Flat Coated Retriever

Written by: Jamie
Updated: November 25, 2020

Eager to learn more about this land and water retriever? Check out the guide below for information on their personality, health, exercise needs, and more!

Black Flat Coated Retriever standing on grass

Height: Male 23-25 inches, female 22-24 inches
Weight: Male 27-36 kilos, female 25-32 kilos
Lifespan: 8-10 years
Pedigree? (registered with the KC?): Yes, this breed is registered with the Kennel Club.

Positives and Negatives

Below are the pros and cons of the Flat Coated Retriever:


  • Ideal watchdogs
  • Intelligent and easy to train
  • Adaptable, can live on a boat
  • Low grooming maintenance


  • Stubborn, not ideal for first-time owners
  • Bad choice for allergy sufferers
  • May wander off on an exploration
  • Not suitable for an apartment


The Flat Coated Retriever is named after it’s coat if you couldn’t tell already! It’s designed to protect them from the cold water and harsh climates. This gundog from England can retrieve game from both land and water, making them a multi-purpose working dog for hunters. A job they’re still popular for to this day.

These canines are boisterous, excitable, and energetic so beware of this if you have young children in the home. Flat Coated Retrievers are unable to live in apartments and need access to a garden. They have high exercise needs and require an active owner that enjoys being outdoors. This breed is able to live on a boat due to their love of water.

Dog on the run. Breed dog Flat Coated Retriever

Flat-Coated Retrievers look strikingly similar to the Golden Retriever and the Labrador. The key difference is the Flattie’s longer snout. Their coat colors come in black or liver and produce a natural-looking shine. The Kennel Club will only accept these two colors for registration.

An active breed like the Flattie requires lots of attention. They hate being left alone and have a stubborn side that can hinder training for the inexperienced. Gundogs are smart, talented, and can learn quickly. However, Flatties are known to take longer to mature, keeping their puppy temperament a little longer than other breeds.

Due to their Retriever lifestyle, the Flattie loves to hold things in their mouth. The breed isn’t known to be an excessive chewer but will be spotted carrying their favorite toy. Flatties are sensitive, caring, cuddly, and loving, with the ability to easily adapt from talented gundog to forever friend.


Flatties originated from England in the 19th century, created and developed to assist hunters in retrieving shot game. Known originally as the Wavy Coated Retriever, this dog was often found on British Estates assisting their shooter companions. The sport is generally popular amongst the upper class.

The Flattie descended from the now-extinct St Johns Water Dog, also known as the Lesser Newfoundland. It is then thought this Canadian pooch was crossed with Collie breeds in the UK. Later, the Irish Red Setter became involved in the Flattie’s development due to their strong sense of smell.

It was Mr. J Hull who began breeding the Flat Coated Retriever, making this official in 1864. Quickly, they became popular across shooting estates all over Britain. However, like with many other breeds, the Flatties numbers quickly declined after World War I and II. It almost led them to extinction!

After the war, Golden Retrievers began to boom in popularity. Although the founder of the Kennel Club Mr. Shirley worked hard in producing the Flat Coated Retriever we know today the breed never regained its notoriety back from their cousins, the Golden Retriever.

Today, the Flat Haired Retriever is still hard at work and is often seen competing in dog contests. Their multiple talents allow them to participate in hunting, obedience, tracking, and agility trials. Each year Flat Coated Retriever Puppies have seen registration numbers increase with the Kennel Club.

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Flat Coated Retriever Temperament:

Flat Haired Retriever puppies tend to mature slowly. For this reason, they have earned the name ‘Peter Pan’ of the dog breeds. Most are expected to reach full maturity between 3-5 years. Over this time, a Flattie is impressionable and easier to train.

Space will be needed for these canines. They just love the outdoors and are known to try and escape or wander off on explorations. If this breed becomes bored due to lack of exercise, destructive behaviors will follow. Flatties are loyal and affectionate and won’t respond well to being left at home regularly.

Are Flat Coated Retrievers Good With Strangers?

