The Flat-Coated Retriever is considered to be unique among the retriever breeds for its long history as dual-purpose dog, having been used for shows and as a working hunting retriever since its creation. Originating from the United Kingdom, the breed was developed as a retriever suitable for work on both land and in the water. Exuberant, confident, and outgoing, the Flat-Coated Retriever makes a loving family pet, excellent companions and highly capable working dog.
The Flat-Coated Retriever is believed to have been developed during the early part of the 19th century in response to the increasing popularity of wildfowling and waterfowling. Sports that gained popularity due to technological advancements in hunting firearms such the invention of the flintlock fowling piece in the late 1700’s and the 1800’s invention of the percussion lock device. Inventions such as these quickly increased the ability of hunters to down birds and created the corresponding need to find the birds that had been downed. It was from this need that many of the modern retriever breeds were born to include the Flat-Coated Retriever, all in an attempt to create the best selectively-bred hunting retriever and bird dog.
These new retrievers would become invaluable to hunters and fisherman alike and were even the subject of trade between Newfoundland and England. It is said that from these original Newfoundland dogs all modern retrievers would be developed. It was during the early 19th century that the term Labrador dog began to be generically applied to many retrievers in reference to Labrador in Newfoundland from whence the original dogs came. From here as the various retriever types were further refined into breeds in the hopes of creating the ultimate retriever breed another popularly referenced name arose, the “Retriever Proper”. The term “Retriever Proper”, as it was used during this time was not indicative of one specific breed but was instead used as a way of grouping the various types of emerging retrievers and included the Wavy Coated Black (subsequently Flat-Coated) Retriever, the Curly-Coated Black Retriever, the Other Than Black Retrievers, the Wildfowl Retriever and the Deerhound. Some of which no longer exist.
Like many other breeds the early history and development of the Flat-Coated Retriever was not fully documented which does leave a lot to speculation. Adding further complexity to the process of deciphering the origin of the Flat-Coated Retriever is the fact that during the period of time the word "retriever" was used to describe the function of the dog and not its breed. Thus any type of dog that proved itself capable of retrieving was considered to be a 'retriever' regardless of whether it was purebred, crossbred or a mongrel. Although its exact origin is unclear it is likely that they Flat-Coated Retriever can be traced back to a variety of breeds such as Spaniels, Setters and Pointers. As it was these breeds that prior to the development and widespread use of the modern ‘retriever breeds’ had proved themselves capable of retrieving downed game and were widely used this purpose. These previous breeds, not being known for their water work also seem to make it clear that the St. John's Water Dog or Lesser Newfoundland as it was also known, played a very significant role in the general development of not only the Flat-Coated Retriever but in all the retriever breeds.
Like its cousin the Curly Coated Retriever; clues to the origin of the Flat-Coated Retriever can be found by examining the literary works of the time. The first, “The illustrated book of the dog” written in 1881, by Vero Shaw, provides much insight into not only the origin of Flat-Coated Retriever but also the origin of all retrievers and the early practice of using other breeds for this work and their related shortcomings. On the term 'retriever' and the practice of using other breeds for the purpose of retrieving he states the following:
“The term Retriever is in itself sufficiently indicative of the duties which this breed of dog is called upon to carry out, and these duties can, it is universally admitted, be successfully performed by many varieties besides the one in question. In fact, the very creation of the Retriever proper, as he now exists, is comparatively speaking of but recent date. Up to the time of the introduction of this class of dog, sportsmen were compelled by force of circumstances to rely upon the services of their other sporting dogs, and the majority of the Pointers and Setters, and Spaniels, were broken to retrieve as well as to point the game. There are certainly many objections to this practice, as there is considerable difficulty in keeping Pointers and Setters who have been broken to retrieve their game steady in the field. The presence, therefore, of a well-broken Retriever is considered indispensable to a shooting party under most circumstances, and invariably so when beaters are employed.
