Curly-Coated Retriever

AKC Sporting Group


Photo copyright © Cook PhoDOGraphy. All rights reserved.

Photo copyright © Cook PhoDOGraphy. All rights reserved.

The Curly-Coated Retriever is considered to be one of the oldest retriever breeds. Developed in England, the breed probably resulted from crosses with the close-curled English Water dog, the old Water Spaniel, and the St. John’s Newfoundland dog. The Curly is a fine water retriever with a gentle mouth, particularly ideal for duck and quail. He is an excellent hunting companion and gun dog, and his gentle temperament also makes him an outstanding family companion. The Curly-Coated Retriever is quite popular in Australia and New Zealand, but is not well-known in the United States, though the breed is recognized by the AKC.


A large, hardy, athletic retriever with a distinctive crisp, curly coat. The thick, black, or liver-colored coat of tight curls protects the dog from brambles and icy water. Even the small ears, back of the head, neck, and tapering tail are covered with little curls. Only the face, hocks, and front of the legs are smooth. The ideal Curly should be agile and graceful, strong, yet elegant. The body is slightly longer than the height at the withers. The back is strong and level. The head is wedge-shaped, longer than it is wide. The foreface and skull are approximately the same length, with their toplines forming parallel planes when viewed from the side. The muzzle tapers to a well-developed dark nose (black for black dogs, brown or amber for liver-colored dogs). The teeth should meet in a scissors bite. The smallish ears are pendant. The eyes are either black or brown. The tail reaches approximately to the hock and is carried straight.

Key Facts

  • Height:  25 to 27 in. (male); 23 to 25 in. (female)
  • Size:  Large
  • Weight:  Averages 65 lbs.
  • Availability:  Very difficult to find
  • Talents:  Hunting, tracking, retrieving, watchdog, guarding, agility, and competitive obedience


Beware of hip dysplasia and eye problems. Buy only from stock with OFA, PennHIP, or another national hip dysplasia clearance and current CERF or OFA eye clearance. Loves to swim. Needs a lot of exercise and mental stimulation to be truly happy. The curly coat should be washed, but brushing and combing will make the coat frizzy. Wet the coat to renew the curls after grooming. Curly-Coated Retrievers make good therapy dogs.


Loyal and eager to please. Proud and confident. Very intelligent and trainable. Clever and mischievous, but sensitive. Needs early gentle, but firm, obedience training. Can do well at competitive obedience, but is not as predictable a performer as a Golden Retriever; likes to do things his way. Loving with children. Socializes well with people and other pets at an early age, as this breed tends to be reserved and even timid with strangers if not properly socialized. A good watchdog that will also protect the family if danger threatens.


  • Children:  Excellent with children
  • Friendliness:  Reserved with strangers
  • Trainability:  Easy to train
  • Independence:  Fairly independent
  • Dominance:  Moderate
  • Other Pets:  Generally good with other pets
  • Combativeness:  Not generally dog-aggressive
  • Noise:  Average barker
  • Indoors:  Relatively inactive indoors
  • Owner:  Good for novice owners


  • Grooming:  A little grooming needed
  • Trimming and Stripping:  No trimming or stripping needed
  • Coat:  Curly coat
  • Shedding:  Light shedder
  • Exercise:  Vigorous daily exercise needed
  • Jogging:  An excellent jogging companion
  • Apartments:  Not recommended for apartments
  • Outdoor Space:  Best with a large yard
  • Climate:  Does well in most climates
  • Longevity:  Average (10 to 12 years)

Useful Links

AKC® Curly-Coated Retriever Breed Standard

Curly-Coated Retriever Breed Club

Search for a Breeder

Rescue Organizations

Books about the Curly-Coated Retriever

Curly-Coated Retriever Gifts