Flat-Coated Retriever Breed Magazine features information, expert articles, and stunning photos from AKC judges, breeders, and owners.
Let’s Talk Breed Education!
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Official Standard for the Flat-Coated Retriever General Appearance: The Flat-Coated Retriever is a versatile family companion hunting retriever with a happy and active demeanor, intelligent expression, and clean lines. The Flat-Coat has been traditionally described as showing " power without lumber and raciness without weediness ." The distinctive and most important features of the Flat-Coat are the silhouette (both moving and standing), smooth effortless movement, head type, coat and character. In silhouette the Flat-Coat has a long, strong, clean, "one piece" head, which is unique to the breed. Free from exaggeration of stop or cheek, the head is set well into a moderately long neck which flows smoothly into well laid back shoulders. A level topline combined with a deep, long rib cage tapering to a moderate tuck-up create the impression of a blunted triangle. The brisket is well developed and the forechest forms a prominent prow. This utilitarian retriever is well balanced, strong, but elegant; never cobby, short legged or rangy. The coat is thick and flat lying, and the legs and tail are well feathered. A proud carriage, responsive attitude, waving tail and overall look of functional strength, quality, style and symmetry complete the picture of the typical Flat- Coat. Judging the Flat-Coat moving freely on a loose lead and standing naturally is more important than judging him posed. Honorable scars should not count against the dog. Size, Proportion, Substance: Size -Individuals varying more than an inch either way from the preferred height should be considered not practical for the types of work for which the Flat-Coat was developed. Preferred height is 23 to 24½; inches at the withers for dogs, 22 to 23½ inches for bitches. Since the Flat-Coat is a working hunting retriever he should be shown in lean, hard condition, free of excess weight. Proportion -The Flat-Coat is not cobby in build. The length of the body from the point of the shoulder to the rearmost projection of the upper thigh is slightly more than the height at the withers. The female may be slightly longer to better accommodate the carrying of puppies. Substance - Moderate. Medium bone is flat or oval rather than round; strong but never massive, coarse, weedy or fine. This applies throughout the dog. Head: The long, clean, well molded head is adequate in size and strength to retrieve a large pheasant, duck or hare with ease. Skull and Muzzle -The impression of the skull and muzzle being "cast in one piece" is created by the fairly flat skull of moderate breadth and flat, clean cheeks, combined with the long, strong, deep muzzle which is well filled in before, between and beneath the eyes. Viewed from above, the muzzle is nearly equal in length and breadth to the skull. Stop-There is a gradual, slight, barely perceptible stop, avoiding a down or dish-faced appearance. Brows are slightly raised and mobile, giving life to the expression. Stop must be evaluated in profile so that it will not be confused with the raised brow. Occiput not accentuated, the skull forming a gentle curve where it fits well into the neck. Expression alert, intelligent and kind. Eyes are set widely apart. Medium sized, almond shaped, dark brown or hazel; not large, round or yellow. Eye rims are self-colored and tight. Ears relatively small, well set on, lying close to the side of the head and thickly feathered. Not low set (houndlike or setterish). Nose- Large open nostrils. Black on black dogs, brown on liver dogs . Lips fairly tight, firm, clean and dry to minimize the retention of feathers. Jaws long and strong, capable of carrying a hare or a pheasant. Bite - Scissors bite preferred, level bite acceptable. Broken teeth should not count against the dog. Severe Faults: Wry and undershot or overshot bites with a noticeable gap must be severely penalized.
