Often referred to as the Peter Pan of the sporting group of breeds, the Flat-Coated Retriever is a youthful, energetic gundog who is most at home when retrieving game on land or in water. The American Kennel Club ranks the Flat-Coated Retriever 91st out of 193 total breeds.
Once Britain’s most popular retrieving breed, the Flat-Coated was first bred in the mid-1800s. They were a popular breed for large, grandiose estates of the British Aristocracy; as such, they were also often called the “Gamekeeper’s dog.” By the end of World War II, the Flat-Coated breed had nearly disappeared, overtaken by Labradors and Goldens; the breed was kept alive, though, by people who truly loved the breed, and its popularity has risen steadily ever since.
CHARACTERISTICS OF THE FLAT-COATED RETRIEVER
The Flat-Coated Retriever shares many things in common with its Retriever cousins, but there are some differences as well. Here is some more information regarding their appearance and temperament.
Flat-Coated Retrievers can stand up to 24.5 inches and can weigh up to 70 pounds. Their most important features are their silhouettes, which appear as tall as a Labrador but are leaner and more elegant; their long head, which is unique among retrieving breeds; their character; their effortless gait and movement; and their coat.
The Flat-Coat’s coat is thick, but it lies down flat. It comes in black or liver color only (beware a breeder advertising a yellow flat-coat!), and the leg and tail fur are feathered. They are a large-sized dog with a thick coat, and they tend to shed quite a bit. Weekly grooming with a brush and a metal comb to remove loose hair and dirt are recommended. Weekly toothbrushing and regular nail trimmings are beneficial as well. Bathe as needed.
The Flat-Coated Retriever is among the happiest breeds we know of; their tails never seem to stop wagging. True to their Peter Pan name, they tend to mature slowly (although it may sometimes seem as though they aren’t maturing at all). They maintain their puppylike demeanor deep into adulthood, which can be cute, but the rambunxious troublemaking can get on the nerves of some owners as well.
Their high energy levels mean they require a significant amount of daily exercise. This is a hunting and sporting breed, so physical exercise and mental stimulation are necessary for their physical and mental well-being. If they don’t get enough stimulation, they can become destructive. They also love to be around people, and if left alone for too long, may start to entertain themselves in destructive ways as well.
The Flat-Coat’s fun, carefree demeanor means that they love everyone and think everyone loves them. This makes them great family dogs, but very poor guard dogs. In addition, they aren’t great around small children and seniors, as their constant-wagging tails can cause damage to people who are more fragile.
Flat-Coated Retrievers are generally great around other pets as well, though some cats may be annoyed by their boundless energy and curiosity. If raised with other pets and children from a young age, the Flat-Coat will be a great addition to any active household. They are, however, notorious attention hogs and have been known to steal food, so they require a constant eye and clear counters. Their loyalties lie with the person who’s feeding them or giving them attention, so they aren’t as loyal as other breeds. Their average life expectancy is 8 to 10 years.
CARING FOR A FLAT-COATED RETRIEVER
As with any breed, caring for your Flat-Coated Retriever is straightforward and easy if you have the right knowledge. Here is some information about their nutrition, exercise, training, and health needs to help get you started.
Flat-Coated Retrievers will generally do best on a high-quality dry food fed twice daily. As always, consult with your vet before making any dietary decisions. Be sure to select foods that are age appropriate (puppy, adult, and senior). This is an active breed, and active dogs require more food, so pay attention to your dog’s weight. Conversely, overfeeding can lead to obesity, so be careful! The same goes for treats – they make a useful training tool, but too many can be problematic. Always keep a bowl filled with clean, fresh water accessible.
This is a sporting dog, not a couch potato, so get your Flat-Coat outdoors and running around. Long, daily walks on-leash are great, but the Flat-Coat is most at home when hiking, hunting, swimming, running, and exploring. They have boundless energy, so they are not the breed of choice for a more sedentary family. They are also excellent at fetch, so backyards are beneficial. This is not an apartment dog; their rambunctious, nonstop energy will lead to them knocking things over and they do better with more space.
This is also a breed who can do well with agility, tracking, rally, and other similar dog activities. Expect to exercise your dog for around 90 minutes each day, after combining walks, play, games, and training.
Since they maintain their puppy-like personality deep into adulthood, it might feel like training is a dead-end. This couldn’t be further from the truth; you will find that your Flat-Coated Retriever is a very intelligent and willing training partner who takes quickly to learning new things. They are eager to please, and if working with a loved family member, they will be easy and fun to train. They don’t respond well to negative corrections or training methods, so be sure to train them positively and consistently.
As with any other breed, start them in puppy and obedience classes early on. In addition, early socialization is highly recommended – expose them to a variety of places, people, and situations as early as possible.
Flat-Coated Retrievers are generally a healthy breed, but there are some health considerations to take into account. Be sure to work with a good breeder who tests their stock for various genetic diseases. Hip dysplasia, various cancers, luxating patellas, several eye afflictions, and more have been known to affect Flat-Coats. Learn and understand the signs and symptoms of these diseases to ensure your dog lives a long, happy life.