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Working Wednesday: The Flat Coated Retriever

The Flat Coated Retriever is one of the less popular retriever breeds in the field however is becoming increasingly more popular due to their striking good looks - which is why they are very popular in the show rings, and in the right hands they can become great shooting dogs that will most definitely turn a few heads in the field!



The Flat Coated Retriever belongs to the Gundog Breed Group, which consists of dogs that were originally trained to find live game and/or to retrieve game that had been shot and wounded. This group is divided into four categories - Retrievers, Spaniels, HPR (Hunt/Point/Retrieve), Pointers and Setters.



Flatcoat Fun Facts:

  • They are currently recognised by the Kennel Club as Black (the most popular colour) and liver... which is rarely seen.

  • They have glossy, long, thick coats of fine hair that catches many peoples eyes with these dogs.

  • They thrive on human contact and are patient around all children.

  • Flatcoats adore taking part in canine sports and have a high learning capacity.

  • Their coats offer them a lot of protection from the elements, keeping them warm in winter and cool in the summer.





Flatcoated Retriever History:

Originating in the mid-19th century in England, the Flat-Coated Retriever gained popularity as a gamekeeper’s dog. Part of its ancestry is thought to have come from stock imported from North America from the now extinct St. John's water dog, but this is unverified. Canadian seafarers are thought to have brought Newfoundlands to British ports, and they factored into the ancestry of the Flat-Coated Retriever. Collie-type dogs may have been added to increase the breed's train-ability along with the Newfoundland for strength and Setter blood for enhanced scenting ability. The first examples of the breed were introduced around 1860, but the final type was only established 20 years later.


After its introduction into the U.S., the Flat-Coated Retriever began to quickly gain in popularity as a gun dog, and from 1873 when the breed became a "stable type" according to the American Kennel Club until 1915 when it was officially recognised as a breed, their number grew rapidly. However, soon after, their popularity began to decrease, eclipsed by the Golden Retriever, which was actually bred in part from the Flat-Coated Retriever, along with other breeds. By the end of World War II, so few Flat-Coated Retrievers remained, the breed's survival was uncertain. However, beginning in the 1960's, careful breeding brought the population back and the breed gained in popularity again, for both the sport of conformation showing, and as a companion pet. Today, the Flat-Coated Retriever enjoys a modest popularity and is moving ahead as a breed through attentive breeding for the conformation, health, multipurpose talent, and exceptional temperament that are its hallmarks. It has yet to return in substantial numbers to field competition.



Training a Flatcoat:


Flatcoated Retrievers tend to need a much softer approach in training to the typical hot-headed Labrador. They can be very sensitive to your body language and commands - in order to get the best from a flattie you must be a calm, patient and soft handler. You must work hard to develop good eye contact with them and try to tune into their canine psychology and understand their different ways of thinking.


Training one of these could take a while longer than the average Labrador as they tend to take a while longer to mature, which is why you need plenty of patience!

A well trained Flatcoat can be very elegant and stylish in the field, they have an impressive amount drive and determination with a bold mind-set entering thick cover like spaniels would. Their marking abilities are fantastic which is a great asset to any picking up team, as well as their air-scenting which is unusual as most dogs use ground scent to find tricky fallen game.






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