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Neck, Topline, Body: Neck strong and slightly arched for retrieving strength. Moderately long to allow for easy seeking of the trail. Free from throatiness. Coat on neck is untrimmed. Topline strong and level. Body -Chest (Brisket)-Deep, reaching to the elbow and only moderately broad. Forechest-Prow prominent and well developed. Rib cage deep, showing good length from forechest to last rib (to allow ample space for all body organs), and only moderately broad. The foreribs fairly flat showing a gradual spring, well arched in the center of the body but rather lighter towards the loin. Underline-Deep chest tapering to a moderate tuck-up. Loin strong, well muscled and long enough to allow for agility, freedom of movement and length of stride, but never weak or loosely coupled. Croup slopes very slightly; rump moderately broad and well muscled. Tail fairly straight, well set on, with bone reaching approximately to the hock joint. When the dog is in motion, the tail is carried happily but without curl as a smooth extension of the topline, never much above the level of the back. Forequarters: Shoulders long, well laid back shoulder blade with upper arm of approximately equal length to allow for efficient reach. Musculature wiry rather than bulky. Elbows clean, close to the body and set well back under the withers. Forelegs straight and strong with medium bone of good quality. Pasterns slightly sloping and strong . Dewclaws-Removal of dewclaws is optional. Feet oval or round. Medium sized and tight with well arched toes and thick pads. Hindquarters: Powerful with angulation in balance with the front assembly. Upper thighs powerful and well muscled. Stifle-Good turn of stifle with sound, strong joint. Second thighs (Stifle to hock joint)-Second or lower thigh as long as or only slightly longer than upper thigh. Hock-Hock joint strong, well let down. Dewclaws-There are no hind dewclaws. Feet oval or round. Medium sized and tight with well arched toes and thick pads. Coat: Coat is of moderate length density and fullness, with a high lustre. The ideal coat is straight and flat lying. A slight waviness is permissible but the coat is not curly, wooly, short, silky or fluffy. The Flat-Coat is a working retriever and the coat must provide protection from all types of weather, water and ground cover. This requires a coat of sufficient texture, length and fullness to allow for adequate insulation. When the dog is in full coat the ears, front, chest, back of forelegs, thighs and underside of tail are thickly feathered without being bushy, stringy or silky. Mane of longer heavier coat on the neck extending over the withers and shoulders is considered typical, especially in the male dog, and can cause the neck to appear thicker and the withers higher, sometimes causing the appearance of a dip behind the withers. Since the Flat- Coat is a hunting retriever, the feathering is not excessively long. Trimming -The Flat-Coat is shown with as natural a coat as possible and must not be penalized for lack of trimming, as long as the coat is clean and well brushed. Tidying of ears, feet, underline and tip of tail is acceptable. Whiskers serve a specific function and it is preferred that they not be trimmed. Shaving or barbering of the head, neck or body coat must be severely penalized. Color: Solid black or solid liver. Disqualification-Yellow, cream or any color other than black or liver. Gait: Sound, efficient movement is of critical importance to a hunting retriever. The Flat-Coat viewed from the side covers ground efficiently and movement appears balanced, free flowing and well coordinated, never choppy, mincing or ponderous. Front and rear legs reach well forward and extend well back, achieving long clean strides. Topline appears level, strong and supple while dog is in motion.
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Summary : The Flat-Coat is a strong but elegant, cheerful hunting retriever. Quality of structure, balance and harmony of all parts both standing and in motion are essential. As a breed whose purpose is of a utilitarian nature, structure, condition and attitude should give every indication of being suited for hard work. Temperament: Character is a primary and outstanding asset of the Flat-Coat. He is a responsive, loving member of the family, a versatile working dog, multi-talented, sensible, bright and tractable. In competition the Flat-Coat demonstrates stability and a desire to please with a confident, happy and outgoing attitude characterized by a wagging tail. Nervous, hyperactive, apathetic, shy or obstinate behavior is undesirable. Severe Fault-Unprovoked aggressive behavior toward people or animals is totally unacceptable. Character: Character is as important to the evaluation of stock by a potential breeder as any other aspect of the breed standard. The Flat-Coat is primarily a family companion hunting retriever. He is keen and birdy, flushing within gun range, as well as a determined, resourceful retriever on land and water. He has a great desire to hunt with self-reliance and an uncanny ability to adapt to changing circumstances on a variety of upland game and waterfowl. As a family companion he is sensible, alert and highly intelligent; a lighthearted, affectionate and adaptable friend. He retains these qualities as well as his youthfully good-humored outlook on life into old age. The adult Flat-Coat is usually an adequate alarm dog to give warning, but is a good-natured, optimistic dog, basically inclined to be friendly to all. The Flat-Coat is a cheerful, devoted companion who requires and appreciates living with and interacting as a member of his family. To reach full potential in any endeavor he absolutely must
have a strong personal bond and affectionate individual attention. Disqualification: Yellow, cream or any color other than black or liver. Approved September 11, 1990 Effective October 30, 1990
THE FLAT-COATED RETRIEVER: HISTORY, ORIGIN & UTILITY
B eing raised with working and herding dogs that we worked in obedience, herding, and guard work, I always felt committed to the purebred dog and its utility. In the late 1980s, after having my first son, I was in search of a “kid-friendly” breed to mix with my new, young family. I had my curiosity piqued while at a local gun club. In the distance, I saw a beautiful, athletic, black dog. The moderately feathered coat with its incandes- cence caught my eye. As it trained diligently with the trainer, I could see the willingness to work in the dog’s eye. When I asked, the trainer told me it was a Flat-Coated Retriever. I was hooked. My initial research into this fascinating breed has left me more dedicated to the betterment of this breed than I ever thought I would be. Developed as a water and land retriever in the mid-to- late 1800s, this retriever breed was originally known as the Wavy-Coated Retriever. This was likely the product of cross breeding with a variety of breeds, including Setters, Collies, and Poodles, among others. Most certainly in the proprietary mix was the St. John’s Newfoundland, otherwise known as the Lesser Newfoundland, an extinct breed today. Mr. Sewallis Evelyn Shirley (1844-1904), founder of the Kennel Club of Britain and an accomplished dog fancier and judge, took a keen interest in the breed and sought to distin- guish it from the Curly-Coated Retriever.
