Flat-Coated Retriever

A friendly, active dog, this breed was bred originally for a specific market, namely the shooting gentry. However, although it is still worked as a gundog. finding and retrieving birds, unmarked to its handler, it is also very popular as a family pet and showdog.


The accuracy of guns had so improved by the nineteenth century that shooting sitting birds was considered unsporting and the skill of shooting birds in flight was born. Retrievers of the time only picked up dead sitting birds, so a different type of dog was needed to work all terrains, especially water. The St John's Dog (early Labrador) was mated to Setters and large Spaniels to produce a prototype. It dropped out of favour and was superseded by the Labrador after World War I, nearly becoming extinct, but because of its inherent beauty, enthusiasts rescued it and now it is undergoing a revival.

The Flat Coated Retriever makes a wonderful family pet as well as an excellent working gundog.


This dog is the eternal puppy, full of mischief and humour. Very affectionate, it is good with children but can be clumsy and hurtful if over-enthusiastic. It needs things to do, especially work, Obedience, Agility and long walks. It learns quickly but can forget everything it knows if it is distracted.

must know

Some lines have a propensity to cancer. There is evidence of genetic eye anomalies, so buyers should buy only from breeders who utilize KC/BVA eye tests.


This is an elegant dog, racy looking but intelligent, with a flat black or liver coat. Its friendliness is demonstrated by an excessively wagging tail. Dogs are 59-61cm (23-24in) in height, while bitches are 56.5-59cm (22-23in). The preferred weight for dogs is 27-36kg (60-80lb); bitches 25-32kg (55-70lb).

Strangers 3/5

Gives loud warning but friendly thereafter

Temperament 5/5

Mischievous, loyal, affectionate

Exercise 5/5

Can never have enough

Grooming 3/5

Three times a week

Other dogs 4/5



A great companion

General care

This dog needs as much exercise and games as possible; its brain and body need stimulation. Good nutritious food is essential to support its exertions but it must not get fat. No strenuous exercise is advised before the age of six months to allow a young dog's bones and joints to set. To prevent tangles, the coat should be brushed and combed three times a week. Train with patience and kindness, as unkindness causes extreme stress.

Gallery of Flat-Coated Retriever