The Breed History
All-purpose retriever dogs were developed by crossing Newfoundland, Spaniel, Setter and Sheepdog type dogs. In the early 19th century, the Black Retriever was found throughout England. Further crosses produced a dog found both in Britain and Newfoundland/Labrador Canada known as the Lesser Newfoundland or St. John's Newfoundland. These dogs subsequently became a source for further crosses with English breeds, resulting in the curly coated retriever from which originated the flat-coated variety. AKC registry began in 1915.
Breeding for Function
At home in cold water, in thick underbrush and field, this has always been a soft-mouthed retriever, and these dogs are still cherished as field trial dogs. Birds, rabbits and hare are common quarry of the hunt. Many are also companions, and the Flat-coated Retriever excels in tracking and agility.
Height at Withers: female 22-23.5" (56-59.5 cm), male 23-24.5" (58.5-62 cm).
Weight: 60-80 lb (27-36.5 kg).
Coat: The thick to slightly wavy flat glossy double coat has well developed feathering. Solid black or liver are accepted colors. Hairs are fine and the undercoat is dense.
Longevity: 12-14 years
Points of Conformation: Bred for function, the conformation is moderate. They are a little longer than high. The distinctive head is smooth and flat with minimal stop, a deep long muzzle, and the neck is moderately long, muscular and slightly arched. No throatiness should be evident. The eyes are dark brown or hazel, wide set and moderate in size, almond-shaped with kind expression. Nose and palpebral margins are black or liver in pigmentation. Lips are tight and dry. Small pendulous ears are thick leathered, well feathered and lie against the head. They possess a level topline, the thorax is deep and the rib cage stays deep well back. The abdomen is moderately tucked up. A wagging tail is characteristic. The gait is emphasized-it must be smooth, long and low. The tail tapers to the tarsus; is carried up but not above topline level, and a slight bend to the tail is present, but not curled. Limbs are straight boned, moderate in length and front dewclaws may be removed (rear dewclaws are absent), feet are oval to round and toes well arched with thick pads.
Recognized Behavior Issues and Traits
Reported breed characteristics include: High intelligence, enjoys human companionship and has a strong will to work, loyal, playful, happy, active, stable temperament, a wagging tail is highly valued as an indicator of this breed's joyful demeanor. Gets along well with other dogs, is good with children though because of size and activity levels, supervision of young children is important. The Flat coat is good in city or country with adequate exercise. This breed retains vigor into old age. These dogs are considered adequate alarm barkers but not considered a guard dog. They have low grooming needs. Pica, separation anxiety and aggression (inter-dog) are listed behavior problems found in the breed.
Normal Physiologic Variations
Hip Dysplasia: Polygenically inherited trait causing degenerative joint disease and hip arthritis. OFA reports 4.3% affected.
Patella Luxation: Polygenically inherited laxity of patellar ligaments, causing luxation, lameness, and later degenerative joint disease. Treat surgically if causing clinical signs. OFA reports 1.8% affected. Reported at a frequency of 4.2% in males, and 3.2% in females in the 2000 FCRSA Health Survey.
Elbow Dysplasia: Polygenically inherited trait causing elbow arthritis. OFA reports 0.8% affected.
Pectinate Ligament Dysplasia (PLD) and Glaucoma: PLD is a significant predisposing factor to the development of glaucoma. Blindness and lens luxation can occur with glaucoma if not treated quickly. PLD occurs in 34.7% of Flat Coated Retrievers, and has an estimated heritability of 0.7. Diagnose with gonioscopy and tonometry. Glaucoma is reported at a frequency of 1.0% in the breed. CERF does not recommend breeding any Flat Coated Retriever with glaucoma.
Distichiasis: Abnormally placed eyelashes that irritate the cornea and conjunctiva. Can cause secondary corneal ulceration. Identified in 11.12% of Flat-coated Retrievers CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005.
Malignant Histiocytosis: Malignant histiocytomas are soft-tissue sarcomas that can occur in the skin, thorax, lungs, liver, spleen, kidneys, adrenal glands and brain. Treatment is palliative, as this malignant disease is fatal. Soft Tissue Sarcomas account for 55% of the malignant samples, and 26% of all tumor samples in a study of 1,023 Flat Coated Retriever tissue samples. 63% of the soft tissue sarcomas were diagnosed as undifferentiated. In a UK study 20.9% of deaths were from soft tissue sarcomas, at a median age of 8 years.
Hypothyroidism: Inherited autoimmune thyroiditis. 5.0% positive for thyroid autoantibodies based on testing at Michigan State University. (Ave. for all breeds is 7.5%).
Inherited Epilepsy: Generalized or partial seizures. Control with anticonvulsant medication. Reported at a frequency of 4.1% in males, and 1.5% in females in the 2000 FCRSA Health Survey.
Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus (Bloat, GDV): Polygenically inherited, life-threatening twisting of the stomach. Requires immediate veterinary attention. Reported at a frequency of 3.8% in males, and 3.3% in females in the 2000 FCRSA Health Survey.
Cataracts: Anterior cortex punctate cataracts predominate in the breed. Age of onset 4 years of age and older. Identified in 5.70% of Flat-coated Retrievers CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005. CERF does not recommend breeding any Flat Coated Retriever with a cataract.
Persistent Pupillary Membranes: Strands of fetal remnant connecting; iris to iris, cornea, lens, or involving sheets of tissue. The later three forms can impair vision, and dogs affected with these forms should not be bred. Identified in 2.66% of Flat Coated Retrievers CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005.
Benign Cutaneous Histiocytoma: These account for 48 per cent of the benign tumors, and 25 per cent of all tumor samples in a study of 1,023 Flat-coated Retriever tissue samples.
Corneal Dystrophy, Ectropion, Entropion, Optic Nerve Hypoplasia, and Progressive Retinal Atrophy are reported.
Isolated Case Studies
Immune-mediated Hemolytic Anemia with Concurrent Soft-tissue Sarcoma: A seven-year-old flat-coated retriever presenting with immune-mediated hemolytic anemia was also diagnosed a widespread, poorly differentiated sarcoma involving the lungs, pericardium, thoracic lymph nodes and spleen.
Spinal Cord Epidermoid Cyst: Case study of a 1-1/2 year old flat-coated retriever with an intramedullary space-occupying lesion in the form of an epidermoid cyst. Complete excision was not possible, as the cystic tissue was intimately attached to the spinal cord parenchyma.
Tests of Genotype: Direct tests for black, liver and yellow coat colors and black and brown nose are available from HeathGene and VetGen.
Tests of Phenotype: Recommend hip and elbow radiographs, patella examination, CERF eye examination, thyroid profile including autoantibodies, and cardiac evaluation.
- Breed name synonyms: Flat Coat, Flat-coat Retriever.
- Registries: AKC, UKC, CKC, KCGB (Kennel Club of Great Britain), ANKC (Australian National Kennel Club).
- AKC rank (year 2008): 98 (605 dogs registered)
- Internet resources: Flat-coated Retriever Society of America Inc.: www.fcrsainc.org
Flatcoated Retriever Society (UK): www.flatcoated-retriever-society.org
Flat-coated Retriever Society of Canada: www.flatcoat.ca
Flat-Coated Retriever Foundation: www.fcrfoundation.org
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