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I Love You Just The Way You Are

Eight years ago, ESAA appointed me as the AKC Gazette columnist for English Setters and made a lifelong dream come true. As I hand the lead to Jill Warren, I would like to thank ESAA and the Gazette for the opportunity. Sue Johnson.

Sue Johnson has done a wonderful job for our breed, and we all thank her for her great columns, especially her emphasis on health and nutrition. She breeds under the Birchrun prefix. I’ve loved English Setters just the way they are since 1981 and breed under the Esthete prefix. Here’s my first breed column. Jill Warren.

“I love you just the way you are” is the title of a Billy Joel song that begins “don’t go changin’ to try to please me.” While trying to improve genetic health and to breed specimens that are ever closer to the written standard, breeders and owners of English Setters love the breed just the way it is.

If you want a medium sized, active, coated bird dog and/or beautiful show dog that makes an excellent family member, is great with kids, has relatively few genetic diseases compared to other breeds, and loves to be in the middle of your family activities , then an English Setter might be perfect for you.

If you want a small hunting dog, get a Spaniel or a Brittany, but don’t look for tiny English Setters. If you want a big dog whose size, you think, makes it look impressive in the sporting group, get an Irish Setter, but don’t look for English Setters taller than 25 inches at the withers. If you want a very substantial dog, get a Gordon Setter. If you don’t like coat care, get a Pointer. If you want tons of coat, get an alpaca. If you love extremes of any kind, rule out English Setters because a correct English Setter is moderate in all parts.

If you want your dog to live in a kennel rather than in your home, know that you would break an English Setter’s heart because his strongest desire is to be with YOU. If you want to engage in activities where bird drive is overly frustrating for you, get a herding or working dog. If you don’t want a fenced yard, then get a dog that will not chase birds when turned loose outside.

An English Setter is the breed for you if: you can laugh at the antics of your wild puppy while waiting for him to grow into your mellow dog; you train with patience and positive reinforcement and no strong corrections; you love to get out and exercise with your dog several times a week; if you want to hunt, you enjoy a gentle gun dog that will turn himself inside out to help you find upland game birds; you take pleasure in coat care and get a strong sense of satisfaction when looking at your dog with its flowing, gleaming, mat-free coat.

There are more than 160 time-honored breeds of dogs recognized by the American Kennel Club and several hundred more breeds recognized worldwide. Love your breed just the way it is, and your dog will return the favor, with enormous dividends. If you don’t, keep looking; there is probably another AKC breed that is exactly right for you.