Flat-Coated Retrievers Character: A Historical Perspective

The Flat Coated Retriever breed is characterized by being a very sociable breed, as it gets along well with the whole family and even strangers.

It can adapt to any type of place, either urban or rural, and one of its distinctive features is its passion for all activities related to water.

It sheds hair throughout the year, so frequent brushing is very important.

Unlike the Golden Retriever, it is characterized by a longer muzzle, and its adult weight ranges from 25 to almost 40 kilos (55-88 lbs).

flat coated retriever

The Flat Coated Retriever breed is characterized by being a very sociable breed, as it gets along very well with the whole family and even strangers. It can adapt to any type of place, whether urban or rural, and one of its distinctive features is its passion for all activities related to water. It sheds hair all year round, so frequent brushing is very important. Unlike Golden Retrievers, it is characterized by a longer muzzle, and its adult weight ranges between 55 and 88 pounds.

The Flat-Coated Retriever is a breed of hunting dog from the United Kingdom. It was developed as a gundog to work on both land and water as a retriever. The Flat-Coated Retriever is an excellent swimmer (its oily skin makes it feel like a fish in the water), a quality which has been used in hunting to essentially retrieve waterfowl. On the other hand, thanks to its excellent sense of smell, this breed has also been used for search and rescue, tracking and drug detection.

In the past, all the hunting dogs used for retrieving were called “Retrievers”. Thus, Spaniels, Setters or Pointers were all included in the same bag. Most of the crosses were made depending on the most outstanding characteristics of each dog and in this way, an attempt was made to create a superior dog. Due to the somewhat random crosses, the origin of these dogs is uncertain. After these years of “uncontrolled”, it is known that around 1850 the one that would later be known as the Smooth-Coated Retriever appeared.

Flat-Coated Golden Retrievers character, behavior, and training

The Flat-Coated Retriever is playful, well-balanced, friendly, clean, extroverted and sociable. This character makes him a good companion dog and a great friend to older children, but above all, he is a working dog. He enjoys all kinds of activities, especially water activities.

The most appreciable thing is that the Flat-Coated Retriever matures very slowly physically and emotionally and does not outgrow its puppy nature until three or four years of life. Early puppy training is essential and is highly recommended, although it should be practiced in short and cheerful sessions, as its sensitive nature would resist severe education. These are "students" who are ready and full of enthusiasm and learn quickly and easily, but who can also become shy and fearful if treated harshly.

During training they need a gentle yet firm handling and, above all, an individualized approach. Appropriate behavior and good manners should be encouraged through short, positive and cheerful lessons. Bad habits can be prevented with supervision, attention and proper exercise.

The Flat-Coated Retriever is an active dog that adapts well to urban life. It needs considerable exercise and daily activities with family members. It is a clean, energetic and cheerful dog that keeps its young look well into old age. Although it is a typical friendly, affectionate and always ready to play retrieving dog, it has a higher level of activity than a Golden or Labrador Retriever.

A well-bred Flat-Coated Retriever will have a lot of energy but will not be hyperactive. Its need for exercise is huge and without it it will become a destructive and difficult to control dog. Even with enough exercise it will still be exuberant and enthusiastic and will always be ready to participate in some new activity with you. The word "sedentary" is not part of its description.

The Flat-Coated Retriever clearly needs to be with people and interact closely with members of its family. It will become frustrated if it is separated from them and will not thrive if it is kept in a kennel in the garden. Due to its high energy level, the Flat-Coated Retriever can easily become bored and can become "creatively destructive" if left with nothing to keep them occupied for too long. Like other retrievers, they are very oral dogs that seem obsessed with having something in their mouths, to carry around all the time.

Flat-Coated Retrievers as a breed are not good guard dogs. They may be more of a warning dog than a watchdog and will bark at strangers, but they will rarely bite. It is basically a companion that will not stop wagging its tail and will tend to be friendly with everyone: animals and people. Although he is good with children, he can be a danger around small children due to his euphoria.

His cheerful attitude and wagging tail can unintentionally frighten and even harm small children, who could easily be injured by 70 or 80 pounds of canine enthusiasm. A common greeting by a Flat-Coated Retriever is to jump on top of a person to give a cheerful "hello" and a lick on the face while his truffle touches his nose, a behavior that few adults appreciate or consent to.

Although the Flat-Coated Retriever is enthusiastic about work, he can be very stubborn, especially if treated harshly or unfairly (in his opinion). He needs good obedience fundamentals and to be shown these at a very early age to become a civilized dog and a polite companion.

