close to the furnishing on the back of the front legs). There should be a definitive “feather free” area on the sides of the front legs and between the fore-chest feathering and that on the back of the leg.

Feet should be trimmed with the dog standing up. Lift one foot at a time and trim hair on bottom of feet even with the pads. Do not take any hair out from between the toes as the feet should be “well-arched with plenty of hair between.” Using regular straight shears trim to achieve a rounded, high-appearing foot that is “cat-like” in shape.”

Trim hair on bottom of foot around pads
Brush hair between toes up and backward

With the  dog’s foot in one hand and your slicker brush in the other, brush the hair between the toes up and in a backwards motion towards the leg.

Trim hair between toes

This hair can then be trimmed off with your straight or thinning shears being careful not to trim down between the toes. Working with shears pointed toward the ground at a slight angle, trim off excess rough hair around the foot. Nails should be trimmed so the tips clear the floor at the very least. It may be necessary to trim a little off the nail at a time several time to get the desired length, if the nails have been allowed to grow too long. The back feet are done the same. 262_trim_feet

Comb hair on hock down.

The hair on the back of the hock is combed down, and holding your scissors perpendicular to the floor, make a nicely rounded shape to the hock.

Scissor hair on hock
Trim the hair at base of tail in half circle

Using the #7F or a #5F blade in your clipper trim the hair on the bottom of the tail about 2-3 inches from the base. This is best done in a half-circle motion moving from a point approximately 3 inches down the tail from the body back toward the body circling down into the rump area.

Trim excess hair at end of tail.
Finished tail.

While holding the tail with one hand slide your grip down to the end stopping about one-half inch past the end of the actual tail.  With a straight shears, trim off the excess feathering in a straight perpendicular cut. This gives a perfectly tapered appearance to the remaining tail hair.  Be careful not to trim too close to the actual tail as you do not want to cut into the tip.

320_Mairead2_6.21.09Don’t forget to clean your Gordon Setters ears regularly using a commercial ear cleaner and a soft cotton wipe or cotton ball. Regular teeth brushing between veterinary cleaning is also helpful in reducing tartar build-up and can prevent more serious health issues from developing.

  Heidi Moon, MN


Thank you to Guest Blogger – Laurie Ward who shared her suggestion for one of her favorite books on canine nutrition:

Canine Nutrigenomics – The New Science of Feeding your Dog for Optimum Health . A clip from the book review reads: “Optimum health begins in the cells—and this book shows you how to achieve it for your dog!”

Our Facebook friends are already commenting about the book…what do you think? Please leave a comment to share your views with our readers! Not everyone is on Facebook so please share our site by word of mouth and email with your friends – that’s gordonsetterexpert.org

  • Barbara Manson I just bought the book. I’ll let you know what I think.
  • Laurie Ward Thanks – I will be eager to hear your thoughts!
  • Barbara Manson I have an old dog who has frequent yeast flare ups. I’ve changed foods but still can’t get a good handle on it. I do all the supportive measures but my gut tells me the answer may be nutritional. I’ll see what the book has to offer.


Living with a Gordon Setter

Thank you to Guest Blogger – Denise Paquette for submitting this article sharing her thoughts around living with the Gordon Setter.

A day in the life of a Gordon Setter…….

Denise P - Duff -First thing in the morning – the alarm goes off and the snuggling starts. Although  a Gordon is ready to roll in the morning, it must be preceded by some serious snuggling. After 30 minutes of hitting the snooze button and being smothered by a 70 pound dog, it’s time to get up.

A friend of mine once called one of my boys “a love sponge”. Gordon Setters are a bit needy and high maintenance. They are not “backyard dogs”. If you leave them alone in the yard while you’re off at work, neither you nor your Gordon will be happy by evening.


Most Gordon Setters are social and love to go with you to town, the park, the beach or best of all hunting. All they really want is your attention, your love, and to be by your side. Gordon Setters are family dogs and do well with children. Mostly they are very sweet and love the attention and games that children play. They do well with other dogs and often enjoy the company of cats. If you have a busy life and don’t have much time for a dog, a Gordon Setter would not be the dog breed for you. Did I mention that the Gordon Setter is extremely loyal? They are the most defensive of all the Setters. Most bark to alert their owners to the approach of strangers, but do not generally do any nuisance barking. They protect their home and their people well.


Training is very important for a young Gordon. They do well with a balanced approach to basic obedience training. Using positive reinforcement works well with many breeds, but in general a few corrections thrown in draw the line with a Gordon and may help them to understand your limits. Left to their own devices they will cross the line to get your attention. Training gives them guidance and structure so they fit into your family. Incorporating exercise into a young dog’s life is good for their health. It also gives them a release for all their energy. Training is just as important as exercise. It helps to mold your dog’s personality so they fit into your lifestyle. A sense of humor is needed when training a Gordon Setter. Often the girls understand exactly what you are asking of them and they decide to do things with a twist and give you that humorous look – “are you nuts yet?”. In general, most Gordon girls are food motivated while the boys are motivated more by praise and love (there are always exceptions). They don’t see the point in mindless repetition, so do make sure to keep your training sessions fun and exciting. Communication skills are not a problem for most Gordons. They are very efficient at letting you know what they want. Whether it’s a bark, a whine, a woo-woo, a paw or a kiss, they will have you trained in no time!