“It is not, however, only to sporting dogs alone that the art of retrieving game on land or in water is confined, for many breeds of dogs which are by no means identified with sport in popular estimation can be taught to do so easily by any one with patience enough to undertake their education. As a matter of fact, we have ourselves owned Bull-terriers which would do this retrieving business well enough ; but still they always failed in one essential mouth. The tenderness of a good Retriever's mouth has more than a great deal to do with his value as a workman, it is simply essential that he is not hardmouthed, and does not injure fur or feather in carrying it in his jaws. In this respect a vast number of what would otherwise be very good Retrievers fail, and become worthless in the field, for a dog that mangles his game before he brings it in would be certain to gain but slender thanks for the assistance he lends a modern sportsman. In days gone by there was more importance attached to the loss of birds than there is now, when heavy bags are regarded as a matter of course, and therefore it was considered less a crime against a dog used as a Retriever if he pinched the game or broke its bones in bringing it in. Mouth, or rather the badness of its mouth, was the rock upon which the ancient Retriever split and came to ruin, and it is popularly believed that in the first instance a Spaniel was used to fill his place. The superiority of this dog over the older one was soon apparent, as it is certain that he long enjoyed the reputation of being regarded as invaluable at this kind of work. Things continued thus, and few changes or improvements were hazarded, though certain crosses were attempted by a few enthusiasts, until well on in the present century, when more attention came to be bestowed upon this breed of dog.
“Up to the institution of dog shows most breeders seemed to follow the course of their own ideas in breeding and Collie, Bull-dog, and even Hound blood was introduced by enterprising owners. When dog shows first began, however, it seemed to dawn upon sportsmen generally that a good-looking dog need not necessarily be an indifferent workman, and that more profit, if not pleasure, could be gained from the breeding of a handsome Retriever. “
He also provides information on the origin of the Flat-Coated Retriever and its relationship to Setters with the following:
“This dog is admittedly a cross breed of very recent origin, and is popularly, and we believe correctly, believed to be a cross between the Setter and the Labrador dog. As in the case of Bull-terriers, the breed is now tolerably pure, and early crosses are seldom to be met with in the field or on the bench. Possibly it might be beneficial to the wavy-coated Retriever if some new blood were introduced into his veins, as it would appear probable, from the fact that the best strains are so few in number, that it will soon become weakened from the effects of inbreeding, and consequently a general and sudden recourse to either Setter or Labrador blood, or both, will have to be made by breeders, which will tend to affect the progress of this grand dog towards perfection. As matters stand, however, no breed has made more rapid strides in public estimation, and, thanks to the energy of his supporters, this has been thoroughly well deserved. Dr. Bond Moore, late of Wolverhampton, did much for the wavy-coated Retriever, and his breed of dogs was highly estimated. As a judge of the breed, too, Dr. Bond Moore was quite at the head of affairs, though he was on many occasions considered arbitrary in his decisions. As an instance, he has been known to disqualify a dog for having a few white hairs upon it, which, in the case of a cross-bred animal such as the Retriever is, was at the time considered by many an unnecessarily harsh action. Dr. Bond Moore was, we believe, influenced in pursuing this course by a determination to adhere to a type he had laid down,and feeling that he was dealing with a comparatively unknown breed, had made up his mind to give no encouragement to any but the correct type of dog. There can be little question but that his example influenced other judges, and possibly this 'may have done much towards the improvement which the variety has made since its first appearance on the bench.
Though undoubtedly of Setter extraction, the fashionable colour for the Wavy Retriever is black, and no others stand a chance at modern shows. In the earlier portion of its existence both black-and-tans and black-and-brindles were not disqualified, as it was argued that the former showed traces of the Gordon Setter, and the latter of its Labrador extraction ; but now a dog showing traces of these colours would certainly be kept at home for breeding purposes only. As in other cross-bred varieties, extraordinary throw-backs very often happen in breeding Wavy-coated Retrievers”
Another work from the time “The Dogs of the British Islands”, by John Henry Walsh, in 1882, provides additional confirmation of the majority of the above. The main difference being that in this latter work the author does not seem particularly fond of retrievers referring to them as “the fashion of the day”. On the topic of retriever, other dogs, and their performance he states the following:
“As there are several purposes for which dogs are required to retrieve, so there are special breeds which fulfill those various requirements in the best manner. Thus a dog may be wanted to retrieve partridges in a turnip field; or he may be required to road a running grouse on the moors; or again, a winged pheasant or a broken-legged hare in covert may test his nose and tender mouth. For these several purposes, what is now called the retriever is the fashion of the day, and the same animal may sometimes be called on to take water in order to fetch a wounded duck or widgeon, or even a wild goose or swan. Lastly, the red deer, when wounded by the rifle ball, and not killed, sometimes goes away at a great pace, and tries the speed, and even the stamina, of the deerhound or other dog which is slipped after him.
