The Curly Coated Retriever: Everything You Need to Know

Last Updated on April 14, 2023

Did you know there’s a purebred retriever with a curly coat? This alone makes it unique among other Retrievers and dog breeds.

However, like most Retrievers, the Curly is loyal, confident, and intelligent. This loveable pup will be a great addition to any family.

Smiling Curly Coated Retriever

Would you like to know why? Read on to find out!

How did the Curly Coat Retriever come to be?

Believe it or not, Curlies are the oldest Retriever breeds. This was one of the first breeds of retrievers before the flat-coated retriever.

Since the early 1900s, they have been purebred pups from England. They were an extremely popular hunting dog back in the day.

This breed was used for hunting waterfowl such as ducks and quails. These gun dogs are quick and have a gentle mouth, so they could get the job done quickly and effectively.

Curlies are rare in the United States, but the first kind of this breed was brought over to the USA in 1907.

The breed was officially recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC) in 1924. This breed is also recognized by its club, the Curly Coated Retriever Club of America (CCRCA).

It’s believed that the Curly Coated Retriever descended from a couple of different breeds, such as the:

  • English Water Dog (or the English Water Spaniel)
  • St. John’s Newfoundland
  • Retrieving Setter
  • Poodle
  • Irish Water Spaniel
  • Labrador Retriever

After seeing the few dog breeds the Curly originated from, let’s take a look at what this pup looks like.

Appearance: what does a Curly Coated Retriever look like?

Smiling Curly Coated Retriever on a lawn

This sturdy dog breed has a long, hardy body with a shorter tail. Its face is long with straight hair (unlike the rest of its curly body).

It has strong forelegs for quick running. The shoulder blades and upper arms are about the same length as one another, and they’re not wide.

Its hindquarters are also strong and balanced, with the front with muscular thighs.

How big do Curlies get?

A full-grown Curly Coated Retriever will weigh anywhere between 60 pounds and 95 pounds.

They’re pretty slim, so they’re able to be agile when hunting. Due to their medium to large size, they’re pretty sturdy pups.

This dog breed doesn’t get too tall, either. Males will grow to be about 25-27 inches in height, while females will be a bit shorter, growing as tall as 23-25 inches in height.

Due to their size and temperament, Curly Coated Retrievers will not do well in an apartment.

This breed is classified as sporting dogs, and they need a lot of room to run around. In addition to their size, Curlies need a large, fenced-in yard so they can stretch their legs and roam.

What does a Curly Coated Retriever’s coat look like?

Close-up of Curly Coated Retriever sitting on a lawn

This breed has a unique coat among all the other Retrievers. Their coat is a mass of small, crisp curls, but they don’t have curls covering the entire body.

The coat is also water-resistant and will protect them from harsh weather conditions. This is one of the reasons they were excellent at hunting waterfowl. Their tight curls kept them safe from icy waters.

These working dogs were able to do a lot, thanks to their curls.

Curly Coated Retrievers come in two different colors: black and liver. Some coats might have a small white patch or white hairs, but this isn’t acceptable for dog shows.

Now we know Curlies make a great hunting companion, but let’s look at their temperament and personality.

Do Curly Coated Retrievers make good family dogs?

Curlies will make an excellent addition to any home. They’ll make a great family dog whether you have other pets or children.

Are their personalities different from other retrievers?

Like most dogs, they’ll be friendly to other pets, dogs, and strangers. However, they may be timid and shy at first. They’ll need to be introduced and appropriately socialized.

Just take a look at this adorable video of a Curly Coated Retriever trying to play with a Boxer!

This goes for children as well. They’ll get along just fine with younger kids as long as they’re supervised and both the dog and kids know how to play with one another the right way.

Curlies will make excellent watchdogs and guard dogs, especially for kids. They’re not aggressive but will be alert and do what they need to if they feel their family is threatened.

This breed is similar to Labradors and other retrievers in energy levels and in the sense that they’re mouthy.

This means they love to chew things, nip, and carry objects around in their mouths. They also love to swim.

Aside from their size, there isn’t much of a personality difference between males and females. So, whichever one you choose to get for your family will be just fine.

Be warned, though: Curlies are slow to mature. They will be in their “puppy phase” until at least three years of age. 

