The Flat Coated Retriever is a large breed belonging to the gundog family and is regarded as one of the most efficient retrievers. This strong, powerful breed is generally gifted with natural gundog talent, confidence and friendliness. It is slightly longer than it is tall and features a head that is long and slightly moulded with a slight stop that is effective enough to salvage a hare, duck or pheasant with no difficulty. Facial features include a nose of good size with open nostrils, widely-set almond shaped eyes that are dark brown or hazel in colour that gives an alert, intelligent, and kind expression, and small ears that lie close to the head. It has a strong jaw with a complete scissor bite. A strong neck that is obliquely set is long enough to seek the trail with relative ease. The body features a broad, deep, and thickly feathered chest with well defined brisket and a flat fore ribs. It has straight, well boned and well feathered front legs and long shoulders and well muscled upper thighs supported by medium-sized, round, thickly soled feet that cushions the breed when in motion. It has a short, straight and feathered tail that is carried gaily when the dog is active. The shiny, dense coat has a fine to medium texture and is straight and flat. The coat provides ample protection for the dog not only in the water but from all sorts of weather conditions and ground cover. The Flat Coated Retriever is usually pure black or solid liver in colour.
It is believed that the Flat Coated Retriever, which originated in the middle of the 19th century, was a result of imported stocks from the North American continent of Newfoundland type. It is believed that the ancestors of this breed were excellent fish-retrieving breeds and were famous among fishermen in the 19th century such as the Labrador (different from the modern Labrador breed of today) and several different sizes of the Newfoundland dog. There are sources that points to the water dog, the St. John’s Newfoundland, and the Collie as the ancestors of the Flat Coated Retriever. Although the exact origins and breed mixture are relatively unclear, the Flat Coated Retriever came to be as a need for hunters to have an agile multipurpose gundog that can flush upland game and retrieve fallen birds whether it landed on water or land. It quickly won the hearts of the Americans after its introduction to the United States as an excellent gundog. From 1873 to 1914, it was registered as a “stable type” according to the AKC, and was officially registered as a distinct breed in 1915. It also quickly gained favor in the United Kingdom and was one of the earliest breeds to be show in English dog shows. Like most dog breeds, World War II brought devastation to the breed’s population, but has managed to hang on, primarily through the concerted efforts of breed enthusiasts in the early 1960s. It became modestly popular as a show dog and companion pet until today.
Characterised by its superb ability to flush upland game and retrieve downed birds both in land and in water, the Flat Coated Retriever is described as a versatile hunting breed capable of performing tasks expected of a multipurpose gundog. This breed is devoted, friendly and loves to please its master. It is a cheerful dog, always wagging its tail and often displays a puppy-like liveliness even as an adult. However, this less popularity status has benefited the Flat Coated Retriever by experiencing more careful breeding and better maintenance of its superior working abilities.
It is also an intelligent breed that it is easily bored with cyclical training methods and can be slightly more difficult to train than more popular breeds such as the Labrador or Golden Retriever. Training methods should be gentle, enjoyable, not repetitive and relatively short because the Flat Coated Retriever can easily get bored if training has no variation and is quite sensitive to harsh treatments but responds well to positive reinforcements. Socialisation and obedience training are highly required, preferably at an early age.
Considered to be an average shedder, the coat of this retriever requires moderate grooming; weekly brushing and a little trimming if necessary will be sufficient.
Although the Flat Coat Retriever is considered a generally healthy breed, it has a significantly higher risk of developing cancer than most dogs. Cancers such as hemangiosarcoma, fibrosarcoma, and malignant histiocytosis are particularly devastating diseases which can affect this breed. These certain types of cancers occur at much higher rates in this breed than in any other breed. The average lifespan for this breed is 10 to 12 years where over 75% of all deaths are attributed to cancer.
Poultry, fish and wheat should be included in the dog’s diet because these can easily be assimilated by the breed’s digestive and glandular system. It is recommended that dogs be given several small meals a day rather than one heavy meal. Experts also advice not to exercise the dog immediately after eating to avoid problems.
This breed needs a lot of daily mental and physical activities because of a playful attitude. Daily long walks or a chance to swim are the best physical stimulation that the Flat Coated Retriever can get. Relatively inactive indoors, it is not recommended for an apartment living as it requires an active family that live in a house with a secured yard.
It gets along well with other dogs and household animals, including cats. It has a calm breed with stable temperament and is excellent with children although it can be too energetic for small children which can accidentally knock them over easily.