“Until within the last twenty years, many good sportsmen were not satisfied unless their pointers and setters retrieved the game shot to them, and Gen. Hutchinson still maintains that it is a good plan to teach them to do so. Fashion is, however, altogether against this last-mentioned combination, partly because no southern shooter can do without a retriever in walking up birds in turnips; and, as he must have such a dog for part of the year, the more practice that dog has, the better, and consequently, the shooter seldom goes out without one—either on the moors or elsewhere. My own experience is, that with a pointer or setter of very high courage it is almost impossible to keep him steady at "down charge" if he is allowed to retrieve; but, on the other hand, a slack worker will no doubt be encouraged if he is permitted to go to his bird and bring it to his master…. I am, however, inclined to believe that no retriever proper possesses as good a nose as the pointer or setter, though there are some dogs of these latter breeds who seem incapable of trying for anything but a body scent—and they, of course, are useless as retrievers. … a curly liver-coloured dog, apparently a cross between the Irish water-spaniel and the poodle, bred by Sir P. Nugent, is the only dog I have ever seen perform in public to my satisfaction, showing great perseverance in hunting, with a good nose, but not coming up to the level of the old pointer above alluded to. With this exception, the best private retrieving I have ever seen has been with crosses of the terrier and beagle; for with one of these little dogs I never yet lost either fur or feather, though of course he could not carry a hare across a brook or over a gate. Still, we must take the world as we find it, and the world now demands a retriever proper, black by preference, and either wavy-coated or curly.”
It is interesting to note that he refers to the “Retriever Proper” not as a separate breed but simply as a general term to describe the various retrievers in use at the time. This tends to debunk many writings of today which describe the Flat-Coated Retriever as a descendent of the Retriever Proper; as at the time the Flat-Coated Retriever or Wavy-Coated Retriever as it was also known and the Curly Coated Retriever were both considered to be a Retriever Proper. Later in his work he provides additional confirmation that the prevailing opinion of the time was that the lineage of Flat-Coated Retriever will most definitely trace back to not only Setters but also to the Saint John’s Water dog. When speaking specifically on the origin of the Wavy-Coated Retriever he states:
“It is generally supposed that this breed is a cross between the Labrador dog, or the small St. John's, Newfoundland, and the setter; but in the present day the most successful on the show bench, as above remarked, have been apparently, and often admittedly, pure. In the belief that the nose of the pure Labrador is inferior to that of the setter, I certainly should advise the cross-bred dog for use; but to be successful on the show bench, under such judges as Dr. Bond Moore, Mr. Handley, and Mr. Lort, the competitor should display as little as possible of the setter. In all other respects Major Allison's Victor was perfect, his symmetry being of the most beautiful order; but Dr. Bond Moore could not forgive his setter-like ears, and his fiat was against him.“
Moving past the mystery surrounding the breeds initial development we know that the first British dog show took place on June 28, 1859 in Newcastle. Organized by Mr. Shorthose and Mr. Pape it was limited to pointer and setter breeds and had sixty entries. The following year a retriever class would be added, although this new class included all types of retrievers and would remain this way for the next 5 years. This was both good and bad, the good being that retrievers were finally being recognized as a distinct type to dog. The bad news was that by grouping all of the various retrievers together it forced different breeds of retriever to be shown against each other while being judged under an ambiguous standard which led to inconsistency in judging criteria and to considerable frustration among competitors who felt that the judging was too subjective. In 1863, seeing the problem the committee of the Chelsea dog show in London decided to divide the retrievers into distinct classes; with other major dog shows soon suit.
Although the first accurate show records come from 1874; it is known that from 1864 (the year the classes were officially divided) on two working strain female Flat-Coated Retriever dogs belonging to J. Hull, a gamekeeper, captured many of the awards of the British shows of that time. The first Mr. Hull's black Wavy-Coated Retriever female, Old Bounce, won first at Birmingham in 1869 and first and cup at Crystal Palace in 1870. Her daughter, Young Bounce, by Mr. Chattock's Cato, A1 in the field, won first at Birmingham in 1871; first and cup at Hanley and second to her mother at Birmingham and Crystal Palace in that same year. Mr. Hull is frequently credited as being one of the forefathers for the breed by initiating the first Flat-Coated Retriever breeding program in 1864 and many credit his two dogs, Old Bounce and Young Bounce as being the foundation dogs for the modern Flat-Coated Retriever.