BY MARLA J. DOHENY
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THE FLAT-COATED RETRIEVER: HISTORY, ORIGIN & UTILITY
“The Flat-Coat has a reliable temperament and is an excellent companion dog.”
The Flat-Coated Retriever became a favorite among gamekeep- ers in England during the turn of the [20th] century. The Flat- Coat was a devoted companion with a unique willingness to work for its master. After a day’s hunt, the Flat-Coat would be sent over the fields and streams to pick up game that had been left behind. Considered “a hearth dog,” the Flat-Coat will work tirelessly with quite a high level of exuberance, but settle quietly in the house. Ownership of this breed peaked in the 1920s and suffered a serious decline until the mid-1950s. Contributing factors to this were the increasing popularity of the “other” retriever breeds, Sporting dogs that were better suited for high intensity fieldwork, and the tale of many Flat-Coats being decimated during the World Wars. Another important figure in the breed’s sustainability was Mr. Stanley L. O’Neill whose genuine concern for the breed prompted him to institute a Flat-Coated Retriever revival breeding program following the war. He worked diligently to advance the breed and save it from demise. One of the first Flat-Coats to be brought to the United States was a liver-colored bitch named Pewcroft Perfect that was sent to a Mr. Homer Downing in Ohio by O’Neill in 1953. In a few short years, Downing imported another dog, a liver-colored Flat-Coated Retriever female named Atherbram Stella. In 1956, the total population of Flat-Coated Retrievers in the United States was nine. Two litters of puppies were produced and
the population of Flat-Coats was 22 by 1957. Mr. Downing and his wife introduced these two biddable bitches to the obedience ring. Pewcroft Perfect achieved a UDT and Atherbram Stella, a UD title. Mr. Downing, under the kennel name Bramcroft, would play a huge role in perpetuating the breed as we know it today—a com- plete utility dog. Over the next fifty years, Flat-Coats would regain popularity, with stabilizing pedigrees, and achieve success in the breed ring, the field, and in all areas of AKC competitions. The Flat-Coated Retriever remains today a biddable working companion, not divided into performance versus show lines. In 2012, there were a total of 1,116 titles earned in the breed across all AKC events. The breed saw 552 dogs registered in 2012, ranking 92 out of 177; 96 litters were registered. The Flat-Coat has a reliable temperament and is an excellent companion dog. The Flat-Coat has been coined the “Canine Peter Pan” in A Review Of The Flat-Coated Retriever by Dr. Nancy Laugh- ton. This is the reason my husband and I chose the Flat-Coated Retriever to raise our children, but can also serve as a reason to proceed with caution when considering this breed. Although always known for their exuberant personality, train- ability, and persistently wagging tail—the Flat-Coat may be too much for the novice dog owner.
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FLAT-COATED RETRIEVER UNDERSTANDING THE
THE ‘UN-GENERIC’ RETRIEVER
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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UNDERSTANDING THE FLAT-COATED RETRIEVER
rounding to the croup with tail held off the back, and moder- ate rear angulation. Moving from the undeniable headpiece towards the hindquarters, the Flat-Coat has a strong, slightly arched neck. The neck should be moderately long, and the neck-to-shoulder transition should be smooth, with not only good layback of shoulder, but also good lay-in. At times, we see short or ewe necks, which consequently affect reach. Flat- Coats that lack prow and forechest should be faulted. This is one of the key elements contributing to the outline and should be high in consideration. It should be prominent and well- developed. The underline of the dog should have a deep chest, tapering to a moderate tuck-up. The topline should be strong and level. A weak topline is often a product of a short rib cage. Rib cage should be deep, with good length and good return, and should be gently sprung, described in the standard as a blunted triangle. The loin should be well-muscled and long enough to allow the dog to sufficiently move, but never weak or loosely coupled. The croup should be very slightly rounded, with tail well set on. The tail should be fairly straight and carried happily. Steep croups are a bit of a problem as of late, affecting the overall outline of the dog—and often the set and carriage of the tail. Tail should be well-feathered and carried not much above the level of the back. With all parts and pieces considered, it important to understand that overall balance is key—balance front to rear and balance shoulder to ground. The front should not be too over loaded and conversely the rear should not appear weak. The length from the withers to the elbow should be equal to the length of the elbow to the ground. With the correct proportions and silhouette as described above, when viewed from the side, Flat-Coats should cover ground efficiently without choppy or mincing steps. The movement appears balanced, free-flowing and well-coor- dinated. Front and rear legs reach well forward and drive WITH ALL PARTS AND PIECES CONSIDERED, IT IMPORTANT TO UNDERSTAND THAT OVER- ALL BALANCE IS KEY—BALANCE FRONT TO REAR AND BALANCE SHOULDER TO GROUND.
