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Flat-coated retriever sitting in grass.

Breed overview

  • Breed group — Sporting group (American Kennel Club)
  • Height — 22-25 inches
  • Weight — 60-70 pounds
  • Coat length & texture — Smooth, medium-length coat
  • Coat color — Solid black or liver coat with no markings
  • Exercise needs — High
  • Intelligence — High
  • Barking — Average
  • Life span — 8-14 years
  • Temperament — Friendly, energetic, playful, intelligent
  • Hypoallergenic — No
  • Origin — United Kingdom

Flat-coated retriever fun facts 

👉 Coming up with a pet name can be fun but tricky. Search no further! According to PetScreening’s 2024 database, the majority of our users name their male Flat-Coated Retrievers Bear; Cooper is the 2nd most popular male name. Meanwhile, most of our users with female Flat-Coated Retrievers love Luna, then Bella.

  • “The gamekeeper’s dog” and “the smooth-coated retriever” are only a couple nicknames out of many monikers. Like other retrievers, flat-coated retrievers were originally bred to hunt, which is how they earned their title as the hunter’s companion.
  • The flat-coated retriever enjoyed a century of enormous popularity. This breed was the most popular retriever on English estates during the 1800s. Their popularity declined around the turn of the 20th century in favor of the Labrador and golden retrievers.
  • Today, you can expect to pay between $1,500 and $3,000 for a purebred. In modern times, other breeds have eclipsed the flat-coated retriever, driving the prices into the thousands.
Black Flat-coated retriever close up

Flat-coated retriever temperament and characteristics 

Among the happiest creatures on the planet, Flat-coated retrievers greet pet parents, strangers, and other dogs alike with the pleasant nature of a gracious host. Their floppy tongue and playful gait may give them a goofy expression, but their sleek coat counteracts their clownish behavior with poise and dignity.

Out of the six types of retrievers, flat-coated retrievers are unique because they have a smooth coat. However, their fur isn’t completely straight like the Labrador. Instead, their fur forms gentle waves at their legs and they have a plumed tail like the golden retriever.

According to the American Kennel Club breed standard, black and liver are the only acceptable colors for a Flat-coated retriever. They also don’t have any patterns or markings.


The flat-coated retriever is a medium-sized dog with a sleek black or liver-colored coat according to the American Kennel Club’s breed standard. Solid black or solid liver is acceptable, and the ideal coat is straight and flat lying. We teamed up with FidoTabby Alert, and according to their database, a common coat color for the flat-coated retriever is (87%) black.

Common flat-coated retriever health problems 

Responsible breeders should screen for genetically influenced health conditions before breeding, such as hip dysplasia and eye problems. Not all cases can be prevented by selectively breeding, though, because there are many risk factors. In addition, the flat-coated retriever may also be more susceptible to diseases more prevalent in larger breeds, like gastric dilatation volvulus (bloat).

  • Hip dysplasia. This condition is a malformation of the joints which leads to chronic pain and osteoarthritis. Genetics and environmental factors play a role in the development of hip dysplasia, and unfortunately, it’s more common in large breeds.
  • Cancer. According to this UK study , cancer is a common killer for flat-coated retrievers, especially as they get older.
  • Eye problems. In addition to screening before breeding, it’s also recommended to have your flat-coated retriever checked for eye problems annually such as cataracts and glaucoma.

If the cancer we're talking about is splenic hemangiosarcoma, I lost two dogs to that. One was a labrador, and they were both 11 years old. I feel like all breeds are at risk for cancer as seniors. What's important to remember is that "senior" for a retriever of any kind is 9 to 10 years old.

Dr. Erica Irish

Cost of caring for a flat-coated retriever

Health insurance may help pay for any accidents or chronic illnesses your flat-coated retriever may develop. By paying a low monthly price and an annual deductible, you can save on the big vet bills when they do arise. Early enrollment provides the greatest benefits because some companies may limit coverage to dogs once they’re past a certain age. If a pet insurance policy isn’t an affordable option, you might try creating a pet savings account instead.

Flat-coated retriever puppy laying on the floor.

History of the flat-coated retriever

During the mid to late 1800s, the flat-coated retriever was known as the gentleman’s best friend across the United Kingdom. They were excellent at catching small game and waterfowl, making them the favorite sport dog for land and water. Although their exact origins aren’t known, it’s speculated that they’re closely related to the other retrievers and setter-type dogs, as well as the Newfoundland.

