Flat-Coated Retriever

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flat-coated retriever portrait
Unleash your curiosity as we dive into the captivating world of the Flat-Coated Retriever, a breed that charms its way into our hearts! With their ever-wagging tails and strikingly glossy coats, these dogs boast an irresistible combo of beauty and fun-loving spirit.

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 Flat-Coated Retriever is an excellent match for families and individuals seeking an energetic, affectionate, and intelligent companion. This breed thrives in households that enjoy outdoor activities and can provide ample exercise to keep their boundless energy at bay.

Overview

OFFICIAL NAMEFlat-Coated Retriever
OTHER NAMESFlatcoat, Flattie, Flatt, Flatte
ORIGINEngland
BREED GROUPSporting Group
BREED SIZELarge
HEIGHT22-24.5 inches
WEIGHT55-70 lbs
LIFESPAN8-10 years
LIVING SPACELarge
SENSITIVITY TO COLD WEATHERLow
SENSITIVITY TO WARM WEATHERModerate
GROOMING NEEDSModerate
EXERCISE NEEDSVery High
TRAINABILITYHigh
BARKING TENDENCYModerate
BITING TENDENCYLow
DROOLING TENDENCYLow
SHEDDING LEVELModerate
POPULARITY RANK103rd
flat-coated retriever on top of a hill

Appearance

The Flat-Coated Retriever is a medium to large-sized dog breed that showcases an elegant and athletic appearance. These dogs possess a strong, well-muscled body built for endurance and agility. Males typically stand between 23 to 24.5 inches at the shoulder, while females range from 22 to 23.5 inches in height. Their weight generally falls between 60 to 70 pounds for males and 55 to 65 pounds for females.

Flat-Coats have a long and moderately broad head, which gives them their distinctive and refined look. The skull is nearly flat with a slight stop, blending seamlessly into a strong, straight muzzle. Their almond-shaped eyes are relatively small, dark brown or hazel in color, and exhibit an intelligent and friendly expression.

The ears are pendant-shaped, set close to the head, and hang just below eye level, framing their face beautifully.

The breed’s neck is strong and moderately long, flowing smoothly into well-laid-back shoulders that allow for freedom of movement. They have a deep chest that reaches down to their elbows, providing ample space for lung capacity. The back is short and level, with a moderate tuck-up at the loin, while the tail is carried straight, neither too high nor too low.

One of the most striking features of the Flat-Coated Retriever is its luxurious coat. The breed sports a dense, medium-length coat that is predominantly black or liver in color. Their outer coat is straight and lies flat against the body, giving the breed its name, while the undercoat is thick and waterproof.

The coat is often described as having a “feathered” appearance due to the longer hairs found on the ears, chest, back of the legs, and tail, which add to their graceful presence.

Flat-Coated Retrievers also have well-developed webbed feet, making them excellent swimmers and efficient retrievers in water. Their strong, muscular legs enable them to move effortlessly and cover ground with a smooth, powerful gait.

Overall, the Flat-Coated Retriever’s appearance exudes a sense of strength, agility, and elegance. Their well-proportioned and balanced physique, combined with their glossy coat and expressive eyes, creates an undeniable charm that makes them stand out among other retriever breeds.

flat-coated retriever on a field of autumn leaves
Photo: s5iztok/Getty Images

Temperament

The Flat-Coated Retriever is known for its exuberant, friendly, and affectionate temperament that endears them to families and dog enthusiasts alike. Often described as the “Peter Pan” of the dog world, this breed maintains a playful and youthful spirit well into adulthood. They possess an innate enthusiasm for life that is truly infectious, making them a joy to be around.

Flat-Coats are highly sociable animals, both with humans and other dogs. They thrive on companionship and are happiest when they are an integral part of the family. Their gentle disposition makes them wonderful playmates for children, while their attentiveness and loyalty provide comfort to adults.

However, it is essential to remember that their exuberance may sometimes be overwhelming for small children or seniors, so supervision is advised during interactions.

One of the most notable characteristics of the Flat-Coated Retriever’s personality is their unwavering optimism. These dogs seem to approach every situation with a wagging tail and a can-do attitude, making them adaptable and resilient in various circumstances. This cheerful demeanor also makes them excellent therapy dogs, as they have a natural ability to lift spirits and bring joy to those around them.

Intelligence is another hallmark of the Flat-Coated Retriever breed. They are quick learners and are always eager to engage their minds. This intelligence, coupled with their desire to please, means that they respond well to positive reinforcement training methods.

