Curly-Coated Retriever

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curly-coated retriever portrait
Welcome to the world of Curly-Coated Retrievers, where curls aren't just for hairdos! These lovable dogs sport a distinctive coat that's as functional as it is fabulous. Curly-Coated Retrievers win hearts with their playful personalities and unwavering loyalty, making them a top choice for dog lovers.

Join us in this comprehensive guide as we explore everything you need to know about this breed, including their appearance, temperament, ideal environment, grooming, exercise requirements, training tips, dietary needs, health concerns, history, and more.

Best For

The Curly-Coated Retriever is an ideal companion for active individuals or families seeking a devoted, intelligent, and energetic dog breed. Their natural affinity for water and love for outdoor adventures make them perfect for those who enjoy swimming, hiking, or jogging.


OFFICIAL NAMECurly-Coated Retriever
BREED GROUPSporting Group
HEIGHT23-27 inches
WEIGHT55-95 lbs
LIFESPAN10-12 years
curly-coated retriever standing on grass
Photo: Kurt Pas/Getty Images


The Curly-Coated Retriever is a striking and distinctive dog breed that stands out for its unique appearance. This medium to large-sized breed typically measures between 23 to 27 inches in height at the shoulder, with males being slightly larger than females. Adult males usually weigh between 70 to 95 pounds, while females tend to range from 55 to 75 pounds.

One of the most noticeable features of the Curly-Coated Retriever is its body, which is well-proportioned and athletic, showcasing its strength and agility. The breed’s deep chest and well-sprung ribs provide ample room for lung capacity, contributing to their endurance in the field. Their strong, straight back and muscular hindquarters enable them to perform powerfully in various physical activities.

The head of a Curly-Coated Retriever is wedge-shaped and moderately long, giving them a refined and intelligent expression. Their eyes are almond-shaped and medium-sized, with dark brown or black coloring that complements their coat. The ears are relatively small and set close to the head, lying flat against the cheeks. Their alert and gentle expression reflects their friendly and eager-to-please nature.

A key characteristic of this breed is its unique, tightly-curled coat, which covers its entire body. The coat is water-resistant and provides excellent insulation, making it well-suited for working in cold or wet environments. The curls are crisp and should not be too tight or woolly. The coat color can be either solid black or liver, with no white markings or patches.

The tail of a Curly-Coated Retriever is another distinguishing feature. It is straight, tapers towards the tip, and is covered with curls like the rest of the body. When the dog is excited or in motion, the tail is carried level with the back or slightly higher, showcasing its enthusiasm and energy.

Overall, the Curly-Coated Retriever’s appearance is a harmonious blend of elegance and power. Its physical characteristics are not only visually appealing but also serve practical purposes.

curly-coated retriever sitting on the snow
Photo: Eudyptula/Getty Images


The Curly-Coated Retriever boasts a personality that is as distinctive and charming as its appearance. This breed is known for its friendly, outgoing, and confident nature, making it an ideal companion for families and individuals alike.

Being highly intelligent and eager to please, these dogs are quick learners and adapt well to various situations. However, their temperament is not just limited to these traits; there’s more to this breed that makes them truly special.

One of the most endearing qualities of Curly-Coated Retrievers is their affectionate and gentle demeanor, both towards their human family members and other animals. They are known to form strong bonds with their owners and thrive on companionship, making them excellent family pets.

Their natural affinity for children, combined with their patience and protectiveness, further enhances their suitability as loving members of the household.

Curly-Coated Retrievers are also known for their playful and spirited nature, which can sometimes be mistaken for aloofness or independence. While they may appear reserved around strangers, they generally warm up quickly once they feel comfortable.

This breed is not typically aggressive or overly timid, striking a pleasant balance between friendliness and caution. Their curiosity and inquisitiveness make them fun and engaging companions, delighting their owners with their antics and enthusiasm for life.

In addition to their amiable disposition, Curly-Coated Retrievers possess a strong work ethic and drive, which can be attributed to their hunting and retrieving heritage.

They have an innate love for water and are exceptional swimmers, making them well-suited for water-related activities such as dock diving and search-and-rescue efforts. Their keen sense of smell and remarkable problem-solving skills also make them excellent candidates for scent work and tracking events.

Despite their working background, Curly-Coated Retrievers are equally content spending time indoors, reveling in the company of their human family. They enjoy interactive games and mental challenges, which help to stimulate their minds and keep them engaged.

