Curly-Coated Retriever Guide

Sporting Dog Breeds

The curly is the most graceful and elegant of the retrievers, appearing longer legged and more agile than the others. It has an alert upright carriage, enabling it to mark downed animals easily, be they fur or feather. It is an active land retriever and a hardy water retriever, able to withstand the rigors of repeated retrieves into heavy thickets or cold waters. Its distinctive coat provides protection from cold and briars and is made up of a dense mass of tight curls.

The curly-coated retriever is an eager and tireless land and, especially, water retriever outdoors, but a calm companion indoors. It is sensitive and gentle, very good with children, and responsive to commands. It is reserved with strangers. One of the most courageous of the retrievers, it is nonetheless quite sensitive. It makes an ideal partner for an active, outdoor-oriented person who also wants a loyal family companion.


FAMILY gundog, retriever



ORIGINAL FUNCTION water retrieving

TODAY'S FUNCTION water retrieving, retriever field trials, companion

AVERAGE SIZE OF MALE Height: 25-27 Weight: 60-70

AVERAGE SIZE OF FEMALE Height: 23-25 Weight: 60-70


Energy level Medium energy

Exercise needs Medium

Playfullness Moderately playful

Affection level Moderately affectionate

Friendliness toward other dogs Friendly

Friendliness toward other pets Very friendly

Friendliness toward strangers Shy

Ease of training Moderately easy to train

Watchdog ability High

Protection ability Not very protective

Grooming needs Low maintenance

Cold tolerance High tolerance

Heat tolerance Medium tolerance

The curly is an easy dog to maintain, requiring no unusual care. It needs daily exercise, preferably involving swimming and retrieving. It can live outdoors in temperate weather, but it does best as an indoor – outdoor dog. Because brushing diminishes the tight curls, it should be combed only occasionally, preferably before getting wet. Some very minimal scissoring may be desirable to tidy up scraggly hairs. It does need regular brushing during its shedding seasons.
• Major concerns: CHD
• Minor concerns: none
• Occasionally seen: distichiasis, cataract
• Suggested tests: hip
• Life span: 8 – 12 years
One of the oldest and most distinctive of the retriever breeds, the curly-coated retriever may have been used in England for retrieving as long ago as the late 18th century. Although its exact origin remains conjectural, it probably stems from crosses of the descendants of the Old English water dog with the Irish water spaniel, and a small type of Newfoundland. These breeds together combined some of the finest water dogs in existence into one animal. Later crosses to the poodle, a fine water retriever in its own right, served to further enhance the tight curls. By the mid-1800s, the curly-coated retriever was the most popular retriever in England, prized not only for its unsurpassed retrieving abilities but also as a staunch and trustworthy companion. It was among the first breeds to be exhibited at English dog shows. Exports to Australia and New Zealand were well-received, and the breed still enjoys great popularity there. The first exports to America were in 1907, with the breed receiving AKC recognition in 1924. The breed never became particularly popular in America, however. Even popularity of the curly in England waned during the 1900s. One theory about its fall in popularity is that several atypical curlies gave the breed the undeserved reputation as hard-mouthed retrievers, causing newer hunters to choose other retrievers. Those who give the curly a chance have found that the breed is actually quite soft-mouthed. They also find that it makes a versatile family companion.