Flat-coated Retriever

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Flat-Coated Retriever
A black Flat-Coated Retriever
Common nicknamesFlatcoat, Flattie
Flatte (Sweden), flatt (Sweden)
Height Dogs 59–61.5 cm (23.2–24.2 in)[1]
Bitches 56.5–59 cm (22.2–23.2 in)[1]
Weight Dogs 27–36 kg (60–79 lb)[1]
Bitches 25–32 kg (55–71 lb)[1]
Coat Glossy and smooth
Colour Black, liver
Litter size 4 - 8 pups
Life span 8 - 10 years
Kennel club standards
The Kennel Club standard
Fédération Cynologique Internationale standard
Dog (domestic dog)

The Flat-coated Retriever is a gundog breed originating from England. It was developed as a retriever both on land and in the water.



The Flat-Coated Retriever breed standard calls for males to be 23–25 in (58–64 cm) tall at the withers, with a recommended weight of 60–80 lb (27–36 kg),[1] and for females to be 22–24 in (56–61 cm), with a recommended weight of 55–75 lb (25–34 kg).[1][2] The Flat-Coated Retriever has strong muscular jaws and a relatively long muzzle. Its head is unique to the breed and is described as being "of one piece" with a minimal stop and a backskull of about the same length as the muzzle. It has almond-shaped, dark brown eyes with an intelligent, friendly expression. The ears are pendant, relatively small, and lie close to the head. The occiput (the bone at the back of the skull) is not to be accentuated (as it is in setters, for example) with the head flowing smoothly into a well-arched neck. The topline is strong and straight with a well-feathered tail of moderate length held straight off the back. This breed should be well angulated front and rear, allowing for open, effortless movement.

Flat-Coated Retrievers retrieve well on land or in the water.

The Flat-Coated Retriever comes in three colors – black, liver, and yellow. Although yellow is a disqualifier in conformation, they can compete in other venues.

A male 7-year-old Flat Coated Retriever


The Flat-Coated Retriever is an active, multitalented bird dog with a strong desire to please people.[3] Exuberant, confident, and outgoing, they make a loving family pet and can be companions to small children, provided adults are nearby to direct this dog's boisterous enthusiasm. They are usually very good with other dogs and even cats. These retrievers require plenty of exercise and engagement to help channel their natural sporting energy.[4] The British Kennel Club recommends that owners provide dogs with at least 2 hours of exercise a day.[5] While they will protect their owners and property with an assertive bark, they are unlikely to back up such noise with actual aggression.[6] Because of their excellent sense of smell, combined with their boundless energy and eagerness to please their masters, they are sometimes used as drug-sniffer dogs. They are used in the breeding program for The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association in the UK, both as a breed and as cross-breeds with the Labrador Retriever. [7]

Eager and quick to learn, they are best trained in short intervals, as they may bore with repetition. The Flat-Coated Retriever is a slow maturing dog, as they do not reach full maturity until 3–5 years of age. Even then, these dogs retain their youthful, puppy-like outlook and demeanor well into old age.[3] Paddy Petch, author of The Complete Flat-Coated Retriever, refers to these dogs as the "Peter Pan" of the retriever breeds, given they never quite grow up.[6]

The Flat-Coated Retriever is a "natural" breed and enjoys partaking in "natural" activities such as rolling in feces, playing in mud, and digging.[3] These dogs are also "thinking" dogs, meaning they want to please but look for a way to bend the rules.[3] This characteristic helps with their hunting ability but only if they are bonded with their owner. These dogs will work for themselves or not at all if there is no motivation to work with the handler or dog-handler bond present.[3]

Black is the most common colour, but Flat-Coated Retrievers also occur in liver (dark brown) and yellow, although yellow is not allowed by the breed standard.
Flat-Coated Retrievers love water.
A Flat-Coated Retriever after swimming


A typical Flat-Coated Retriever expression

Originating in the mid-19th century in England, the Flat-Coated Retriever gained popularity as a gamekeeper’s dog. Part of its ancestry is thought to have come from stock imported from North America from the now extinct St. John's water dog, but this is unverified. Canadian seafarers are thought to have brought Newfoundlands to British ports, and they factored into the ancestry of the Flat-Coated Retriever. Collie-type dogs may have been added to increase the breed's trainability along with the Newfoundland for strength and Setter blood for enhanced scenting ability. The first examples of the breed were introduced around 1860, but the final type was only established 20 years later.[8]

After its introduction into the U.S., the Flat-Coated Retriever began to quickly gain in popularity as a gun dog, and from 1873 when the breed became a "stable type" according to the American Kennel Club until 1915 when it was officially recognised as a breed,[9] their number grew rapidly. However, soon after, their popularity began to decrease, eclipsed by the Golden Retriever, which was actually bred in part from the Flat-Coated Retriever, along with other breeds[citation needed]. By the end of World War II, so few Flat-Coated Retrievers remained, the breed's survival was uncertain. However, beginning in the 1960s, careful breeding brought the population back and the breed gained in popularity again, for both the sport of conformation showing, and as a companion pet. Today, the Flat-Coated Retriever enjoys a modest popularity and is moving ahead as a breed through attentive breeding for the conformation, health, multipurpose talent, and exceptional temperament that are its hallmarks. It has yet to return in substantial numbers to field competition.