This isn’t a bad thing, but you’ll need to be prepared for the high energy levels and chewing. This is where training comes into play, and you’ll need to start training at an early age.

Curly Coated Retrievers are an intelligent breed, and training is doable. However, they’ll need an owner to stand their ground, or else this breed may find room to push buttons.

They have a mind of their own and will get bored easily, so that training might be slow.

For training Curlies, you’ll need a lot of physical and mental exercise as well so that they’re always on their game.

New ways of training will keep them stimulated enough and more likely to pay attention and obey. This goes for potty training as well.

If they get bored or feel threatened, or something feels off for them, this breed may bark a lot. In addition, they love to be around their humans and will act as your shadow.

They cannot be left alone, or else they’ll get separation anxiety and possibly become destructive in your house.

How to care for your Curly Coated Retriever

Happy Curly Coated Retriever sitting outdoor

Are Curlies high maintenance? The short answer is yes.

Due to their high intelligence and separation anxiety, Curly Coated Retrievers will get bored easily, and they always want to be around their humans.

They’ll need a lot of attention, playtime, and mental stimulation.

The good news is, they’ll do just fine in any weather, whether it’s hot, cold, raining, or snowing. So, outside time to run around can happen no matter the day or weather.

Exercise: how much does your Curly Coated Retriever need?

Curlies have a high energy level and will need an active family to live with. They’ll need at least an hour of daily exercise to run around, play games, walk, and even swim.

This dog breed needs a lot of physical and mental stimulation, or else they’ll get bored.

Giving them your undivided attention for at least an hour each day will allow them to get a little bit of energy out and have some fun at the same time.

Plus, you and your furry friend will get to bond and have fun together!

Grooming: do Curly Coated Retrievers shed?

This breed is not concerned to be hypoallergenic because they will shed moderately. Due to their tight curls, they don’t shed too much throughout the year, but they will shed a lot twice a year.

Usually, during the spring and fall, Curlies will shed their coats.

Since they don’t shed that much throughout most of the year, your Curly Coated Retriever will need minimal grooming.

During their shedding season, you can brush their coat and give them regular baths.

During the rest of the year, you don’t want to bathe them frequently unless they’ve rolled in something they shouldn’t have or they begin to smell.

This is because of possible skin conditions and also because of their water-resistant coats.

Frequent brushing isn’t needed either. The more your brush their coat, the curls will then get frizzy and ruin their coat.

However, you should trim their nails often so that they don’t get too long and curl back up into their pads.

Feeding your Curly: how much food consumption do they need?

It’s recommended to feed your adult Curly at least three to four cups of food within two meals daily.

Some food that will best suit your Curly-Coated Retriever puppy or adult dog may be:

  • Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula Adult Chicken and Brown Rice Recipe Dry Dog Food
  • Hill’s Science Diet Adult Large Breed Dry Dog Food
  • VICTOR Select Nutra Pro Active Dog and Puppy Formula Dry Dog Food
  • Purina Pro Plan Puppy Chicken and Rice Formula Dry Dog Food

Health: what are the health concerns for a Curly Coated Retriever?

Cute Curly Coated Retriever posing on snowy outdoor

Unfortunately, Curlies have a lot of health issues. These health problems may include:

  • Hip Dysplasia
  • Elbow Dysplasia
  • Entropion
  • Ectropion
  • Distichiasis
  • Persistent Pupillary Membranes (PPM)
  • Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA)
  • Retinal Dysplasia
  • Pattern Baldness
  • Glycogen Storage Disease (GSD)
  • Lymphosarcoma
  • Adenocarcinoma
  • Fibrosarcoma
  • Mast Cell Tumors
  • Hemangiosarcoma
  • Melanoma
  • Osteosarcoma
  • Gastric Dilatation-volvulus (Bloat)

Let’s take a closer look at some of these conditions.

Entropion is when the eyelid rolls inward, causing harm and injuring the eyeball.

You’ll notice your pup rubbing their eyes a lot, and this is common when they’re about six months of age. It can be fixed surgically.

Ectropion is when the lower eyelid sags, exposing the eyeball to irritation. This can also be corrected by surgery.

