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Curly-Coated Retriever

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A working dog with a distinctive look, the curly-coated retriever is a loyal and laid-back companion. This is the oldest of the retriever breeds but is now a rare sight. Puppies are hard to find but those who choose a curly-coated retriever will be rewarded with a fabulous family pet, albeit one which require a copious amount of exercise.

Which breed group is the curly-coated retriever in?

Breed group: Gundog

Curly-coated retriever breed history

The precise origins of curly-coated retrievers are unknown but references to these dog’s date back to the early years of the 19th century. It is believed that the large rough water dog, the lesser Newfoundland and the Tweed water spaniel could be amongst the curly’s ancestors together with the Irish water spaniel, barbet, poodle and the wetterhound. Curly-coated retrievers were first shown in 1860 and became popular as both hunting dogs and pets. However, their popularity in the UK declined during the 20th century after the Labrador was introduced.

A small number of enthusiasts continued breeding programmes and so the curly-coated retriever was saved. A number of the dogs were exported and the breed continues to this day in the UK, Scandinavia, America and Australia. Puppies remain difficult to source, however.

Curly-coated retriever breed characteristics

These distinctive dogs boast wonderful curly coats that are either black or liver in colour. They have wedge shaped heads and small ears which lie close to the dogs’ heads. Their necks are slightly curved and they boast deep chests and level toplines. Tails are carried straight when the dogs are alert or in motion.

Easy going and loyal by nature, curly-coated retrievers are wonderful companions. They are straightforward to train due to their impressive intelligence and they are always eager to please. They don’t mature until approximately 3 years of age and can be a little wilful. These dogs may be wary of strangers but are rarely aggressive towards people or dogs.

  • Lifespan: 8-13 years
  • Height: up to 69cm
  • Weight: up to 41kg
  • Curly black or liver coat
  • Wedge shaped head
  • Small ears
  • Slightly curved neck
  • Level topline
  • Tail carried straight
  • Loyal
  • Easy going
  • Intelligent
  • Wary of strangers

Health issues with the curly-coated retrievers

Curly-coated retrievers are known to be prone to the following health issues:

  • Hip dysplasia
  • Elbow dysplasia
  • Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA)
  • Exercise Induced Collapse (EIC)
  • Glycogenosis (GSD) type IIIa
  • Cataracts
  • Cancer
  • Bloat/Gastric Torsion
  • Epilepsy & Seizures
  • Renal failure
  • Entropion
  • Distichiasis
  • Allergies
  • Alopecia (seasonal hair loss from flanks)
  • Canine follicular dysplasia - hair loss

What is the curly-coated retriever bred for?

The curly-coated retriever was and is bred as a gundog to retrieve prey on land or from the water. Many puppies are now destined to become family pets.

What sort of owners does the curly-coated retriever suit?

These loyal and placid dogs are good with children and so are well suited to family life. They are intelligent and highly trainable but do require a form hand to eliminate their stubborn streak. As such, they are not the best choices for first time owners. Curly-coated retrievers are easily bored and require a significant amount of exercise and so will be happiest with active owners who can be with them all day.  They like to chew and can become destructive if they don’t receive sufficient stimulation. They will get on with other dogs if socialised as puppies but may chase cats due to their strong prey drives. The ideal curly owners would live in the countryside and enjoy taking long walks every day.


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