Another important figure in the history of the Flat-Coated Retriever is Mr. Sewallis Evelyn Shirley (1844-1904) or S.E.Shirley as he was more popularly known, who, at age 29, became the founder and first president of the Kennel Club (UK). In 1873 Mr. Shirley, along with some other well known fanciers founded the Kennel Club in order to create order of the chaos that was present in competition exhibitions of the time. He also kept a rather large kennel of sporting and non-sporting varieties, comprising Retrievers, Wire-haired Fox-terriers, Bull-dogs, and Bull-terriers, and was actively involved as a committeeman, exhibitor, or judge while taking numerous prizes at many of the best shows in the United Kingdom. Both Mr. Shirley and Mr. Hull are credited with stabilizing the breed and helping to elevate its popularity well into the 1880’s.
The popularity of the breed in England led to their importation into America where the Flat-Coated Retriever was officially recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC) in 1915. In America the Flat-Coated Retriever enjoyed a brief but rapid rise in popularity due to their excellent temperament and working ability. Registrations for the breed peaked in 1920, which marked the apex of the breeds popularity; after this the Flat-Coated Retriever experienced a steady decline in numbers well into the 1950's. A variety of reasons have been given for its decline including the progressive dominance by Labradors in field trials, which lowered the public’s opinion of the breed as competitive. However most agree that it wasn’t long after their arrival that they found themselves being pushed out of favor by the more popular Golden Retriever; which ironically was actually bred in part from the Flat-Coated Retriever. After losing a significant amount of ground to the Golden Retriever the breed was then affected by World War II and its war-time rationing and shortages which made the keeping a dog difficult for families; which by its conclusion had brought the breed to near extinction.
The next important figure in the breeds survival is said to have been the world renowned authority on Flat-Coated Retrievers Mr. Stanley L. O'Neill; who recognizing the fact that the breed was about to be lost instituted a Flat-Coated Retriever revival breeding program following the war and carefully and painstakingly worked to salvage and advance the breed from that point. One of the earliest Flat-Coats to be reintroduced to the United States was a dog named Pewcroft Perfect, who was sent to a Mr. Homer Downing in Ohio by O'Neill in 1953. In 1955, Downing imported another dog, a liver colored Flat-Coated Retriever female named Atherbram Stella.
These two imports brought the total population of Flat-Coated Retrievers in the United States to nine in 1956 and following two litters of puppies the number rose to twenty-two by 1957. Mr. Downing, along with his wife had long been active in dog obedience training and showing before acquiring these two dogs. With them they reintroduced an intelligent and capable breed to the to the United States obedience ring. Picking up their titles Pewcroft Perfect UDT and Atherbram Stella UD would began the tradition of and for the foundation dogs for the Downing’s Bramcroft Kennel. Over the next twenty years, Mr. Downing would put great effort into breeding and promoting the Flat-Coated Retriever to the public as the complete dog.
In honor of the many significant contributions made by Mr. & Mrs. Homer Downing to the Flat-Coated Retriever, the AKC parent club for the breed the Flat-Coated Retriever Society of America, Inc. (Flat-Coated RetrieverSA), which was formed in 1960 offers the Bramcroft Obedience Trophy annually to the handler of the Highest Scoring Flat-Coat at the National Specialty show.
Today the Flat-Coated Retriever enjoys a modest amount of popularity ranking 103rd in out of 167 total breeds according to the AKC’s 2010 Most Popular Dogs in the U.S. list. This is only a slight drop from its position in 98th place in 2000. Most true fanciers of the breed prefer the modest popularity the breed now enjoys as it helps to maintain the quality of the breed and prevent the problems associated with being overly popular such as over breeding and puppy milling dogs to turn popularity into profit.
The breed owes much of the limited popularity that it now has to dogs like Ch. Shargleam Blackcap who in 1980 became the first of two Flat-Coated Retrievers to win best in show at Crufts. It would take twenty one years for the feat to be repeated, when in 2011, Sh Ch. Vbos The Kentuckian (aka Jet), a 9.5 year old Flat-Coated Retriever from South Queensferry, near Edinburgh, Scotland, again won Best in Show at Crufts. Named after its founder, Charles Cruft, the general manager for a dog biscuit manufacturer in the late 19th century; Crufts is an annual international Championship conformation show for dogs that is organized and hosted by the Kennel Club (UK) every March at the National Exhibition Centre (NEC) in Birmingham, England. Contrary to popular belief, Crufts which last four days, is the largest annual dog show in the world, as declared by Guinness World Records, not the Westminster Dog Show in New York which only last two days.
