With the invaluable help of:
Spaniels, setters, and waterdogs quickly proved themselves the best at this type of work and provided the foundation for all of today's Retrievers, in varying proportions. However, the exact sequence of development is in many cases lost in the distance of history; even many contemporary accounts are considered flawed and mistaken today.
It seems clear that the St. John's Water Dog from Newfoundland, played a significant role in the general development of the retriever breeds, though no one is quite certain of the dogs used in developing this breed. Nancy Martin's recent The Versatile Labrador Retriever (1994) contains perhaps the most comprehensive summary of the St. John's Water Dog's known and surmised history.
By all accounts, the development of the modern Flat-Coated Retriever is credited to Mr. S. E. Shirley in the early 1870s. St. John's Water Dogs, water spaniels, and possibly Scotch collies were all used to develop the Flat-Coat. He stabilized the wavy or curly-coated retriever and fixed the type of the flat coated retriever. Shirley himself did not use Setters in his development of the Flat-Coat, but it is probable that the retriever mixes at that point already had infusions of Setter blood from earlier in the century. He is known to have used Labradors once they became available outside the Buccleugh and Malmesbury kennels.
Mr. Shirley is well-known also for founding the Kennel Club in 1873. The breed's close association with this man meant that they were bred at the onset for both showing and hunting unlike other breeds that were privately bred by estates with their own grounds and gameskeepers.
Given the depletion of breeding stock, especially after the second World War, Flat-Coats and Labradors were widely interbred to broaden the gene pool and increase the number of dogs to a safer level. For example, the Labrador CH. Horton Max, a well-regarded Labrador at the turn of the century was actually an interbred, sired by the influential CH Darenth, a Flat-Coat. For some reason, while those breeders in Flat-Coats are aware of this mixing, many Labrador breeders are not.
The next influential patron of the breed was Mr. H. Reginald Cooke, born in 1860 who saw some of the first dogs that Shirley established, their hey day during the turn of the century, their uncertain fortune through the World Wars and finally their decline in numbers afterwards. His kennel, Riverside, dominated the show scene for over sixty years. He also collected wins in field trials. This domination was both fortunate in keeping the breed on an even keel and unfortunate in keeping other patrons out. He was an advocate of a medium-sized dog as being the best for work; and was concerned about keeping the hunting ability alive in the show dogs. Contrary to popular supposition, though, Cooke purchased many dogs bred by others and there was no exclusive 'Riverside' strain of flat-coats.
The Flat-Coated Retriever's decline directly coincides with the Labrador Retriever's almost meteoric post-war rise in popularity. The Labrador was considered superior to the Flat-Coat in the field trials. The domination of the Flat-Coats by the Riverside kennel may have also helped to limit the possible growth that the Flat-Coat might have otherwise enjoyed alongside the Labrador; it is unclear whether this was beneficial or detrimental to the breed in the long run. There are risks in being wildly popular or in being too rare.
The Flat-Coated Retriever remains a modestly popular and relatively rare breed, which most breeders and owners prefer. The last 10 years registration numbers for FCRs in the AKC:
Year 1984 1985 1986 1987 1988 1989 1990 1991 1992 1993 Dogs Registered 301 361 360 372 338 415 442 531 491 485 Litters 58 78 57 69 71 69 87 88 78 961994 Flat-Coated Retriever New Titles
Awards Issue CH OTCH CD CDX UD UDX TD TDX JH SH MH Jan 1- June 30 **TOTALS** 76 2 46 11 4 0 8 3 19 3 1
Most Flat-Coats feel that the primary purpose in life is to be "your buddy." They can become quite despondent when left alone or neglected for periods of time. They thrive on human companionship, and while they do love a good run or walk, games of fetch, etc., they are mostly content just to be with you. In general Flat-Coats are very happy dogs throughout their whole lives and only their immediate families will notice the gradual slowing down they do get as they age. To most outsiders (and Flat-Coats love EVERYONE) they are very happy, friendly dogs.
As with most of the retriever breeds, they seem to feel that they are "at their best" when they have something (anything for most of them) in their mouth. When their mouth is full, their whole body exudes happiness.
Many are confirmed poop eaters, although some grow out of it. Sometimes the activity seems seasonal or even food-related. Bitches seem to be worse about it, especially after having a litter.
In general, they make good pets for houses with kids, but don't expect the kids not to get bruised. It will not be intentional, but they are big dogs.
Flat-Coats are unabashed people dogs. They do not do well in kennel situations at all and they do not do well in families continually on the go -- unless they get to go as well! This is absolutely not a breed you can leave out in the backyard all the time.
