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Curly-Coated Retrievers

The “Blue Collar” Retriever

ratlodiThe Curly Coated is the tallest of all Retrievers, and with origins in sixteenth century England, it may be the oldest of all the retrievers, as well. It was the first breed classified as a retriever and exhibited at a dog show, and of the curly coated breeds, is the only one named for its curly coat. Also differing from the more popular retrievers is that the Curly’s body structure is more muscular, its body slightly longer than tall, and it has a coat, but no undercoat.

Some breed historians have termed these dogs as the “blue collar” of retrievers because they seemed to be owned more by gamekeepers and poachers than the upper classes. Perhaps the latter sneered at these retrievers as “meat dogs” that found birds left behind by other dogs. A good thing can’t be kept a secret for long. A keen sense of humor, and a brain that never stops has made a great many fans of the Curly Coat.


Dana sees herself as more of a "White Collar Retriever"





Covered In Armor: The Curly-Coat Retriever

The curly-coat retriever is tough in water and on land.
by James B. Spencer 13th, 2011

lodiduck Developed in England by gamekeepers through the first two-thirds of the 19th century, the curly-coat retriever was not “to the manor born.”

No, in traditional British driven hunts, this blue-collar retriever didn’t get to work side-by-side with England’s blue-bloods: the flat-coat, the Labrador and the golden. Instead, after the hunt, the gamekeeper and his dog picked up the shot birds that the nobility’s dogs failed to find. This job frequently lasted far into the night.

lodiduck2 British gamekeepers, hard-pressed and practical men, developed this breed for that exact purpose. Being busy full-time managing their noble bosses’ estates, birds and dogs, these men created a breed that required minimal training — a breed that marks well, retrieves naturally and has an outstanding nose.

Since those driven hunts had no limit on the number of birds shot, they produced a breed with stamina and perseverance. Because the cover on British estates could be punishing, they formed a breed with an almost bulletproof coat that, happily, is also almost waterproof. And, not surprisingly, they developed a large breed — on the average, our largest retriever.


Protective coat

IMG_8137 According to the AKC breed standard, curly males should stand between 25 and 27 inches at the withers, and females between 23 and 25 inches. Males typically weigh about 80 pounds, females about 70. Some specimens, especially those with ancestors in Australia or New Zealand, are larger. Although quite muscular, the curly stands tall and lithe, rather than short and stocky, thus moves gracefully. In color, the coat is either solid black or solid liver, with perhaps a few white hairs on the chest.

12439201_10206794178667743_2642513677351146042_n The coat is the breed’s most distinguishing, most valuable and yet most misunderstood feature. When they hear the breed’s name, many assume the coat is soft and fluffy, given to picking up burrs that go in easily and sink in deeply. This misconception has prevented many hunters who could have benefited from the curly’s many talents from even considering one. Too bad.

Actually, the curly’s coat comprises a mass of short, tight, hard curls that provide protection like a suit of armor. Such a coat shields the dog from both punishing cover and icy water. In the uplands, a curly might pick up a few burrs, but they remain on the outer surface, where the owner can easily pluck them off — if the dog doesn’t beat him to it. In the water, this coat protects the dog so well that even after many retrieves, his skin remains dry.



princess Loyal to One

The curly matures slowly, both physically and mentally, but especially the latter. He might not emotionally mature until his third birthday. Whether mature or immature, he’s milder-mannered than the Chesapeake. Nevertheless, the curly is no shrinking violet. In fact, his natural courage and determination complement his physical strength quite nicely.

A one-family dog that works out better living in the home rather than in a kennel, he chooses his own favorite person from among the family members, and does so in some mysterious way that even long-time curly fanciers cannot understand. He’ll try especially to please that one person, both around home and in ordinary situations out in the field.

But sometimes in the field, he ignores the boss’s command and responds instead to an inner voice that seems to take over.

Afterward, he’ll accept chastisement stoically, but that inner voice will never go completely away. “Thank heaven it won’t!” says the typical curly owner, realizing this trait springs from the breed’s outstanding natural instincts.

Come back here!

lazy2Both protective and territorial, the curly makes an excellent watchdog. However, he warns and admonishes for as long as possible before getting physical with an intruder. He stands his ground, bristles and growls, seeming to say, “Please don’t make me do something we’ll both regret.” Said intruder should heed that heartfelt admonition, for if pushed too far, the curly can get physical.

As an innate retriever and an extraordinary marker, the curly doesn’t take readily to the rote drilling required in blind retrieve training. Like other naturally gifted breeds, the curly gets creative if subjected to too much repetition in a training session. He can find an amazing array of new paths to the dummy pile. This creativity prevents the chief benefit of rote drilling, which is consistency. Thus, to keep a curly from realizing he’s being drilled, a savvy trainer mixes marked retrieves in between repetitions of rote lining and casting drills.


