The individual or family who wants a Flat Coated Retriever that can keep up with an active schedule should consider welcoming him into their lives. These sociable, boundlessly energetic dogs love to be with their human companions, especially if those companions are active and on the go.

The flat-coated retriever is a medium-size sporting dog breed from England with a medium-length flat coat from which it derives its name. Flat-coats strongly resemble golden retrievers, except rather than coming in an array of golden hues they are usually only black or liver.

They are known for their energetic and cheerful nature, and many retain a puppyish personality even into their senior years. Flat-coats are ideal for active owners who like to spend a lot of time outdoors.


The flat-coated retriever can trace its origin to the mid-1800s in England. The St. John’s water dog, a predecessor to the Labrador retriever that was imported to England from Newfoundland, is a component of the breed, along with various setter dog breeds.

Collie breeds also are in the mix, which might have contributed to the breed’s high intelligence and trainability. And spaniel breeds added their hunting and swimming abilities. 

Flat-coats were prized for their athleticism, eagerness to please and work, and prowess in retrieving waterfowl. Their coat also was a desirable trait, as it protected them from the elements—including icy waters.

Other names for the breed have included the smooth-coated retriever, wavy-coated retriever, and black wavy retriever. 

They became England’s most popular retriever breed until the Lab and golden eventually dethroned them in the early 1900s. Breed numbers diminished during the World Wars, and flat-coats are still fairly rare today. The American Kennel Club first recognized the breed in 1915.


This Retriever is a big, friendly dog with a shiny black coat that’s long and straight. It has a broad head with floppy ears that hang down beside its face. Its nose is usually black. Its body is strong and well-proportioned, with a deep chest and a straight back. Its tail is long and waggy, and it often wiggles with excitement. The overall appearance looks sleek and happy, with a big smile that’s always ready for fun and games.

Physical Characteristics


  • Male 23-25 inches
  • Female 22-24 inches


  • Male 60-70 pounds
  • Female 40-55 pounds


Their most distinctive feature is their shiny, dense, and flat-lying coat.


  • Solid Black
  • Liver
  • Liver and White

Ears and Tail

They have pendant ears and a long, flowing tail.


The average lifespan is around 8 to 12 years.


This gundog is renowned for its friendly temperament, making it an ideal companion for families and individuals alike. These dogs are characterized by their boundless enthusiasm, intelligence, and outgoing nature.

They exhibit a playful behavior that persists well into adulthood, endearing them to people of all ages. Renowned for their sociability, they generally get along well with children, other pets, and strangers, often making them poor guard dogs due to their natural inclination to befriend rather than exhibit protective behaviors. Their high intelligence levels make them easily trainable, and they thrive on engaging activities and mental stimulation.

In fact, they consider themselves integral members of the family, following you around even without the promise of treats, always expecting one-on-one attention.


Maintaining the well-being and appearance involves a comprehensive grooming routine. Due to their dense, water-resistant double coat, regular brushing is essential to prevent matting and reduce shedding. A quality slicker brush or comb should be used, paying particular attention to their feathering on the legs, tail, and chest.

Bathing should be done as needed, with a mild dog shampoo to preserve their coat’s natural oils. Regular ear checks and cleanings are crucial, as their pendant ears can trap moisture and debris, potentially leading to infections.

Dental care, including regular tooth brushing and providing dental chews, helps maintain oral health.

Nail trimming is necessary to prevent discomfort and avoid potential issues with mobility.


They are typically highly trainable dogs thanks to their intelligence and connection with their humans. But you should always use positive reinforcement training methods, as they are sensitive to harsh corrections.

Start training and socialization from as young of an age as possible to prevent bad habits from forming. Many flat-coats also do well in advanced training, such as learning how to be a service or therapy dog. 

You also might have to work with a professional trainer, behaviorist, or vet on separation anxiety issues. Flat-coats don’t like to be left alone for long periods and might engage in unwanted behaviors if they are. Even with training, it’s still ideal that they’re in a household with someone home for much of the day.


These gundogs are known for their boundless energy and athleticism, require a comprehensive exercise regimen to thrive both physically and mentally. These exuberant dogs benefit from daily activities that engage their intellect and capitalize on their retrieval instincts.

Regular, brisk walks or jogs are essential to meet their cardiovascular needs and help maintain a healthy weight. Engaging in interactive play sessions, such as fetch or agility training, not only provides physical exercise but also stimulates their sharp minds. Given their retriever heritage, activities involving water, such as swimming or fetching in lakes or pools, are particularly enjoyable for this breed.

Mental stimulation is equally important; puzzle toys, obedience training, and varied activities prevent boredom and channel their intelligence constructively. It’s essential to note that their social nature makes them thrive on human interaction, so involving them in family activities or play dates with other dogs enhances their overall well-being.         


