Curly Coated Retriever

Written by: Jamie
Updated: January 18, 2021

Despite being the oldest of the Retrievers, Curlies are listed as a Vulnerable Native Breed. Find out everything you need to know about this wonderful dog in today’s guide.


Curly coated retriever against white background

Height: male 25-27 inches, female 23-25 inches
Weight: 27-43 kilos
Lifespan: 10-12 years
Pedigree? (registered with the KC?): Yes, this breed is registered with the Kennel Club.

Positives and Negatives

Check out the basic facts about the Curly Coated Retriever below:


  • Can live on a boat, likes water
  • Adaptable to different living spaces and changes
  • Low grooming maintenance
  • Long waiting lists, not a common breed


  • High exercise needs
  • Boisterous during their early years
  • Doesn’t like being left alone
  • Requires a firm owner due to their headstrong personality


Curly Coated Retrievers are a hunting and retrieving breed listed under the gun dog category. They would work on both land and water, in ice-cold temperatures which wasn’t an issue for this pooch. Thankfully, their coat allowed the breed to be more versatile. Common owners of this canine were English gamekeepers and poachers.

Whilst they are known for their adaptability, Curlies shouldn’t live in an apartment. They’re generally quiet indoors but will need an outdoor space they can access as and when they please. Curlies don’t like being left alone for long periods and will need someone by their side for most of the day.

A selective focus shot of an adorable curly-coated retriever

Some Curly-Coated Retrievers can be a little mouthy when growing up. Chewing and nipping whatever they fancy could become an issue. As the breed takes a little longer to mature, owners will need to balance their patience with training. For this reason, they won’t be able to work efficiently and independently until at least 3 years of age.

Finding Curly Coated Retriever puppies won’t be an easy task. As a Vulnerable Native Breed, waiting lists can be long. The chances of finding this dog in a shelter are slim, but there’s no harm in trying. If you’re serious about purchasing a Curly Coated Retriever then register your interests with reputable breeders.


Curly Coated Retrievers are thought to be the oldest out of the six retriever breeds. In 1874 the first stud book for pure breeds listed two Retrievers, the Flat-coated Retriever and the Curly-coated Retriever. Both are gundogs and were used to hunt and retrieve Waterfowl and Upland birds. England is their native country.

The now extinct English Water Spaniel is believed to be the Curlies ancestor. Poodles are also thought to have contributed to their development due to the tightness of the curls found in this Retrievers coat. It allowed the Curly Haired Retriever to work harder in the water thanks to the coat’s waterproof qualities.

Unlike the rest in the Retriever family, this breed is distinguished by its curls. They’re also the tallest. During the 1800s Curlies were popular amongst gundog enthusiasts however not elsewhere. This led to the creation of The Curly Coated Retriever Club in England in 1890. In 1907 the first Curlie was introduced to America.

War and the introduction of Labradors and Golden Retrievers saw the Curlies numbers continue into decline. Only 5 were registered with the KC in 1919. The Kennel Club has since labeled this dog as a Vulnerable Native Breed. Despite this, they are still seen competing in dog shows such as Crufts and the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show.

Related: Learn everything you need to know about the Glen of Imaal Terrier.


The Curly-coated Retriever takes a little longer to mature than other breeds. Some forms of puppy behavior may be experienced over the years so patience will be needed! Hard-working with a well-balanced temperament, Curlies make fantastic pets. They’re also known to be slightly more independent than other popular Retriever breeds.

Highly affectionate, the Curlie loves human attention! They’re high in energy and need an owner that can meet their activity needs. This pooch has the stamina to work in the field all day and can become bored if left with nothing to do.

Are Curly Coated Retrievers Good With Strangers?

Some Curlies may be friendly towards strangers whilst others may be suspicious. Depending on how they were socialized with people they don’t know determines which route they take.

Aggression isn’t a trait of this breed however some Curlies may be protective over their families. The breed is a great watchdog and will bark to alert their owners to anybody approaching the home.

A selective focus shot of an adorable curly-coated retriever

Are Curly Coated Retrievers Good With Children?

Older children are recommended for this breed.  They love to play interactive games with the younger members of the family out in the garden. Both will work to tire each other out! Curlies are more likely to guard their family compared to other Sporting dogs.