These dogs are very intelligent, and can be very creative in their destruction. They will do almost anything to get your attention, so unless they are in a situation where they are going to get a lot of attention, they can become chewers and diggers and they do have a lot of energy. They are not couch potato dogs.
Flat-Coats are very stoic and do not show when they are in pain very often. They put up with a lot before they let you in on it. In this sense they make bad patients, as they are often up and around much too early for their own good after an injury.
They seem to take criticism (harsh voice or collar corrections) to heart and can get their feelings hurt easily. They often "shut down" when this happens and it can be very aggravating. You have to "make up" with the dog before they get going again sometimes. Non-coercive training methods work especially well with this breed.
A properly bred Flat-Coat will not be hyper. However, this is an active retrieving breed. Their need for exercise is enormous and without an outlet for this need, they will become destructive and hard to handle. And even when properly exercised, their unflagging good spirits and refusal to age as they grow older mean that they will still be exuberant, cheerful dogs always ready to jump into activities with you. If you are leaning toward a sedate dog, this breed is probably not for you!Are they good with children?
As with most breeds, especially with the retriever breeds, yes, they are good with children provided that both are supervised to make sure they don't accidentally injure each other. Because Flat-Coats are such exuberant dogs, they can easily knock children over without having the slightest intention of hurting them. All contact between children and dogs should be supervised no matter how good the dog (or child) is, and this is doubly true if accidental injury is a good possibility. You may want to wait until your children are a little older and not as easily frightened by a large, happy dog (or consider a more sedate breed).Is this a black Golden? How are they different from Labs or Goldens?
While these breeds are fairly closely related (especially the Flat-Coat and the Lab), they each have distinct differences. All three are retrievers, people friendly and generally non-aggressive to either dogs or people. However, in general, Labs tend to be stubborn, Goldens tend to be soft and anxious to please, and Flat-Coats tend to be quirkily happy and content to be with their person. Labs tend to be hard workers and will have a business-like and independent attitude towared what they are doing. Goldens tend to work hard if their owner wants them to, and they can be nearly anxious about trying to please their owner. Flat-Coats have a blissfully happy, even silly, attitude about everything, though they can be perfectly stubborn when they choose to be.I got my dog from the shelter, but he looks just like a Flat-Coated Retriever! What are the chances this is true?
They are also physically distinct. The Labrador has a short coat and generally a stockier build than the Flat-Coat. They usually have a different head with a deeper stop although some poorly bred (at least from the conformation aspect) ones can have heads very nearly like the Flat-Coat. Labs can come in black, chocolate (liver), and yellow. The Golden Retriever has a long coat, but it tends to be more abundant than the Flat-Coats and may have a harsher texture. They always come in shades of yellow and gold, never black or liver. Their heads are also very different from Flat-Coats, being more massive, domed on top and not filled in at the cheeks or stop.
Most Labrador Retriever or Golden Retriever mixes can look like FCR's and they are much more common than the relatively rare FCR. Chances are high your dog is such a mix. If you really think your dog might be an FCR, then you should find a local breeder to look your dog over. It is certainly worth trying to ILP your dog as an FCR if you want to do obedience or agility work with him.I understand that there can be yellow Flat-Coated Retrievers. What is the story with them?
Yellow is a disqualifying fault in the FCR. Many long-time breeders are extremely vehement in keeping yellow out, believing that health problems automatically come with the color. Reported health problems include skin sensitivities, and foot problems. Yellows are considered to have poor coats, and poor pigmentation (leathery nose and eye rims). Strictly speaking, it is unclear if these problems are inherent in the color or are simply because the little stock left carrying yellow is generally poor. Any reputable breeder offering a yellow Flat-Coat for sale should insist on a spay-neuter clause at the minimum if the dog is not already so altered. While they are rare, they are not valuable, and should not command any kind of a high price.How does the color inheritance work?
Disregarding the yellow color, livers are recessive to blacks meaning that a liver Flat-Coat has both parents with at least one gene for the liver color though in appearance they may be black or liver. A liver only has genes for the liver color. Two livers can only produce livers, never blacks. If yellows are considered as well, it is likely that the mode of inheritance is the same as that of the Labrador Retriever, which is described in more detail in Labrador Retriever books and its FAQ.
Because of copyright concerns over the collection of all the Standards at any single site storing all the faqs, AKC Standards are not typically included in the Breed faqs. The reader is referred to the publications at the end of this document or to the National Breed Club for a copy of the Standard.
