Flat Coated Retriever

The Flat Coated Retriever is a large, exuberant, friendly dog with a striking glossy black or liver coat and forms part of the gundog group.

Flat Coated Retriever Breed Group


Size of the Flat Coated Retriever


Country of Origin

Great Britain

Time of original development

The Flat Coated Retriever was developed in the 1860s.

The Flat Coated Retriever’s uses through History

The breed was recognised for its role as a hard working and enthusiastic gamekeeper’s dog in the 19th century. Its ancestry is unclear, but the breed was probably developed from the now extinct St. John’s Water Dog from North America, along with elements of Collie, and possibly the Newfoundland.

The breed was used to retrieve game birds from both land and water. The long muzzle and soft jaw made it the ideal dog for retrieving and carrying birds.

Flat Coated Retriever introduction and overview

The Flat Coated Retriever is also known as the Flattie or FCR. This large gundog is most commonly seen in black, and quite distinctive from the Golden Retriever or Labrador Retriever by its long muzzle. The dog has a medium length intense glossy coat with fine, soft feathings on the back of the legs, abdomen, tail and feet. The ears are a pendant shape, and also have long featherings.

This breed is a keen and natural swimmer and will gravitate towards water on the dog walk. Potential owners of the Flat Coated Retriever should expect to spend a fair amount of time drying their dogs after walks!

The breed is renowned for being energetic, enthusiastic and often excitable. Many owners comment that the breed’s ‘puppy’ stage is much longer than the average gundog. It is a lively breed, that would appreciate a truly active and stimulating lifestyle.

The Flat Coated Retriever has a deep powerful bark, so makes a good guard dog around the home.

The breed is reported to take a long time to grow up and may take 5 years to grow out of the puppy stage! This is more likely to be due to the fact this dog is naturally very energetic and phsically active than many other dogs.

There were 1,251 puppies registered with the Kennel Club in 2015.

Flat Coated Retriever Temperament

Retrievers have an excellent reputation as good family dogs, and the Flat Coated Retriever certainly confirms that reputation. It is friendly, a great mixer, affectionate and enthusiastic. It can be prone to become a little over excited and boisterous at times, so may not be the best choice for families with very young children.

It is normally a breed that loves to play, and will quickly make new canine friends on walks due to its confident and sociable nature.

The breed is good with children, and loves being involved in family activities. It does tend to be compatible with cats, if socialised well from an early. Care should be taken around smaller pets, due to the natural hunting instinct and strong nose this dog has.

The Flat Coated Retriever is a big dog that takes up quite a bit of room around the home. New owners should be able to offer this dog plenty of living space. It’s not the type of dog suited to city living.

Colour Varieties of the Flat Coated Retriever

The Flat Coated Retriever breed is mostly seen in solid black, although liver is available too:

  • Black
  • Liver

Size and weight of the Flat Coated Retriever

Height bitch 56-58cms

Height dog 58-61cms

Weight (kilos) bitch 25-32kgs

Weight (kilos) dog 27-36kgs

Exercise requirements of the Flat Coated Retriever

High. The Flat Coated Retriever requires at least 2 hours of exercise daily, ideally off the lead.This is a dog with plenty of stamina and endurance. The Flat Coated Retriever is a dog best suited to country life, and an active owner who can provide the physical exercise, stimulation and time commitment this athletic breed requires.

Is the Flat Coated Retriever a good dog for a first time dog owner?

Yes. The breed is easy to train and a quick learner, but any prospective owner must appreciate the very high exercise levels and stimulation the breed requires, as boredom can quickly result in unwanted behaviour around the home.

Flat Coated Retriever coat length

Medium. The soft silky coat complete with long furnishing requires regular attention. The length and thickness of the featherings varies from dog to dog.

Grooming requirements of the Flat Coated Retriever

Medium to High.

The Flat Coated Retriever has a fine coat that can become tangled quite quickly, especially if the dog is a keen and regular swimmer. Mud and water stick tend to stick to the fine coat. Your dog should be towelled off after a muddy walk, and the feathers should be gently brushed through with a soft slicker brush to remove grit and mud.

The feathers can be thinned by a professional groomer if they prove too difficult to manage. You may want to have your dog bathed a couple of times a year.

Ears can be problematic if feathers grow long enough to dangle into food and water bowls. A professional groomer will be able to thin them to prevent messy meal times without ruining the shape of the dog.


No. The silky fine coat and flowing feathers of this large dog shed throughout the year making it an unsuitable choice of breed for allergy sufferers.

Health Issues in the Flat Coated Retriever

The breed is generally fairly healthy but the following health issues have been noted in the breed:

  • Hip dysplasia - an inherited malformation of the hip joint, has been found in the breed but is very rare.
  • Cancer - quite common in the breed.
  • Ear problems - keep ears clean with a designated ear cleaner for dogs and check frequently for any signs of infection.

As with all pedigree dogs, it is very important to obtain a puppy from a reputable source where you can be guaranteed that it has been bred with a view to avoiding the inherent physical and psychological diseases of the breed.

Average lifespan of the Flat Coated Retriever

8-10 years. This is quite a low life expectancy for a big gundog, but sadly the Flat Coated Retriever is prone to several types of cancer.

Approximate Flat Coated Retriever pedigree puppy price

Puppies are frequently available and pedigree puppies cost in the region of £600-£800. Litters are quite small with normally around 4-8 puppies in a litter.

Estimating how much a Flat Coated Retriever would need to be fed each day

A bitch weighing 25kgs requires 330gms of complete dry food per day.

A dog weighing 30kgs requires 365gms of complete dry food per day.

The weekly cost of feeding a bitch is around £8

The weekly cost of feeding a dog is around £9

Our estimates are based on feeding a slightly above average quality complete food bought from a popular supermarket on the high street.

Other necessary costs and regular expenses to consider when owning any dog

Remember to budget for other necessary routine costs and procedures for your dog that are not covered by pet insurance:

  • Worming preparations
  • Flea treatments
  • Annual vaccination boosters
  • Dental treatments
  • Neutering and spaying

Many veterinary practices now operate monthly budget schemes to allow you to spread the cost of routine treatments over the year.