This breed appreciates a balance of work and play, thriving in environments where they can participate in both physical activities and quiet moments of relaxation.

One aspect of the Curly-Coated Retriever’s temperament that sets it apart from other retriever breeds is its sensitivity. These dogs are known to be more sensitive to their owner’s emotions and moods, making them highly empathetic companions.

This trait allows them to form deep connections with their owners but also means they may require gentle and patient handling, as harsh or punitive training methods could cause them to become anxious or withdrawn.

curly-coated retriever's face close up
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Ideal Environment

Ideal Owner

The ideal environment for the Curly-Coated Retriever is one that caters to their physical, mental, and social needs. This breed thrives in households where they can be an active participant in daily life, engaging in various activities alongside their human family members.

They are well-suited for both experienced dog owners and first-time pet parents who are willing to invest time and effort in proper training, socialization, and providing adequate exercise.

Other Pets

Curly-Coated Retrievers enjoy the company of other pets, including dogs and cats, as long as they are properly introduced and socialized from an early age. Their friendly and gentle nature makes them ideal companions for other animals, but it’s essential to monitor their interactions, especially during playtime, to ensure all pets are comfortable and safe.

Physical Environment

They appreciate having access to a securely fenced yard or outdoor space where they can safely explore and play off-leash. They are not ideally suited for apartment living due to their size and energy levels. A home with ample space for them to move around and engage in activities is preferable.

Access to natural bodies of water, such as lakes or rivers, is a bonus, as this breed loves swimming and water-related activities.

Climate Adaptability

As for adaptability to different climates, the Curly-Coated Retriever’s water-resistant coat provides excellent insulation, making them well-equipped to handle cold weather conditions.

They can tolerate moderately cold climates and enjoy playing in the snow. However, it’s important to monitor them for signs of discomfort or hypothermia during extreme cold spells and provide them with a warm shelter when needed.

On the other hand, their thick coat can make them more susceptible to overheating in hot climates. In such conditions, it’s crucial to provide them with plenty of fresh water, shade, and opportunities to cool down. Avoid exercising your Curly-Coated Retriever during the hottest parts of the day, and always be vigilant for signs of heatstroke or dehydration.

curly-coated retriever standing on green grass
Photo: CaptureLight/Getty Images


When it comes to grooming, the Curly-Coated Retriever has relatively low-maintenance requirements compared to other breeds. Their unique curly coat is not only a striking visual feature but also serves practical purposes, such as being water-resistant and providing insulation.

Despite its low-maintenance nature, it’s essential to establish a regular grooming routine to keep your Curly-Coated Retriever looking and feeling its best.

Coat Care

The most prominent aspect of grooming for this breed is coat care. The tight curls on a Curly-Coated Retriever’s body require brushing only once or twice a week to prevent matting and remove any loose hair or debris.

It’s important to use a slicker brush or a comb specifically designed for curly coats, as these tools can gently detangle the curls without causing damage or discomfort. Be sure to brush the entire coat, paying particular attention to areas prone to matting, such as behind the ears, under the legs, and around the tail.

Curly-Coated Retrievers shed moderately throughout the year, with heavier shedding occurring during seasonal changes. During these periods, you may need to increase the frequency of brushing to manage the shedding and maintain the coat’s health. It’s worth noting that the coat’s natural oils help maintain its water-resistant properties, so it’s essential not to over-bathe your dog.

Bathing should be done only when necessary, using a mild dog shampoo that won’t strip the coat of its natural oils.

Dental Care

In addition to coat care, dental hygiene is an important aspect of grooming for Curly-Coated Retrievers. Regular teeth cleaning helps prevent plaque buildup, gum disease, and bad breath. Ideally, you should brush your dog’s teeth daily using a dog-specific toothbrush and toothpaste.

Introducing this habit early in your dog’s life will make it easier for them to accept and enjoy the process. To further support dental health, you can provide dental chews or toys designed to clean teeth and massage gums.

Nail Trimming

Nail care is another vital component of a Curly-Coated Retriever’s grooming routine. Regular nail trimming or grinding helps prevent overgrown nails, which can cause discomfort, pain, and even injury if left unchecked.

Generally, nails should be trimmed every three to four weeks, depending on your dog’s activity level and the surfaces they walk on. If you’re unsure about how to trim your dog’s nails, consult with a professional groomer or your veterinarian for guidance.