You just need to dial in to your dog, figure out what motivates them and help them understand what’s important to you. Be ready to comprise when something is important to them and the relationship blossoms into something very special.


Gordon Setters are very smart and trainable and can be trained for many activities. They do well in conformation, obedience, agility, tracking, rally and the field. While many herding dogs make great ranch dogs, the Gordon will not excel at this job. They are too trusting of livestock and a bit too inclined to frolic. They typically don’t take the time to read the intentions of the other animals and this is a recipe for injury. They are very athletic and enjoy activities that usually end with some snuggling on the couch.

Coat Care:

A moderate amount of coat care is necessary to keep your Gordon in good shape. If you don’t groom them often enough they will mat and then you’ll have one heck of a mess on your hands. Most Gordon Setters should be bathed at least every 2-3 weeks and groomed every few months. The hair cut keeps the matting to a minimum and makes for easier maintenance of the coat. A good quality shampoo and medium heavy conditioner should be used to keep the coat clear of mats and soft for all that snuggling. Combing a dry dog breaks the coat. It’s best to use a spray leave on conditioner that you comb into the coat.


Gordon Setter breeders and owners have been very diligent to maintain health in the breed. We are constantly working on maintaining type without compromising health. The cancer rate in Gordon Setters is similar to most sporting dogs. The health clearances recommended by the Gordon Setter Club of America include OFA hips, OFA elbows and CERF eyes. There are two new genetic tests available for testing juvenile renal disease (JRD) and late onset progressive retinal atrophy (PRA). Many breeders also routinely check their breeding stock for low thyroid. Sometimes the Gordon will develop minor sebaceous cysts as they age. All in all, though the Gordon is a very healthy breed.

Denise PThe end of a day with a Gordon usually consists of snuggling on the couch while watching TV or maybe that could become falling asleep while watching TV! The more snuggling and love the happier the Gordon.

Denise Pauquette

Photos by Denise Pauquette


Lifelong Immunity – Why Vets Are Pushing Back

I remember 1978 when we breeders thought vaccinating our dogs every year was a must do item because that was the current veterinary protocol. I had several Gordon Setters living with me back then and would buy the vaccines online or through my local vet and administer myself. Paying $40 – $50 for each dog to visit the vet every year as opposed to $3 or so for the vaccine was a “no brainer” that allowed me to pocket those dollars for vet visits related to injuries and sickness as opposed to well-doggie exams.

By the time statements like this “Dr. Schultz concludes:  “Vaccines for diseases like distemper and canine parvovirus, once administered to adult animals, provide lifetime immunity.”  “Are we vaccinating too much?” JAVMA, No. 4, August 15, 1995, pg. 421” went public it was apparent to me that what we had been practicing in order to keep our Gordon Setters safe, was instead perhaps harmful, and I dropped those re-vaccination practices.  Of course changing my behavior so radically wasn’t easy, this was a radical change, however using antibody titers to monitor immunity on my Gordons over the past decade has a addressed the anxiety, no adult has required a booster.

If you’re thinking that more is better, that you must continue to provide booster shots for the life of your Gordon, reading this article Lifelong Immunity – Why Vets Are Pushing Back | Dogs Naturally Magazine  may give you food for thought.

Sally Gift

Photo by Amy Baitinger

(This article contains photos that are not intended nor do they relate to the content of the article.)

Books about breeding that are not X-rated!

Once I was young, naive and considered crazy by my family. Well, actually my family considered me crazy for a number of reasons, but to stay on topic the one I’m referring to here was my desire to breed show dogs, Gordon Setter show dogs to be exact. What was I thinking?

I digress, you see what I wanted to share with you today was the book that became my “dog breeding bible” way back when we all “walked a mile to school, barefoot through the snow”. And, if you’re too young to have heard your parents (or grandparents for some of you) say that, you’re probably too young to be witnessing sex between dogs so perhaps you should skip on out of here.

Back in 1980 a fine lady by the name of Ann Serrane authored this fantastic book called “The Joy of Breeding your own Show Dog”. I read that book from cover to cover so many times I’ve memorized whole chapters. I kept that book next to the whelping box every time I had a litter (no, you don’t want to know what the stains were from on some of the pages). Ann’s book starts at the beginning, before you’ve bred the bitch, and covers everything from simple genetics and pedigrees through whelping the puppies and caring for fragile newborns. Ann taught me so many things, like the importance of knowing the traits of the dogs in the pedigree to other life saving things like using a glucose solution to rehydrate newborns to keep them strong so they could nurse. She taught me when to call the vet and what that vet would really need to know. (Told you I memorized whole chapters!)

Joy of Breeding Show dog

I’ve read several other books about breeding dogs, but they just weren’t as useful to me, some were missing information that Anne had included, others were not as clearly written, and very few offered me new ideas or concepts.  I don’t know, must have been a first love sort of thing, but no book ever quite replaced this one for me.

There was a reprint of this book and I’ve found used copies online, I’ve seen it at dog shows and have even found a site where it can be downloaded – though I’m not seeing the fun in having an electronic copy that can’t be left around for a few puppies to chew.

So, now that I’ve gotten that off my chest how about you all share with us!

What’s your favorite book about breeding dogs? Do you have one? Who wrote it and why did you use it?