The Moving Silhouette should be balanced, free-flowing and well- coordinated, with good reach and drive.
The croup should be very slightly rounded, with tail well set on. The tail should be fairly straight and be carried happily, but not above the backline.
One of the key elements contributing to the outline is the prow. It should be prominent and well-developed.
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UNDERSTANDING THE FLAT-COATED RETRIEVER
The neck should be moderately long, and neck-to-shoulder transition should be smooth, with not only good layback of shoulder, but also good lay-in.
The Flat-Coat head has a foreface that is well-filled, with dark, almond-shaped eyes. Stop is barely perceivable.
It’s important to understand that overall balance is key.
well back, achieving long, clean strides. The topline should be level and strong while the dog is in motion. A truly typ- ey, well-balanced animal while moving is undeniable. Understanding the temperament of the Flat-Coated Retriever is also key to under- standing the breed. A nervous, hyperac- tive, apathetic, shy or obstinate dog is highly undesirable. Any aggressive behav- ior toward people or animals is totally unacceptable. The Flat-Coat is a versatile dog with a desire to work and please. The Flat-Coat in competition is known to have a wagging tail at most times. I have wit- nessed judges becoming annoyed at the wagging Flat-Coat. My advice to them? Decline the assignment. I was asked to include the health and longevity of the Flat-Coated Retriever to this article. With regards to health, the Flat-Coated Retriever Society of America recommends all breeding stock be clear of hip dysplasia and patella abnormalities by the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals or a board-certified veterinary equivalent. Eyes should be cleared annually by a board- certified veterinary ophthalmologist. Eye conditions to be screened for in breeding stock include Progressive Retinal Atro- phy, Cataracts, and a predisposition for narrow angles that can lead to Secondary Glaucoma. Cancer is a primary concern in the breed, but through utilization of genetic diversity when breeding, dedi- cated breeders are seeing added longevity to the breed. The average life span of all
UNDERSTANDING THE TEMPERAMENT OF THE FLAT-COATED RETRIEVER IS ALSO KEY TO UNDERSTANDING THE BREED. A NERVOUS, HYPERACTIVE, APATHETIC, SHY OR OBSTINATE DOG IS HIGHLY UN- DESIRABLE. ANY AGGRESSIVE BEHAVIOR TOWARD PEOPLE OR ANIMALS IS TOTALLY UNACCEPTABLE. THE FLAT-COAT IS A VER- SATILE DOG WITH A DESIRE TO WORK AND PLEASE.
retrievers combined is about 10 years. The Flat-Coated Retriever is not an exception. So, when you have the privilege to observe the Flat-Coated Retriever at work or play, or you have the opportunity to judge them, please remember to bring your smile. A properly built Flat-Coated Retriever that oozes type, tail wagging incessantly, will leave you grinning from ear to ear.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Marla Doheny has been involved in the sport of purebred dogs since she was a young child. Her fascination with the utility of the purebred dog has led her to a lifetime of involvement and continuing education. She breeds under the pre-fix, Valhala, and currently resides in Florida and Connecticut.
“The Official AKC Standard for the Flat-Coated Retriever.” American Kennel Club, 1990 Phillips, Brenda. Flat-Coated Retrievers: World of Dogs. TFH Publications Inc, 1996. Laughton, Nancy. A Review of the Flat-Coated Retriever. Pelham Books, 1980 PHOTOS COURTESY OF DAWN BUTTION, LIZ SAUNDERS, CHRISTIN PRICE, HALEY WALKER, HALEY WATSON, AND MARLA DOHENY
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FLAT-COATED RETRIEVER VERSATILE FAMILY COMPANION HUNTING RETRIEVER Distinctive and most important features are the silhouette, smooth effortless movement, and head type. QUICK STUDY
S cissors bite preferred, level bite acceptable. Severe faults: Wry, undershot or overshot bites, noticeable gap. Body slightly longer than tall, with length in ribcage. Deep chest and rib. Prominent prow, well-developed forechest; never loosely coupled. Medium bone, feet oval or round, medium-sized, tight with well-arched toes and thick pads.
Coat solid black or liver. Straight, flat-lying, moderate length and fullness, high luster. DQ: Yellow, cream or any other color than black or liver. Shown with as natural a coat as possible. Shaving or barbering of the head, neck or body coat must be severely penalized. Gait balanced, free, efficient. Best appraised at trot; loose lead.
