Need a pick-me-up? Spend some time with a Flat-Coated Retriever. Super happy, a bit rambunctious and a whole lot of tail-wagging enthusiasm—that’s this breed in a nutshell. These cheerful dogs are are full of energy and will be thrilled to go on new adventures with you each day, happily hiking, swimming, hunting or just playing in the backyard. These striking dogs tend to perpetually act a bit puppyish, but with a big grin to keep you laughing at their antics, they’ll cement their place in your heart.
Flat-Coated Retrievers are best for active families who can give these dogs lots of exercise and have plenty of room in their home (and hearts) to fit this larger breed. Bonus points if they have other dog pals to play with! These pups do best with pet parents who understand that no matter their age, they will always be puppies at heart (and sometimes act like it, too).
Flat-Coated Retriever Traits
Flat-Coated Retriever Temperament
If you were to take the head of your high school’s pep squad and magically transform them into a dog, paws down you’d get a Flat-Coated Retriever. Known for being friendly and outgoing, their happy-go-lucky temperament will rub off on you whether you’re going for a walk, playing a game of fetch or heading off on another adventure with your new best friend. Three cheers for that!
The Flat-Coated Retriever breed is very family-oriented, highly social and not known to be aggressive. But while the Flat-Coated Retriever doesn’t rank high on biting tendencies, these dogs can act like puppies even into adulthood, so some mouthing and playful biting might occur.
They are the epitome of the social butterfly and love meeting new people. (They’re always looking for new recruits to the Homecoming committee!) Their family comes first, though—they bond strongly to their people and get along well with kids, dogs and cats.
This high-energy breed is happiest outside where they can run and romp. Bred to be sporting dogs, the Flat-Coated Retriever will be happy to retrieve game for you, but the breed is also well-suited for sports like agility, tracking and scentwork.
How to Care for a Flat-Coated Retriever
Despite their rugged appearance, a Flat-Coated Retriever is a high-maintenance pooch. While their coats are relatively easy to maintain, they do shed a lot, and since they’re extremely active and mature more slowly than other dog breeds, you’ll be spending a lot of your time playing with and training your pup.
Flat-Coated Retriever Health
Flat-Coated Retrievers have a life expectancy of 8 to 10 years. While this breed tends to be fairly healthy, there are some health issues you should be aware of. Knowing about these issues can help you to avoid or quickly recognize them, keeping your dog healthy and happy.
- Hip Dysplasia: Hip dysplasia is a painful condition where the ball and socket of your dog’s hip joint rub together. This can get worse as your dog ages and can make it difficult for them to run and play. Hip dysplasia can be hereditary, so it’s a good idea to work with a breeder who has evaluated their breeding dogs for the condition. If your dog does develop hip dysplasia, there are many treatment options, including pain medications and surgery.
- Luxating Patellas: Luxating patella is a condition in which your dog’s kneecap slips in and out of place. This can be painful, and your dog may limp on and off as the kneecap shifts, then returns to its correct position. Surgery can help to correct this issue.
- Gastric Dilatation: Also called bloat, gastric dilatation is a condition that can occur where your dog’s stomach twists and gets filled with gas. This is a life-threatening emergency that requires surgery. Gastric dilatation often affects dogs who have deep and narrow chests, so the Flat-Coated Retriever can be at risk. Your vet may recommend suturing down your dog’s stomach as a preventative measure. You can also help prevent bloat by feeding your dog more frequent meals throughout the day using a slow feeding bowl.
- Cataracts: Flat-Coated Retrievers can be prone to developing cataracts, which are a white or milky opacity that can limit your dog’s vision. If they progress, some cataracts can cause blindness. Cataracts can be hereditary, and they can be surgically removed.
- Ear Infections: Flat-Coated Retrievers love to play in the water, which can increase their chances of an ear infection. If you notice your dog shaking their head frequently, scratching at their ear, ear discharge or ear flap redness, these are all symptoms of a potential ear infection. Your vet can diagnose, and most ear infections can be treated with medicine.
