Curly-Coated Retriever

Breed Group: Sporting

Temperament and Behavior

Curly-Coated Retrievers are active dogs that love being outside. Bred to be working dogs, they are smart, strong-willed, and affectionate with family, especially children for whom they make a reasonable playmate. They tend to be cautious but polite with strangers. Most do fine but Curly-Coated Retrievers are hunting dogs. Some may not be compatible with all pets. The breed was originally developed for water retrieving, although they can also retrieve on land as they have a 'soft mouth' suitable for retrieving small game birds. They are highly active outdoors which goes well with their significant need for regular exercise. They do best with a large yard and a mental challenge to keep them from becoming destructive. But they also need to be part of the family and should not be left outside all day. They are happiest with regular chances to swim. Barking little, they still make good watchdogs and reasonable guard dogs. While tireless and enthusiastic outside, they are calm indoors.

Physical Characteristics

Large dogs, Curly-Coated Retrievers stand 23-27 inches tall and weigh 65-80 pounds. They are graceful and elegant with a coat of small, tight, crisp curls that lie close to the skin. The coat is dense and water-resistant, either black or liver in color. They require minimal grooming. Frequent brushing or combing makes their coat frizzy; brush them regularly only during seasonal shedding. With this small grooming effort, they shed no more than the average dog. Although they can live outdoors in temperate weather, they are best as indoor-outdoor dogs so they have access to family. They are moderately tolerant of both heat and cold.

Trainer's Notes

Curly-Coated Retrievers tend to be shy and require careful socialization to be comfortable around strangers and new situations. Socializing helps them get along with other dogs and polishes their exceptional ability with children. The breed is intelligent and easily trainable. They are working dogs with a great capacity to learn, but need a large quantity of exercise and mental stimulation. While they might not be the best choice, they are a reasonable choice for a first-time dog owner who is committed to giving the dog what it needs.

Photo © by Zwoenitzer available under the GNUFDL
Curly-Coated Retriever

Curly-Coated Retriever


Though less affected than many breeds, about 15% of Curly-Coated Retrievers are afflicted with hip dysplasia. As with any deep-chested dog, be aware of the potential for Bloat. Their life expectancy is about 12 years.


With their many desirable traits and the recognition gained by both the Golden and Labrador Retrievers, it is surprising the Curly-Coated Retriever is not more popular than its American Kennel Club rank of 130th. With fewer than 200 individuals registered a year, Curly-Coated Retrievers are a rare breed. Be prepared to search for a breeder and wait for a puppy.

Breed History

One of the oldest of the retriever breeds, the Curly-Coated Retriever has been used as a hunter's companion since the 1700's in England where it was developed. The Curly-Coated Retriever is an excellent water retriever and hunting companion possessing a gentle disposition which also makes it a good family dog.

Additional Information

Civil War General William Tecumseh Sherman was a Curley-Coated Retriever owner. The National Breed Club is the Curly-Coated Retriever Club of America.

Is A Curly-Coated Retriever THE BEST Dog For YOU?

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