They excel in activities that challenge their mental abilities, such as scent work, search and rescue, or even assistance dog tasks. It’s crucial to provide them with ample mental stimulation to prevent boredom, which could lead to undesirable behaviors.

Despite their amicable nature, Flat-Coats can be somewhat aloof or reserved with strangers. While they are not typically aggressive, they may take some time to warm up to new people. Early socialization can help them develop confidence and ensure that they grow up to be well-rounded, adaptable dogs.

Another endearing trait of the Flat-Coated Retriever is their clownish sense of humor. They are known for their antics and ability to make their owners laugh with their goofy and sometimes mischievous behavior. This playful nature is an essential aspect of their personality, and it’s important to embrace their fun-loving spirit while providing them with appropriate outlets for their energy.

Flat-Coats are also highly sensitive dogs that thrive on positive reinforcement and gentle training methods. They are attuned to their owner’s emotions and can become upset or stressed if exposed to harsh treatment or a tense environment. It’s vital to approach training and discipline with patience, understanding, and consistency to ensure a happy and well-adjusted dog.

flat-coated retriever's face against nature background
Photo: Sven Mewis/Getty Images

Ideal Environment

The ideal environment for a Flat-Coated Retriever is one that caters to their energetic and sociable nature, while providing them with ample physical and mental stimulation. This breed thrives in households where they can be an integral part of the family, sharing in daily activities and receiving plenty of attention and affection.

Ideal Owner

Flat-Coats are well-suited to pet parents who enjoy outdoor activities, as these dogs love to accompany their owners on hikes, walks, or even a swim. They excel in homes with spacious yards where they can play and explore safely. However, it’s essential to ensure that the yard is securely fenced, as their curiosity and love for exploring might lead them to wander off if given the opportunity.

Other Pets

Flat-Coated Retrievers generally get along well with other pets, especially when properly socialized from a young age. They enjoy the company of other dogs and can even coexist peacefully with cats or smaller animals, given appropriate introductions and supervision.

Physical Environment

This breed is also highly adaptable to various living situations, including suburban or rural homes, as long as they receive sufficient exercise and mental stimulation. While they can adapt to apartment living, it may not be ideal due to their size and energy levels. In such cases, dedicated efforts should be made to provide them with regular exercise and opportunities to socialize with other dogs and people.

Climate Adaptability

In terms of climate adaptability, the Flat-Coated Retriever’s dense, waterproof coat provides them with some protection against cold weather. However, it’s essential to monitor them during extreme cold or snowy conditions, as they might still be susceptible to frostbite or hypothermia. Providing them with a warm, sheltered place to rest and limiting their exposure to harsh weather is crucial.

On the other hand, their thick coat can make them prone to overheating in hot climates. During warmer months, it’s important to ensure they have access to fresh water, shade, and a cool place to rest. Avoid exercising them during the hottest parts of the day, and be vigilant for signs of heatstroke or heat exhaustion.

flat-coated retriever jumping
Photo: Sven Mewis/Getty Images

Grooming

The Flat-Coated Retriever is a relatively low-maintenance breed when it comes to grooming, but they do have specific needs to ensure their coat and overall health are well-maintained. Regular grooming not only keeps your Flat-Coat looking its best but also provides an opportunity to bond with your dog and monitor their health.

Coat Care

One of the most important aspects of grooming for a Flat-Coated Retriever is coat care. Their medium-length, dense coat requires regular brushing to prevent tangles, mats, and to remove loose hair.

It’s recommended to brush your Flat-Coat at least once or twice a week using a slicker brush, which helps remove dead hair and distribute the natural oils throughout their coat. Follow up with a comb to ensure any remaining tangles are eliminated. During shedding seasons, which occur typically in spring and fall, daily brushing may be necessary to keep shedding under control.

Their coat is naturally water-resistant and does not require frequent bathing. Overbathing can strip the coat of its natural oils, leading to dry skin and a dull appearance. Bathe your Flat-Coat only when necessary, such as when they’re dirty or have an unpleasant odor. Use a gentle, dog-specific shampoo to protect their skin and coat.

Trimming the hair around your Flat-Coat’s ears, paws, and under the tail can help maintain a neat appearance and prevent matting. Clip the hair between their paw pads to provide better traction and reduce the risk of debris getting caught. You can use grooming scissors or thinning shears for these tasks, taking care to trim carefully and avoid nicking the skin.