Flat-Coated Retriever History
The Flat-Coated Retriever’s origins began in Britain in the 1800s. The breed was heavily influenced by the St. John’s Dog and Setter. The Flat-Coated Retriever’s coat was one of their most notable characteristics, and it was developed to help protect the dog from rain, brush and other elements they would face when out hunting.
Flat-Coated Retrievers were bred to be easily trainable and to be physically suited to the hunt field. They accompanied hunters while duck hunting, swimming out to fetch the ducks that had been shot.
These dogs were initially highly popular. They did well in dog shows and field trials. Initially, the black-coated dogs were valued more highly, but the liver-colored dogs became more popular in the 1900s. However, the Golden Retriever and Labrador Retriever were also recognized as separate breeds, and these breeds gradually surpassed the Flat-Coated Retriever in popularity. The American Kennel Club officially recognized the Flat-Coated Retriever in 1915.
While Flat-Coated Retrievers had been highly popular with gamekeepers and hunters, World War II resulted in challenges like food shortages and limited transportation, causing the breed’s numbers to decline. After the World Wars, breeders turned their attention to preserving the breed and their history, which they did successfully. Since then, selective breeding has helped to restore this unique breed, and today, the Flat-Coated Retriever is popular as both a hunting and family dog.
You can find Flat-Coated Retriever puppies from reputable breeders on the American Kennel Club’s website. The average Flat-Coated Retriever puppy price varies from about $2,000 to $3,000. For that price, you’re usually getting a puppy who has been screened for potential health problems and temperament issues, and your puppy might have pedigree papers. You can also reach out to local shelters to see if there is a Flat-Coated Retriever to adopt.
Do Flat-Coated Retrievers shed?
Yes, Flat-Coated Retrievers shed significantly, so things can get hairy when you have one or more of these dogs in your home! Frequent grooming will help minimize the amount of fur that ends up on you, but be prepared to put in some extra time keeping your house and car hair-free.
How long do Flat-Coated Retrievers live?
The average Flat-Coated Retriever life expectancy is between 8 and 10 years. Keep in mind that staying aware of the breed’s common health issues and care needs can maximize the chance you’ll enjoy many happy years with your best friend.
Are Flat-Coated Retrievers rare or extinct?
Flat-Coated Retrievers are somewhat rare today, and that’s because they have traits and characteristics that mean they’re not the ideal dog for the average family. These dogs are highly intelligent and active, and they tend to retain their puppy-like behaviors even well into adulthood. This can make them more challenging than other, more calm breeds, so they’re not in as high demand as other breeds like the Lab or Golden Retriever.
What are the most common Flat-Coated Retriever mixes?
The most common Flat-Coated Retriever mixes are:
- Flat-Coated Retriever-Border Collie mix
- Flat-Coated Retriever-Labrador mix
- Flat-Coated Retriever-German Shepherd mix
- Flat-Coated Retriever-Golden Retriever mix
- Flat-Coated Retriever-Newfoundland mix
Are Flat-Coated Retrievers good family dogs?
Flat-Coated Retrievers can be great family dogs. They’re highly social and friendly, and they tend to get along well with kids. These dogs have high energy levels, so they can thrive in busy families where there are plenty of people available to exercise and play with them.
From their highly social nature to their intelligence, there are lots of Flat-Coated Retriever qualities to love, but this breed isn’t for everyone. The Flat-Coated Retriever dog tends to act like a puppy for years, and they need plenty of exercise and time outside. Their desire to please means these dogs will be loyal companions, and they often get along well with kids, dogs and cats, so they can easily become big, loving, happy members of your family.
Expert input provided by veterinarian Travis McDermott, DVM., Hospital Director of Durango Animal Hospital; veterinarian Sara Ochoa, DVM, of Whitehouse Animal Hospital; and Mary Thompson, CPDT-KA PMCT1, Owner of Happy Hound University, LLC.