Should be of medium size, dark brown or hazel (defined as reddish brown) with a very intelligent expression. A yellow or goosberry eye is a decided fault as is a round or prominent one, and the eyes should not be obliquely placed. The lower eyelids should not be so slack as to favour the collection of foreign bodies in the field.
Should be small and well set on, close to the side of the head.
The head should be well set in the neck, and the latter should be reasonably long and free from throatiness, symmetrically set and obliquely placed in shoulders sloping well into the back to allow of easily seeking for the trail.
The chest should be deep and fairly broad, with a well defined brisket, on which the elbows should work cleanly and evenly. The legs are of the greatest importance, the forelegs should be perfectly straight with bone of good quality carried right down to the feet and when the dog is in full coat the legs should be well feathered.
The fore-ribs should be fairly flat showing a gradual spring and well arched in the centre of the body but rather lighter towards the quarters. Open couplings are to be ruthlessly condemned. The back should be strong and the loins short and square.
Should be muscular. The stifle and hock should not be too straight or too bent and the dog must neither be cow-hocked nor move widely behind; in fact he must stand square and move true on legs and feet all round. The legs should be well feathered. He should move straight with drive and fluency.
Should be round and strong with toes close and well arched, the soles being thick and strong.
Short, straight and well set on, carried gaily but never much above the level of the back. Should be well feathered.
Free and flowing, straight and true as seen from front and rear.
Should be dense, of fine to medium quality and texture, flat as possible. Legs and tail well feathered. A good dog at maturity shows full furnishings to complete his elegant appearance.
Black or liver only.
In hard condition should be between 60 to 80 lbs for dogs and 55 to 70 lbs for bitches.
Dogs 23-24 inches. Bitches 22-23 inches.
Confident and kindly. Characterised by a constantly wagging tail.
To minimize the risk, all breeding stock must be x-rayed and certified clear of hip or elbow dysplasia by OFA (Orthopedic Foundation for Animals) in the US; there are equivalent programs in other countries.
Hip dysplasia is a malformation of the ball and socket, with varying degrees of presentation. Symptoms can range from none to severe crippling. Only an xray can give you a definitive diagnosis of this disease. While environmental factors have been found to play a role in determining the degree of visible symptoms, the causes are believed to be genetic. For more information on this disease, please see the medical information FAQ or consult with your veterinarian.
Research into this problem is ongoing.
Send tissue samples from affected FCR's for analysis and research to:
Drs. Couto, Hammer and McLoughlin
Veterinary Teaching Hospital
The Ohio State University
601 Vernon L. Tharp Street
Columbus, OH 43210
Send samples in a well-sealed and labeled container in 10% formalin. Put in a ziplock bag for extra protection: Be sure to include infomration such as: sex, age, where tumor came from, how long it had been present, whether it had been rapidly growing, etc (brief history). Include also your name, address, and phone/fax as well as your veterinarian's name, address and phone/fax. Include also a copy of the pedigree, if it is available. If you have older copies of biopsy reports, they can be sent in place of a formalin sample. The same information must accompany biopsy reports.
While dated, this is generally the best regarded book on Flat-Coated Retrievers. It is hard to find, especially outside the UK, but some are available. The author is a long time breeder in FCR's and has a good deal of history and old pedigrees in the book. Many lovely old photographs as well. Out of print, copies may be ordered from Mrs. S.M. Johnson, Shardelows Farm, Cowlinge, Newmarket, Suffolk CB8 9HP for a 10 pounds Sterling cheque made out to the Flat-Coated Retriever Society. Copies also available from the FCRSA for $27.50, checks payable to FCRSA, Inc and mail to FCRSA Ways and Means (see address below; call to check availability).Petch, Paddy. The Complete Flat-Coated Retriever. Boydell Press, PO Box 9, Woodbridge, Suffolk IP12 3DF and 27 South Main St., Wolfeboro NH 03894-2069. ISBN 0 85115 463 8. 1988.
This is a very nice book though somewhat outdated as well. It does not contain the same wealth of information as the Laughton book, but may be more accessible to the lay person. It is now out of print, and it is not clear if her book will be updated or not. The current rumor is that Joan Mason in England is working on a new book about the FCR.1994 Flat-Coated Retriever Directory of North American Dogs.