As a general rule, Flat-Coated Retrievers are considered too active for work as guide dogs for the blind, as hearing dogs for the hearing impaired or as service animals for the physically handicapped. The best results have been achieved with Flat-Coated Retrievers that have been trained to help visually impaired owners who already know and love their dog.

Flat-Coated Retrievers, like other retrieving breeds, are known for their excellent sense of smell. As "super-sniffers" they have made their way into most tasks that involve tracking and sniffing. In some countries, this breed participates in regulated tracking tests and obtains titles in formal competitions.

Flat-Coated Retrievers that have been successful in tracking trials are also used, in some countries, to track injured animals, such as deer or elk, injured in traffic accidents or during a hunt. In Norway, it is forbidden to hunt deer or elk without the presence of a dog officially registered as a tracker.

In several countries, Flat-Coated Retrievers also follow the trail to find lost, injured and debris-buried people. Many of these dogs have been trained for avalanche work and are very good at finding people buried under snow. These dogs work in extreme conditions: their ability to work in the snow and in freezing weather conditions further enhances their scenting ability.

Flat-Coated Retriever search and rescue dogs also assist in locating victims of natural disasters such as earthquakes and in terrorist attacks where bombs have exploded.

Not surprisingly, Flat-Coated Retrievers have proven to be excellent drug detection dogs. In Norway, at one point in the 1990s, this breed accounted for one-third of the total number of dogs approved for drug detection in that country. Although this breed is considered hyperactive in Norway, it is believed that this characteristic contributes to the breed's excellent working ability.

Care and Health

The Flat-Coated Retriever is made for outdoor life, needing daily exercise to use up all their extra energy and avoid becoming overweight. It adapts well to living in the city but a solely urban and sedentary life could affect its character. Although the Flat-Coated Retriever has a double coat and sheds hair in all seasons, its coat is smoother and has less curls than the Golden Retriever's, which has a lot of hair. Therefore, it requires less grooming.

Frequent brushing (we emphasize the word “frequent”) will keep its coat in good condition and reduce shedding to a minimum. The Flat-Coated Retriever does not have specific diseases of its breed but it has been found that it can suffer from hip dysplasia or patellar luxation.

Flat-Coated Retrievers history

Throughout history, the pairing between the hunter and the hunting dog has evolved according to the hunting conditions of each era. Before the 19th century, ancient weapons dictated the type of dog used to locate and shoot down hunting birds and other animals. The evolution of firearms changed forever the nature of the hunting relationship between man and dog.

With his improved weapons, which allowed for greater distances and advantages to bring down many field pieces and waterfowl, the hunter also needed an improved retriever dog to locate and retrieve these hunted pieces. The use of firearms required a dog that could be controlled and find pieces within the range of the shotguns.

During that period, the name "retriever" (retriever dog) was used for any hunting dog that fulfilled this mission, rather than to refer to a specific canine breed. Thus, any Pointer, Spaniel or Setter that retrieved the game killed by its master was considered a retriever. Hunters used several of these hunting dogs to pursue the game and make a living, and most crosses were thought out and carried out according to the skills of each specific dog. They simply crossed good dogs of any origin with other good ones to produce superior hunting dogs with certain qualities such as a good nose, courage or affinity with water, and they hardly favored any type or breed.

Due to this random selection process and the lack of breeding records in the early days, the exact sequence of the development of hunting retriever breeds has been lost. Thus, confusion reigns over the exact origin of most of these breeds. The exception is the Golden Retriever, which was developed by a person whose breeding efforts were preserved for canine history thanks to the records of their kennel.

By 1850, as various types of retrievers emerged and developed, the St. John's Water Dog appeared in the Labrador Peninsula as an outstanding retriever with exceptional intelligence, endurance, and health. It is generally believed that these dogs from the Labrador Peninsula were crossed with Setter type dogs to give rise to the Wavy-Coated Retriever, which was later re-baptized as the Flat-Coated Retriever.

The Wavy-Coated Retriever was known as a sensational dog that combined working ability with elegance and beauty. This elegance was not lost on the hunters, who also liked beautiful dogs, and before two decades had passed the type of Flat-Coated was established, which was athletic and lively, giving rise to a dual-purpose dog that worked in the field and had potential for beauty dog shows.

The first Flat-Coated Retriever was exhibited in 1864 in two categories at a show held in Birmingham. The winners were Wyndham (owned by Mr. T. Meyrick) and Music (owned by Lord Paget), which were the first two Flat-Coated Retrievers to start the upward journey of this breed in both the canine competition fields.

flat coated retriever history

In the early 1870s, the versatile Flat-Coated Retriever caught the attention of Mr. Sewallis Evelyn Shirley, an influential breeder and enthusiast who bred excellent dual-purpose dogs under the Ettington affix. Mr. Shirley was perhaps best known for founding the Kennel Club of England in 1873, of which he was the first president. His experience and association with the Kennel Club ensured this dual-purpose breed of its quality in beauty contests, as well as its worth as a working dog in the field.

