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Flat-Coated Retriever


The Flat-Coated Retriever, also known at various times as the Flat Coat, The Wavy-Coated Retriever, the Smooth-Coated Retriever, the Flatte and the Flattie, descended from the Retriever Proper, a large black dog developed in Britain in the first part of the nineteenth century. The breed also was once called the "Gamekeeper's Dog," given its widespread use on large English estates as a field hunting retriever. The Flattie is unfailingly friendly and not normally a good watch or guard dog. The Flat-Coated Retriever was admitted to the American Kennel Club Stud Book in 1915 and is a member of the Sporting Group. By 1918, the breed's popularity was overtaken by the modern Labrador Retriever. By the 1920s, the Golden Retriever surpassed even the popular Lab.
The mature male Flat-Coated Retriever ideally stands 23 to 24½ inches at the withers; females should be between 22 and 23 ½ inches in height. Deviations of more than one inch either way are discouraged. Flatties typically weigh between 60 and 80 pounds. Their thick, glossy coat is moderate in length and ideally lays flat, providing protection and insulation against all types of weather, water and ground cover. Their solid black or liver coat is easy to care for and only requires a good brushing from time to time. The American Kennel Club breed standard describes the Flat-Coated Retriever as showing "power without lumber and raciness without weediness." He has been called "the Peter Pan" of dogdom".

History & Health

The Flat-Coated Retriever was originally bred as an agile and enthusiastic gun dog - particularly for bird flushing and retrieving - in Great Britain. The breed developed from crosses of the Newfoundland and various types of setters, sheepdogs, spaniels and water dogs. The large, black Newfoundland crosses were traded between Britain and North America, eventually becoming part of a group of dogs loosely called the "Labrador" type. They also were called the St. John's Newfoundland, the Small Labrador Dog and the Lesser Newfoundland. These early dogs should not be confused with today's Labrador Retrievers, as they differed in size, structure and coat.
Distinction between the Curly-Coated Retriever and the Wavy or Smooth-Coated Retriever (which later became known as the Flat-Coated Retriever) was not made in the British show ring until the 1860s. From about 1864 on, two bitches – Old Bounce and her daughter, Young Bounce - became the nucleus for development of the Flattie. The Kennel Club (of England) was founded in 1873, and the Flat-Coated Retriever entered its studbook in 1874. The breed rapidly gained enormous popularity in both the field and the show ring. A liver-colored Flat-Coated Retriever won top honors at the Retriever Society's official field trials in 1900, bringing acceptance to that less common coat color.
Flatties waned in popularity during World Wars I and II, although several devoted fanciers did what they could to save the breed. Flat–Coated Retrievers entered the American Kennel Club's Stud Book in 1950. In the 1960s, the breed had a moderate increase in registration in both Britain and the United States, and today the breed remains stable. The American Kennel Club parent club is the Flat-Coated Retriever Society of America.


The average life expectancy of the Flattie is from 10 to 12 years. Breed health concerns may include cancer, hip dysplasia and elbow dysplasia, entropion, distichiasis, micropapilla, glaucoma and progressive retinal atrophy. Hemangiosarcoma, fibrosarcoma, osteosarcoma and malignant histiocytosis are particularly troublesome and seem to occur at higher rates in Flat-Coated Retrievers than in many other breeds.

Temperament & Personality


The Flat-Coated Retriever is an eternal puppy, brimming with happiness and energy. They adore people and will greet everyone they meet as if that person were their best friend (which makes them lousy guard dogs). Flat-Coated Retrievers are excellent sporting dogs, and hunters can use them to hunt on land or in the water. After a day of hunting or playing with the kids in the back year, the Flat-Coated Retriever will turn into a lapdog – don't be surprised if you find him sleeping in bed under the covers. Though this breed is friendly and social and gets along well with other household pets, their extended puppyhood and constant energy can make them a challenge for first time dog owners.

Activity Requirements

Couch potatoes should steer clear of this active breed. Flat-Coated Retrievers have energy to spare, and just when you think you've tired your dog out, he's caught his second (or third, or fourth) wind. They tend to behave themselves indoors, but if your Retriever isn't getting his daily exercise requirement met, he'll let you know by promptly chewing valuable household items. Apartment dwellers should only adopt this breed if they can give him at least an hour to run every single day.
Active families are best for the Flat-Coated Retriever, as they love to run and play. They'll walk, jog and hike and can keep up alongside a biker. Hunters enjoy this breed because they are so versatile – they are equally proficient on land as they are in water.