Other notable Flat-Coated Retrievers include "Sh Ch Gayplume Dream-maker" who won the Gundog Group at Crufts in 2002. A Swedish Flat-Coated Retriever, "Inkwells Named Shadow" did it again in 2003 and the most recent Flat-Coated Retriever to win the Gundog Group at Crufts was a Almanza Far and Flyg (a.k.a. Simon), from Oslo, Norway, who did it in 2007.
Although these wins have contributed to the breed's popularity in Europe and the United Kingdom it is unlikely that it will ever regain the level of popularity it had during the early 1900's. However, breeding for conformation, health, multi-purpose talent and exceptional temperament have created an excellent all around dog for showing, working or for life as a family pet.
A commonly echoed and proper description of the Flat-Coated Retriever is that "He should be a bright, active dog, with intelligent expression, showing power without lumber and raciness without weediness.” This description can be found not only leading off the Kennel Club (UK) breed standard but also on the back of Players dog Cigarette Cards dating back to 1933. A large dog, the breed standard calls for the Flat-Coated Retriever male to be 23–24.5 inches (58–62 cm) tall at the withers and for females to be 22–23.5 inches (56–60 cm). In regards to proper weight the standard states that “since the Flat-Coat is a working hunting retriever he should be shown in lean, hard condition, free of excess weight.” Although it does not provide a specific weight goal the majority of in shape, healthy Flat-Coated Retrievers will generally weigh between 55–75 lb (24–34 kg).
In examining an Flat-Coated Retriever for quality the most emphasis is placed upon the dogs silhouette, head type, coat and ability to move in a smooth and effortless fashion. Slightly long than it is tall the length of the body form the point of shoulder to the rearmost projection of the upper thigh should be slightly more than the length from the ground to the high point of the withers. In substance, build or frame the Flat-Coated Retriever is a dog of medium bone that should be athletic and strong but not massive; moderation is key, as a dog that is rangy, weedy or fine is likewise undesirable.
The head of the Flat-Coated Retriever should be of adequate size and possess the requisite strength necessary to retrieve a large pheasant, duck or hare with ease. In shape the skull is relatively flat, of moderate width, with clean, flat cheeks. The strong, deep muzzle is well filled in before, beneath and between the eyes with a slightly sloping nearly nonexistent stop. Together these features provide the dog with a head that appears as though it was ‘cast in one piece’; a feature that is is unique to this breed. The medium sized, almond shaped eyes set widely apart on the skull and should be dark brown or hazel in color. Thickly feathered, the relatively small ears should be well set and lie close to the head; low set houndlike or setterish ears are undesirable. The largish nose should be black on black dogs and brown on liver colored dogs. The Flat-Coated Retriever, though it mouth is considered soft has a long, strong powerful jaw capable of easily carrying either hare or pheasant. Ideally the teeth should me in a scissors bite, however; a level bite is acceptable. Taken as a package the features of the face give the Flat-Coated Retriever an alert, intelligent and kind expression.
Attaching the hallmark head to the powerfully athletic body is a strong, and slightly arched neck with sufficient length to provide good service to the dog while seeking a trail. The moderately broad deep chest (brisket) should extend down to the elbow with a well developed forechest. The ribs are moderately sprung, showing good length from forechest to last rib allowing adequate space for the dogs’ organs. In silhouette the chest tapers up from the elbows to a moderate tuck-up of the abdomen. The shoulders are long, with well laid back shoulder blades and symmetrically built upper arms of approximately equal length that allow for efficient reach. The elbows lie close the body and are set back so that in profile they lie under the withers. The medium boned forelegs are straight and strong leading to medium sized oval or round feet with well arched toes and thick well cushioned pads.
In balance with the forequarters, the powerful hindquarters feature well muscled spring-like thighs. There is good turn to the stifle, with a sound, strong joint. The second thigh (stifle to hock joint) is as long as or only slightly longer than the upper thigh. Hocks are strong and well let down. The rear feet match the attributes of the front. The well muscled, strong and long loins of this breed provide it both the power and freedom of motion to be an agile, quick and capable retrieving breed. The croup has but a very slight slope into a moderately broad and well muscled rump. The fairly straight, well set tail, in length should reach approximately to the hock joint. Never curled, the tail is carried in a cheerful or lighthearted way when the dog is in motion and as a natural extension of the spine and never very much above the level of the back.