It is believed that Mr. Shirley used St. John's Water Dogs, Water Spaniels, and possibly Scotch Collies to stabilize and set the type of the Flat-Coated Retriever breed. He also employed the Labrador Retriever in some crossings, using dogs available from two prominent kennels of the breed (Malmesbury and Buccleugh). Mr. Shirley's Flat-Coated Retrievers were mostly black or liver-colored, although other colors were considered acceptable at that time. During that period, people still referred to this breed by the name Wavy-Coated Retriever.

Two other important breeders of the late 19th century followed Mr. Shirley to set and preserve the type of Flat-Coated Retriever. Mr. Harding Cox followed in Mr. Shirley's footsteps and gave rise to Flat-Coated Retrievers that were famous for their elegant heads and their similarity in type. Another protector of the breed, Colonel Cornwall-Leigh, was also renowned for his considerable contributions.

Mr. Reginald Cooke (1850-1951), another influential enthusiast who was known for his affix Riverside, had Flat-Coated Retrievers for over 60 years. Concerned with preserving the hunting abilities of dogs taking part in beauty contests, Mr. Cooke was successful in field trials as well as beauty exhibitions and his efforts helped the breed retain its dual purpose nature.

Mr. Cooke was a good competitor, determined to breed and campaign for the best quality dog possible. He was a formidable showman and exhibitor and during his career his field trial record was 15 Firsts, 10 Seconds, 11 Thirds and 21 Certificates of Merit. He also gained 349 Challenge Certificates (CC) and 130 Reserve CCs, as well as breeding numerous champions, including Toby of Riverside and Grouse of Riverside, who both became dual champions.

Mr. Cooke kept detailed breeding records which are kept as part of the history of this breed. Passionate in his promotion of the best for the breed, he also wrote three small pamphlets to instruct newcomers in the breed.

Mr. Cooke's, Mr. Cox's, and Colonel Cornwall-Leigh's dedication to the Flat-Coated Retriever helped make the breed one of the favorites among purebred dog lovers. By the end of the 19th century, the Flat-Coated Retriever was famous for its beauty and skills, as well as for being a breed with a very fixed quality and character. Especially known for their elegant movements, tidy appearance, and pleasant expression, these dogs became favorites in both field trials and dog beauty shows.

High Legh Blarney, property of Colonel Cornwall-Leigh, was an excellent competitor during his career. When the Colonel died in 1905, his dogs were auctioned off. Mr. Cooke had been so impressed with Blarney that he bid to get him. Mr. Cooke's agent got the dog for 200 guineas, an incredibly high price at the time, but Mr. Cooke recovered his investment in just two years through stud fees from this dog.

Blarney continued to win and was undefeated in beauty pageants until his death at 11 years old. Frequently used as a stud for his excellent qualities, he left a lasting mark on the breed's history.

Mr. Cooke's success with Blarney undoubtedly influenced his future plans and he paid out 200 guineas for Ch. Black Quilt again. Lord Redesdale followed his lead and bought a female, Ch. Black Queen, for 145 guineas. Although the Flat-Coated Retriever seemed to be in high demand, small breeders and less affluent fanciers could not compete with these exorbitant prices which could be afforded by the wealthier and more influential breeders of the time.

Around this same time, the popularity of the Labrador and the Golden Retriever were on the rise and registrations in the Flat-Coated Retriever's stud book were beginning to decline. The First World War further affected the world of dog fanciers and most breeds suffered a decrease in available dogs. Registrations of Flat-Coated Retriever were 438 in 1924 and continued to drop during the Second World War. At this time only a small number of wealthy hunters who could afford to go hunting with their dogs and also enter them in dog shows, if they wished, thereby preserving the dual purpose of the breed. Flat-Coated Retrievers remained popular among gamekeepers who liked the type and temperament that had been set in the breed.

By 1945, the influence of the war years and the increasing numbers of Labrador and Golden Retriever had affected the popularity of the Flat-Coated Retriever. They reappeared in 1946 at an Unbenchmarked Show in Leeds, with Mr. Birch as judge. Atherbram Nobbie (male owned by Mr. Phizacklea) and Claverdon Jet (female owned by Dr. Nancy Laughton) obtained the first Challenge Certificates. It is important to note that most of the Flat-Coated Retrievers that were exhibited in beauty shows were also used for bird hunting.