As trends progressed away from noble estates and rural life, their popularity dwindled in favor of the golden and Labrador retrievers. By the time World War II ended, the flat-coated retriever was a relatively obscure breed.

Caring for your flat-coated retriever

Soon after their adoption, you’ll have to take your flat-coated retriever for their first trip to the vet and schedule their vaccinations. As they go through their housebreaking and teething phases, you’ll need to puppy-proof your home. Puppies are prone to mischief and may accidentally slip away. FidoAlert provides a free Fido ID and tag so you’re prepared just in case. Here are some other things you’ll need to consider when bringing home your flat-coated retriever:


As a master retriever of waterfowl and small game, flat-coated retrievers possess boundless energy. They have vigorous exercise requirements that can be met by games of frisbee, long walks, and even swimming in hot weather. Flat-coated retrievers need at least two hours of exercise a day.

Flat-coated retriever standing on rocks.


The flat-coated retriever has a desirable combination of the plumed tail like the golden retriever with a sleek appearance similar to the Labrador. In addition to daily toothbrushing and occasional nail trims, they’ll need their fur brushed at least once a week in order to stay shiny and tangle-free.

Your flat-coated retriever only needs a bath every three months, or as needed. Avoid over-bathing them so that you don’t strip their coat.

Diet and nutrition

A well-balanced diet is a vital key to a healthy lifestyle. Talk to your vet about finding a food that’s appropriate for your dog’s individual medical needs and life stage, whether they’re a puppy, adult, or senior.

Flat-coated retrievers typically weigh around 60 to 70 pounds, which qualifies them as a large dog. They’ll need food that’s formulated for large breeds, and will likely eat between 3½  and 4½ cups of dry food per day, depending on the formula.

👉It might be tempting to purchase less expensive foods, but they usually aren’t as nutritious as higher quality foods, which means you’ll have to feed them more to get the nutrients they need.

Training your flat-coated retriever

Young puppies may have stubborn streaks, but overall flat-coated retrievers are highly intelligent and eager to please. With patience and persistence, you can successfully housetrain your pup, and teach them to perform commands such as “fetch” and “stay.” Retrievers are notorious for gobbling scraps off the floor, so you’ll want to teach them “drop it,” too.

Flat-coated retriever in tall grass.

Breeds similar to the flat-coated retriever

Not quite sure that a flat-coated retriever is the best choice for you? Here are a few similar breeds you might want to consider:

  • Labrador retriever. Voted as America’s favorite dog from 1991 until 2022, the Labrador has enjoyed almost unrivaled popularity.
  • Irish setter. The red-colored Irish setter has wavy locks similar to the legs and tail of the flat-coated retriever.
  • Golden retriever. Families have spent many happy years with this classic honey-hued favorite. Golden retrievers are known to be caring and loyal to their people.

Frequently asked questions

Are flat-coated retrievers good family dogs?

With their friendly, energetic demeanor, the flat-coated retriever encounters both family members and strangers with a swishing tail and a happy smile. They usually get along with other people and animals, which makes them an excellent family option.

Do flat-coated retrievers require a lot of exercise?

Bred to hunt and fetch, the flat-coated retriever possesses a high level of stamina. They need to spend at least two hours a day running, swimming, or playing ball to stay healthy.

How much grooming does a flat-coated retriever need?

Besides daily toothbrushing and occasional baths and nail trims, you’ll need to brush your flat-coated retriever’s hair at least once a week so that it stays shiny and smooth. Flat-coated retrievers shed moderately year-round, but especially during the spring and summer. They’re considered relatively low maintenance compared to other popular breeds such as the poodle.

What’s the difference between a flat-coated retriever and other retriever breeds?

At 60 to 70 pounds, the flat-coated retriever weighs about the same as more popular retriever breeds. Their smooth coat is the biggest outlier, and they may also be slightly more energetic than other retrievers.

How much does a flat-coated retriever cost?

Even though they once basked in the glory of the English countryside, the flat-coated retriever is no longer as popular as they once were. As a result, you’ll pay a pretty penny (or pound) if you find one. Expect a purebred flat-coated retriever to fetch around $1,500 to $3,000 if you buy one from a breeder. Alternatively, you might try to adopt one from a shelter or breed-specific rescue.