The Curly Coated Retriever (often referred to as a Curly) is the best kept secret in dogdom. The curly is a breed of dog originally created in the sixteenth century in England to retrieve game from land or water. The Curly-Coated Retriever dog breed was popular with English gamekeepers, hunters, and poachers alike. Some breed historians have termed the curly as the “blue collar” of retrievers because they seemed to be owned more by gamekeepers and poachers than the upper classes. It was the first breed classified as a retriever and of the curly coated breeds, is the only one named for its curly coat.and was the first retriever to be exhibited at a dog show as early as the 1860’s. The first curly was imported to the US in 1907 and was the first retriever recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1924. The breed is pretty rare inside the USA but is more popular in Australia and New Zealand. It is estimated that around 1,000 curlies live in the USA and approximately 5,000 exist world wide.
The Curly is the tallest of all Retrievers, strong and robust this dog is also elegant and graceful, quick and agile. It is is an active, well-muscled dog, somewhat different in structure than the more common retrievers. A well-bred Curly will appear slightly leggy but is actually slightly longer than tall. It is balanced and agile with a significant air of endurance, strength, and grace. Show standards call for dogs to be between 25 and 27 inches at the withers (top of shoulders, with females slightly smaller ranging between 23 and 25 inches, however a wide range of sizes occurs.Taller is preferable to shorter. Weight should be in proportion to the height of the dog.
Curlies have a distinct coat from any other breed. Colors only come in solid liver and black. The liver color can range from a deep coffee color to a lighter cinnamon color. Many breeders prefer the darker coat. They are a single coated breed with no undercoat, and the small tight curls of a show-standard dog are very easy to maintain. Curlies benefit from wetting the coat as it crispens and tightens the curls. They must be drip dyed as drying them with a towel will cause the curls to frizz. The more often the dogs coat is soaked the nicer the curls become. Curlies do not require any brushing at all as brushing them also causes damage to the tight curls. Bathing is only necessary a couple of times per year and should be bathed with a mild shampoo if necessary. All Curlies shed though not to the degree that dogs with undercoats do. Bitches usually shed more heavily during their heat cycles (usually twice a year). Dogs and bitches may also shed more in the spring, especially those living in areas with extreme seasonal temperature changes. Show ring exhibitors normally trim feathering from the tail, ears, belly, legs, and feet. Shaving of the body coat is undesirable although during the heat of summer trimming down the coat will help the dog to dry faster if they are brought from the water into the house.
The Curly Coated Retriever was originally developed as a gun dog and their temperament and conformation reflect this purpose. Like most retrievers, they are valued as pets and are a lively and fun-loving breed. As long as the Curly has enough exercise, it can be calm and laid back in the home environment, which makes them both a great activity dog as well as a placid member of the family. By nature they are sometimes aloof with strangers but are usually very loyal and affectionate with their owners and family. They should never be aggressive or vicious although they have good protective instincts if they feel that they or their family is in harms way. Curlies are extremely intelligent and often referred to as self thinking. Although a very quick learner, training can sometimes be difficult as they can easily get bored with repetitive training. It’s not unusual for a Curly to ignore his trainer when an exercise or activity becomes repetitive. Once they figure something out they are eager to move on to another task.
The Curly Coated Retriever likes exercise; it was bred for athleticism and endurance in the field. A Curly is an intelligent dog and is happiest when it has adequate exercise, mental stimulation and play. Curlies are great dogs for active sports such as hunt tests, flyball, dock diving, and agility trials. They love the outdoors, working with people, and activities of any kind. Curlies make great service animals and can be relied on without waiver to perform the tasks with which they are trained. The curly relies greatly on it’s sense of smell and will often be nose to the ground to explore their environment. They are highly suited to tracking, cadaver detection and drug detention work. While active and exuberant outside, at work, at play, or in the field, the adult curly is generally a calm and gentle house dog. Because of their reserved nature young curlies need a lot of socialization need extensive exposure to people and to unusual sights and sounds, other animals and environments.Curly-Coated Retrievers take longer to mature than other breeds, so be prepared to live with a full-grown puppy for several years.
The Curly-Coated Retriever is a great companion for older children who can stand up to his size and energy level, but he may be overwhelming for younger children who are easily knocked down in play. Any time your Curly interacts with children, lay down some ground rules for dog and child. No ear pulling, tail pulling or biting allowed! For the safety of both, never leave small children unsupervised with any dog. Curly-Coated Retrievers generally do very well with other dogs and animals but socialization is still important in regard to animal interactions. Curlies are considerably deep emotionally and are not suited for kennel life away from human interaction. Without constant human interaction the curly will become heartbroken and depressed. Curlies live to love.
Curly-Coated Retrievers take longer to mature than other breeds, so be prepared to live with a full-grown puppy for several years. Average life expectancy is 9–14 years, although there are instances of Curlies living to 15 to 17 years of age.
The majority of Curly-Coated Retrievers are healthy dogs but as in all breeds there can be some health issues. Most breeders, like us, take all the precautions possible to ensure that all breeding stock is healthy, free of genetic defects and that the resulting offspring have every opportunity for a long and healthy life. We host and maintain a curly health page for the breed which lists registries and databases of dogs that are healthy and affected.