Neck moderately long. Topline strong and level, supple in motion. Tail extends to hock, fairly straight, in motion without curl.
Males: 23 to 24 ½ inches | Females: 22 to 23 ½ inches Variation more than 1 inch either way not practical for work.
Shoulder blades long, well laid back, upper arm of approximately equal length. Elbows clean, close to body.
“One-piece” head, muzzle nearly equal in length and breadth to skull.
Length from point of shoulder to rearmost point of upper thigh slightly longer than height at withers. Females may be slightly longer.
Good turn of stifle. Balanced angula- tion between front and rear. Second thigh as long or slightly longer than upper thigh. Hock well let down.
Drawings © Marcia Schlehr
Nose black on black dogs, brown on liver dogs; large, open nostrils.
Fairly flat skull, moderate breadth and flat, clean cheeks, with long, strong, deep muzzle well filled-in before, between, and beneath eye. Gradual, slight stop, brows slightly raised and mobile. Eyes set widely apart, medium-sized, almond-shaped, dark brown or hazel; eye rims self-colored and tight.
Ears relatively small, well set on, close to side of head and thickly feathered, not low set.
Jaws long and strong, with lips fairly tight, firm, and clean.
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SO YOU WANT TO BREED YOUR FLAT-COAT?
BY ANDREA HOLSINGER M ost Flat-Coat owners love their dogs. As a matter of fact, it has been the relationship between dog and owner that is the heart of the Flat-Coat breed. How- ever, loving your dog is not a reason to breed your dog. Instead, you must love the breed enough to become the most knowledgeable and educated Flat-Coat enthusiast that you can. To love the breed is to look long and hard at your Flat-Coat and ask: “Does my dog have anything to offer the breed as a pro- ducer?” To love the breed is to wait until you know this breed like the back of your hand before breeding a litter. To love the breed is to train and show judiciously so that you understand talent, type and temperament. Your first couple of Flat-Coats may or may not be of breeding quality. Also, more should go into the decision to breed than the quality of the dog. You need to be ready to breed and that takes time and effort. Using your first few Flat-Coats as learning tools is an excellent way to educate yourself. Set some goals in the breed ring, obedience, the field and tracking. Join a fly ball team and get involved with pet facilitated therapy. If you cannot find the time to educate yourself, then you should not breed Flat-Coats. Top breeders spend most of their free time thinking, breathing and working Flat-Coats. That commitment to our breed has protected it from harm. Anyone can put two dogs together and allow them to breed. The term “breeder” has been applied to such notable and influential people as Bonnie and Glenn Conner. The term breeder has also been applied to those who run puppy mills. Anyone can breed dogs; only a few put the time and effort into their programs to do it right. It is difficult to describe the level of knowledge that a person should achieve before breeding. The following is a checklist of ideas, not to be considered com- plete. Let us assume that your potential breeding stock is of accept- able quality, proven by achieving some titles and has something out- standing to offer the breed. Can you, the potential breeder, respond positively to the following: A. You are at a dog show. A group of Flat-Coat enthusiasts are outside the ring. They begin to discuss breed type, using sev- eral dogs in the ring as examples of different breed types. If all of the Flat-Coats in the ring look alike, you are not ready to consider breeding. B. You are at an obedience trial. Some people begin to discuss front end assemblies and their relationship to a dog’s abil- ity to jump. Different theories are presented. If you do not understand at all or understand the discussion but cannot see it with your own eye, or do not understand many of the terms used, you are not ready to breed. C. If you do not have a mental picture inside your head of the perfect Flat-Coat with every detail included, you are not ready to breed. “DON’T BREED YOUR DOG SO THAT YOU MAY BRAG TO OTHERS ABOUT THE VALUE OF HER PUPPIES. Your dog’s most important value should be in your heart.”