The Flat-Coated Retriever looks like a dark colored Golden Retriever, but don't let the appearance fool you. Whereas Golden Retrievers are a dog trainer's dream, the Flat-Coated Retriever is a bit less reliable. They are prone to willfulness and love to test boundaries. Patience and an even temper is important when working with a Flat-Coated Retriever. Discipline will often backfire, so rewarding good behavior with affection and lots of treats is the only way to go.

Behavioral Traits

Flat-Coated Retrievers have an extended puppyhood, and many individual dogs don't lose their puppy-like exuberance until they are well into adulthood. This means they basically never outgrow jumping and carrying on when someone enters your home. To keep his manners in check, it is important to train a Flat-Coated Retriever early on to obey "down" and "stay" commands.
This breed, like his Retriever counterparts, has a tendency to be "mouthy." If it fits in his mouth, he'll pick it up and run with it. They also have a tendency to mouth people's hands and sleeves. Giving your Flat-Coated Retriever enough of his own toys to chew on and teaching him to obey commands early on are important, as this can be very tough behavior to break in adulthood.
Flat-Coated Retrievers often develop Separation Anxiety, which usually involves destructive chewing. They are a true family dog and can become depressed quickly if left alone for too long. People who work long hours shouldn't commit themselves to this breed. Families with a stay at home parent or those with flexible work schedules are much better suited. Proper exercise is also important to stave off anxiety.

Breed Standard

General Appearance
The Flat-Coated Retriever is a versatile family companion hunting retriever with a happy and active demeanor, intelligent expression, and clean lines. The Flat-Coat has been traditionally described as showing "power without lumber and raciness without weediness."
The distinctive and most important features of the Flat-Coat are the silhouette (both moving and standing), smooth effortless movement, head type, coat and character. In silhouette the Flat-Coat has a long, strong, clean, "one piece" head, which is unique to the breed. Free from exaggeration of stop or cheek, the head is set well into a moderately long neck which flows smoothly into well laid back shoulders. A level topline combined with a deep, long rib cage tapering to a moderate tuck-up create the impression of a blunted triangle. The brisket is well developed and the forechest forms a prominent prow. This utilitarian retriever is well balanced, strong, but elegant; never cobby, short legged or rangy. The coat is thick and flat lying, and the legs and tail are well feathered. A proud carriage, responsive attitude, waving tail and overall look of functional strength, quality, style and symmetry complete the picture of the typical Flat-Coat.
Judging the Flat-Coat moving freely on a loose lead and standing naturally is more important than judging him posed. Honorable scars should not count against the dog.

Size, Proportion, Substance
Size--Individuals varying more than an inch either way from the preferred height should be considered not practical for the types of work for which the Flat-Coat was developed. Preferred height is 23 to 24½; inches at the withers for dogs, 22 to 23½ inches for bitches. Since the Flat-Coat is a working hunting retriever he should be shown in lean, hard condition, free of excess weight.
Proportion--The Flat-Coat is not cobby in build. The length of the body from the point of the shoulder to the rearmost projection of the upper thigh is slightly more than the height at the withers. The female may be slightly longer to better accommodate the carrying of puppies. Substance-- Moderate. Medium bone is flat or oval rather than round; strong but never massive, coarse, weedy or fine. This applies throughout the dog.

The long, clean, well molded head is adequate in size and strength to retrieve a large pheasant, duck or hare with ease. Skull and Muzzle--The impression of the skull and muzzle being "cast in one piece" is created by the fairly flat skull of moderate breadth and flat, clean cheeks, combined with the long, strong, deep muzzle which is well filled in before, between and beneath the eyes. Viewed from above, the muzzle is nearly equal in length and breadth to the skull. Stop--There is a gradual, slight, barely perceptible stop, avoiding a down or dish-faced appearance. Brows are slightly raised and mobile, giving life to the expression. Stop must be evaluated in profile so that it will not be confused with the raised brow. Occiput not accentuated, the skull forming a gentle curve where it fits well into the neck. Expression alert, intelligent and kind. Eyes are set widely apart. Medium sized, almond shaped, dark brown or hazel; not large, round or yellow. Eye rims are self-colored and tight. Ears relatively small, well set on, lying close to the side of the head and thickly feathered. Not low set (houndlike or setterish). Nose--Large open nostrils. Black on black dogs, brown on liver dogs. Lips fairly tight, firm, clean and dry to minimize the retention of feathers. Jaws long and strong, capable of carrying a hare or a pheasant. Bite-- Scissors bite preferred, level bite acceptable. Broken teeth should not count against the dog. Severe Faults Wry and undershot or overshot bites with a noticeable gap must be severely penalized.

