Curly Coated Retriever

65-85 lbs
United Kingdom

The Labrador Retriever is one of the most popular dog breeds in the USA, but their curly-haired cousins are a lesser spotted sight in the country’s parks — in fact, there are estimated to be only 2,000 or so Curly Coated Retrievers in the USA and a further 3,000 dotted around the globe.

In this introduction to the Curly Coated Retriever, you’ll learn:

  • The breed is thought to be related to the Poodle, St John's Water Dog and Spaniel
  • This former working dog needs up to 90 minutes of exercise a day
  • A Curly Coated Retriever puppy needs socialization to get them used to strangers
  • The curly coat only needs brushing during the shedding season

Curly Coated Retriever Breed Overview

Not only does the Curly Coated Retriever — or Curlies as they’re known to their many admirers — bear a passing resemblance facially to both Labrador and Golden Retrievers, but they share a fair few personality traits, too.

This large curly haired dog was also prized for their obedience, intelligence and stamina by hunters in Great Britain during the 18th and 19th centuries. They’re also known to be friendly and playful when introduced into a household as a family pet.

However, there are some key differences. For a start, there are the dense curls that cover the breed’s body — you might be relieved to learn that these don’t require much by way of grooming.

Curly Coated Retrievers also tend to be leaner and more muscular than other retrievers and need a substantial amount of daily exercise. They’re also a little more reserved around strangers, which makes socialization at an early age all the more important.

All-in-all, the Curly Haired Retriever dog makes for a perfect pet for an active family, even those with small children and other pets.

The Curly Coated Retriever might be a relatively rare breed, but a good vet will know all of their quirks. Taking out a pet insurance policy ensures you and your dog have access to this vital expertise when it’s needed most

purpose Purpose
Retrieving, Hunting
history Date of Origin
ancestry Ancestry
Spaniels, St. John’s Water Dog, Retrieving Setters, Poodles

Curly Coated Retriever Health

Sketch of Curly Coated Retriever
Average Size
Male Curly Coated Retriever size stats
Height: 25-27 inches Weight: 80-100 lbs
Female Curly Coated Retriever size stats
Height: 23-25 inches Weight: 65-85 lbs

Curly Coated Retriever Breed History

As is the case with lots of dog breeds, the early history of the Curly Coated Retriever is a little hazy. Historic records show they originated from the United Kingdom and educated guesses can be made about their lineage — it’s likely that the Poodle, St John’s Water Dog, Retrieving Setter and Spaniel would be found in their family tree if traced back far enough.

The Curly Coated Retriever was a favored gun dog among the hunting class for their ability to retrieve fallen prey. However, the breed’s adorable curls meant that they were shown at English dog shows from as early as 1860. This won them new admirers and a club dedicated to the breed was established in the UK during the 1890s.

It was around this time that there was a movement to set dog breed standards and this happened in 1913 for the Curly Coated Retriever. The American Kennel Club (AKC) welcomed the breed onto its books in 1924.

Despite this recognition, the breed’s numbers waned during the first half of the 20th century, partly down to the decline in hunting but also due to the burgeoning popularity of the Labrador and Golden Retrievers.

Thankfully, fans of the breed prevented them from going extinct and today, the Curly Coated Retriever is in no danger of disappearing — even if Labrador and Golden Retrievers continue to hog the spotlight.

Curly Coated Retriever Breed Appearance

The Curly Coated Retriever is named after their most distinguishing feature — the small, dense curls that cover their body. Occasionally these dogs can have longer fringes of hair around the belly, ears, thighs, and back of the forelegs.

The coat on the face and forehead, front of forelegs and feet will usually be straighter. When it comes to the color, most Curlies are either black or a reddish-brown.

These canines are strong and robust in appearance and carry themselves as confident and alert dogs. The body is normally longer than it’s tall. They possess laid-back shoulders and a deep chest, with straight forelegs that are set under the body.

The hindquarters are muscular and the feet are rounded with webbed and arched toes. The tail will be no longer than the hock and when moving, it will be carried straight and level with the topline.

The head of a Curly Coated Retriever is wedge-shaped in both the front and the side. They have strong jaws with a scissor bite, and strong, medium length necks that are arched slightly. The eyes are large, oval-shaped eyes and usually green or hazel. The ears are small and lie close to the head slightly above eye level.

Similar Breeds to the Curly Coated Retriever

There are other dog breeds that share similarities to Curly Coated Retrievers, including:


Curly Coated Retriever Breed Maintenance

Any parent with curls on their own head will know that they can sometimes be difficult to tame, but thankfully, this isn’t the case with the Curly Coated Retriever — in fact, this breed only really needs brushing in the Spring and Fall when they start to molt. Use a plastic or wooden open-toothed comb and don’t overdo it, as this can cause the coat to become frizzy.