D. Can you answer, in detail, a question about why you want to breed your bitch? In other words, what does she have to offer the breed? Also, do you know her faults, and how to choose a dog to offset her faults and compliment her? If you cannot answer these, you are not ready to breed. E. Do enough Flat-Coat people know and respect your accomplishments in the breed to consider purchasing a puppy from you? Are you ready to educate new puppy owners and to keep strings on your stock? Are you ready to enforce the terms of your agreement if someone breaks them? Will you put written spay and neuter agreements on all non- breeding stock? If not, do not breed. An excellent litter of Flat-Coats in the wrong hands can damage the breed. Be responsible for your stock. F. Do you understand the following terms and have you worked your dog enough to know where she fits into each of these? IN THE FIELD: Nose, Style, Marking Ability, Memory, Courage, Physical Ability, Birdiness, Trainability IN OBEDIENCE: Style, Stability, Willingness, Intelligence, Trainability BREED RING: Style, Conformation, Attitude, Stability, Type THE HOME: Stability, Temperament, Social interaction w/ people, Social interaction w/other dogs, Sensitivity G. Do you have long term goals established in your breeding program? Do you know what you want to accomplish and do you have a general idea of how you are going to do that? If you cannot think past your first litter and do not know if you want to breed past one litter, then why do it at all? Let some- one else breed and buy a puppy from an experienced breeder. Just having a breeding quality dog does not a breeder make. Your level of knowledge about the bred is just as important as the quality of the dog. If you expect to reap some monetary benefits from the production of puppies do not breed. Often, people try to express their love for and pride in their dog by defining those feelings in monetary terms. For instance, you exclaim to a friend, “My dog just became a champion, which makes her worth a lot of money. Her puppies will sell for a lot too.” Most people feel embarrassed about expressing their love for their dog and, instead, try to explain the situation in terms they think their friends will understand. Most people outside the dog world still believe that involvement with dogs is a business situation. Few think of dogs as a hobby. For most of us, that is exactly what it is. Don’t breed your dog so that you may brag to others about the value of her puppies. Your dog’s most important value should be in your heart. The truth is that very few dogs out of any litter should be bred. The odds are against any one person getting a breeding quality ani- mal every time they purchase one. The odds stack even more heav- ily against that person being someone who should be breeding dogs. Breeding Flat-Coats indiscriminately is a dangerous and insidi- ous practice. There are no exceptions to the rule. Anyone who breeds a litter when they have questionable stock or lack an exten- sive base of knowledge is endangering this breed. Please, if you love this breed as most of us do, then help protect it. The formu- la is a simple one: If you are not prepared, do not breed. If you do breed, control what you breed with co-ownerships and spay/neuter agreements.
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by HELEN SZOSTAK
The Flat-Coated Retriever Form & Function
T he Flat-Coated Retriever originat- ed in England in the mid 1800s. Man’s improved ability to shoot game at a distance necessitated a dog capable of retrieving it and Flat-Coats came to be for exactly that purpose. Early Flat- Coats were kept as personal shooting dogs and were favorites of gamekeepers. The breed was brought to type by Mr. Shirley, who was also the founder of the Kennel Club in England. As dog shows became popular, the handsome and elegant Flat-Coat became popular at shows. Gamekeepers and other owners brought their prized shooting dogs to show to compete based on their conformation. Flat-Coats were popu- lar competitors in early field trials as well, for many years they were the most popular field trial dog in England. When working in the field, Flat-Coats have excellent noses, soft mouths and great heart. Watching them you can’t help but see the incredible joy they have in doing their job. They are good markers and steady workers, they are also very smart and somewhat inde- pendent. They work with moderate speed and style. They love to work and work with people and are always happy. This quality has made them a very multipurpose breed. Many Flat- Coats that win in the conformation ring also have initials after their names. The breed excels in any activity requiring a working relationship between dog and human. When judging the Flat-Coat it is of para- mount importance to remember the purpose for which the breed was created. The modern Flat-Coat is one of the few sporting breeds that have not diverged into a working and a show type. The same dog that wins in the show ring today should be able to run in a hunt test or trial tomorrow, and then go and run agility or do obedience. Many Flat-Coat owners are involved in multiple aspects of the dog game and Flat-Coats easily transition between them. As owners, we prize and take pride in this abil- ity of Flat-Coats to be beautiful and work- manlike and we try very hard to preserve it. Flat-Coats are one of the few Sporting breeds that do not have a division in type between the working and show dogs. We as Flat-Coat breeders are trying hard to keep it that way. We want our dogs to be able to do it all.
Silhouette of the Flat-Coated Retriever, both moving (above) and standing (below). (Illustrations by Marcia Schlehr from The Illustrated Breed Standard of the Flat- Coated Retriever)
“Watching them you can’t help but see the incredible joy they have in doing their job.”
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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.
