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Working Wednesday: The Curly Coated Retriever

It has been claimed that the Curly Coated Retriever is the oldest of the Retriever breeds, he is also the tallest. The hallmark of the breed, a coat of small tight curls - which comes from the Poodle that has been bred into them - nods acknowledgement to his ancestor, the English Water Spaniel (now extinct) which was added to a base of Labrador blood. The coat gives the dog a fantastic waterproof quality when retrieving from water, the function for which he was originally bred for.

Curly Coated Retriever History:

The Curly's ancestry is unknown and has never been properly documented. This is because in the very early days, working dogs were used mainly for purpose and not looks, such as retrieving, and various cross matings would have taken place to produce the best dog for a particular purpose. In this case it was more than likely to be some of the extinct water dogs crossed with the Standard Poodle. There would be several dogs around in those early years that were used for retrieving that are now extinct such as The Large Rough Water dog, Tweed Water Spaniel, Lesser Newfoundland - to name a few together with a few that remain, the Irish Water Spaniel, and dogs from the Continent, the Wetterhound, Barbett, and Poodle.

The curly was first exhibited in the show-ring in 1860, and four years later there were separate classes for the wavy coated and curly coated varieties. They were very popular during those early years and were on many of the large estates, however the war years and the introduction of the Labrador were to greatly reduce their popularity. Their fortunes have ebbed and flowed throughout the years with registrations as low as 5 in 1919 to the record of 168 in 1994.

Curly Fun Facts:

  • The Curly Coat loves water!

  • They are most commonly seen in solid black or liver.

  • Their tight curls make up a mass of their body except for their face.

  • They are a very vulnerable breed with less than 100 puppies registered per year.

  • They are very protective and loyal over their families.

Working Curly Coat Retrievers:

As well as the obvious pursuits of gundog work or showing there are many other activities which can be carried out with your Curly Coated Retriever.

The KC activities which can be enjoyed include:

  • Working Trials

  • Obedience

  • Agility

  • Rally

  • Flyball

  • Heelwork to Music

  • Kennel Club Good Citizen tests

Outside of Kennel Club activities the dogs are used as PAT (Pets as Therapy) dogs visiting hospitals, old peoples homes etc. and although not in this country they are used for Search and Rescue work and countless other activities.

The above are activities to be enjoyed with the pet dog, but additionally there are some Curlies who work for a living, there are a number of Curlies working as Guide Dogs for The Blind (the Guide Dog association also use Curlies in their breeding program, and use Curly crosses to work, perhaps the most famous of whom is Lucy MP David Blunkett’s dog.). There is also a qualified Hearing Dog for Deaf People working in England.

The Curly will turn its hand (paw) to many activities as it is very adaptable and also has the intelligence to understand what is required whilst it’s biddable nature means that it wishes to please and will therefore enjoy carrying out these tasks for it’s owner.

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