Retinal Dysplasia is a genetic eye condition that is passed down from the parents to the puppy. This may cause a variety of vision issues for your dog.

It may have a small effect such as a blind spot, or it could cause total blindness in your Curly.

Hip Dysplasia is also a hereditary condition that is passed down from the parents. This is when the thigh doesn’t quite fit right in the hip. This can cause pain and lameness in one or both back legs.

Elbow Dysplasia is another health problem that is passed down from the parents. This is similar to hip dysplasia, but it affects the joints near the elbow, depending on the elbow bones’ growth.

Lymphosarcoma is the third most common cancer in dogs, and it will affect Curly Coated Retrievers the most. The body will form a type of white blood cell that’s abnormal called lymphocytes.

This is treatable and can be discovered through a blood test.

Osteosarcoma is an aggressive bone cancer that affects large breeds the most. Your pup will become lame, and x-rays will show whether the cause is this cancer or not.

This is treatable and will allow your Curly to live up to two years longer.

Gastric Dilatation-volvulus, also known as Bloat, is a severe condition in dogs, and it’s life-threatening. This occurs when there is too much air or gas inside your pup’s stomach, and twists.

You can easily tell if your dog has Bloat if their stomach or chest is bigger and they’re drooling a lot. If so, take them to the vet as soon as possible.

To keep an eye on your pup’s health and make sure these conditions don’t happen, you should take your Curly to the vet for regular check-ups at least once a year.

When grooming or petting them, check them repeatedly to make sure you don’t see or feel anything out of the ordinary.

There are plenty of health screenings that the vet can do for your Curly Coated Retriever, such as:

  • Hip evaluation
  • Cardiac exam
  • Ophthalmologist evaluation

The lifespan of a Curly Coated Retriever is about 10-12 years of age. So, you’ll be able to enjoy your furry friend for a long time.

One of the most common ways a Curly can die is from cancer. Unfortunately, this breed is more prone to getting cancer at a young age than any other dog breed.

How much is a Curly Coated Retriever puppy?

Four adorable Curly Coated Retriever puppies posing outdoor
Four Black Curly Coated Retriever puppies

If you’re looking to add a Curly puppy to your home, then you’re looking at a price that’s about $1,000-$1,500.

Annually, you can expect to spend about $500-$1,000 on your pup. This includes food, medical costs, and the like.

On the other hand, you can expect to spend about $2,000 on your new pup during the first year.

This includes vet bills such as shots, spaying and neutering, food, toys, a dog bed, collar, leash and harness, and more.

At this time, this breed isn’t as popular in the United States, so they’re hard to come by at pet stores. In fact, Curlies are pretty popular in Australia and New Zealand.

What about Curly Coated Retriever breeders?

There are breeders for the Curly Coated Retriever. A great place to start searching for breeders would be the AKC Marketplace and the breeder life from the CCRCA.

However, there are no criteria to become a breeder on the CCRCA’s list. So, when searching for a breeder, do your research and make sure you’re getting your puppy from a reliable, reputable breeder.

Remember, a reputable breeder will always:

  • Try to improve the breed
  • Be knowledgable of the breed and both of the puppy’s parents
  • Select healthy parents to breed together
  • Be selective of where the puppies find their home

A reputable breeder will not:

  • Sell the puppies before they are eight weeks old
  • Have the puppies not socialized with people before
  • Refuse to let you meet at least one of the puppy’s parents
  • Sell you a puppy without meeting you first

Rescues: Curly Coated Retrievers for adoption

Alternatively, you can search for this breed through rescues and local shelters. There are plenty of pups out there that do not yet have a home.

Some places you can try are:

  • Pet Finder
  • Adopt a Pet
  • Curly Coated Retriever Rescue at Rescue Me
  • Fetchin’ Retrievers Rescue
  • Ask your local animal shelter

Is a Curly Coated Retriever right for you?

Cheerful Curly Coated Retriever

A Curly will get along just fine in any home, whether there are children or other pets. They’ll be loyal and love you forever.

If you’re home most of the time and you’re able to give this loveable, unique breed plenty of individual attention and playtime, then the Curly Coated Retriever will fit right into your home.

Are you going to bring home a Curly Coated Retriever? Let us know in the comments!


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