Tag Archives: size

“Do the Math” and Simplify Substance (required reading for every breeder!)

Just so you all know, if you’re not on Facebook, or are on Facebook and haven’t joined our Gordon Setter Students and Mentors Group, then you missed all the fun we had this week debating size and substance – again – for the millionth time – OK the billionth time – because that’s what we  like to do, and we all have our own vision of “size” and “substance” so it gives us a lot to talk about!

That's me (Sally) in the middle, looking dazed and confused as usual! Photo by Bob Segal who is not to be held accountable fault for my silly expression!
That’s me (Sally) in the middle, looking dazed and confused as usual! Photo by Bob Segal, who is not to be held accountable for my silly expression!

First off the Gordon Breed Standard gives us a wide (for most breeds) 3 inch spread in height guidelines, and I’m here to say that 3 inches makes it very tough for the eye to evaluate proper size and substance in a ring full of Gordon Setters, which in turn leads to all those debates we hold!

This time though, I came to the discussion armed for debate with words (the breed standard) and a calculator, because gosh darn it, there’s math involved in reading that thing (the standard) and I hate math! Just in case you missed that last sentence – I HATE MATH! You should know then, that it causes me great pain and much discomfort to be writing about it here!

There are many phrases, quotes and other descriptions that are used by us when we debate the “how much substance” and “how big” question, and that is what gives rise to trends in our breed.  Often the words “The weight-to-height ratio makes him heavier than other Setters.” become an assumption that to be “correct” our Gordon absolutely must appear taller, bigger and heavier than all of the other Setter breeds, but is that how we should be reading the standard?

Just because our standard says that the Gordon is “heavier than other setters” does not mean that the standard was written to imply we should use only this line to judge the proper size and substance of a Gordon – what if those other Setter breeders are wrong and they are breeding their Setters to be larger than what is called for in their breed standard?  What if the majority of their breeders are breeding and exhibiting their setter breeds above breed standard, do we then jump off that same bridge in order to retain our place as “heavier than other setters” or do we breed true to our standard? And that brings us right back to what is appropriate size and substance?


Before I begin my math lesson (see how I’m avoiding the math part) I’ll share with you some of what our discussion group said around what we all believe to be contributing factors in the Gordon appearing heavier or having more substance.

Beverly Garaux I don’t think I interpret it as a weight issue either. If you have all three setters 24″ tall the only way the Gordon would be heaviest would be for it to have bigger bone and more substance. That is my interpretation. If you have silhouettes of all three setters you should easily be able to pick out each breed. The Gordon should have the largest bone and most body. His bone structure is what makes him the heaviest not necessarily his height.

Sally Gift agreed Beverly, but if you have bigger bone and substance wouldn’t that also mean more weight? <grin>

Beverly Garaux – yes.

Beverly Garaux  – I said what you said in a different way. <smile>

Sally Gift yes you did! <smile>

Barbara Manson – The weight on the Gordon’s can be quite deceptive. A lot of it is in muscle mass.

Barbara Manson – … some of the English. They have as much bone as some pretty large Gordon’s. I personally don’t feel we should be judging the size in our breed by comparing it to the other setters we see. If they are moving away from their standard, it doesn’t mean we should. This kind of thing has been going on for years.

Dianna Ellis – “Heaviest of the setters” IMHO means that there is more to them, more breadth of head, more depth of head/muzzle/flew, broader in the rear skull than the other setters; more neck, not length, but thicker, hence more muscle to hold up that head and more to them, more breadth of head, more depth of head/muzzle/flew, broader in the rear skull than the other setters; more neck, not length, but thicker, hence more muscle to hold up that head and muscle to help the front reach; more body, not narrow like the Irish, but my no means barrel chested, more width, short backed, cobby; rears with flat croup and wide thighs, can’t have one without the other, those wide thighs will have more bone and much more muscle, short thick hocks…hence they are the heaviest!

Sally Gift – According to many of these comments I think we are all on the same page. We agree that when describing the Gordon as heavier than other setters – “The weight-to-height ratio makes him heavier than other Setters.” line in the standard – we included many things like the thickness (including also the height) of his skeleton, head structure, along with his heavier muscling giving us the “good-sized, sturdily built” and “suggests strength and stamina rather than extreme speed” descriptions in the breed standard, because we all know and agree that muscle mass and thickness of bone add weight to every animal. (You mind the word weight now, because it’s going to come up in our math exercise.


So, moving on and getting to that math problem (dang it), let’s learn how to do a bit of simple math to see what the standard could be saying about how to measure the Gordon so that we can judge if he is bred correctly to the standard and meets the definition of “heavier than other Setters”.

