Gordon Setters are a medium sized member of the setter family that includes the more common Irish and English Setters and the less-common Irish Red and White Setter. Whilst similar in look and purpose there are many distinctions that make each of the four setters physically and behaviourally unique.

Gordon setters are black with tan features, in comparison to Irish Setters, which are red, and English Setters, which are white with speckles. Gordons have tan on their feet and lower legs, vents, and muzzles, two spots above the eyes and two tan spots on their chests. Some white is allowed on the chest but the smaller the better. Red Gordons, while uncommon, occasionally show up in litters due to the expression of a recessive red gene. Their coat is long and silky on chest, ears, stomach, and leg feathering, and slightly wavy. They are the heaviest of the setter breeds, with males reaching 27 inches at the withers. Rather than being built for speed, they move with determination and stamina.

Historically, Gordon Setters did not have the long, flowing coat as seen today. In the early 1800s, a Gordon Setter was not necessarily black and tan. Dogs from the Duke of Gordon kennel were found in black and tan, black and white, and black, white, and tan.

Setters are said to be stupid or loopy. In reality, however, they are very intelligent and independant, it is their bouncing gait that tends to portray them as silly combined fairly contemptuous attitude towards conventional dog obedience. Gordon Setters are intensely loyal to their owners but can take a few minutes to warm to strangers. They are excellent family dogs, laid-back and loving, though not recommended with small children as they can be boisterous.

They are usually quite passive and happy lying around sleeping all day. However, when out on a walk they are frisky and in the countryside seem to be able to run for hours. They require 60 to 80 minutes of exercise a day, though care must be taken not to over-exercise young dogs (under 18 months) to avoid joint problems in later life.

Gordons in particular are sensitive but kindly, and need gentle but firm handling. Any nervous tendencies can be cured by early socialization, which is very important.

This breed generally lives about 10 to 12 years and exhibits no major health problems.