Proper nutrition plays a pivotal role in ensuring the health and well-being. As an energetic and medium to large-sized breed, they benefit from a balanced diet that supports their active lifestyle.

High-quality commercial dog food, whether dry kibble or wet formulations, should be chosen, considering factors such as the dog’s age, size, and activity level. Protein, derived from sources like meat or fish, aids in muscle development, while moderate fat content provides the necessary energy for their active pursuits. Essential vitamins and minerals contribute to overall health, including maintaining coat quality and supporting bone and joint strength.

Additionally, providing access to fresh water at all times is imperative. Some owners may opt for a raw or homemade diet, but consultation with a veterinarian is recommended to ensure it meets the nutritional needs of the individual dog.

Health Concerns

These retrievers are generally healthy, but like all breeds, they’re prone to certain health conditions. Not all Flat-Coats will get any or all of these diseases, but it’s important to be aware of them if you’re considering this breed.

Hip Dysplasia

This is a heritable condition in which the thighbone doesn’t fit snugly into the hip joint. Some dogs show pain and lameness on one or both rear legs, but you may not notice any signs of discomfort in a dog with hip dysplasia.

Dogs with hip dysplasia should not be bred. If you’re buying a puppy, ask the breeder for proof that the parents have been tested for hip dysplasia and are free of problems.

Hip dysplasia is considered to be hereditary, but it can be worsened by environmental factors, such as rapid growth from a high-calorie diet or injuries incurred from jumping or falling on slick floors.

Malignant Histiocytosis

While this form of cancer is rare, it’s the most common type of cancer seen in Flat-Coated Retrievers. It originates in the histiocytes, white blood cells found in the skin and loose connective tissue in the body. Malignant histiocytosis is treated with surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation, but the prognosis is usually poor.

Lympho sarcoma

This is one of the most common cancers seen in dogs and can be found in various parts of the body such as the spleen, gastrointestinal tract, lymph nodes, liver, and bone marrow. The cancer can be treated with chemotherapy.

Hemangio sarcoma

This form of malignant cancer is found in the lining of blood vessels as well as the spleen. It can be treated with surgery and chemotherapy, but the prognosis is poor.


Generally affecting large and giant breeds, osteosarcoma is an aggressive bone cancer. The first sign of osteosarcoma is lameness, but the dog will need x-rays to determine if the cause is cancer.

Osteosarcoma is treated aggressively, usually with the amputation of the limb and chemotherapy. With treatment, dogs can live nine months to two years or more. Luckily, dogs adapt well to life on three legs and don’t suffer the same side effects to chemotherapy as humans, such as nausea and hair loss.

Patellar Luxation

Also known as “slipped stifles,” this condition involves the knee (patella) slipping out of place, causing lameness. The rubbing caused by patellar luxation can lead to arthritis which is a degenerative joint disease. Patellar luxation can be mild or severe. Dogs with severe cases may require surgery.


This is a life-threatening condition that affects large, deep-chested dogs, especially if they’re fed one large meal a day, eat rapidly, drink large amounts of water rapidly, or exercise vigorously after eating.

Bloat occurs when the stomach is distended with gas or air and then twists. The dog is unable to belch or vomit to rid himself of the excess air in his stomach, and blood flow to the heart is impeded. Blood pressure drops and the dog goes into shock. Without immediate medical attention, the dog can die.

Bottom Line

The Flat-Coated Retriever is a versatile and friendly breed known for its joyful temperament, love of retrieving, and elegant appearance.

Whether you’re seeking an enthusiastic and loving family pet, a skilled hunting companion, or a dog with a rich history in retrieving game from water and land, the Flat-Coated Retriever is likely to capture your interest with its exceptional qualities and well-rounded abilities.

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

Q. Are Flat Coated Retrievers good for first-time dog owners?

While their friendly nature and trainability make them suitable for many households, their energy levels and grooming needs may require commitment and dedication. First-time owners willing to provide proper care and exercise can have a rewarding experience with this breed.

Q. Are these Retrievers good with children and other pets?

Yes, these Retrievers are generally good with children and other pets. They are known for their friendly nature and often form strong bonds with family members, including other animals.

Q. Are there any specific training challenges with Flat Coated?

While generally trainable, some Flat-Coated may retain their puppy-like exuberance longer than other breeds, requiring consistent training and patience. Early socialization is also important.

Q. Can these gundogs be left alone for long periods?

These gundogs are social dogs and may become bored or anxious if left alone for extended periods. It’s recommended to provide mental stimulation and regular exercise even when owners are away.

Q. How much space do Flat Coated Retrievers need?

Flat-Coated Retrievers are adaptable to various living situations, but they thrive in homes with access to a yard or open space for regular exercise. Apartment living can work with sufficient daily exercise.

Q. Are they good watchdogs?

While they are alert and may bark to alert their owners, they are generally too friendly and social to be effective guard dogs. They are more likely to welcome strangers than act protectively.

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