The Flat-Coated Retriever

descriptive textFlat-Coated Retriever
Weight: 60 — 70 lbs
Height: 22” — 25”
AKC Rank 2008 #96
Lifespan: 10—12 yrs
Group Sporting
Origin: England

Dog Breed Info - Flat Coated Retriever

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Breed Overview

Origin: 1800’s. Original function: Water retrieving. Today: Water retrieving. Colors: Black or liver.

Early retrieving dogs helped fishermen retrieve fish in the nineteenth century. These retrieving dogs were common with Cod fishermen around Newfoundland. They were using a Wavy-Coated Retriever but it was though a smooth coated dog would shed the water better. In England in the nineteenth century, crosses were made with the Irish Setter, Labrador Retrievers and Newfoundland's. The resulting offspring was very popular up to WW One when things fell apart. Efforts were made to restore the breed, now called the Flat-Coated Retriever and by 1915 the American Kennel Club recognized the breed. However, popularity has been less than mediocre.

Flat Coated Retriever Puppy
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Very trainable. Eager to learn anything you want to teach. The breed is responsive to clicker training as well as positive reinforcement techniques and wants to learn. Give this a try.

Crate Training

Want to crate train your Flat-Coated Retriever puppy? It's easy and if you're interested, take a look and you'll see what to do. Crate training your puppy will save many headaches and problems.

Potty Training

The Flat-Coated Retriever and her puppies are usually easy to house train, potty train, toilet train, housebreak or whatever you want to call it. If you have a puppy, decide if you want to crate or paper potty train it. For the best results, we have a page at Crate vs Paper Potty Training which will help you decide and from there you can get all the information you need to get the job done. Always praise the pup profusely when she goes potty in the RIGHT PLACE so she knows she has done a good thing. Either method will work for this breed.

If you have an older dog, take the dog outside every two hours until she gets the idea which door leads to her potty area. Older dogs catch on to the potty or housebreaking pretty fast once they are shown what to do.


Flat-Coated Retrievers are sweet, friendly, intelligent, happy family oriented house dogs and get along with children quite well. They love water and swimming. They love to play, chase, retrieve and are very active. The Flat-Coated is a devoted companion and best friend to her master and a true family pet. She needs regular exercise to remain healthy and to be on the best behavior. This dog is known for it’s happily wagging tail!

If you happen to get a Retriever with a separation anxiety problem, that can be dealt with by investing a few hours of work on your part and some "tough love."

Friendly Toward Other Dogs

Moderately friendly with strange dogs. Can be wary of some dogs. Will pick and choose her dog friends.

Friendly Toward Other Pets

Does will with other pets in the house. Generally, gets along well with cats and other dogs in the house, especially if raised with them. This is a friendly breed.

Friendly Toward Strangers

Friendly. Bring on the relatives, neighbors and friends for a backyard cookout. Your dog will be in the middle of the whole show.

Flat Coated Retriever
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Yes, loves to play—Especially fetch balls and sticks. She loves anything where she can run or swim and retrieve.


Yes—Very affectionate. She excels here. She loves people and life and loves to play and have fun with her family.

Good with children

Good with older kids, 6 or 7 and up. Supervise closely with young children under 6. This is a very active dog that could accidently injure a small child.

Good with Seniors over 65?

Maybe. If the senior can walk a mile or two a day and throw a ball or stick a half hour a day, this is an affectionate, playful and loving dog that is a great companion and friend for the lonely. The senior would have time for the grooming needs and exercise requirements so all should be okay.

Living environment

Apartment, condo, farm, ranch all okay for the Flat-Coated Retriever as long as she can get our outdoor exercise and play time. She’s not aggressive so apartment living is fine as there will be no conflicts in meeting other dogs on stairs or elevators. She needs the indoor close-association with her family as she’s very sociable.

Energy level

Moderate. Rate her 6 bars out of 10.

Exercise needs, daily

Moderate. Flat-Coated Retrievers love to hunt and swim. A good walk or two and throw a ball or stick or Frisbee for her and she should be good. Just as long as she can stretch her legs and run a bit each day.


Pretty good watchdog. Will announce incoming outsiders.

Guard dog

Fair. Not really aggressive enough to be a killer guardian but will stand up for her family.


No, very little.


Brush the long coat once a day. Use a standard bristle brush. The dog will love the extra attention. Suggest limited clipping several times a year to keep the shape.


Suggested Reading For The Flat-Coated Retriever

The book on the right is by the American National Red Cross and deals with dog emergencies, illnesses and injuries. It's a valuable reference manual for all dog owners and should be kept close at hand.


Flat-Coated Retriever Breeders

In the event you decide to go looking for Flat-Coated Retriever puppies, be SURE to find reputable breeders that really know what they are doing. Be sure the puppy has been well socialized and started in obedience training. This breed is not easy to find in the USA. Also, try this site, as they list worldwide:
Flat Coated Retriever Breeders with puppies for sale.

Flat-Coated Retriever Rescue

In the event you are seriously considering the adoption of an older dog and are looking for a Flat-Coated Retriever Rescue group or groups in your state, here are several links that might help:
Petfinder - Dog Rescue - (Nationwide) At the time of this writing, Petfinder is showing only a little over 200 Flat-Coated's available for adoption in the entire country. That figure is subject to change of course.
Adopt A Pet This is an interesting site but you will probably have to go online and search for Flat-Coated Retriever Rescue groups or kennels or foster homes. This breed is not that easy to find around here.

Health Issues For The Flat-Coated Retriever
Below are the illnesses or medical problems listed for the Flat-Coated Retriever by various vets.