Yes, Flatties are generally friendly with strangers. Whilst they make good watchdogs and will alert you to any newcomers. The breed won’t serve as a guard dog and will welcome strangers openly.

Flat coated retriever eating fish

Are Flat Coated Retrievers Good With Children?

Yes, Flat Coated Retrievers are loving towards children in the household. They make excellent playmates and enjoy all the attention they can get. As the Flattie can be boisterous and excitable, they could accidentally injure smaller children. This is why older kids are recommended.

Are Flat Coated Retrievers Ok With Other Dogs?

Yes, this breed will interact and play with other dogs. They can also live with other household canines. Flatties may be able to live with other pets such as cats but will need early training and socialization to do so.


Flat Coated Retrievers will need over 2 hours of exercise each day. The breed is highly energetic and thrives in areas such as the countryside. An active owner or family will be needed to meet their high exercise needs. If not expect destructive behaviors such as chewing, digging, nipping, and barking.

Flat-Coated Retriever at Dog Agility Trial

Swimming is one of the Flattie’s favorite activities! It’s a great form of strenuous exercise and will benefit a Flattie greatly. Keep them interested with new environments and locations. The breed is known to wander off due to its desire to explore.

Gardens are a must if you want to keep a Flat Coated Retriever. Fences should be high and the space should be completely enclosed. This breed has a high prey drive and loves a chase!

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Check out the breed-related health issues of the Flat Haired Retriever below:

  • Hip Dysplasia- The poor development of the hip joint causes pain, lameness, inflammation, and swelling. Eventually leads to arthritis.
  • Luxating Patellas- The kneecap moves in and out of place temporarily and may cause lameness.
  • Cancer (Malignant Histiocytoma)-  Malignant Histiocytoma is the most common form of cancer seen amongst the Flat Coated Retriever. The cancer is aggressive and fatal. Other forms of cancer are also known to affect this breed.

Intelligence & Training

A Flat Coated Retriever puppy is incredibly impressionable with superb trainability. The only let down is their stubborn side. If you react harshly to a Flattie during training, they will completely lose interest. Remember, they are sensitive so positive, reward-based methods are the best way forward.

Naturally, this breed likes to follow and will look to their owners for instruction. Flat Coated Retrievers are excitable and energetic, so it will be best to exercise them beforehand. It will help their concentration levels. Keep sessions short and different. The breed will benefit best from their owner’s praise but food rewards will also be sufficient.

Flat Coated Retriever puppies will require a patient and consistent owner. Cheeky puppy behaviors will last longer than other breeds and should be expected but not tolerated. They can’t be forced to grow up but can be shown and taught boundaries.

Practice makes perfect! Once a Flattie has learned a command, they should be taken to different locations where they can practice. The key is to focus on their listening skills. It may take a few tries but these intelligent dogs will eventually grasp their commands in no time!

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It is recommended to brush a Flat Coated Retriever weekly, if not daily. Their smooth, medium-length coat can get knotty. Natural oils will be enhanced by brushing keeping a natural shine. The area around the belly and ears will need particular attention as this area is prone to tangles.

Grooming rakes, wide-toothed combs, and slicker brushes are all ideal tools for the Flat Coated Retriever. The breed sheds all year round but heavily in Spring and Autumn. Their coat is designed to protect them from harsh climates and water temperatures.

Portrait of dog breed Flat Coated Retriever

This means the Flattie won’t need to be bathed frequently. Every 3 months should be sufficient. If they get dirty through daily activities give them a quick hose down. Dry them with a towel as opposed to a blow dryer. Some owners seek professional help a couple of times a year to keep their Flattie’s features looking fresh.

Flat Coated Retrievers are more prone to ear infections, so their ears must be cleaned weekly. Pluck any excess fur that may be blocking the ear canal. Nails should be trimmed or filed every 3-4 weeks and teeth brushed daily, as recommended by vets.

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 Jamie@woofbarkgrowl.co.uk or connect with me on LinkedIn below.

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