The Curly Retrievers

Retrievers have many splendid rescue feats to their credit and have saved the lives of many people, particularly children, who have fallen into rivers and got into difficulties.

Are Curly Coated Retrievers good family dogs?

They probably have more rescues to their credit than any other breed.

They are big and strong enough to keep an average-sized adult afloat and have no thought of danger when this work has to be done.

Curly Retrievers require a lot of “barbering,” if they are to be presented properly in the show ring.

Each curl receives individual attention from the really keen handler.

The coat is damped and all straggling ends snipped off as the curl is tightened. It is really an education to see one of these dogs prepared properly for the show.

It is practically a lost art nowadays because the competition is not nearly as keen, and the majority of our present-day curlies are reasonably tight in curl.

Handsome Dog

While many consider his coat to be a disadvantage, others claim that it is a help to him in the water and acts, more or less as a “life belt,” giving him greater floating power.

There is no question that it enhances his appearance. A well turned out curly Retriever is a very handsome dog indeed, and it is a pity that more of them are not seen at our major shows.

The “Curly” is the largest member of the Retriever family, the average height being about 26 inches at the shoulder, and weight 75 pounds.

He is an upstanding dog possessing both agility and endurance.

Like all gundogs, he must have a gentle yet intelligent expression and be amenable to discipline at all times.

The dogs are very easy to train for either field or ordinary obedience work and should be under control at all times.

Accepted colors are black and liver and the only white permitted is a very small spot on the chest.

The head is long with a well-proportioned skull, which is not quite flat on top and the jaws long and powerful with no suggestion of snippiness.

The nose is wide and the eyes in the blacks fairly large and dark as possible.

The eyes in the liver-colored dogs are considerably lighter than those in the black, and the nose of the liver-colored dog matches his coat in color.

The ears are rather small, set low on the head and are covered with small tight curls.

Tail, Float & Rudder

The neck is long and powerful and set into deep sloping shoulders.

The body is fairly short with deep, well-sprung ribs and a ribbed back for maximum strength. The loin is wide and deep and great width is required from hip to buttocks.

The tail is moderately short, thick at the root and tapering to a point. It is carried practically in a line with the back and acts as a rudder for the dog in the water.

Instead of the “otter tail” found in the Labrador, the curly Retriever’s tail is covered with a mass of dense, tight curls which have a rather similar effect as a “float” when the dog is swimming.

The legs are heavily boned, the forelegs straight, with strong pasterns and deep, well-cushioned feet.

Strong pads and toenails are both necessary as the dog must be able to retrieve on land as well as water.

As the speed and staying power are both necessary, we look for nicely turned stifles, clean, well let down hocks and no suggestion of feet turning inwards or outwards at either end when the dog is moving.

The face and lower parts of the legs are smooth but the rest of the body and head are clothed with tight, crisp curls all over.

A slight openness of curl does not penalize very severely, provided it is even in this respect all over, but an open “saddle” with tight curls elsewhere is most undesirable.

The Retriever does not require brushing, but regular washing will help to keep his curls tight and the dog free from dirt and vermin.

The curls are trimmed with an ordinary pair of hairdresser’s scissors and if a “finished” effect is desired can be tightened with a thin pencil.


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Hannah Elizabeth is an English animal behavior author, having written for several online publications. With a degree in Animal Behaviour and over a decade of practical animal husbandry experience, Hannah's articles cover everything from pet care to wildlife conservation. When she isn't creating content for blog posts, Hannah enjoys long walks with her Rottweiler cross Senna, reading fantasy novels and breeding aquarium shrimp.

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