In my eyes, (and maybe because I hate math so I noticed that darn math immediately) the writers of our breed standard gave us a measurement to define what they meant to be understood and followed as a guideline to appropriate size and substance. The standard authors went one step further than descriptive words such as “good sized, sturdily built…well muscled, with plenty of bone and substance, but active, upstanding and stylish…head is fairly heavy“. They gave us a mathematical description that we could use to describe size including “substance” in a measurable unit when they wrote: “The weight-to-height ratio makes him heavier than other Setters.”  That’s nothing new you’re thinking! But, many folks are only remembering heavier and are forgetting that the word ratio was included. While the word ratio doesn’t give a good visual to use, and neither does its expression as 24:55, we can use those numbers instead to calculate the Gordon Setter’s weight per inch (height) and then we have something we can measure and visually see when we assess our own dogs or our competitors.  Here it comes then, the “do the math” portion of our show!

Gordon Setter Male – standard says “Shoulder height for males, 24 to 27 inches” and “Weight for males, 55 to 80 pounds”. Pounds per inch calculation at the shortest height would be completed by taking the lowest or 55 pound weight divided by the corresponding lowest height of 24″ which equals 2.3 pounds per inch. (It’s really easy this math, I don’t know why I hate it so much!) The bone and substance, of our smallest Gordon Setter should be no less than 2.3 pounds for every inch he is tall.  And the largest Gordon Setter at the tallest  27″ height divided by the 80 pound weight guide will weigh no more than 3 pounds per inch. These numbers, smallest and largest, tell us that to exhibit the correct size, bone, and substance as described in the Gordon Setter Breed Standard an ideal male would stand no less than 24 and up to  27 inches tall and weigh no less than 2.3 and no more than 3 pounds per inch, assuming that the dog is in proper weight and condition as also described in the standard.

Gordon Setter Female – “females, 23 to 26 inches” “45 to 70 pounds” and using the same calculation we find that the breed standard tells us an ideal Gordon Setter female would stand no less than 23 and no more than 26 inches tall and at the shortest and tallest heights would weigh no less than 2 pounds and no more than 2.7 pounds per inch.

Now mind you, I am not trying to rework the standard here by inserting number definitions, I am simply showing you how using the numbers provided by the standard will help you to attain a measurement that visually defines correct substance. And let us be clear, just as there can be too little substance on a Gordon Setter there also exists a point where there is too much substance. A 24″ bitch at 70 pounds is within the height and weight guidelines, however she would weigh 2.9 pounds per inch, exceeding our 2.7 maximum limit. At 2.9 pounds we are moving toward the place where her substance is closer to that of a heavier working breed or that of a male (“doggy bitch”). Will this in turn, affect her ability and performance in the field where she belongs? This point should be equally attributed to a dog. There is no place in the standard where it is stated that Gordon Setters measuring at the taller heights and heavier weights are more correct in their type than those on the opposite side of those measurements. “Heavier” is defined by the guidelines provided in the height to weight RATIO and should not be interpreted as meaning the bigger dog is more correct.

Using this formula to determine substance is simple, the tools are a wicket and a scale and a dog in proper weight. Weigh the dog, measure the height with the wicket and be certain you know the sex of the animal (grin)! Take the weight measurement, divide by the height and the sum will be the number of pounds per inch. If your dog is male who falls within the height guidelines, and the resulting sum falls within 2.3 – 3 pounds per inch your dog is of correct size and substance. If a bitch is being measured the sum obtained should fall within the 2 – 2.7 pound measure. These animals would all have proper type as pertains to substance according to the standard. Now then, if you prefer your style of Gordon with a heavier look your dogs may be measuring in at the top of pounds per inch. For a male that would be closer to the 3 pounds per inch and for a female closer to 2.7 pounds. Of course, the opposite would hold true if your style leans toward a more moderated appearance. The point would be that neither of those styles would be more correct than the other, nor would they be wrong as pertains to size and substance, they all fall within the dictates of the standard. See how easy this can be!