Neck, Topline, Body
Neck strong and slightly arched for retrieving strength. Moderately long to allow for easy seeking of the trail. Free from throatiness. Coat on neck is untrimmed. Topline strong and level. Body--Chest (Brisket)--Deep, reaching to the elbow and only moderately broad. Forechest--Prow prominent and well developed. Rib cage deep, showing good length from forechest to last rib (to allow ample space for all body organs), and only moderately broad. The foreribs fairly flat showing a gradual spring, well arched in the center of the body but rather lighter towards the loin. Underline--Deep chest tapering to a moderate tuck-up. Loin strong, well muscled and long enough to allow for agility, freedom of movement and length of stride, but never weak or loosely coupled. Croup slopes very slightly; rump moderately broad and well muscled. Tail fairly straight, well set on, with bone reaching approximately to the hock joint. When the dog is in motion, the tail is carried happily but without curl as a smooth extension of the topline, never much above the level of the back.

Shoulders long, well laid back shoulder blade with upper arm of approximately equal length to allow for efficient reach. Musculature wiry rather than bulky. Elbows clean, close to the body and set well back under the withers. Forelegs straight and strong with medium bone of good quality. Pasterns slightly sloping and strong. Dewclaws--Removal of dewclaws is optional. Feet oval or round. Medium sized and tight with well arched toes and thick pads.

Powerful with angulation in balance with the front assembly. Upper thighs powerful and well muscled. Stifle--Good turn of stifle with sound, strong joint. Second thighs (Stifle to hock joint)--Second or lower thigh as long as or only slightly longer than upper thigh. Hock--Hock joint strong, well let down. Dewclaws There are no hind dewclaws. Feet oval or round. Medium sized and tight with well arched toes and thick pads.

Coat is of moderate length density and fullness, with a high lustre. The ideal coat is straight and flat lying. A slight waviness is permissible but the coat is not curly, wooly, short, silky or fluffy. The Flat-Coat is a working retriever and the coat must provide protection from all types of weather, water and ground cover. This requires a coat of sufficient texture, length and fullness to allow for 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. Mane of longer heavier coat on the neck extending over the withers and shoulders is considered typical, especially in the male dog, and can cause the neck to appear thicker and the withers higher, sometimes causing the appearance of a dip behind the withers. Since the Flat-Coat is a hunting retriever, the feathering is not excessively long. Trimming --The Flat-Coat is shown with as natural a coat as possible and must not be penalized for lack of trimming, as long as the coat is clean and well brushed. Tidying of ears, feet, underline and tip of tail is acceptable. Whiskers serve a specific function and it is preferred that they not be trimmed. Shaving or barbering of the head, neck or body coat must be severely penalized.

Solid black or solid liver. Disqualification-- Yellow, cream or any color other than black or liver.

Sound, efficient movement is of critical importance to a hunting retriever. The Flat-Coat viewed from the side covers ground efficiently and movement appears balanced, free flowing and well coordinated, never choppy, mincing or ponderous. Front and rear legs reach well forward and extend well back, achieving long clean strides. Topline appears level, strong and supple while dog is in motion.

The Flat-Coat is a strong but elegant, cheerful hunting retriever. Quality of structure, balance and harmony of all parts both standing and in motion are essential. As a breed whose purpose is of a utilitarian nature, structure, condition and attitude should give every indication of being suited for hard work.

Character is a primary and outstanding asset of the Flat-Coat. He is a responsive, loving member of the family, a versatile working dog, multi-talented, sensible, bright and tractable. In competition the Flat-Coat demonstrates stability and a desire to please with a confident, happy and outgoing attitude characterized by a wagging tail. Nervous, hyperactive, apathetic, shy or obstinate behavior is undesirable. Severe Fault--Unprovoked aggressive behavior toward people or animals is totally unacceptable.

Character is as important to the evaluation of stock by a potential breeder as any other aspect of the breed standard. The Flat-Coat is primarily a family companion hunting retriever. He is keen and birdy, flushing within gun range, as well as a determined, resourceful retriever on land and water. He has a great desire to hunt with self-reliance and an uncanny ability to adapt to changing circumstances on a variety of upland game and waterfowl.
As a family companion he is sensible, alert and highly intelligent; a lighthearted, affectionate and adaptable friend. He retains these qualities as well as his youthfully good-humored outlook on life into old age. The adult Flat-Coat is usually an adequate alarm dog to give warning, but is a good-natured, optimistic dog, basically inclined to be friendly to all.
The Flat-Coat is a cheerful, devoted companion who requires and appreciates living with and interacting as a member of his family. To reach full potential in any endeavor he absolutely must have a strong personal bond and affectionate individual attention.

Yellow, cream or any color other than black or liver.

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Sources: American Kennel Club


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