This is basically a healthy breed. Don’t let the list below scare you! Your own dog will probably never have ANY of these problems. These are medical issues the Flat-Coated Retriever is prone to that have been listed by various veterinarians at different times over the past decade or so and some pertain to puppies and very young dogs that a breeder would deal with.

The information contained herein has been gathered from numerous books by veterinarians and is intended as general information only. Every dog and situation is different. You must see your vet. Our information is for general interest only and not intended to replace the advice provided by your own veterinarian.

  • Gastric Torsion—Sometimes called Dog Bloat or “Twisted stomach.” Mainly in larger, deep-cheated dogs. Here's a brief description of the problem:
    Symptoms include excessive drooling, nervous pacing, agitation, weakness, attempt to vomit, bulging stomach area, heavy breathing, retching and gagging, shock or total collapse.

  • Glaucoma—Eye problem. Painful pressure builds in the eye causing total blindness.

  • Hip dysplasia - Hind end limping, back leg acts lame. Wear and time causes the femur to fit poorly into the pelvic socket with improper rotation causing great pain, lameness, arthritis and difficulty walking for the Flat Coated Retriever. You may notice the dog “hopping”” like a rabbit when running plus hesitating to climb stairs, all due to pain in the hind quarters. The problem actually starts as a very young puppy with an abnormal formation of the hip joint and grows progressively. A vet can locate this with a diagnostics test.

  • Patellar luxation—Limping, Hind Leg Held Up, Can’t straighten back leg. Caused by an unusually shallow spot on the femur, weak ligaments and misalignment of tendons and muscles that align the knee joint and allow the knee cap (patella) to float sideways in and out of position. This can be caused by injury or be present at birth and can affect both rear legs of the Flat-Coated Retriever. If your dog has trouble straightening the leg, is limping, or is walking on three legs and holding one hind leg up, look for patellar luxation. Several of my dogs have had the problem and all I’ve done is reach down, massage the knee a little until they drop their leg, and we’re good to go for another 3 or 4 months. Severe cases require surgery for a fully lame leg.

  • Hemangiosarcoma—An incurable tumor in the blood vessels. It is a highly malignant and aggressive cancer that lines the blood vessels. In the early stages, this cancer shows no signs is painless and develops slowly. A lot of dogs die from internal bleeding of the heart, liver and spleen before there is even a diagnosis. This is one deadly, stealthy disease.

  • Diabetes—The pancreas manufactures the hormone INSULIN. If the pancreas stops making, or makes less than the normal amount of insulin, or if the tissues in the body become resistant to the insulin, the result is called “diabetes.” The dog can NOT control her blood sugar without injections of insulin on a regular basis, but given the insulin, the dog can live a normal life like a human can. If the dog does not receive the insulin injections at the same time each day of her life, the Flat-Coated Retriever will go into a coma and die. Some causes of diabetes may be chronic pancreatitis, heredity, obesity or old age, but no one is sure. Symptoms are excess drinking and urination, dehydration, weight loss, increased appetite, weight gain, and cataracts may develop suddenly. Treatment is in the form of the insulin injections daily and a strict diet low in carbohydrates and sugars. Home cooking may be suggested in some cases. Frequent trips to the vet for blood monitoring will be needed but diabetes is not a death sentence.

  • Osteosarcoma—A leg bone cancer in large breed dogs of any age but usually in large, older dogs. Osteosarcoma in the limbs is “appendicular osteosarcoma.” The dog will be in great pain as the disease destroys the bone from the inside out. The dog’s inability to walk will progress over only about 3 months time as the bone is destroyed by the tumor. Unfortunately, surgery to remove the leg is the only way to give your dog the only total relief needed.

  • Hypothyroidism—An underactive thyroid gland produces too little thyroid hormone which reduces the Flat-Coated Retriever's metabolism level. Hypothyroidism stems from the Flat-Coated Retriever’s immune system attacking the tissues of the thyroid gland. Bottom line is the dog becomes symptomatic. The cause can be a predisposition for thyroid problems, air pollution and allergies. A FEW symptoms of the disorder include lethargy, weight gain, skin infections, dry skin, hair loss, slow heart rate, ear infections, depression. See your set right away.

  • Hypertrophic osteodystrophy—Orthopedic bone disease in large dogs, 2 to 6 months old. Very painful and possibly caused by poor nutrition. There will be pain and swelling in the affected legs. Look for lameness or a desire not to move at all, and loss of appetite plus a high fever may also occur. Medication, bed rest and a special diet are usually given. The disease can be fatal.

  • Lymphosarcoma—Cancer of the lymph glands which amounts to “cancer everywhere in the body.” Middle age and older dogs like the Flat-Coated Retriever are the possible candidates. No appetite, weight loss, no energy and increased thirst and urination are signs of the disease. When a lymph node become cancerous, you can begin to feel the hardness of the node at the angle of the jaws and in front of the shoulder blades, for example because the nodes become enlarged. There are many other nodes you can’t feel. With chemotherapy, the dog may have a year to live. Without chemotherapy, she has up to 6 weeks to live. About 45% of all dogs in the USA will die of cancer by age 10 and only a third will die of old age. (Current statistics) This disease is common to the Flat-Coated Retriever, Golden Retriever and Rottweiler.

  • Epilepsy—A serious seizure disorder occurring from 2 to 4 or 5 years of age in dogs.

Other health problems could occur with your Flat-Coated Retriever. If you notice any problems with your dog, take it to the vet immediately. This website is for general information only and is not intended to, in any way, be a medical guide

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