Sara patioThis now brings me to another point which I believe warrants attention; the pounds per inch we just calculated indicate that we now know, based on the math, that our bitch’s substance as written in the standard is supposed to be .3 pounds LESS per inch than the dog’s. Maybe, that doesn’t sound like much, but in an animal the size of a dog/bitch it does make a clear difference to the eye. This shows us that the substance and bone of the bitch, as defined by the breed standard, are not expected to be equally as substantial as that of the dog. Her height is lower, and while we may have assumed that the lesser weights were a result of the shorter stature, that is at not everything that was meant to be understood by the definition of size and substance. Using pounds per inch we can see that the authors of the standard also defined the bitch as having a lower weight to height ratio, so she should appear smaller in stature, not simply shorter, but also a bit less substantial. (approximately 11-15% less substantial than the male). If you think about this with an eye to nature, you will realize that this follows the rest of the animal kingdom. Mares are not built like stallions, cows are not built like bulls, the doe is not built like the stag and the bitch is not built like the dog. Hey, girls will be girls!

There were those who joined our discussion who also show English Setters. They mentioned that in the English Setter it is common practice to include the height and weight of the dog in their advertising, including the pictorial. What a marvelous idea! Instead of guessing if a dog is of proper size and substance when viewing a photo, we could use our simple math to answer that question and decide more accurately if the dog in the picture fits our style, and is also within standard for size and substance. Wouldn’t that be better than guessing or relying on word of mouth if you hadn’t seen the dog? How simple is that? Why aren’t we doing it or why don’t we start?

Someone recently asked me what I considered “moderate” for a Gordon Setter when I mentioned I preferred (and bred) with an eye for moderation. Moderation to me means neither too large, nor too small, a dog whose parts all fit smoothly together with no “jarring” piece that stands out or appears out of place. The moderate dog appears symmetrical and balanced in all parts, bone to height, head to body, front angle to rear, no exaggerations in any one area, which again includes size. If your eye is drawn to any one particular part of the dog, chances are that part may lack moderation.

Sara BOB GSCA Specialty
Sara – bred by Sally Gift & Mary Ann Leonard, owned by Sally Gift and Bev & Gary Andersen. A moderate bitch.

So using the formula I gave you, and looking at the photos of Sara, I’m sharing a “moderate” bitch, who is clearly a girl. Sara stands 25 inches at the shoulder and weighs 64 pounds and that is at a trim weight. Even if I subtract 4 pounds of that weight for hair and toenails (I’m horrible about keeping her nails short) Sara would still weigh in at 60 pounds. I know for some this may be hard to imagine, but she’s weighed at at vet’s office many times and that’s what the scale reads. She always takes off her shoes to be weighed and is sensitive about the subject of her weight, as are most ladies!

With the wind blowing her coat aside, this photo clearly outlines the angles of the front assembly and allows us to see, as the standard requires “a pronounced forechest is in evidence.” This is Sara, a moderately constructed bitch.

Does Sara have enough substance for a Gordon? Well her weight and height are both within standard, and if we use the pounds per inch measure to confirm substance, Sara weighs 2.4 pounds per inch. Sara is right in the middle of the size range for both height and weight, and her substance measured as pounds per inch falls right in the middle of that range (2 – 2.7) pounds also. The size of her head fits nicely with the size of her body, as well as the size of the neck that carries it. Her angles front to rear are equal, properly balanced and fit the standard’s ideal. There are no glaring parts to draw your eye from the symmetry of the whole bitch, the entire picture fits together smoothly. This, to me, is a moderate Gordon Setter, not a small, not a large but one perfectly and well within the breed standard and not at either end of the spectrum. My preferred “style” of Gordon. Is she perfect? Well no, but I’m not about to say anything bad about her, she is standing here, right next to me and giving me that “I adore you” look!

Plan to earn your FABULOUS button, have some fun and talk more on this and topics like this at the “My Genes Fit”  gathering hosted by Breeder Education at the 2016 GSCA National.

