“Power without lumber and raciness without weediness” is the traditional description of the Flat-Coated Retriever. Their head is distinctive, long and of “one piece,” all parts flowing smoothly into each other. The gait is ground covering, smooth, and efficient. The coat is thick and flat, of only moderate length, providing protection without adding weight. These attributes have resulted in a versatile and athletic canine capable of retrieving over land and water.
One of the earliest uses of retrieving dogs was to help fishermen retrieve fish and objects from the water. In the nineteenth century, such retrieving dogs were especially popular with the cod fisheries around Newfoundland. Of these dogs, the most popular breeds were the Labrador (not to be confused with the present Labrador Retriever) and several sizes of Newfoundlands.
With the development of more advanced firearms, hunters were increasingly able to shoot “on the wing,” but they needed a dog to mark the fallen bird and bring it back. The fishery dogs were unrivaled swimmers and natural retrievers, and crosses between them and British breeds such as setters or pointers honed the dog’s bird sense. The result was the Wavy-Coated Retriever, and it became quite popular in America and England. In fact, it was among the earliest breeds to be shown at English dog shows.
Near the end of the 1800s, crosses with a straighter-haired breed were made because the wavy coat was thought to be less water repellant. Crosses to setters and collies of the time may also have been made. The resulting Flat-Coated Retrievers became tremendously popular. The breed was not recognized by the AKC until 1915, by which time it had already begun to drop in popularity. By the end of the Second World War, the number of Flat-Coats had dwindled to the point that the breed was threatened with extinction. Concerted efforts to bring the breed back slowly succeeded, and the Flat-Coat now enjoys modest popularity as a companion and show dog, but has not regained its field presence.
The Flat-Coated Retriever is a sweet, exuberant, lively dog that loves to play and retrieve. They are on the go outdoors, but quiet indoors. This breed is among the most devoted and companionable of dogs, a true family dog. They need regular exercise to be on their best behavior, however. They are a sensitive breed and very responsive to training. Their hallmark is their wagging tail.
This active dog needs daily exercise and fun, and especially enjoys the chance to hike or swim. This is a family-oriented dog that does best when allowed to live inside and play outside. The coat needs only weekly brushing and little, if any, minor trimming occasionally.