FCR retrieving to hand. (Photo by Wendy Tisdall)
These are two very nice bitch heads. (Photo by Cheryl Ertelt)
The breed standard of the Flat-Coat- ed Retriever was written as a blueprint to describe the visual appearance and tempera- ment of the dog, i.e. those things that make him a Flat-Coat rather than, for example, a Labrador. In doing so, it also describes the attributes that the dog needed to have to be a good and efficient working Retriever. I am going to discuss parts of the stan- dard in relation to what is required from Working dogs. The Flat-Coat is famously described as a dog having, “Power without lumber and raciness without weediness.” Your first impression of a Flat-Coat should be that of a moderately sized, happy dog, with a constantly wagging tail. He should appear strong, workmanlike and with moderate bone and good substance. He should not be course or short on leg. He should be elegant, with gentle lines, all running smoothly together. He should not be refined, weak, leggy or rangy. He should always be shown in lean, hard-working condition. Fat does not equal substance. The most important things that make a Flat-Coat what he is are his “silhouette, both moving and standing, smooth effortless movement, head type, coat and character.” The silhouette of the Flat-Coat is that of a dog with a “Long, strong clean one- piece head” well set on a moderately long neck, flowing into a level topline. The body should be strong with a deep chest, promi- nent forechest, well-angled shoulder, long ribcage and a moderate tuck up. The rear should be strong and in balance with the front. That tail should come off the back as an extension of the topline and should be carried level or slightly above the level of the back. In the water, the tail acts as a
rudder and a gay tail is not a very efficient rudder. The Flat-Coat is described as being longer than tall. The length should be in the ribcage and the loin relatively short. He should never look square or cobby. All of these attributes describe a capable, work- manlike dog able to work all day under difficult conditions. The head of the Flat-Coat is distinctive and very different from most other Sport- ing breeds. The skull and muzzle give the impression of being “cast in one piece.” The skull is fairly flat and moderately wide. The stop is “gradual, slight and barely percep- tible.” There should not be a down or dish- faced appearance. The eyebrows are promi- nent, active and should not be confused with a stop. The stop should be evaluated in profile. The muzzle should be long, deep and strong. The muzzle and skull should be approximately the same length. Strength of muzzle is important to allow the dog to carry a large bird for a long distance. Lips should be tight to keep the dog from getting feathers stuck in their mouths. Eyes should be almond-shaped, dark brown or hazel and widely set. It is important that eyelids be tight so that they do not pick up seeds and debris while working in the field. The head of the Flat-Coat is very important, but please do not consider them a head breed alone. A good Flat-Coat should have a good head but also all of the other attributes that make him a functional Retriever. The Flat-Coat’s personality is described as having a “happy and active demeanor.” When judging a ring of Flat-Coats, you should see a line up of happy dogs with constantly wagging tails. Flat-Coats should be shown standing freely and moved on a loose lead. A ring of Flat-Coat puppies is a
ring full of joy and mischief. One of my first happy memories in the breed was showing my very first puppy. The judge had a cor- sage on, when she bent over to examine my puppy, she quickly lost that corsage. For- tunately, she had a sense of humor. I was mortified. They should never be shy, fear- ful nor aggressive, any dog showing these characteristics should be severely penalized. A dog that is aggressive towards other dogs or humans should be excused. Dogs must work together when out hunting or picking up and must all be able to get along. The movement of the Flat-Coat should be sound and efficient. He must be able to work all day. His movement should be bal- anced with good reach and drive front to rear. His topline should be strong, level and supple. He should not have a huge rear kick. This seems to be the fashion today, but dogs that do this do not move efficiently. They would quickly tire in the field. They gen- erally have much more angulation in the rear than they do in the front and although many think it is “pretty”, it is incorrect and impractical in a Working dog. Balance in the important word. Exaggeration is impractical in a Working Retriever. There is a large range of acceptable size in a Flat-Coat, from a 21-inch minimum for a small bitch up to 25 ½ inches at the maxi- mum for a dog. The size range is because a larger or smaller dog might be advanta- geous in different hunting conditions. Ani- mals outside of this size range should not be considered practical for the purpose of the breed. Too small and the dog might not be able to easily carry a large bird and too large, it would take up too much room in a duck boat or blind. Big is not better.
296 • S HOW S IGHT M AGAZINE , J ULY 2019
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