Flat-Coated Retriever – Breed Description
Famous for its glossy coat and friendly personality, the Flat-Coated Retriever makes a wonderful companion. These are the Peter Pans of the dog world, known for their playful demeanours which, quite literally, last a lifetime. This breed, of boundless energy and enthusiasm, arose from matings between the St. John´s Dog (a predecessor of the Labrador) and setters.
Previously known as the gamekeeper´s dog because it was commonplace on hunting estates of the landed gentry, the Flat-Coated Retriever is an intelligent retriever and highly skilled swimmer. Their popularity was later diminished by a preference for other retriever breeds, but dwindling numbers have since been brought back from the brink, to enjoy renewed success as working and family dogs.
The breed tends to be black, but some rich brown variations are seen.
Flat-Coated Retriever pros
- Very friendly and people-loving
- Eager to please, intelligent and enjoy learning
- Has lots of energy, very exercise tolerant
- Lifelong exuberance and playfulness
Flat-Coated Retriever cons
- Needs lots of physical activity and mental stimulation
- Tendency to eat inappropriate things
- Prone to becoming overweight
- High risk of cancer and orthopaedic problems
The fun-loving, affectionate and skilled Flat-Coated Retriever is as good a hunting dog as it is a cherished family member. These Peter Pans need dedicated owners to provide enough exercise and activity to keep them content and help prevent any unwanted behaviour that could result from the breed´s overflowing energy and mischievous mind. They are people pleasers, enjoying retrieval activities and games, as much as completing learned tasks. This means that they not only make great pets for very active homes but also flourish as service or assistance dogs.
Although each is an individual, if socialised well the breed generally makes a good companion for other dogs, and is good-natured around children. The Flat-Coated Retriever can provide many years of joy and affectionate entertainment as outgoing members of the family. However, their exercise needs and playful behaviour require a certain type of home:
- Very active lifestyle
- Plenty of outdoor space
- Time to dedicate to games, and stimulating activities like retrieval, agility or swimming
- Assistance work – for example, as support dogs
The Flat-Coated Retriever could make a great companion for a very active family that enjoys lots of outdoor activities, and with older children who perhaps would enjoy engaging the dog in regular fun retrieval or swimming games.
Known health problems for Flat-Coated Retriever
Whilst individual Flat-Coated Retrievers may enjoy lifelong good health, the breed as a whole is predisposed to various health problems, as with the other retriever breeds. Perhaps the most devastating is their predisposition to cancer, especially malignant sarcomas.
Inherited problems include hip and elbow dysplasia, osteochondrosis (abnormalities with cartilage formation), cataracts, glaucoma (high pressure in the eye), and idiopathic epilepsy (seizures with no proven cause). Orthopaedic complaints can be compounded by being overweight, so maintaining a healthy body condition is key for Flat-Coated Retrievers. The breed is also a common victim of dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM). DCM is where the heart becomes too enlarged and dilated to function properly. Lifelong monitoring and medication are needed to manage affected dogs and it can reduce lifespan.
The Flat-Coated Retriever´s appetite for life is only surpassed by its appetite for food. This affinity for eating and chewing things can get it into a pickle, should anything inappropriate be ingested. These mischievous dogs can end up needing surgery to remove intestinal obstructions caused by eating such foreign material.
The most common health issues affecting the breed are:
- Cancers – particularly a type known as sarcomas
- Orthopaedic complaints – osteochondrosis, hip and elbow dysplasia, luxating patella (kneecap)
- Vision problems – including glaucoma and cataracts
- Overeating and becoming overweight
- Gastrointestinal obstruction from eating inappropriate objects
- Idiopathic epilepsy
Flat-Coated Retriever care advice
If you are going to take on a Flat-Coated Retriever, be prepared for a wonderfully playful companion, with a mischievous attitude to life and buckets of energy. These dogs need lots of human interaction, as well as physical and mental stimulation. Not providing enough of either can lead to some destructive behaviours including inappropriate chewing and overactivity in the house. Establishing obedience and basic training is essential from the beginning, not only because these dogs love to please and relish having a job to do, but also to help keep any unwanted behaviours (like scavenging and stealing household items) at bay.
The famous glossy coat also needs some attention, it can be prone to knotting up and getting tangled, so they enjoy a good, regular groom. The long coat can also hide any lumps or bumps, so regular brushing is an excellent opportunity to check them over.
- Provide ample opportunities for exercise, including swimming if possible
- Engage the active mind with obedience training and games
- Maintain an appropriate weight
- Brush through the coat twice weekly and check for lumps
Lead author: Yvette Bell MRCVS