Due to the size of this dog, smaller children could become injured by the Curly’s boisterous ways.

Are Curly Coated Retrievers Ok With Other Dogs?

Curlies are known to get along well with other dogs, but again this is all dependent on their socialization. They can live with other canines and cats, and actually quite enjoy the company.


More than two hours of exercise each day will be needed for the Curly Haired Retriever. Whilst they can live in both city and rural environments they should have access to a large garden. Lack of activity will lead to boredom and Curlies are known to be quite destructive when bored!

Curly coated retriever lying down on white background

Mental stimulation is important for any sporting dog. Especially for one as intelligent as the Curlie! Dog sports will make this pooch very happy. Agility, obedience, flyball, flying disc, and field trials are all types of sports the Curly Coated Retriever excels in. They love the water so include swimming as a form of strenuous exercise.

Recommended: Learn about the Sussex Spaniel in this guide.


Below are the breed-related health conditions of the Curly-Coated Retriever below:

  • Epilepsy- This chronic health issue will cause seizures in a dog. These can range from mild to severe. It is the most common neurological condition in dogs. Most dogs can live happy lives despite having this condition.
  • Lymphoma- Cancer affects all breeds. Those over 1o years old are particularly vulnerable. Lymphoma is the most common type of cancer in Curly Coated Retrievers. It attacks the Lymphatic System and is a progressive disease.
  • Follicular Dysplasia- Curlies may experience baldness in some areas of their coat due to an abnormality of the hair follicle.
  • Hip Dysplasia- The ball and socket of the hip don’t fit together correctly. This will cause joint laxity eventually leading to arthritis.
  • Glycogen Storage Disease- Type IIIa- This health issue is genetic with Type IIIa being the most common of the disease in Curlies. Affected dogs may feel lethargic and could face liver damage, alongside muscle weakness.
  • Exercise-Induced Collapse- Another genetic health issue that will cause a dog to lose control of its muscles after intense activity. Eventually they will collapse. This condition is mostly seen in sporting dogs. such as Spaniels and Retrievers.

Intelligence & Training

Curly Haired dog breeds seem to be known for their intelligence, and the Curly Coated Retriever is no different! These dogs are hardworking, using a variety of different skill sets out on the field. They can be trained into diligent working dogs but will take longer to train due to their lack of maturity.

An active, patient, and firm owner is what the Curly Coated Retriever needs. Boundaries will be pushed as they grow up so be consistent when enforcing household rules.

The breed can handle firm training techniques but if this becomes too harsh they will quickly divert their attention. As an intelligent dog, excessive repetition will become boring. They can pick up commands rather quickly so keep your classes new and interesting. Most importantly lessons should be short taking place in different environments.

Those in the gundog family are better suited to experienced owners who know how to train this breed. If you’re inexperienced but are still interested in the Curlie, seek a trainer who works with sporting dogs. Group puppy classes are another professional way to train your breed with the benefit of socialization.

Recommended: Discover the Karelian Bear Dog in this guide.


Most curly haired dogs are hypoallergenic but unfortunately for the Curlie, this isn’t the case. However, on the plus side, they shed just twice a year. Coat colors are only found in black and liver. Any white patches could see a dog disqualified from a showroom!

The Curlies coat shouldn’t be brushed as this will only frizz out the curls. A wide-toothed comb should be used instead to remove dead hair. Brushing however is only needed twice a year during their shedding seasons. To prevent frizz spray the coat with water to enhance the curl.

Black curly coated retriever puppies posing outdoors

Baths will only be needed at a maximum of three times a year! This breed is fantastically low maintenance when it comes to grooming! Their natural oils take care of their coat and frequent bathing could strip these vital oils. The oils prevent this pooch from being hypoallergenic as it can cause issues for those with allergies.

Curlies should only be air-dried and never rubbed down with a towel as this could lead to frizz. Don’t forget the basic grooming methods such as ear cleaning, nail trimming, and teeth cleaning. Ears will need to be cleaned every week, whilst nails should be filed every 10 days. Aim to brush their teeth at least three times a week.

About the Author

Hi, I'm Jamie! I've always been around dogs and now writing about them is an absolute joy.
Read more about my story here.
Reach me at or connect with me on LinkedIn below.

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