Flat-Coated Retriever

AKC Sporting Group


Photo copyright © Cook PhoDOGraphy. All rights reserved.

Photo copyright © Cook PhoDOGraphy. All rights reserved.

The Flat-Coated Retriever was developed in the 1800s by crossing several already established breeds, including the Water Dog, the Irish Setter, and the St. John’s Newfoundland, though one source also mentions the Collie. The breed was fairly popular until the beginning of the World War I, but was then overshadowed by the Labrador and Golden Retriever. The Flat-Coat deserves more attention, as he is not only an excellent bird dog and swimmer but also an outstanding family companion.


The Flat-Coated Retriever is a beautiful black or liver-colored retriever sporting a sleek, medium-length coat with well-feathered legs, tail, and chest. He is among the most streamlined of the retrievers, of moderate substance, and is slightly longer than tall. His long head is molded and sleek, with a long, deep muzzle and barely perceptible stop. The eyes are dark brown or hazel, and the moderately small ears lie flat against the head. The nose should be black for black coats and brown for liver coats. The tail is fairly straight, carried near horizontal.

Key Facts

  • Height:  23 to 24 1/2 in. (male); 22 to 23 1/2 in. (female)
  • Size:  Large
  • Weight:  60 to 70 lbs.
  • Availability:  Difficult to find
  • Talents:  Hunting, tracking, retrieving, watchdog, and agility


Some might be too friendly, overwhelming guests with love and attention. Gets along well with other pets. Beware of hip dysplasia and PRA. Buy only from stock with OFA, PennHIP, or another national hip-dysplasia clearance and current CERF or OFA eye clearance. This breed has a very high frequency of cancer. Needs lots of exercise.


Great for families—superb with children. Very stable temperament. Smart, active, and friendly. Gentle and playful. Highly trainable, but easily bored. Keep training sessions short and fun, without excessive repetition. A cheerful, devoted companion with a puppy-like exuberance well into his later years. This very sociable breed needs lots of affection and attention from his family.


  • Children:  Excellent with children
  • Friendliness:  Loves everyone
  • Trainability:  Easy to train
  • Independence:  Moderately dependent on people
  • Dominance:  Low
  • Other Pets:  Generally good with other pets
  • Combativeness:  Friendly with other dogs
  • 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:  Feathered coat
  • Shedding:  Average shedder
  • Exercise:  Vigorous daily exercise needed
  • Jogging:  An excellent jogging companion
  • Apartments:  Not recommended for apartments
  • Outdoor Space:  Best with at least an average-size yard
  • Climate:  Does well in most climates
  • Longevity:  Average (10 to 12 years)

Useful Links

AKC® Flat-Coated Retriever Breed Standard


Flat-Coated Retriever Breed Club


Search for a Breeder


Rescue Organizations


Books about the Flat-Coated Retriever


Flat-Coated Retriever Gifts