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This bitch shows smooth, efficient movement and balanced reach and drive. (Photo by Chris Butler)
The breed is named the “Flat-Coated Retriever”. The coat is therefore very important to the breed. It is first a functional jacket, it must be sufficient to protect the dog in all sorts of weather and cover conditions. It is moder- ately thick, straight and flat-lying with sufficient fullness, length and texture to protect the dog. It is not fluffy, silly or curly; it may be slightly wavy. This breed was once called the Wavy-Coated Retriever and this type of coat still appears in the breed. As long as it is flat-lying, it is not penalized. When in full coat, the ears, front, chest, back of forelegs, hind legs, thighs and bottom of the tail are feathered. The coat should not be excessive. Exces- sive coat will pick up more burrs and weeds, and impede the dog’s ability to work in heavy cover. The dog may have a mane of thicker, longer coat over the neck, shoul- ders and withers. Sometimes this ends in the middle of the back, giving the impression of a dip in the topline, which is not real. Please use your hands to evaluate the topline if necessary. The standard requires that the dog be shown in as natural coat as possible. He should not be penalized for lack of trimming as long as they are clean and well brushed. Tidying of the ears, feet, underline and tip of the tail is acceptable. It has become fashionable in some countries to strip or shave the necks of FCs to just above the sternum; they think this helps to show the neck and emphasize the forechest. I’m hopeful that our North American judges can tell the difference between a puff of hair and the actual forechest on a dog. We want our Flat-Coats to be able to go hunting tomor- row. Stripping his neck of all of its hair removes pro- tection from brush, bramble and leaves the dog more open to cold water or injury. The standard states that, “Shaving or barbering of the head, neck or body coat must be severely penalized.” Dogs that are severely bar- bered should not be awarded first place ribbons, nor should they be given group placements. Dogs with a proper coat should not need to be barbered. Our dog is a Working Retriever, he needs the protection his natu- ral coat provides. For the same reasons whiskers should not be cut off our dogs, they are sensory organs and help to protect the dog’s face and eyes from injury. Several words have been used repeatedly in this arti- cle: strong, elegant, moderate, happy and workman- like. It is important that a winning Flat-Coat be all of those things.
A very nice male head.
Standing dog. (Photo by Wendy Tisdall)
ABOUT THE AUTHOR Helen Szostak, DVM, has been a breeder and exhibitor of Flat-Coated Retrievers for 43 years. Her Grousemoor Flat-Coats have produced many champions, National Specialty BOB and BOS winners, Group winners and placers, OTCH, Mach, MH and TDX dogs as well as other title holders. She was awarded the AKC’s Sporting Dog Breeder of the year award in 2003. She has been an AKC delegate, National Specialty Chairperson and has held many offices in Breed and All Breed Clubs. She currently belongs to the Flat-Coated Retriever Society’s of the US, Canada and the UK and the Marshbanks Golden Retriever Club.
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THE FLAT-COATED RETRIEVER: THE “UN-GENERIC” BLACK DOG (YES, THEY COME IN LIVER COLORED, TOO)
by MARLA J. DOHENY
W hen I was asked the ques- tion why I wanted to become a licensed AKC conformation judge, I would have liked to say that it was because I wanted to make a di ff erence in the breeds I love. Th at would be a lie. Th e di ff erence that I will make in those breeds over my lifetime will be small. No matter how many champions I produce, or how many
accomplishments I have with a particu- lar dog, the di ff erence in the breed will be barely perceivable. My hopes are that through many years of dedication and breed mentoring that I will help some see the very special uniqueness of the Flat- Coated Retriever. Th roughout this article, I would like to put an emphasis on what makes this breed di ff erent from other breeds and what
the well-trained eye, be it judge or fel- low breeder, should be keen to observe. A departure from generic dog judging is what is needed in the AKC conformation world, and hopefully this short article can shed a small glimmer of light on this, finding the “un-generic” dog—this is your challenge. In recent months, I have done a fair amount of observing judging of this breed. Some judging has been surprisingly good,
“A DEPARTURE FROM GENERIC DOG JUDGING IS WHAT IS NEEDED IN THE AKC CONFORMATION WORLD...”
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“NOTHING ABOUT THIS RETRIEVER IN SILHOUETTE SHOULD BE EXTREME.”