In 1946, ninety-four litters of Flat-Coated Retrievers were registered with the Kennel Club of England. Claverdon Jet obtained two more CC's and became the first post-war champion bitch. The Flat-Coated Retriever Association held the first post-war field trial in 1947 with an All-Aged Stake, which was won by Greenfield June.

The following year (1948) the first Crufts Dog Show after the war took place. Atherbram Nobbie and Claverdon Jet won their CCs with judge Mr. E. Turner. In the same year, the Flat-Coated Retriever Association held its first All Age Field Trial Prize, which was won by Maesmynan Patricia.

Mr. Phizacklea's contributions during those post-war years can never be thanked enough. He was an experienced breeder since the early 20's and made regular crosses outside of his lines, always bringing excellent animals to field tests to broaden and reinforce his line and give rise to double-utility winners that also had consistently high performances. His Atherbram line gave rise to both black and liver-colored dogs.

With the breed in steep decline, he introduced or formed a breeding line using Rettendon Dido and field trial winners Windle Don, Windle Peggy and FT Ch. Elwy Mary as a base. Mr. Phizacklea's breeding program gave rise to Jet, owned by Dr. Laughton, his excellent brother Atherbram Monty and most of the animals of this breed bought after the Second World War.

The Atherbram estate was transferred to his niece, Mrs. Peggy Payne, after the death of Mr. Phizacklea. When Mrs. Payne passed away, it was again transferred to another family member: Mrs. Hilary Hughes.

Pewcroft Kennels, owned by Mr. Stanley O'Neill, also deserves credit for preserving and saving this breed. During the decline in number of Flat-Coated Retrievers, deaths of dogs due to distemper and other diseases was rampant. O'Neill studied the lines and pedigrees and wrote extensively about the breed, freely sharing his knowledge with other breeders and aspiring owners.

He realized that the limited number of Flat-Coated Retrievers necessitated, to save the breed, using all breeding animals, even if their quality was not very good and that breeding for type and quality had to be postponed. Its founding female, Pewcroft Pest, and her daughter Pewcroft Peg, gave birth to the three litters that provided animals for the future kennels. Among these dogs were Ch. Pewcroft Plug and Pewcroft Pitch, Pewcroft Page, Claverdon Pewcroft Pieman, Ch. Pewcroft Picture and Pewcroft Peep, Pewcroft Proper, Pewcroft Prim, Pewcroft Praetor and Pewcroft Perfect.

The most important feature that distinguishes the Flat-Coated Retriever from other retrieving breeds, and still sets it apart from the rest, is the breeder's dedication to preserving working abilities. Unlike the rest of the retrieving breeds, this breed has yet to be divided into two completely different lines (those bred for beauty contests or for their field abilities). The Flat-Coated Retriever should be an tireless, helpful, and obedient worker that excels in locating downed game. Only the tireless efforts of those who love the breed will preserve its versatility as a retriever that enjoys and excels in the disciplines of field work, tracking, obedience, Agility, and fetching and retrieving balls thrown for it.

The avatars through which the race has passed, due to the most diverse causes, make it even more appreciative of the efforts of the breeders aimed at its conservation.

General Appearance

flat coated retriever

The Flat-Coated Retriever is the lightest of the Retrievers. It stands out from the rest with its elongated head, not very wide skull, long and strong jaws, and a barely noticeable stop. It is slim, strong, well-proportioned, with small ears close to the head, and a short and straight tail. Its coat is dense, straight, of fine texture, and can be black or liver-colored. The legs and tail have good fringes.

The breed sets standards of 23 to 24.5 inches in height at the withers for males, 22 to 23.5 inches for females, with a recommended weight of 53 to 75 pounds.

These are dogs with strong jaws and relatively long snout to allow for the capture of birds and mountain hunting. The shape of their head is exclusive to the breed and is described as "one-piece" with a minimum stop and a back part of the skull of approximately the same length as the snout.

Eyes almond-shaped, dark brown in color, have an intelligent and friendly expression. The ears are pendulous, relatively small, and set close to the head. The occipital (bone at the back of the skull) is not pronounced (as in the set, for example), and the head flows smoothly into the well-arched neck. The dorsal line is strong, straight and of a moderate length that continues in a straight line to the rear. They are lighter and more elegant in appearance than other retriever breeds.

The coat color is liver or solid black. Rarely a solid yellow shade of coat is seen, being a disqualification for the breed standard in conformation but not for other activities such as field, agility or obedience trials. The single coat (no undercoat) is of moderate length, with dense and shiny hair: it should be flat and straight, but a slight wave is allowed and more hair on the back of the legs, chest, under the body, tail and feet.

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