Ears & Eyes

Finally, it’s important to regularly check your Curly-Coated Retriever’s ears for signs of infection, dirt, or debris. Clean their ears as needed using a gentle ear-cleaning solution and cotton balls or pads. Avoid using cotton swabs, as they can cause damage to the delicate structures within the ear canal.

Additionally, keep an eye on your dog’s eyes, ensuring they are clear and free from discharge. If you notice any redness, swelling, or discharge, consult your veterinarian for advice.

black curly-coated retriever at a park
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Curly-Coated Retrievers are an energetic and athletic breed with a strong drive to work and play, which is why it’s crucial to meet their exercise needs to maintain their physical and mental well-being.

Exercise Amount & Types

As a general guideline, Curly-Coated Retrievers require at least one hour of moderate to vigorous exercise daily, though some individuals may need more depending on their age, health, and energy levels.

A variety of exercises and activities can help keep your Curly-Coated Retriever engaged and satisfied. Long walks or hikes are excellent ways to provide both physical exercise and mental stimulation, as they allow your dog to explore and use their natural instincts. Jogging or running alongside you can also be a great bonding experience and an effective way to burn off energy.

Being a retriever breed, this dog loves playing fetch and will happily chase after balls, frisbees, or other toys for extended periods. These games not only offer physical exercise but also tap into their innate retrieving instincts, providing mental enrichment as well.

Curly-Coated Retrievers have a natural affinity for water and are exceptional swimmers. Incorporating water-based activities such as swimming or dock diving is an excellent way to provide exercise while indulging their love for water. These activities can also help keep them cool during hot weather, reducing the risk of overheating.

Dog Sports

In addition to physical exercise, Curly-Coated Retrievers benefit from participating in structured activities that challenge their minds and bodies. They excel in various dog sports and competitions, such as obedience trials, agility courses, and field trials.

Their keen sense of smell and problem-solving abilities also make them well-suited for scent work and tracking events. Participating in these activities not only provides physical and mental stimulation but also strengthens the bond between you and your dog.

Exercise Precautions

It’s essential to monitor your Curly-Coated Retriever’s response to exercise and adjust the routine as needed to avoid overexertion or injury. Be mindful of your dog’s age, fitness level, and any health conditions that might affect their ability to exercise. Consult with your veterinarian for guidance on creating an appropriate exercise plan tailored to your dog’s specific needs.

curly-coated retriever swimming in a lake
Photo: rctdad/Pixabay


When it comes to training, Curly-Coated Retrievers are highly intelligent and eager-to-please dogs, making them generally easy to train and receptive to learning new commands. However, their unique temperament and sensitivity require a slightly different approach compared to some other retriever breeds.

These dogs respond best to positive reinforcement techniques, such as praise, treats, or playtime as rewards for good behavior. They can be sensitive to harsh or punitive training methods, which may cause them to become anxious or withdrawn. Instead, focus on building trust and maintaining a positive, consistent training environment that encourages your dog to learn and grow.

Early socialization is crucial for Curly-Coated Retrievers, as it helps them develop into well-rounded and confident adult dogs. Exposing your puppy to various people, animals, and environments from a young age will help them adapt to new situations more easily and minimize the risk of fear or aggression later in life.

Consistency is key when training a Curly-Coated Retriever. Establishing clear expectations and boundaries will help your dog understand what is expected of them and prevent confusion. Be patient and persistent in reinforcing desired behaviors, and avoid inadvertently rewarding undesirable actions.

Curly-Coated Retrievers are also known to have an independent streak, which may sometimes be mistaken for stubbornness during training sessions. It’s essential to keep training sessions engaging, fun, and relatively short to maintain their interest and enthusiasm.

Incorporating games or challenges that tap into their natural instincts, such as retrieving or scent work, can make the training process more enjoyable and rewarding for both you and your dog.

In addition to basic obedience training, consider enrolling your Curly-Coated Retriever in advanced training classes or dog sports, such as agility, flyball, or field trials. These activities not only provide mental stimulation and physical exercise but also help strengthen the bond between you and your dog.

black curly-coated retriever relaxing at home
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Diet & Nutrition 

A well-balanced diet is essential for maintaining the overall health and well-being of your Curly-Coated Retriever. Choosing the right food and portion sizes will ensure that your dog receives the necessary nutrients, vitamins, and minerals to support their growth, activity levels, and unique needs as a breed.

What to Feed & How Much

When selecting a food for your Curly-Coated Retriever, consider high-quality commercial dry, wet, or raw options that meet the nutritional guidelines established by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO).

