As an avid owner of a fifteen-year-old―yes you read that right, fifteen-year-old―flat coated retriever, I’m a constant PR advocate for the breed. Roscoe, our family’s flat coat, has exemplified the breed well. An empathetic, gentle spirit, his tail has yet to stop swaying. And he’s the constant shadow you’re more than happy to keep well-groomed. But, while Roscoe’s the poster child for obedience, the breed was developed to answer an avian affirmation—a bird call.
From Humble Beginnings
English bred in 1915, they never gained popularity in Europe, unfortunately; the market for a waterdog wasn’t heavily populated. But, thankfully, they fared better across the pond. Flat-coated retrievers were recognized American Kennel Club (AKC) in 1915, and soon after, they began to rise in popularity. Un-temperamental, mild-mannered, with an unmitigated itch to please, flat-coated retrievers introduced the family-friendly disposition to the water fowling world—for a short time, at least.
Quickly after rising to fame, they were pushed out of the limelight by the infamous, now over-bred Golden Retriever. And since that eclipsing, their prominence in the American kennel culture has been a flickering light. But, ironically, the breed gained popularity in Europe in the mid-1970s, decades after it was bred in England. In fact, a Scottish flat coated retriever that went by the name of Jet won “Best in Show” at the 2009 Crufts event.
Healthy Mind, Healthy Body
Health-wise, the breed finds itself somewhere in the middle of the pack. While flat coated retrievers have an unusually low incidence of hip dysplasia, it’s teeter-tottered by the breed’s high prepotency for cancer; osteosarcoma has an indecently high incidence in the breed, unfortunately. But with a median lifespan transcending a decade, it’ll be years of constant canine companionship and, if trained from a young age, endless successful birding outings.
A misplaced toy, a freshly muddied paw print—Roscoe is in close proximity. And a senior by every connotation in the canine realm, his gray-highlighted coat runs toward me with an affectionate stride. “Roscoe, you’re the only fifteen year old dog, which I know of, who still actively seeking-out squeaks toys and plush,” is the dialogue I often catch myself repeating. Unable to communicate linguistically, his slightly cataract gaze still manages to break every language barrier. “I’m a puppy at heart, and it’s just in my genes to retrieve and please. So, can you pet methodically please? I just want to know that I’m doing this ‘dog thing’ well.”