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Retriever breeds were developed in the early 19th century as dogs whose sole purpose was to pick up shot game. The Flat-coat was developed from the Lesser Newfoundland as a land retriever and evolved into a fine water and land retriever much favoured by gamekeepers. They have the added skills of flushing game from cover and will hunt game in upland areas.

The credit for establishing this breed is given to Mr. J Hull who began breeding them in 1864 and they came to be commonly used on estates throughout Great Britain. In the 20th century their numbers began to decline and after the Second World War numbers fell drastically.

Although the breed was re-established by the mid 1960s numbers remain relatively low. This is seen as an advantage to the breed as the low demand for them has prevented commercial exploitation and their soundness, type and working ability has been retained.

General Physical Description

The Flat-coat is a long, lean looking dog, bright and active with an intelligent expression. They have dense, flat coats with high lustre, their legs and tails are well feathered and they give the impression of power and raciness.


Flat-coats are very intelligent and quick to learn. They are eager to please and keen to join in with all activities but may want to do things their own way so require firmness and consistency in their training.

Show Characteristics

The Flat-coated Retriever should have a long and nicely moulded head. The jaws should be long and strong, capable of holding a pheasant or hare and should have a perfect scissor bite. The eyes should be medium-sized, dark brown or hazel, with an intelligent expression.

The ears are small, hanging flat to the side of the head. The neck should be reasonably long, running well into the back and he should have a broad, deep chest and well sprung ribs. The legs are moderately long and strongly boned. The feet are round and strong with thick, strong soles. The tail should be short, straight and well set on, carried gaily but not much above the level of his back.

The coat is dense, of medium length and as flat as possible. Legs and tail should be well feathered. These dogs are solid coloured and only come in solid black or solid liver.

Weight Height Range

Ideally dogs should measure between 58 - 61cms at the withers and weigh between 25 - 35kgs. Bitches should measure between 56 - 59cms and weigh between 25 - 34kgs.


These are generally healthy dogs with very few breed-specific ailments. There is a low incidence of Hip Dysplasia in the breed and pups should be chosen from parents who have been screened for this. Al flat-coats whether bought for pets or breeding should be eye tested for glaucoma. As with all breeds, choosing from healthy stock increases the chances of having a healthy puppy.

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