Look for products that use high-quality protein sources, such as chicken, beef, or fish, as the primary ingredient, along with healthy fats and carbohydrates. Avoid foods with excessive fillers, artificial additives, or low-quality ingredients that may not provide optimal nutrition.

The amount and frequency of feeding your Curly-Coated Retriever will depend on their age, weight, activity level, and individual metabolism. Puppies typically require more frequent meals (3-4 times daily) to support their rapid growth and development. As your dog grows and matures, you can gradually transition them to adult feeding schedules, which usually involve two meals per day.

It’s always a good idea to consult with your veterinarian when determining the best diet and feeding routine for your Curly-Coated Retriever. They can provide guidance on specific nutritional requirements, recommend suitable food options, and help monitor your dog’s weight and overall health.

To determine the appropriate portion size for your dog, consult the feeding guidelines provided by the pet food manufacturer and adjust as needed based on your dog’s specific needs and activity levels. It’s essential to monitor your dog’s weight and body condition regularly, making adjustments to their diet as necessary to prevent obesity or undernourishment.


Treats can be an excellent tool for training and rewarding good behavior but should be given in moderation to avoid excess calorie intake. Choose healthy, low-calorie options and account for treats when calculating your dog’s daily food allowance.


Providing fresh water for your Curly-Coated Retriever is crucial to their overall health. Ensure they have access to clean water at all times, particularly after exercise or during hot weather to prevent dehydration.


Curly-Coated Retrievers are generally a healthy and robust breed, with a life expectancy of 10 to 12 years. However, like all breeds, they can be prone to certain health conditions. Being aware of these potential issues can help you take preventative measures and seek early intervention if necessary.

Some common health issues associated with Curly-Coated Retrievers include:

Hip Dysplasia: This is a genetic condition in which the hip joint doesn’t develop properly, leading to arthritis and pain. Regular check-ups, maintaining a healthy weight, and providing proper exercise can help manage this condition.

Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA): PRA is an eye disorder that causes the gradual degeneration of the retina, eventually leading to blindness. Regular eye examinations by a veterinarian can help detect and monitor this condition.

Bloat (Gastric Torsion): This life-threatening condition occurs when the stomach fills with gas and twists on itself. Feeding smaller meals throughout the day, avoiding vigorous exercise immediately after eating, and monitoring for signs of distress can help prevent and detect bloat.

Epilepsy: This neurological disorder can cause seizures in affected dogs. While epilepsy cannot be cured, it can be managed with appropriate medication and regular veterinary care.

Allergies: Curly-Coated Retrievers can be prone to skin allergies, which can cause itching, redness, and discomfort. Identifying and eliminating allergens from their environment, along with providing appropriate treatment and care, can help manage this condition.

To keep your Curly-Coated Retriever healthy, it’s essential to provide them with a well-balanced diet that meets their nutritional needs. A high-quality diet will support their immune system, promote a healthy coat, and maintain overall well-being.

Regular veterinary check-ups and vaccinations are crucial for maintaining your dog’s health and detecting any potential issues early on.

Establishing a good relationship with your veterinarian and following their recommendations regarding routine care, vaccinations, and preventative measures will help ensure your Curly-Coated Retriever lives a long and healthy life.

curly-coated retriever walking on snow
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The Curly-Coated Retriever is one of the oldest retriever breeds, with its origins dating back to the early 19th century in England. This breed was developed as a skilled and versatile hunting companion, primarily used for retrieving waterfowl and upland game.

The exact ancestry of the Curly-Coated Retriever is not well documented, but it is believed that they were created by crossing various breeds, including the now-extinct English Water Spaniel, St. John’s Water Dog, and possibly the Poodle or Irish Water Spaniel.

The primary goal in developing the Curly-Coated Retriever was to create a dog with exceptional retrieving abilities, both on land and in water.

The breed’s unique curly coat provided excellent insulation and water resistance, allowing them to work in harsh conditions and cold waters. Their intelligence, endurance, and gentle mouth made them highly valued by hunters, who appreciated their ability to retrieve game without causing any damage.

Throughout the 19th century, the Curly-Coated Retriever gained popularity among English hunters and gamekeepers. They were also highly regarded in shooting circles, participating in field trials and competitive events. The breed was first exhibited in England in 1860, and by the end of the century, they had spread to other countries, including Australia and New Zealand.