Natural Drive

TG010487s Like his alleged American relative, the Chesapeake, the curly takes easily to serious goose hunting and will subdue the largest, most cantankerous, crippled goose. The two breeds differ only in that the curly does it with consummate competence, whereas the Chessie does it with eager delight. Either way, that goose ends up in the boss’s gamebag.


The curly loves water, which might seem surprising, since British gamekeepers developed the breed for retrieving upland game. However, when sent to Australia and New Zealand, these dogs took naturally to water. Ditto when they came to America. Perhaps we should attribute this fringe benefit to pure serendipity.


These dogs are so big and strong that they can make repeated, long swims in heavy seas without tiring. Unfortunately, with today’s waterfowling conditions and bird limits, opportunities for such extended labors seldom occur, but a dog that can handle them can also handle all the lesser chores we routinely assign to our waterfowling pooches.


lodi7 As a result, this breed makes an excellent all-around waterfowl retriever. And among our retriever breeds, the curly just might be the best upland gamebird hunter.

An upland or waterfowl hunter looking to purchase a curly-coated retriever pup or adult should consider the dog’s parents’ abilities and check references from other previous buyers. Ask to see the breeder’s broodstock hunting in the field to evaluate those talents that are potentially passed down to their offspring. With good genes, the curly-coat is likely to become a reliable hunting dog.

But with a calm nature, curly works well from a shore blind, boat or field blind, too. His coat takes on little water, which is especially nice when hunting from a boat. His calm nature also makes him a great companion for the jump shooter, who needs a dog that heels well without frequent verbal reminders. In pass shooting, where some birds fall at great distances and in challenging cover, his extraordinary marking and memory talents serve the hunter well.




destruct3 Curly-Coated Retrievers grow to become large dogs so it is essential that you start training when they are puppies. It is also important that you keep in mind that because they are such great Retrievers, they tend to mouthy and chew things up as pups. This unwanted behavior must be nipped in the bud at an early age. The Curly is highly trainable and responds well to repetitive training sessions along with positive reinforcement. His willingness to please makes the Curly-Coated Retriever the perfect candidate for AKC Sanctioned Obedience Trials.

abc1 Owners who plan to use their Curly-Coated Retrievers for hunting purposes should acclimate the pup to water as soon as possible. This doesn’t mean that a ten week old puppy should go into icy water in the freezing cold. It’s best to buy a plastic wading pool and fill it with water on a mild day. More than likely, the pup will find his way in and have a grand, old time. A retrieving dummy will make his first experience in the water a good one.







lodi pup3 


tordad The Curly-Coated Retriever is a very happy, energetic, and easy going breed. They are highly intelligent and very eager to please. They are historically hunting and gun dogs which makes them very easily trainable. However, one thing to be aware of with the Curly-Coated Retriever is that they are late bloomers. They typically do not fully mature until they are about three years of age. The owners should be patient and understand before they get the puppy that they will have a puppy for a few years.

Curlies make excellent family dogs. They are extremely loyal and desire close family contact. They show tons of affection and are very loving. They are said to be great therapy dogs. Their happy go lucky nature make them excellent animals to have if there are children in the house. Owners with children should be cautious and supervise the dog with the children because the dogs can accidentally knock the children over. The same applies for the elderly. In their first few years of maturation the puppies are very rowdy and jumpy and if there is concern about children or elderly being jumped on or knocked over it is suggested that perhaps the Curly-Coated Retriever should not be in those households. They make excellent watchdogs and will protect the family from danger or threats.



Patrick Chalmers charming poem published in 1931 emphasises the wildfowling function of the dog.




His brow is so spacious
He looks so sagacious,
The very owdacious
Old workman is he,
And out late and early,
A black dog and burly,
And coated as curly
As corkscrews can be;


When scent is all tricky,
When cover is thick, he
Can pick any dicky-
Bird, titled as game,
That you. Sir, can slaughter;
But it's in cold water
{His wig twisting tauter)
That most he wins fame;


Since to curls unmonastic
But closely elastic
No weather's too drastic,
His clusters are none
That rainstorms can raggle
Or haggle or draggle,
Agog for the gaggle,
He sits by the Gun;


And let tides as they will race
Away like a mill-race,
Shall your game, in their chill race,
Go out on the floods'?
Nay, a dog, black and curly,
With curls that are twirly,
Bobs back through the hurly- 
Green water, white suds;


With a goose that is big and
A shake of his wig [and
The diamond drops jig and
"Jump off him like rain,
The pearly drops glisten)
He's landed, "Here's this 'un,"
Says he, "Now, let's listen
For gaggles again."


Down he sits, oh, let none err,
The dog that's the one-er
To wait, with the gunner,
The jowl off the sea-
A black dog, a burly,
Whose black coat is pearly
With raindrops and curly
As corkscrews can be!




hb1 hb5

Kinky Coats!