The coat of the Flat-Coated Retriever is what makes the breed. Of moderate length density and fullness; the high luster coat should be straight and flat flying. A slight waviness is permissible but the cost should not be curly, wooly, short, silky or fluffy. As a working retriever breed the coat of the Flat-Coated Retriever must provide it with protection from all types of weather, water and ground cover. In order to properly accomplish this task the coat must be of sufficient texture, length and fullness to provide not only protection but also adequate insulation. When the dog is in full coat the ears, front, chest, back of forelegs, thighs and underside of tail are thickly feathered without being bushy, stringy or silky. The coat of the neck, extending over the withers and shoulders will typically be longer and heavier than that of the rest of the body forming a main that especially in the male dog can cause the neck to appear thicker and the withers higher, sometimes giving the appearance of a dip behind the withers. Again as a working field dog and hunting retriever the coat must provide benefit to the dog in completing this task; as such excessively long feathering that easily tangles or readily collects debris is not a desirable trait. The only acceptable colors for this breed are solid black or solid liver.
When observing the entire Flat-Coated Retriever package it should be evident that this breed is a strong but elegant, cheerful hunting retriever that possesses quality of structure, balance and harmony of all parts both standing and in motion. Designed and bred for the purpose is of a being utilized in the field the structure, condition and attitude of the dog should give every indication of being readily suited for hard work.
When putting the temperament of the Flat-Coated Retriever on paper it reads more like a glowing commendation letter than unbiased description of the breeds’ characteristics. Described as “a primary and outstanding asset for the breed” its character is that of an eager to please, easy to deal with, loving, intelligent, sensible, multi-talented, and versatile working dog or family companion. In life the Flat-Coated Retriever is an all around happy breed of dog that demonstrates confidence and its willingness to please through its outgoing attitude and constantly wagging tail.
A versatile dog the Flat-Coated Retriever is just as at home in the field or in the home which leads to their common classification as a family companion hunting retriever. An astute breed that is skilled at not only finding game birds but also flushing them within gun range the Flat-Coated Retriever is equally resourceful and skilled in his retrieving abilities on both land and in the water. The breeds eagerness to please its master and intelligence are reflected in its high desire to hunt and ability to rely upon itself to make on the fly decisions while adapting to the ever changing circumstances encountered while hunting a variety of upland game and waterfowl.
In the home the Flat-Coated Retriever is an alert, lighthearted, affectionate and adaptable member of the family. Noted for being an exuberant breed; this combined with their naturally friendly nature make them excellent companions for children. Although, as with all play between large dogs and small children it should be supervised to ensure that: (1) children are not inadvertently toppled by boisterously happy breed; (2) that the dog is not put into a position through rough housing or teasing that it would feel the need to act out aggressively to protect itself or prevent further torment. Additionally as an energetic breed of dog, the Flat-Coated Retriever will require plenty of daily exercise and engagement to help channel their natural sporting energy. As a dog breed that appreciates, thrives on and needs to live with and interact with the family it is important and they are the happiest when they are included in ones daily routines whether it be taking a walk, jogging or going for a car ride together. As an intelligent and alert breed the Flat-Coated Retriever will alert the owners when things go bump in the night or the when they feel someone is up to no good, however; their friendly nature means that they are unlikely to back up this assertive display with actual aggression. As such the Flat-Coated Retriever should only be classified as watchdog; beyond sounding the alert they will more than likely watch your valuables leave the home.
This breed is noted for being slow to reach emotional maturity with some never really leaving their puppyish ways behind and most maintaining a forever youthful outlook on life and a rather immature character. This is why the author Paddy Petch, referred to them as the “Peter Pan of dog” in her book The Flat-Coated Retriever, published in 1980. The majority of Flat-Coated Retrievers feel that their sole purpose in life is to be your friend and they can become quite upset when left alone for extended periods of time. This strong desire to be part of the family, though outwardly a desirable attribute does make them prone not only to separation anxiety but also all of the problems associated with this condition such as digging, chewing or otherwise demolishing the home or yard. This has led to bored or frustrated Flat-Coated Retrievers being noted for being very creative in their destruction.