Despite their early success, the Curly-Coated Retriever faced a decline in popularity during the 20th century, as other retriever breeds, such as the Labrador Retriever and Golden Retriever, gained favor among hunters and families alike. The two World Wars also had a detrimental impact on the breed’s numbers, as breeding efforts were hampered during these difficult times.

The Curly-Coated Retriever was first introduced to the United States in the early 20th century, and the American Kennel Club (AKC) officially recognized the breed in 1924. However, it wasn’t until the 1960s and 1970s that the breed began to gain a foothold in the U.S., thanks to the efforts of dedicated breed enthusiasts who worked to import and establish breeding lines.

Today, Curly-Coated Retrievers are still relatively rare, both in the United States and worldwide. However, dedicated breeders and enthusiasts continue to work towards preserving and promoting this remarkable breed.

Their efforts have helped maintain the Curly-Coated Retriever’s status as an exceptional hunting companion and versatile working dog, while also introducing them to new roles as service dogs, therapy dogs, and beloved family pets.

Parent Club

The Curly-Coated Retriever Club of America (CCRCA) is the parent club for the breed in the United States. Founded in 1979, the CCRCA is dedicated to preserving and promoting the Curly-Coated Retriever breed through education, responsible breeding, and events such as specialty shows, hunt tests, and field trials.

To learn more about the club, its mission, and activities, you can visit their official website here.

Breed Standard

A breed standard is a set of guidelines established by breed clubs or kennel organizations, defining the ideal appearance, temperament, and physical traits of a specific breed.

It serves as a reference for breeders, judges, and enthusiasts to evaluate and maintain a breed’s unique qualities. Covering aspects like size, appearance, and temperament, breed standards are used in dog shows and competitions to assess individual dogs against the ideal representation of their breed.

You can check the Curly-Coated Retriever’s breed standard set by the American Kennel Club (AKC) here.

curly-coated retriever sitting in a car
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When considering acquiring a Curly-Coated Retriever, it’s essential to research the breed thoroughly to ensure it’s a suitable match for your lifestyle and expectations. Preparing your home, family, and schedule for the arrival of a new dog is crucial, including gathering necessary supplies like food, toys, and grooming tools.

Rescuing a Curly-Coated Retriever from a shelter or breed-specific rescue organization is a great way to give a deserving dog a loving home while helping alleviate the burden on rescue facilities. The American Kennel Club (AKC) and the Curly-Coated Retriever Club of America (CCRCA) can assist you in finding reputable rescue organizations specializing in this unique breed.

If you choose to purchase a puppy, ensure you select a responsible breeder who prioritizes health, temperament, and breed standards. The CCRCA can also help connect you with reputable breeders who adhere to ethical breeding practices.


Do Curly-Coated Retrievers make good pets?

Yes, Curly-Coated Retrievers make excellent pets for those who can provide them with the proper exercise, training, and attention they require. They are intelligent, loyal, and affectionate dogs that enjoy being part of an active family.

Are Curly-Coated Retrievers rare?

Compared to other retriever breeds like Golden Retrievers and Labrador Retrievers, Curly-Coated Retrievers are relatively rare. However, dedicated breeders and enthusiasts continue their efforts to preserve and promote this unique breed.

Do Curly-Coated Retrievers bark a lot?

While individual dogs may vary, Curly-Coated Retrievers are not known to be excessive barkers. They may bark to alert their owners of something unusual, but they are generally not prone to nuisance barking.

Do Curly-Coated Retrievers shed?

Curly-Coated Retrievers do shed, but their unique curly coat tends to shed less than other breeds with straight or wavy coats. Regular grooming, including brushing and trimming, will help manage shedding and maintain a healthy coat.

How much exercise do Curly-Coated Retrievers need?

Curly-Coated Retrievers are an energetic and athletic breed that requires at least an hour of daily exercise to stay physically and mentally stimulated. This may include activities such as long walks, runs, swimming, or engaging in dog sports like agility or field trials.

Are Curly-Coated Retrievers good with children?

Curly-Coated Retrievers are generally good with children when properly socialized and trained. Their playful, gentle nature makes them great companions for kids. However, it’s essential to supervise interactions between dogs and children and teach both how to behave respectfully and safely around each other.

How easy is it to train a Curly-Coated Retriever?

Curly-Coated Retrievers are intelligent and eager to please, making them relatively easy to train. They respond best to positive reinforcement techniques and consistent training methods. Early socialization and ongoing training throughout their lives will ensure a well-behaved and well-rounded dog.

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