Dental Care

Dental care is vital for maintaining your Flat-Coated Retriever’s overall health. Regular tooth brushing helps prevent plaque buildup, bad breath, and dental issues like gum disease or tooth decay.

Ideally, you should brush your dog’s teeth daily using a soft-bristled toothbrush and dog-specific toothpaste. Alternatively, dental chews or toys can help supplement dental care, but they should not replace regular brushing.

Nail Trimming

Nail care is another essential aspect of grooming for Flat-Coated Retrievers. Long nails can cause discomfort and affect your dog’s gait, leading to joint issues over time. Trim your dog’s nails every three to four weeks using a dog nail clipper or grinder.

Be cautious not to cut the quick, which is the blood vessel that runs through the nail. If you’re unsure about trimming their nails yourself, a professional groomer or veterinarian can assist.

Ear Care

Regularly check your Flat-Coat’s ears for signs of infection, such as redness, swelling, or an unpleasant odor. Clean their ears using a dog-specific ear cleaner and a cotton ball or soft cloth, taking care not to insert anything into the ear canal. Keeping the hair around the ear opening trimmed can also improve airflow and reduce the risk of infection.

flat-coated retriever standing by a tree
Photo: s5iztok/Getty Images

Exercise

The Flat-Coated Retriever is an energetic and athletic breed that requires ample exercise to stay healthy, happy, and well-behaved. Their boundless enthusiasm and love for physical activity make them excellent companions for active individuals or families who can provide daily opportunities for exercise and outdoor adventures.

Exercise Amount & Types

On average, a Flat-Coat needs at least one to two hours of exercise per day, which can be divided into multiple sessions. This breed thrives on activities that engage both their body and mind, such as walking, jogging, hiking, or swimming.

Due to their natural retrieving instincts, they also enjoy playing fetch with a ball, frisbee, or other retrieving toys. Interactive games like hide-and-seek or scent work can help stimulate their intelligence and enhance their problem-solving skills.

It’s crucial to provide your Flat-Coat with consistent exercise, even during inclement weather. Indoor activities like interactive toys, puzzle feeders, or short training sessions can help keep them engaged when outdoor exercise isn’t feasible. However, it’s important to resume their regular exercise routine as soon as possible to prevent boredom and potential behavior issues resulting from pent-up energy.

Dog Sports

They also excel in various dog sports and competitions, which provide a fantastic outlet for their energy and intellect. They are particularly adept at agility, obedience, flyball, dock diving, and field trials, where they can showcase their natural retrieving abilities. Participation in these activities not only offers physical and mental stimulation but also strengthens the bond between you and your Flat-Coat.

Exercise Precautions

When exercising your Flat-Coated Retriever, it’s essential to consider their age, fitness level, and any health issues they may have. Puppies and senior dogs may require shorter, less strenuous exercise sessions, while adult Flat-Coats can typically handle more vigorous activities. Always monitor your dog for signs of fatigue or discomfort and adjust the exercise routine accordingly.

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

Training

The Flat-Coated Retriever is an intelligent and eager-to-please breed, making them highly trainable and adaptable to various training methods. Their desire to learn and natural affinity for human companionship contribute to their ability to excel in obedience training, dog sports, and even advanced tasks such as search and rescue or therapy work.

When it comes to training a Flat-Coat, positive reinforcement techniques are the most effective approach. They respond well to rewards-based training using treats, praise, or toys as motivation.

This breed is sensitive to harsh corrections or negative reinforcement, which can lead to fear, anxiety, or a lack of trust in their handler. Therefore, it’s crucial to maintain patience, consistency, and a positive attitude during training sessions.

Early socialization is vital for Flat-Coated Retrievers to ensure they grow up to be well-rounded and confident dogs. Expose your puppy to various people, animals, and environments from a young age to help them develop proper social skills and adaptability. Puppy obedience classes or playgroups can also provide valuable opportunities for socialization and early training.

Flat-Coats benefit from short, engaging training sessions to keep their attention and maintain their enthusiasm for learning. They are quick learners but can become bored or distracted if the training becomes repetitive or monotonous. Incorporating new challenges, tricks, or activities into your training routine can help stimulate their minds and maintain their interest.