Fourth edition. Includes Breed Standard, sixteen years of specialty winners, guide to bench, field trial and obedience awards and indices to owners, breeders and dogs. Photographs, pedigrees on 437 North American Flat-coats. $38 plus S&H (US book rate: $3, first class: $5; CAN book rate: $410, first class $6.18; EUR sea: $4, air $18) per book. Checks payable to Mark Cavallo, 7230 Peachtree Dunwoody Road, Atlanta, GA 30328.
Good coverage of the first year in the life of versatile and pointing dogs.Free, James Lamb. Training Retrievers.
A classic. It outlines the long-standing training methods for field dogs. A good book even if some of it is outdated. An excellent description of training a dog to handle.Mueller, Larry. Speed Train your Gun Dog.
Rutherford,, Clarice and Cherylon Loveland. Retriever Puppy Training: The Right Start for Hunting, Alpine Publications, 1992?.
Good step-by-step training methods, explained and illustrated clearly.Rutherford, Clarice, Barbara Brandstad, and Sandra Whicker. Retriever Working Certificate Training. Alpine Publications, 1994?.
An excellently written book on how to get your dog ready for the WC test. While they have written it for the one put on by the Golden Retriever Club, it is equally applicable for the LRC one. Informative and illustrated with b/w photos.Spencer, James B. Training Retrievers for the Marshes and Meadows. Denlinger Publications in Fairfax, VA.
It starts with puppy selection and goes on up to advanced marks and blinds. It is oriented toward the amateur gundog trainer and is well written and comprehensive.Spencer, James B. Retriever Training Tests. Prentice Hall Press.
Helps you to set up training situations and teaches you how the dog should react to things like hills, cover, land-water-land retrieves, how the wind affects them, etc. Lots of good problem solving material.
This is a quarterly publication averaging about 100 pages per issue. It includes Society business, advertising, information articles and breed statistics, including upcoming litters. Subscriptions are available for the newsletter for $30 annually (FCRSA members get a copy as a benefit of membership)."The Flat-Coated Retriever"
Information Booklet by the Flat-Coated Retriever Society (see address below).
Flat-Coated Retriever Society Newsletter
Annual. Sent to all members.
Gun Dog, P. O. Box 343 Mt. Morris, IL 61054-0343. 1-800-800-7724 (phone number also for Wing & Shot and Wildfowl). Articles on all types of bird dogs and gun dogs.
The Shooting Sportsman, Circulation Department P. O. Box 5024 Brentwood, TN 37204. 1-800-331-8947
Membership Secretary, Miriam KrumAffiliated breed clubs include:
16705 W. 32th Street
Paola, KS 66071
Ways and Means Ann Yuhasz
5601 Liberty Road
Chagrin Falls, OH 44022
3985 Rock City Road
Nanaimo, British Columbia
Hon Secretary: Mrs. Margaret Scougal
Tel: 0968 73808
Flat-Coated Retriever Society
Hon Secretary: (information) Mrs. Joan Muade
The old Vicarage, Blackford, Wedmore, Somerset BS28 4NN Tel: 0934 712213
Membership Secretary: Mrs. Sally McComb
Pennywise, Hyndford Bridge, Lanarkshire, Scotland ML11 8SQ
Tel: 0555 662526
National Shoot To Retrieve Association (NSTRA-GD)
226 North Mill Street #2
Plainfield, IN 46168
North American Hunting Retriever Association (NAHRA)
P.O. Box 1590
Stafford, VA 22555
(they can direct you to clubs in your area)
North American Versatile Hunting Dog Association (NAVHDA)
Arlington Heights, IL 60006
Quail Unlimited National Headquarters
P. O. Box 610
Edgefield, SC 29824-0610
For information about starting your own local chapter, if one does not already exist in your locale, direct your query to Winona Overholt, Assistant Director of Chapter Development at the same address or phone 1-803-637-5731.
Even if the local breed club does not keep a list of breeders, you will still be able to come into contact with local breeders and you should get to know them if you are serious about getting a Flat-Coat. Taking the time now in this respect will stand you in good stead when you actually get the puppy -- you will know who is having a litter, you will know what you are looking for, and the breeders will know you as someone sincerely interested in a puppy and a good prospective owner to boot.
A breeder's list is available from the FCRSA, but as with any such list, it is up to you to determine if a breeder is the one for you.
SUBSCRIBE FCR-L Firstname Lastnamein the body of the message.
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Web sites of interest include:
Regional Contacts for the USA
Listed geographically, from "left to right" or west to east:
Regional Contacts for Canada - Not Compiled Yet.
Regional Contacts for Great Britain - Not Compiled Yet.
Regional Contacts for Finland - Not Compiled Yet