Flat-Coated Retriever Breed Magazine - Showsight



BY MARLA J. DOHENY Breeder of Flat-Coated Retrievers and Norfolk Terriers, AKC Judge of Sporting Dogs and Terriers

I have written about this beloved breed before and have referred to it as the “un-generic” retriever. I will still lead off with that: Un-generic. When you first set eyes on a Flat-Coated Retriever with good type, I promise, you will smile. Everything, from the perfectly molded skull and dark eyes, to the tip of the sleek, feathered tail, is pleasing. So, how do I best describe this truly unique breed? Let’s start with a brief history to understand utility, and describe the ideal size, substance, and proportions to further understand its singularity. The Flat-Coated Retriever was developed in Britain in the mid-to-late 1800s. Originally known as Wavy-Coated Retrievers, the breed likely descended from the St. John’s Newfoundland, crossed with a variety of other breeds such as Setters and Water Spaniels. It was developed as a moder- ate, lean retriever with more endurance than its heavier pre- decessors, but with the same keen nose and soft mouth for retrieving on both land and water. The breed was established as the Wavy-Coat, known for its marcel waves of black coat, differentiating it from the Curly-Coat. It was later named the Flat-Coated Retriever and is now commonly referred to as the Flat-Coat. In early days, they were mainly black or liver, although other colors existed. Today, only black and liver are permitted to compete in conformation, and yellow is the only disqualification listed in the official standard. According to the breed standard, the Flat-Coat has tradi- tionally been described as showing: “Power without lumber and raciness without weediness.” It also calls for a moder- ately-sized dog, with a preferred height of between 23 to 24 1/2 inches at the withers for dogs, and 22 to 23 1/2 inches at the withers for bitches. There is no disqualification for height, but note that the Flat-Coat should be slightly longer than tall. It would be the goal for breeders of quality dogs to be well within these parameters, but there are occasions in

which a dog or bitch may fall one inch below the preferred standard or stand one inch above. A reasonable practice would be to find a dog of good type and quality before using size as a consideration. One of the most distinctive features of the Flat-Coat is its elegant headpiece. When viewed from all angles, it should give the impression of a one-piece, molded head with mini- mal stop. I often describe it to future judges as being carved from a single brick of clay. The backskull should not be wide, and ears should be level with the eye, not placed high on the head. The dog should have an alert and kind expression, with dark, almond-shaped eyes set widely apart. The zygomatic arch should be clean and flush, the foreface should be well- filled. The underjaw should be full, and lips should have a clean finish. The neck should be free of throatiness. A scissors bite is preferred, and a level bite is acceptable. Even though the headpiece of the Flat-Coat is one of its most distinguishable characteristics, at times the emphasis on head is so heavily weighted that the overall silhouette is lost. So, not to make this mistake, consider the head as part of the overall silhouette, as it should not be weighted on its own. The breed standard specifically speaks to the Flat-Coat’s unique standing and moving silhouette. Judges should con- sider all placements with this in mind. Head planes should be visible from the standing and moving outline, with the moving silhouette being of utmost importance. (What often pleases the eye while standing may not always translate when moving.) There are some very key elements to the silhouette and to the build and proportions of the Flat-Coated Retriever that equate to type. The standing silhouette should be comprised of sev- eral easily identifiable body parts. One-piece head, proper length of neck, shoulder layback with equal return of upper arm, prow, deep rib cage, return of rib, level topline, slight


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