Sally Gift, Mesa AZ

Official Standard for the Gordon Setter

AKC-Logo3Approved October 7, 2002

Effective November 27, 2002

General Appearance: The Gordon Setter is a good-sized, sturdily built, black and tan dog, well muscled, with plenty of bone and substance, but active, upstanding and stylish, appearing capable of doing a full day’s work in the field. He has a strong, rather short back, with well sprung ribs and a short tail. The head is fairly heavy and finely chiseled. His bearing is intelligent, noble, and dignified, showing no signs of shyness or viciousness. Clear colors and straight or slightly waved coat are correct. He suggests strength and stamina rather than extreme speed. Symmetry and quality are most essential. A dog well balanced in all points is preferable to one with outstanding good qualities and defects. A smooth, free movement, with high head carriage, is typical.
Size, Proportion, Substance: Size  – Shoulder height for males, 24 to 27 inches; females, 23 to 26 inches. Weight for males, 55 to 80 pounds; females, 45 to 70 pounds. Animals that appear to be over or under the prescribed weight limits are to be judged on the basis of conformation and condition. Extremely thin or fat dogs are discouraged on the basis that under or overweight hampers the true working ability of the Gordon Setter.  The weight-to-height ratio makes him heavier than other Setters. Proportion The distance from the forechest to the back of the thigh is approximately equal the height from the ground to the withers. The Gordon Setter has plenty of bone and substance.standard
Head:  Head deep, rather than broad, with plenty of brain room. Eyes of fair size, neither too deep-set nor too bulging, dark brown, bright and wise. The shape is oval rather than round. The lids are tight. Ears set low on the head approximately on line with the eyes, fairly large and thin, well folded and carried close to the head. Skull nicely rounded, good-sized, broadest between the ears. Below and above the eyes is lean and the cheeks as narrow as the leanness of the head allows. The head should have a clearly indicated stop. Muzzle fairly long and not pointed, either as seen from above or from the side. The flews are not pendulous. The muzzle is the same length as the skull from occiput to stop and the top of the muzzle is parallel to the line of the skull extended. Nose broad, with open nostrils and black in color. The lip line from the nose to the flews shows a sharp, well-defined, square contour. Teeth strong and white, meeting in front in a scissors bite, with the upper incisors slightly forward of the lower incisors. A level bite is not a fault. Pitted teeth from distemper or allied infections are not penalized.
Neck, Topline, Body:  Neck long, lean, arched to the head, and without throatiness. Topline moderately sloping. Body short from shoulder to hips. Chest deep and not too broad in front; the ribs well sprung, leaving plenty of lung room. The chest reaches to the elbows. A pronounced forechest is in evidence. Loins short and broad and not arched. Croup nearly flat, with only a slight slope to the tailhead. Tail short and not reaching below the hocks, carried horizontal or nearly so, not docked, thick at the root and finishing in a fine point. The placement of the tail is important for correct carriage. When the angle of the tail bends too sharply at the first coccygeal bone, the tail will be carried too gaily or will droop. The tail placement is judged in relationship to the structure of the croup.
Forequarters: Shoulders fine at the points, and laying well back. The tops of the shoulder blades are close together. When viewed from behind, the neck appears to fit into the shoulders in smooth, flat lines that gradually widen from neck to shoulder. The angle formed by the shoulder blade and upper arm bone is approximately 90 degrees when the dog is standing so that the foreleg is perpendicular to the ground. Forelegs big-boned, straight and not bowed, with elbows free and not turned in or out. Pasterns are strong, short and nearly vertical with a slight spring. Dewclaws may be removed. Feet catlike in shape, formed by close knit, well arched toes with plenty of hair between; with full toe pads and deep heel cushions. Feet are not turned in or out.
Hindquarters: The hind legs from hip to hock are long, flat and muscular; from hock to heel, short and strong. The stifle and hock joints are well bent and not turned either in or out. When the dog is standing with the rear pastern perpendicular to the ground, the thighbone hangs downward parallel to an imaginary line drawn upward from the hock. Feet as in front.
Coat:  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 the tail. The feather which starts near the root of the tail is slightly waved or straight, having a triangular appearance, growing shorter uniformly toward the end.
Color and Markings:  Black with tan markings, either of rich chestnut or mahogany color. Black penciling is allowed on the toes. The borderline between black and tan colors is clearly defined. There are not any tan hairs mixed in the black. The tan markings are located as follows: (1) Two clear spots over the eyes and not over three quarters of an inch in diameter; (2) On the sides of the muzzle. The tan does not reach to the top of the muzzle, but resembles a stripe around the end of the muzzle from one side to the other; (3) On the throat; (4) Two large clear spots on the chest; (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 hock to the toes. It must not completely eliminate the black on the back of the hind legs; (6) On the forelegs from the carpus, or a little above, downward to the toes; (7) Around the vent; (8) A white spot on the chest is allowed, but the smaller the better. Predominantly tan, red or buff dogs which do not have the typical pattern of markings of a Gordon Setter are ineligible for showing and undesirable for breeding. Predominantly tan, red or buff dogs are ineligible for showing and undesirable for breeding.
Gait:  A bold, strong, driving free swinging gait. The head is carried up and the tail “flags” constantly while the dog is in motion. When viewed from the front, the forefeet move up and down in straight lines so that the shoulder, elbow and pastern joints are approximately in line. When viewed from the rear the hock, stifle and hip joints are approximately in line. Thus the dog moves in a straight pattern forward without throwing the feet in or out. When viewed from the side, the forefeet are seen to lift up and reach forward to compensate for the driving hindquarters. The hindquarters reach well forward and stretch far back, enabling the stride to be long and the drive powerful. The overall appearance of the moving dog is one of smooth flowing, well balanced rhythm, in which the action is pleasing to the eye, effortless, economical and harmonious.
Temperament:  The Gordon Setter is alert, gay, interested, and confident. He is fearless and willing, intelligent and capable. He is loyal and affectionate, and strong minded enough to stand the rigors of training.
Disqualification:  Predominantly tan, red or buff dogs.
Scale of Points
To be used as a guide when judging the Gordon Setter:
10  Head and neck (include ears and eyes)
15 Body
10 Shoulders, forelegs, forefeet
10 Hind legs and feet
 5  Tail
 8  Coat
 5  Color and markings
10 Temperament
15 Size, general appearance
12 Gait