In 2011, 'Sh Ch. Vbos The Kentuckian' (aka Jet), a 9.5-year-old Flat-Coated Retriever from South Queensferry, near Edinburgh, Scotland, won Best in Show at Crufts.[10] Almanza Far and Flyg (a.k.a. Simon), from Oslo, Norway, won the Gundog Group at Crufts in 2007.[11] Before that in 2003, a Swedish dog 'Inkwells Named Shadow' had also won the Gundog Group. The last UK dog to win the Gundog Group at Crufts was "Sh Ch Gayplume Dream-maker" in 2002. In 2022 Crufts, Baxer ‘Ch. Almanza Backseat Driver’, a 6-year-old liver flat-coated retriever from Oslo Norway, won the Best in Show. The previous other Flat-Coated Retriever to win Best in Show at Crufts was 'Ch. Shargleam Blackcap' in 1980. These wins have contributed to the breed's popularity in Europe and the United Kingdom.


Regular tests and clearances for hereditary joint conditions such as hip dysplasia, deafness, and eye conditions such as progressive retinal atrophy and glaucoma should be conducted by breeders on any dogs used for breeding. Occasionally, epilepsy is also seen in the breed.

Flat-Coated Retrievers have a higher risk of cancer than most dogs. Hemangiosarcoma, fibrosarcoma, osteosarcoma, and malignant histiocytosis are particularly devastating, and occur at higher rates in them than in many other breeds. According to studies sponsored by the Flat-Coated Retriever Society of America (FCRSA),[12] the average lifespan of the Flat-coated Retriever is only about eight years,[13] with a high percentage of deaths due to cancer. More recent surveys in Denmark and the UK show a median lifespan around 10 years.[14] A health survey of purebred dogs in the UK from 2010 showed approximately 50% of Flat-Coated Retrievers death were due to some form of cancer.[15][16]

Another more common affliction amongst Flat-Coated Retrievers is gastric dilatation volvulus, otherwise known as bloat.[17] This is not specific to Flat-Coats but it is common due to their large size and deep chests.[17] If left untreated, the dog will die quickly.[17] Gastric dilatation volvulus is responsible for 5% of all Flat-Coated Retriever deaths and around 20% of non-tumour-related deaths.[18]

Flat-Coated Retrievers have a very low rate of hip dysplasia and luxating patellas compared to other medium-sized breeds; the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals statistics consistently show a rate of hip dysplasia in the breed of less than 3%. In the 1997 FCRSA health survey, 4.2% of males and 3.2% of females had been diagnosed with luxating patellae.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f "FLAT COATED RETRIEVER" (PDF). Fci.be. Retrieved 12 December 2017.
  2. ^ "Flat-Coated Retriever Society of America, Inc". Archived from the original on 2010-11-22. Retrieved 2011-01-07.
  3. ^ a b c d e "The Forever Adolescent Flat-Coat". Fcrsa.org. 2 January 2017. Retrieved 11 December 2017.
  4. ^ "Flat-coated Retriever | CKC". Archived from the original on 2018-01-18. Retrieved 2017-12-06.
  5. ^ "The Kennel Club". Thekennelclub.org.uk. Retrieved 11 December 2017.
  6. ^ a b Petch, P. (1988). The Complete Flat-Coated Retriever. The Boydell Press, NY. ISBN 0-85115-463-8
  7. ^ "Guide Dogs National Breeding Centre - Our Breeds - Guide Dogs". Guidedogs.org.uk. Retrieved 11 December 2017.
  8. ^ The Reader's Digest Illustrated Book of Dogs, 1982.
  9. ^ "Flat-Coated Retriever History". American Kennel Club. Retrieved 2007-07-08.
  10. ^ "Retriever Jet Top Dog at Crufts". Daily Express. 13 March 2011.
  11. ^ "Crufts 2007 Day 1 (Gundog) Show Report". The Kennel Club. 8 March 2007. Archived from the original on 2007-03-21. Retrieved 2007-07-08.
  12. ^ "The Flat-Coated Retriever Health Manual". Flat-Coated Retriever Society of America. Archived from the original on 2007-08-17. Retrieved 2007-07-08.
  13. ^ "A general health survey of Flat-coated Retrievers". Breed Health Committee of the Flat-coated Retriever Society of America.
  14. ^ "Breed Data Summary". Users.pullman.com. Retrieved 11 December 2017.
  15. ^ Adams, V. J.; Evans, K. M.; Sampson, J.; Wood, J. L. N. (1 October 2010). "Methods and mortality results of a health survey of purebred dogs in the UK". The Journal of Small Animal Practice. 51 (10): 512–524. doi:10.1111/j.1748-5827.2010.00974.x. PMID 21029096.
  16. ^ Dobson, Jane M. (17 January 2013). "Breed-Predispositions to Cancer in Pedigree Dogs". ISRN Veterinary Science. 2013: 941275. doi:10.1155/2013/941275. PMC 3658424. PMID 23738139.
  17. ^ a b c "FLAT COATED RETRIEVER : BLOAT" (PDF). Flatcoated-retriever-society.org. Retrieved 12 December 2017.
  18. ^ "Gastric dilatation and Volvulus (GDV) – What is it and how can we prevent it?" (PDF). Flatcoated-retriever-society.org. Retrieved 12 December 2017.

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