This breed’s playful and sometimes mischievous nature may occasionally make training more challenging. It’s essential to maintain a sense of humor and flexibility when working with a Flat-Coat, as their antics may sometimes interrupt the training process. However, their intelligence and eagerness to please ultimately make them highly trainable and rewarding to work with.

brown flat-coated retriever walking on grass
Photo: MartinFredy/Getty Images

Diet & Nutrition 

The diet and nutrition of a Flat-Coated Retriever play a crucial role in maintaining their overall health, energy levels, and well-being. Providing your Flat-Coat with a balanced and appropriate diet will ensure they receive the necessary nutrients for growth, maintenance, and overall vitality.

What to Feed & How Much

When selecting food for your Flat-Coated Retriever, look for high-quality dry, wet, or raw food options that adhere to the guidelines set by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). These guidelines help ensure the food meets the nutritional requirements for a balanced canine diet.

High-quality dog food should contain a blend of protein, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals that cater to the specific needs of your Flat-Coat’s age, size, and activity level.

The amount and frequency of feeding depend on your Flat-Coat’s age, weight, and activity level. Puppies typically require three to four smaller meals per day, as they need more frequent feedings to support their growth and development. As your Flat-Coat matures, you can gradually reduce the feedings to two meals per day.

Adult Flat-Coats with average activity levels generally consume between 3 to 4 cups of dry food per day, divided into two meals. However, this is a general guideline, and individual factors such as metabolism, exercise, and overall health may influence your dog’s specific dietary needs.

It’s essential to monitor your Flat-Coat’s weight and body condition, adjusting their food intake as needed to maintain a healthy weight.

Consult with your veterinarian to determine the best diet plan for your Flat-Coated Retriever, taking into account their age, weight, activity level, and any specific health concerns or dietary requirements.

Treats

Treats can be a valuable tool for training and rewarding your Flat-Coated Retriever but should be given in moderation to avoid excessive calorie intake. Opt for healthy, low-calorie treats or even small pieces of fruits or vegetables, such as apples, carrots, or green beans, as occasional rewards.

Water

Fresh water is an essential aspect of your Flat-Coat’s diet. Ensure they always have access to clean, fresh water to stay hydrated, especially during exercise or warm weather.

Health

The Flat-Coated Retriever is a generally healthy breed, with a life expectancy of 8 to 10 years. However, like all dog breeds, they can be prone to specific health issues.

Some common health issues associated with the Flat-Coated Retriever include:

Hip Dysplasia: This is a genetic condition where the hip joint doesn’t fit correctly, leading to arthritis and discomfort. Regular check-ups and maintaining a healthy weight can help manage this condition.

Cancer: Flat-Coated Retrievers have a higher incidence of certain types of cancer, such as lymphoma or hemangiosarcoma. Early detection through annual veterinary examinations and prompt treatment can improve the prognosis for affected dogs.

Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA): PRA is an eye disorder that causes gradual vision loss and may eventually lead to blindness. Responsible breeding practices and genetic testing can help reduce the prevalence of this condition in the breed.

Patellar Luxation: This condition occurs when the kneecap becomes dislocated, causing pain and mobility issues. Maintaining a healthy weight and seeking prompt veterinary care if symptoms arise can help manage patellar luxation.

Gastric Torsion (Bloat): This life-threatening condition occurs when the stomach fills with gas and twists on itself, cutting off blood supply. Feeding smaller, more frequent meals and avoiding vigorous exercise immediately after eating can help reduce the risk of bloat.

To keep your Flat-Coated Retriever healthy, provide them with a balanced and nutritious diet that meets their age, size, and activity level requirements. Consult with your veterinarian to determine the best diet plan for your dog and adjust it as needed to maintain an ideal body condition.

Regular veterinary check-ups are essential for early detection and prevention of potential health issues. Ensure your Flat-Coat receives vaccinations according to the recommended schedule to protect them from common canine diseases. Additionally, routine dental care, parasite prevention, and monitoring for any concerning symptoms will help maintain your Flat-Coat’s overall well-being.

flat-coated retriever jumping over a creek
Photo: Sven Mewis/Getty Images

History

The Flat-Coated Retriever’s origins can be traced back to the mid-19th century in England, where they were developed as a versatile gundog capable of retrieving game both on land and in water. The breed is believed to have resulted from crosses between various other retrievers, such as the St. John’s Water Dog, the now-extinct Tweed Water Spaniel, and possibly the Newfoundland and Setter breeds.

During the early development of the breed, the primary focus was on their working abilities rather than their appearance. The breed’s hallmark traits, such as their keen sense of smell, exceptional retrieving skills, and gentle mouth, quickly made them a favorite among hunters. Their friendly and adaptable nature also contributed to their popularity as family companions.

