Complete Guide To The Flat-Coated Retriever: Health, Personality, and Where To Find One

Forever young, Flat-Coated Retrievers are the Peter Pans of the dog world. Give them your love, and they’ll inspire you. If you’re looking for a fun, active dog but want something a little more unique – this breed is

How Big Does A Flat-Coated Retriever Get?

HeightWeight
Male23″-24.5″ at the shoulder60-70 lbs
Female22″-23.5″ at the shoulder 60-70 lbs

What Do Flat-Coated Retrievers Look Like?

Flat-Coated Retrievers are muscular but without the lumbering gait that characterizes other retrievers. At 60-70 pounds, they’re remarkably lithe, flowing when they moving. Long ears frame a deep muzzle and bright, expressive eyes from brown to hazel.

Their shiny, water-resistant coats come in two solid colors, black and liver — any other hue is a disqualification. Light feathers from their ears to their tails give them a setter-like profile, but they have more in common with their cousins, the Labrador and Golden Retrievers. Overall, they’re well-balanced field dogs with an unmistakable elegance — like poetry in motion.

Flat-Coated Retriever In On The Far Right

What Is The Personality Of A Flat-Coated Retriever?

Devoted to children and good-natured with other pets, Flat-Coated Retrievers are the consummate family dogs. They excel in the field but never take themselves too seriously. Sociable and fun-loving, no one is ever a stranger for long — they’re rarely mistaken for guard dogs.

Flat-Coated Retrievers are slow to mature, retaining their puppy-like exuberance well into old age. They’ll thrive with an active, outdoorsy family that includes them in their daily grind — they’re easy to please but ill-suited for apartment living. Lighthearted, they find joy in just being alive and can help you find yours.


How Much Exercise Do Flat-Coated Retrievers Need?

Flat-Coated Retrievers are enthusiastic, easy-to-train sporting dogs. They need plenty of exercise for both mind and body. Bred to hunt with a human partner, they’re not apt to entertain themselves. Whatever they do, they prefer doing it with you.

Non-sporting owners can substitute similar activities from long walks to exploring nature — plan on an hour per day. Prey-driven, they’re as happy to chase tennis balls as waterfowl, and they love to swim.

Entertainers, Flat-Coated Retrievers enjoy showing off for audiences in the show ring and athletic competitions — they’re top competitors. Agility, rally, and obedience events are fun activities for both dogs and their owners.

How Much Grooming Do Flat-Coated Retrievers Need?

Flat-Coated Retrievers have lustrous, mid-length coats with silky feathers and a thick mane. Prone to tangles, regular brushing prevents matting and distributes skin oils evenly, so they maintain their trademark shine.

Use a slicker or medium-bristled brush twice weekly to remove dirt, debris and loose hair. A metal comb is ideal for coaxing out knots. Average shedders, routine grooming helps dogs look their best and means less hair around the house.

Bathing requirements depend, in part, on their lifestyle — if they’re not dirty, they don’t need a bath. But retrievers, in general, tend to have a doggy odor, especially when damp, so a shampoo every few months keeps them fresh. Use a light conditioner to discourage tangles.

Flat-Coated Retrievers have long, heavy pinnae and are susceptible to ear infections. Monthly cleaning with an alcohol-free solution is the best remedy. Active dogs will wear their nails down naturally on abrasive surfaces, but check for overgrowth and trim them as necessary.

What Kind Of Dog Food Is Best For Flat-Coated Retrievers?

Personally I believe that most foods are fine for most dogs. Some dogs may not do well on some foods. However, as a rule I don’t blanket-prohibit any dietary ingredient from any breed at this time.

As a veterinarian, I tend to lean towards dog foods from the larger, more established dog food companies. They tend to have less recalls and issues with production than the smaller boutique companies. More times than not, if a patient is having GI upset due to food, it’s from one of these newer, “boutique” companies.

Best Puppy Food For American Foxhounds:

Best Adult Food For American Foxhounds:

Please don’t listen to the folks at the pet store trying to convince you to buy a grain-free diet for your dog. There’s zero science behind that and vets are actually seeing diseases now related to feeding grain-free foods.

It’s very important they remain at their optimal weight throughout their life. Have your vet go over with you exactly where to feel to know when your dog is too big.

How Long Do Flat-Coated Retrievers Live?

8-10 years according to the AKC

What Health Problems Do Flat-Coated Retrievers Have?

The first thing that jumps out at me about this breed is the relatively “short” life expectancy. Even in Europe, this is accepted as being accurate and is attributed to the higher rate of cancer in this breed as compared to other dogs of similar size.

FlatcoatData is a collection of data from hundreds of dogs around the world. If you’re a member of the national breed club you have access to this information.

Cancers That Flat-Coated Retrievers Can Suffer From:

The key to eliminating or reducing cancers in this breed is genetic testing of breeding dogs and removing dogs from any breeding program.

Other potential health issues that Flat-Coated Retrievers can suffer from include:

This is a breed that absolutely should have pet insurance at a young age. Check out my overview of pet insurance options here.

Where Can I Learn More About Flat-Coated Retrievers?

Flat-Coated Retriever Society of America

AKC Breed Profile

Where Can I Find A Flat-Coated Retriever?

In the United States

In Europe

Looking for a rescue? Check out FCRSA Rescue

Interesting Facts About Flat-Coated Retrievers

Flat-Coated Retrievers don’t get the attention they deserve. Here’s more about this winsome breed.

They’re Not Always Flat-Coated

The Flat-Coated Retriever’s coat is no flatter than the Labrador or Golden Retriever. In fact, it can be wavy. The odd name was to differentiate them from another dog that was popular at the time, the Curly-Coated Retriever.

They’re a Young Breed

Flat-Coated Retrievers were first bred in the mid-nineteenth-century to retrieve downed waterfowl. Popular on British estates, they were loved by the gentry. Though nearly two centuries old, they’re still relative young, veritable newcomers in a world with breeds that pre-date the pyramids of Egypt.

Flat-Coated Retrievers Look Like Setters Because —

Genetically, they share links with both the St. John’s Water Dog, the now-extinct precursor to Labrador Retriever and setters of various types. From the Labrador line, they inherited their water-resistant coat. From the setters, they got their distinguished muzzles and fancy feathers.

They Almost Died Out

After a period of intense popularity, the number of Flat-Coated Retrievers worldwide dropped precipitously in the 1940s in favor of Labrador and Golden Retrievers. Recognized by the AKC in 1915, the population in America was dangerously low. Flat-Coat enthusiast, Stanley O’Neill, is credited with saving them, working with fans in the US and Great Britain to select the best stock for rebuilding the breeding.