some has been surprisingly bad. I do agree that there are certain variables that can contribute to a dog’s or handler’s perfor- mance on a given day. So what makes a judge able to evaluate a particular breed well? Specific breed knowledge. Forget the generic sound dog. It is far harder to challenge yourself to understand all the nuances of 177 individual breeds, but you owe yourself, the exhibitor and the breeds you judge. Judging the Flat-Coat—let’s get down to basics. Basics = Soundness + Type2 Type is a term that is used to describe certain characteristics of a breed that essentially make it di ff erent from any other breed. When referring to type and the Flat- coat, I would like to focus on three main features: silhouette (moving and standing), correct movement for the breed and head. Th e standard states, “ Th e distinctive and most important features of the Flat-Coat
are the silhouette (both moving and stand- ing), smooth e ff ortless movement, head type, coat and character. In silhouette, the Flat-Coat has a long, strong, clean, ‘one piece’ head, which is unique to the breed.” Th e silhouette of the breed should be evident from the first glance at the entry. Preferred height is 23"-24 ½ " at the with- ers for dogs and 22"-23 ½ " for bitches. Th e dog should not cobby in build. Th e dog should be slightly longer than tall. A short backed, square dog does not fit this silhouette. Th e Flat-Coat is a medium- boned dog, never fine or weedy. Th e neck is strong and slightly arched for retrieving strength and free from throatiness. Coat on neck is untrimmed. Th e topline should be strong and level. Chest is deep, reach- ing to the elbow and only moderately broad. Prow is prominent and rib cage is deep. Underline is tapering with moderate tuck-up. Loin is strong and long enough
to allow for proper movement but should not be open or loosely coupled. A slight slope in croup is evident and tail should be straight, well feathered and well set on. Feet should be tight, cat-like. Overall coat should be clean, shiny and have moder- ate feathering. Head should be clean and have the appearance of being molded from a single piece of clay with barely per- ceivable stop. Nothing about this retriever in silhouette should be extreme. Some standards talk about gait or movement in such simple terms— “moving freely forward” or “the action is free and e ff ortless”. Th e Flat-Coated Retriever standard is very specific with regards to movement. It states, “Sound, e ffi cient movement is of critical impor- tance to a hunting retriever. Th e Flat-Coat viewed from the side covers ground e ffi - ciently and movement appears balanced, free flowing and well coordinated, never
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was nine. Two litters of puppies were produced and the population of Flat-Coats by 1957 was twenty-two. Mr. Downing and his wife introduced these two bid- dable bitches to the obedience ring. Pewcroft Perfect achieved a UDT and Atherbram Stella a UD title. Mr. Downing, under the kennel name Bramcroft, would play a huge role in perpetuation the breed as we know it today—a complete utility dog. Over the next fifty years Flat-Coats would regain popularity, with stabilizing pedigrees, and achieve success in the breed ring, the field and in all areas of AKC competitions. Th e Flat-Coated Retriever remains today a bid- dable working companion not dived in performance versus show lines. In 2012 there were a total of 1116 titles earned in the breed across all AKC events. Th e breed saw 552 dogs registered in 2012 ranking 92 out of 177. 96 litters were registered. Th e Flat-Coat has a reliable temperament and is an excellent companion dog. Th e Flat-coat has been coined the “Canine Peter Pan” in A Review Of Th e Flat-Coated Retriever by Dr. Nancy Laughton. Th is is the reason my husband and I chose the Flat-Coat- ed Retriever to raise our children, but can also serve as a reason to proceed with caution when consider- ing this breed. Although always known for their exuberant personality, trainability and persistent wagging tail—the Flat-Coat may be too much for the nov- ice dog owner. “THE FLAT-COAT HAS A RELIABLE TEMPERAMENT AND IS AN EXCELLENT COMPANION DOG.”
choppy, mincing or ponderous. Front and rear legs reach well forward and extend well back, achieving long clean strides. Front legs should reach beyond the nose and the rear legs should drive well back in a pen- dulous motion in balance with the front. Th e topline should be evaluat- ed while dog is moving and appear strong and level. In motion, the tail is carried happily with a smooth extension o ff the back. Shoulders are long, and well laid back, shoulder blade with upper arm are of approximately equal length to allow for e ffi cient reach while the rear angle and turn of stifle, should be free of exaggerations to allow good rear drive. Moving silhouette of this breed should be e ff ortless and graceful.” The standard also states that the impression of the skull and muz- zle being “cast in one piece” is created by the fairly flat skull of mod- erate breadth and flat, clean cheeks, combined with the long, strong, deep muzzle which is well filled in before, between and beneath the eyes. When viewed from above, the muzzle is nearly equal in length and breadth to the skull. The stop is a gradual, slight and barely perceptible, avoiding a down or dish-faced appearance. Brows are slightly raised and mobile, giving life to the expression. Stop must be evaluated in profile so that it will not be confused with the raised brow. The occiput should not be prominent, and the skull should form gently without being too wide or dome-like. Traditionally, the Flat-Coat has been described in the standard as showing “power without lumber and raciness without weediness.” The well-known catch phrase contained in the standard is not with- out problems when it comes to interpretation. The word “power” should describe a moderate animal, well muscled, able to do a day’s work that moves effortless around the ring. A quarter horse has power without lumber. “Raciness”—this is another difficult word to inter- pret meaning. A thoroughbred horse is racy without being weedy. In a recent discussion with other breeders and judges of this breed, we have come to the conclusion that there have only been a handful of Flat-Coats in all of history that have had too much substance. To the contrary, the number of animals without sufficient bone for their size are far too numerous to count. This should be kept in mind when judging the breed. It is my hope that this brief article will help when judging and observ- ing such a unique and rare breed as the Flat-Coated Retriever. Please do your best in trying to find the “un-generic” dog. Th e reward will be great. I will always look forward to my next assignment—for the day I walk in the ring, and see the dog that makes my heart flutter. Th ere is not a more beautiful sight. Th at is why I became an AKC judge.
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