The Flat-Coated Retriever was originally bred as an agile and enthusiastic gun dog - particularly for bird flushing and retrieving - in Great Britain. The breed developed from crosses of the Newfoundland and various types of setters, sheepdogs, spaniels and water dogs. The large, black Newfoundland crosses were traded between Britain and North America, eventually becoming part of a group of dogs loosely called the “Labrador” type. They also were called the St. John’s Newfoundland, the Small Labrador Dog and the Lesser Newfoundland. These early dogs should not be confused with today’s Labrador Retrievers, as they differed in size, structure and coat.
Distinction between the Curly-Coated Retriever and the Wavy or Smooth-Coated Retriever (which later became known as the Flat-Coated Retriever) was not made in the British show ring until the 1860s. From about 1864 on, two bitches – Old Bounce and her daughter, Young Bounce - became the nucleus for development of the Flattie. The Kennel Club (of England) was founded in 1873, and the Flat-Coated Retriever entered its studbook in 1874. The breed rapidly gained enormous popularity in both the field and the show ring. A liver-colored Flat-Coated Retriever won top honors at the Retriever Society’s official field trials in 1900, bringing acceptance to that less common coat color.
Flatties waned in popularity during World Wars I and II, although several devoted fanciers did what they could to save the breed. Flat–Coated Retrievers entered the American Kennel Club’s Stud Book in 1950. In the 1960s, the breed had a moderate increase in registration in both Britain and the United States, and today the breed remains stable. The American Kennel Club parent club is the Flat-Coated Retriever Society of America.
The average life expectancy of the Flattie is from 10 to 12 years. Breed health concerns may include cancer
, hip dysplasia
and elbow dysplasia, entropion
, distichiasis, micropapilla, glaucoma
and progressive retinal atrophy
. Hemangiosarcoma, fibrosarcoma, osteosarcoma and malignant histiocytosis are particularly troublesome and seem to occur at higher rates in Flat-Coated Retrievers than in many other breeds.