Flat Coated Retriever

Breed At A Glance


Smart, active, friendly and stable

Life Expectancy
Approximately 10 years

Average Height
Males 23-25 inches; Females 22-24 inches

Average Weight
55-75 lbs

Coat Color
Solid black or liver

Coat Length/Texture
Medium length, dense, and lustrous with no undercoat

Shedding Propensity
Consistent year round

Also known as Flatcoat, Flattie, Flatte

General Temperament

The Flat-Coated Retriever rivals other Retrievers as the ultimate companion pet. Their happy and sweet disposition and love of all humans suits almost any family. Optimistic and outgoing, most will greet guests with fervent, sometimes even overwhelming, affection – thus, they do not make good guard dogs. They are active and energetic outdoors, but tend to be more laid back inside the house.

Flat-Coated Retrievers are exceptionally patient and gentle with children, and are great for energetic children who will run or play fetch with the dog on a regular basis. They also enjoy the company of other dogs and will get along well with other household pets. To be truly happy and well-balanced, this breed needs to feel as if it is a part of the family, and will not be happy living outdoors.

Although obedient and highly trainable, the Flat-Coated Retriever can get bored if training techniques are overly repetitive. They can be a little bit more willful than some of the other retrieving breeds. Like with many other retrievers, they are sensitive to vocal tones and don’t respond well to harsh training techniques; positive reinforcement works best with a Flat-Coat.

The Flat-Coat’s puppy-like nature carries it well into adulthood, and it needs an outlet for this energy. They will enjoy jogging beside their owner or going for a good swim. Without proper exercise and stimulation (both physical and mental), this breed can become bored and destructive. A Flat-Coated Retriever will happiest in a home with a yard.

With proper training, a Flat-Coated Retriever can excel in hunting and retrieving, as well as tracking and agility competitions.

Breed History

The Flat-Coated Retriever was developed in England in the mid-1800’s exclusively as a birding dog, capable of retrieving game in dense brush as well as water. This particular Retriever was derived from crossing many different retrieving breeds, including the Labrador Retriever, Newfoundland, Irish Setter, and now extinct St. John’s Water Dog, with possibly a little Collie thrown in. This breed was popular among sportsmen up until the first World War, but it’s popularity was eclipsed by the Labrador and Golden Retrievers. But thanks to a few key breeders, the Flat-Coated Retriever started to regain popularity starting in the 1960’s until the present day.

The Flat-Coated Retriever was admitted to the American Kennel Club in 1915.

Body Structure and Composition

The medium-sized and well-proportioned Flat-Coated Retriever lacks exaggeration in any part of it’s body. They are described as having a “one piece” head, meaning that the skull and muzzle appear to be molded as one piece, as opposed to having a pronounced stop or significant difference in breadth or length between the muzzle and the skull. The small ears lay close to the head. The neck, moderately long and strong, leads down to a level topline and deep chest. This breed’s wiry muscled legs give the Flat-Coated Retriever an efficiently sound gait, capable of covering a significant amount of ground in a single stride. The legs, tail and chest are well-feathered.

Medical Information

Though it has not enjoyed the immense popularity than it’s Labrador and Golden Retriever cousins, the Flat-Coated Retriever has actually benefitted from lack of overbreeding that has plagued those other breeds. Nevertheless, Flat-Coats are unfortunately plagued by many different cancers. In fact, some studies show that as many as 75% of Flat-Coats die from cancer, although most of these cases occur later in the dog’s life. Common cancers affecting this breed are malignant histiocytosis (also known as histiocytic sarcoma), hemangiosarcoma, fibrosarcoma and osteosarcoma.

Malignant histiocytosis is a hereditary disease that infiltrates the lung and lymph nodes, but can also affect the liver, spleen or central nervous symptom. Hemangiosarcoma is the most common form of heart tumor, although it can also appear on the spleen, liver or the skin. Fibrosarcoma is a cancer that is deriven from fibrous connective tissue and usually occurs in the Flat-Coat’s mouth, although it has occasionally presented as a bone tumor. But the most common form of bone cancer is osteosarcoma.

Other bone-related disorders that commonly affect medium-sized or large breed dogs, such as Hip Dysplasia and Patellar Luxation, are relatively uncommon in the Flat-Coated Retriever. On the other hand, Hypothyroidism occurs with significant frequency, and leads to decreased appetite, weight gain, hair loss, recurring skin infections, and lethargy. Hypothyroidism can usually be controlled with medication.

The Flat-Coated Retriever’s coat is relatively easy to care for: a weekly brushing should do the trick.

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