100 Total

Approved October 7, 2002
Effective November 27, 2002

Style Versus Breed Type

Barbara Manson - photo by Silvia Timmermann 2014 GSCA National Specialty
Barbara Manson – photo by Silvia Timmermann 2014 GSCA National Specialty

A warm Welcome for Guest Blogger – Barbara Manson of Stoughton, WI who has been breeding and exhibiting Gordon Setters for…well…forever!  (Ok, maybe she’s not quite that old!) Getting back to the business at hand though, today we offer part one of a series she’s penning. This is also published in the GSCA Newsletter, August issue.

Style Versus Breed Type

by Barbara Manson

How many times have you been ringside and heard someone say “I can’t believe that dog won!  He doesn’t have any breed type!” or “That dog really is typey.” and you don’t agree?  Have you ever wondered about the validity of these comments?  Are these folks really critiquing breed type or the style of the dog in question?  Understanding this is particularly difficult for the newbie who has no experiences to draw from.  For the purpose of our discussion, and opening our eyes to other breeders accomplishments, we need to define exactly what is style and what is breed type.

Barb Manson judging
Photo by Silvia Timmermann 2014 GSCA National Specialty Puppy Sweeps judging.

So let’s talk style.  Certainly, all the dogs in the ring don’t look alike.  How can they when for one thing, our standard says dogs can be 24-27 inches at the withers and bitches can be 23-26 inches.  Imagine looking down the line at a group of 27 inch boys and seeing a dog in the middle of the group who is 25 inches tall.  As little as one inch can make a very big difference in the way a dog appears.  That picture alone would evoke a “not very typey” comment from many exhibitors.  Let me challenge you with this thought.  Doesn’t this dog’s size conform to the standard for Gordon Setters?  There is not a word in the written standard that gives preference to a particular size, as long as the dog falls within the described parameters.  So what is it that makes this dog less correct in the middle of the standard and the one at the top more correct?  If you were to closely examine that 25 inch dog, you may find he has several attributes that definitely define him as a Gordon Setter, but many of these points are in proportion to his size.  This is an example of personal preference or style and not type.  Another example of style can be differences in heads and expression.  Many times, when you closely examine heads, and are being completely honest with yourself, you can see examples that are both pleasing and in line with the standard but they are not what you have become accustomed to looking at.  That does not mean one or the other are incorrect.  Just different and someone else’s interpretation of the standard.

So what is breed type?  All of those characteristics discussed in the standard define the essence of the Gordon Setter.  Some of them are found in many standards for breeds not even in the sporting group.  Some are common to many sporting breeds.  Some are unique to the setters and others only to Gordons.  No other standard has this combination of characteristics, only Gordon Setters.  Therefore, they all contribute to breed type and true breed type lies in how closely our dogs conform to the standard.  We will be discussing some of these characteristics in detail at a later time.

breed-style 3
Photo by Bob Segal 2015 GSCA National Specialty

We have several specialties coming up.  If you go, I’m encouraging you to take time to watch dogs other than your own, especially some of the adult classes.  When viewing the dogs stacked, do they look like all the parts fit smoothly together and when on the move, is the gait easy, free flowing and efficient.  Take note of the head pieces and expressions.  Note the differences in the dogs.  Are they a matter of style or breed type?  I’m leaving you with one question to explore as our discussions continue.  Does breed type effect style?   I’m including the breed standard so you can easily reference it in the upcoming months.  I will be allowing a month between articles for comments from our membership.  Educating others through our insights and experiences is important to the preservation and improvement of our breed.  I hope you will all participate.  Comments will be due to our News Editor by September 12th.  You may also feel free to e-mail me as well.

Barb Manson, Stoughton, WI

GORDON SETTER BREED STANDARD click this link to read

Photo by Bob Segal 2015 GSCA National Specialty
Photo by Bob Segal 2015 GSCA National Specialty