The Curly-Haired Retriever is one of the oldest breeds of retriever today. They are known to be whip-smart, confident, and protective. The Curly-Haired Retriever is the 162nd ranked breed of 193 by the American Kennel Club. Don’t let their lack of popularity fool you, though; this is a versatile, playful dog.
The Curly-Haired Retriever, often simply called a Curly, came to be after wing shooting with rifles rose in popularity in the late 1700s, making it comparatively ancient for a retriever. It is said to be a descendant of the English Water Spaniel and the Retrieving Setter, both now extinct. Some also say it was mixed with Poodles at some point, to tighten their signature curls and also contributing to their elegant carriage.
By the late 1800s, the Curly-Haired Retriever had found its niche – at the side of British sportsmen. They make great companions for hunters due to their steady demeanor and tender mouths.
CHARACTERISTICS OF THE CURLY-HAIRED RETRIEVER
The Curly-Haired Retriever has a very distinct look and personality; here is some additional information regarding their appearance and temperament.
The Curly is a large, durable gundog. They average 23 to 27 inches in height and can weigh up to 95 pounds. Historically, they were hard workers; in order to work all day, they had to be balanced, strong, and agile. They are big and powerful, but elegant and graceful as well when compared to other retrievers.
The Curly is an all-weather dog; its signature tight curls make it distinct among retriever breeds. They can come in black or liver, and require very moderate grooming. They do not have an undercoat, but they do shed significantly about twice a year (females in particular), but most owners will not brush them as brushing causes their coat to frizz.
During shedding season, use a metal-pronged, rake-like grooming tool to remove excess dead hair. Then use scissors to trim down the rest of the coat.
Their fur contains natural oils that help protect it from the water and the elements; as such, they require very little bathing. Like all breeds, their nails should be kept short and trimmed regularly.
Like their retriever cousins, the Labrador and the Golden, Curly-Haired Retrievers are playful, affectionate and gentle. However, they tend to be less needy and more independent. They are driven and determined, as are many hunting dogs. They are also very intelligent and love constructive work and puzzles. Curlies require daily constructive exercise and training or they may become bored and destructive.
Curlies are playful and loyal with family members, and they do well with children so long as ground rules are set for the kids and for the Curly. They tend to be more reserved around strangers, however; this makes them better-suited to be watchdogs than any other retriever breed. Early socialization is key in adapting them to new people and environments.
Curlies get along well with other pets if they are raised in the house with them. However, if they come across a cat or other animal in the wild, they may chase. They can be stubborn when it comes to training; this makes them difficult dogs for first-time owners. In addition, they are not great at being left on their own for extended periods.
Curlies are intelligent and love to work, but they need a confident, consistent leader to follow or they may take charge and develop issues. They are highly adaptable to their family – they love high-activity families, but if you want to spend some time hanging out watching TV, your Curly will happily curl up right next to you or on their own bed.
CARING FOR A CURLY-HAIRED RETRIEVER
Curly-Haired Retrievers have specific needs, just like any other dog. Here is some information about their nutrition, exercise, training, and health needs.
Curly-Haired Retrievers will do well on a diet consisting of high-quality dry dog food. Some Curly owners like to mix in meat or canned food; others will opt for a raw diet. Consult with your vet to find the diet that’s best for your Curly. Be sure to feed age-appropriate foods to your dog (puppy, adult, senior). Treats are a vital aspect of training, but be careful not to overtreat so as to avoid any issues with obesity.
Like any other retriever, Curlies do like a good amount of exercise. However, they are also remarkably good at relaxing and lounging around the house. Even still, a well-exercised dog is a happy dog, so daily walks and exercise are recommended. Curlies do not need a ton of space, so long as they’re with their owners and still able to exercise. Jogs, running in the yard, swimming, hikes, and hunting are all fun activities that your Curly will enjoy. They are also great at playing fetch. These are sporting dogs who were bred for work, so they enjoy having a job. Keep them engaged and mentally stimulated to keep them happy.
Proper training of a Curly-Haired Retriever requires a firm, but kind, owner. They are intelligent and require a leader who is smarter than they are. They can lose interest with too much repetition, so try your best to vary things when training for extended sessions. Trick your Curly into enjoying what they’re learning, and they will make a fantastic student.
Puppy training and obedience training classes are recommended, as with all dogs. Proper early socialization is also key in exposing them to new environments. If properly socialized and taught manners, Curlies can be great in the home, and can even make for excellent apartment-mates.
Some Curlies can do well in obedience competition, but it isn’t for all of them, as the repetition can bore and disinterest them. As mentioned previously, variety is key in keeping your Curly interested.
On the whole, Curlies are a healthy breed. However, just like any other breed, there are some issues that can arise. Be sure to work with a diligent breeder who tests for various genetic diseases, such as hip dysplasia, Glycogen Storage Disease, and heart and eye problems. Additionally, be aware of the signs and symptoms of bloat, as it can be life-threatening. There are some cancer concerns, so educate yourself about the symptoms and testing involved with those as well.