It is important that training for this boisterous, happy go lucky breed of dog start early in life to help establish a bond with the dog and help the owners learn how to control and channel its energies in a positive direction. Owners of this breed have reported that the best results are obtained when training is conducted using gentle but firm leadership and when training sessions are kept to short intervals. As an intelligent breed of dog it is also important the training be kept fun as the Flat-Coated Retriever will quickly bore when asked to complete overly repetitive tasks. As a breed that bonds so closely with people the breed must have a strong personal bond and affectionate individual attention to reach its full potential in any endeavor. The Flat-Coated Retriever is also noted for getting along very well with dogs and other pets. Although, it is as important with this breed, as it is with all breeds, to begin socialization early in life to introduce them too and familiarize with other dogs and the animals they will be expected to co-exist with in adult life.
Flat-Coated Retriever’s like most retriever breeds love to carry items around in their mouths and seem to be “at their best” when doing so. This breed is also known to have a problem with Coprophagia or eating poop; some will eventually grow out of this behavior. Whether or not this activity is seasonal or related to a nutritional deficiency is still unknown although, females seem more effected by this condition especially after having a litter.
Like Greyhounds this breed is noted for being stoic in nature or having a naturally high tolerance for pain which can result in many small injuries going undiagnosed until permanent damage has occurred. This tends to make them difficult patients to diagnose and patients that are apt to be up and going before an injury has had time to effectively heal. The Flat-Coated Retriever is also noted for getting along very well with dogs and other pets. Although, it is as important with this breed, as it is with all breeds, to begin socialization early in life to introduce them too and familiarize with other dogs and the animals they will be expected to co-exist with in adult life.
The Flat-Coated Retriever like all double-coated breeds will shed, how much will depend upon the level of grooming maintenance provided to the dog. If the owner is unwilling to commit the time to brushing the dog they can expect to find hair stuck to clothes, furniture, carpets and virtually everything else with in the home. For those that provide regular weekly brushing once or twice a week the shedding issue will be considerably less severe. Bathing should be kept to a minimum to prevent striping the coat of its naturally protective oils; for minor dirt a grime a moist wash cloth can be used to wipe down any dirty areas.
Since this breeds hair can be somewhat long in areas it is important that the owner keep a vigilant eye on the dogs coat to ensure that it remains free of any matts or tangles. If matting is found, you can try to gently brush it out and if that is not possible it can carefully be removed by cutting it out with a pair of scissors. All in all this breed is considered to be fairly low maintenance in the grooming category; as the only trimming that is usually done is for dogs living their lives as pets who may occasionally have their pads trimmed out or the hair on the top of their feet shaped to prevent excess dirt from being tracked or for purely aesthetic reasons.
Although the breed seems perfect in every other respect; the FCR is known to have some health related issues. By far, the most common cause of death for the FCR is cancer. A health survey conducted by the Flat-Coated Retriever Society of America (FCRSA) in 2000 noted that in 69% of Flat-Coated Retriever deaths, cancer was the primary cause. Of the cancers reported the most common was Hemangiosarcoma which appeared in 21.6% of cases; followed by Bone cancer 14.8%; Mast Cell cancer 13.8%; Lymphosarcoma & Lymphoma 11.4% each; Malignant Histiocytosis10.1%; Melanoma 8.7%; Fibrosarcoma 7.4%; and finally Adenocarcinoma 6.7%. It should also be noted that the incidence of particularly devastating cancers such as Hemangiosarcoma, osteosarcoma (Bone cancer) and Malignant Histiocytosis tends to be higher in Flat-coated Retrievers than in many other breeds.
On a more positive note the incidence of hip dysplasia and luxating patellas among Flat-coated Retrievers is very low when compared to other medium to large sized breeds; the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) statistics have consistently shown that the rate of hip dysplasia in the breed is less than 3%. A 1997 health survey conducted by the FCRSA also showed that only 4.2% of males and 3.2% of females had been diagnosed with luxating patellas.
Additional problems that have been reported in the breed include:
As always if you absolutely must have a purebred breed of dog, ensure that you are purchasing from a reputable breeder; one that screens breeding pairs for defects or disorders and that is willing to provide health information relating to past litters. This usually begins by finding a breeder that is in good standing and recognized by the breed’s parent club.