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the Flat-Coated Retriever enjoyed considerable success in dog shows, both in England and the United States. The breed’s elegant appearance, combined with its strong working abilities, earned them numerous accolades and recognition.

The Flat-Coated Retriever was first registered by the American Kennel Club (AKC) in 1915, and the Flat-Coated Retriever Society of America (FCRSA) was founded in 1960 to promote and protect the breed.

However, the breed’s popularity began to decline following World War II, overshadowed by the increasing popularity of the Labrador Retriever and Golden Retriever breeds. Despite the decline, dedicated breed enthusiasts continued to preserve and promote the Flat-Coated Retriever, helping to maintain its unique qualities and working abilities.

In popular culture, the Flat-Coated Retriever has made a few appearances, though not as prominently as other retriever breeds.

One notable example is the 1994 film “Chasers,” in which a Flat-Coat named Chopper played a supporting role. The breed has also been featured in several books, including “The Flat-Coated Retriever: A Comprehensive Owner’s Guide” by Brenda Phillips and “Flat-Coated Retrievers Today” by Nancy Laughton.

Today, the Flat-Coated Retriever remains a relatively uncommon breed compared to other retrievers but has seen a resurgence in popularity due to its versatility, intelligence, and endearing personality. The breed continues to excel in various canine activities, such as field trials, obedience, agility, search and rescue, and therapy work, showcasing its exceptional working abilities and adaptability.

Parent Club

The parent club for the Flat-Coated Retriever in the United States is the Flat-Coated Retriever Society of America (FCRSA). Founded in 1960, the FCRSA is dedicated to promoting and protecting the Flat-Coated Retriever breed by providing education, organizing events, and supporting responsible breeding practices.

The official webpage for the Flat-Coated Retriever Society of America can be accessed 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 Flat-Coated Retriever’s breed standard set by the American Kennel Club (AKC) here.

brown flat-coated retriever puppy walking on the snow in winter
Photo: MartinFredy/Getty Images

Acquiring

When considering acquiring a Flat-Coated Retriever, it’s essential to research and prepare for the breed’s unique needs. Flat-Coats require ample exercise, mental stimulation, and consistent training to thrive. Before bringing one home, ensure you have the time, space, and resources to meet these requirements.

Rescuing a Flat-Coated Retriever is a wonderful way to provide a loving home to a dog in need. The American Kennel Club (AKC) and the Flat-Coated Retriever Society of America (FCRSA) can help connect you with rescue organizations or available dogs in need of adoption. Rescuing a dog not only supports your local community but also helps combat unethical breeding practices.

FAQs

Are Flat-Coated Retrievers rare?

While Flat-Coated Retrievers are not as common as other retriever breeds like Golden Retrievers or Labradors, they are still a recognized and cherished breed. Dedicated breed enthusiasts have helped maintain and promote the breed, ensuring its continued existence.

Are Flat-Coated Retrievers good family dogs?

Yes, Flat-Coated Retrievers make excellent family pets due to their friendly, affectionate, and adaptable nature. They typically get along well with children and other pets, making them a great addition to an active, loving family.

Are Flat-Coated Retrievers the same as Labrador Retrievers?

No, Flat-Coated Retrievers and Labrador Retrievers are distinct breeds with unique characteristics. While both breeds share similarities, such as their retrieving abilities and friendly temperament, they differ in appearance, coat type, and some personality traits.

Are Flat-Coated Retrievers related to Golden Retrievers?

Flat-Coated Retrievers and Golden Retrievers share some common ancestry, as both breeds were developed as working gundogs in the 19th century. However, they are separate breeds with distinct physical and temperamental differences.

How much exercise do Flat-Coated Retrievers need?

Flat-Coated Retrievers are an active and energetic breed that requires daily exercise to stay healthy and happy. They typically need at least one hour of physical activity per day, including walks, runs, or play sessions. They also enjoy participating in dog sports such as agility, obedience, or field trials.

Are Flat-Coated Retrievers easy to train?

Flat-Coated Retrievers are intelligent and eager to please, making them highly trainable. They respond well to positive reinforcement techniques and benefit from consistent, engaging training sessions. Early socialization and training are essential for helping your Flat-Coat develop into a well-mannered and confident dog.

Do Flat-Coated Retrievers shed a lot?

Flat-Coated Retrievers have a moderate shedding rate, with more significant shedding typically occurring during seasonal changes. Regular brushing can help minimize shedding and maintain the health of their dense, waterproof coat.

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