Flat-Coated Retriever

PetMD Editorial
By PetMD Editorial on Jul. 21, 2009

The Flat-Coated Retriever is a hardworking breed. It was originally bred to flush birds out into the open and retrieve them once they were shot, but its determination combined with an easy-going demeanor have combined to make the breed an excellent choice for many prospective owners.

Physical Characteristics

The Flat-Coated Retriever possesses an elegant appearance and a strong, athletic physique. Its gait is smooth and its body is a bit longer than it is tall. The retriever's thick coat is flat, moderate in length, and solid black or solid liver in color.

Personality and Temperament

An intelligent and cooperative breed, the Flat-Coated Retriever responds well to instructions and training. The dog is also lively and playful, which makes it an excellent companion for active owners. If given proper exercise, the Flat-Coated Retriever should not have many behavioral problems, but you must allow it to use up some energy playing or working outdoors.


The Flat-Coated Retriever is happy spending lots of time outdoors but still wants to be a part of the family when activities move inside. Regular exercise is the primary requirement for the breed. This may include long walks, hikes, runs, swimming, games of fetch, agility training, trips to the dog park, hunting excursions, and more. Coat care is simple, with regular brushing and occasional bathing being all that is needed.


The Flat-Coated Retriever is generally a healthy breed. It has a relatively low rate of hip dysplasia and luxating patellas, in comparison to similar breeds. Glaucoma, progressive retinal atrophy (PRA), and epilepsy may occur at slightly higher than normal rates. Gastric dilatation and volvulus (GDV or bloat) is a concern as it is for all large, deep chested breeds. Unfortunately, the Flat-Coated Retriever does develop some types of cancer more often than other breeds. These include hemangiosarcoma, lymphosarcoma, osteosarcoma, and malignant histiocytosis. 

History and Background

The Flat-Coated Retriever was initially created in the 19th century in England as a bird dog that could retrieve prey from both land and water. Fishermen were also in need of a dog that could retrieve their catch from the water. As such, kennels began to mix Labradors, Newfoundlands, Setters, and other breeds known for their ability to swim and retrieve. Many believe the first Flat-Coated Retriever was entered into a British dog show in 1859; however, specific classification for Retrievers was not available until the following year.

The breed did not receive official recognition by the American Kennel Club until 1915. And though the breed faced possible extinction by the end of World War II, its numbers recovered when one of the greatest authorities of the breed, Stanley O'Neill, took it upon himself to revive the breed. Today the breed remains a mainstay on both sides of the Atlantic.

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