The shedding seasons are the best time for baths as well. Parents shouldn’t need to regularly bathe their Curly outside of these periods, unless their pet has rolled in something especially offensive to the nostrils.

In addition to this coat care, parents will need to stay on top of other tasks, namely brushing teeth at least twice a week, checking ears for signs of infection and trimming nails as soon as they start clicking against the floor.

Curly Coated Retriever Health Risks

The Curly Haired Retriever is considered a largely healthy breed and the fact there aren’t too many of them around means that there aren’t many unscrupulous breeders putting dogs’ safety at risk in order to make a quick buck.

However, there are a few health conditions to which the breed is more predisposed to getting throughout their lifetime. The main concerns include:

Elbow and Hip Dysplasia

Much like fellow retriever breeds that love to run around, instances of Elbow or Hip Dysplasia have been noted in Curly Coated Retrievers. This happens when the bone and socket in either the elbow or hip joints fail to develop correctly, leading them to move with friction against one another. The main symptoms are limping and pain.

Fortunately, vets have a choice of treatment options. In mild cases, weight loss or supplements might soothe the worst symptoms, but physiotherapy or surgery can aid with more serious instances.

Progressive Retinal Atrophy

Curly Coated Retrievers have a strong sense of sight that made them an ideal hunting companion. However, they can occasionally be affected by Progressive Retinal Atrophy, a condition that leads to vision deterioration.

This usually begins between the age of six and eight. Cells in the retina begin to die off prematurely and this can lead to vision slowly getting worse, sometimes to the point of total blindness. Occasionally, parents will be able to see cloudiness in their dog’s eyes or uncharacteristically uncoordinated behavior.

Sadly, there’s no known cure for this hereditary disease and the main thing parents should do is maintain a safe living environment for their dog.

Glycogen Storage Disease

There’s also a specific type of Glycogen Storage Disease that’s most commonly seen in German Shepherds and Curly Coated Retrievers. This genetic defect means that an affected animal can’t produce its own glucose, which leads to chronic low blood sugar. It also causes glycogen and fat to build up in the liver, kidneys and muscles, impairing their function.

The main symptoms — lethargy, weakness and weight loss — present themselves at a young age. Sadly, dogs diagnosed with the condition cannot recover and the majority will die within a year. Responsible breeders will take dogs suspected of being a carrier of the disease out of the breeding pool — this is the only preventative measure that exists, unfortunately.

Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus

Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus (GDV) is more commonly known as bloat and tends to affect dogs with a similar build to the Curly Coated Retriever — i.e. any dog with deep, narrow chest.

GDV happens when a dog’s stomach fills with gas. Sometimes, it stops at this stage, but in more concerning instances, the organ twists upon itself and cuts off blood and oxygen to the stomach. This can be fatal in a matter of hours.

If you notice your dog retching, panting, drooling or looking down at their abdomen in distress, it’s important to seek immediate veterinary attention.

There are certain ways a parent can try to prevent bloat from happening. Firstly, they should spread meals throughout the day to prevent bouts of overeating. A bowl designed to slow down eating is also useful for this purpose. In addition, parents should avoid exercising their dog directly before or after mealtimes.

A wellness plan is just that — a package of routine healthcare tests and screenings that’ll keep your pet fit and well. Take a look at Wag!’s option

What to feed a Curly Coated Retriever

This large curly haired dog has a pretty hefty appetite and they’ll need a lot of food to keep them fuelled up after their long walks. Parents should seek quality as well as quantity when it comes to dog food — that means high protein levels to help with muscle growth and repair, as well as lots of vitamins and minerals, too.

Avoid recipes that are heavy on carbohydrates or filler ingredients, as these can encourage obesity — it’s important to ensure Curly Coated Retrievers don’t put on too much weight, as this can put pressure on their joints, which can be prone to problems.

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Curly Coated Retriever Temperament

Curly Coated Retrievers are similar to Labrador and Golden Retrievers in many regards. Not only are they easy-going and friendly, but they’re known for their loyalty and obedience, too. This makes training relatively easy, although a Curlie’s innate curiosity and low attention span means variation will be key.

Although these dogs generally get along well with small children and other pets, they can be a little reserved around strangers. It’s important that Curly Coated Retriever puppies are socialized at an early age to get them used to different stimuli.

A Curly Coated Retriever puppy is an energetic and rambunctious thing, and they have the habit of nipping or chewing at anything they can find. Crate training is often recommended to keep them out of trouble at this formative age and gets them used to confined spaces, which might come in handy should they ever need to be boarded when they’re older.

Then there’s the matter of exercise. This is an energetic breed that needs up to an hour-and-a-half’s activity a day, be that walking, running or even swimming. It helps to have a house with a back yard so they can expel a little energy while parents are otherwise occupied.

And never forget playtime — although this is a working dog at heart, the Curly Coated Retriever loves games and silliness. Puzzle toys in particular are a great way to keep their minds occupied.

Activity Level
low activity medium activity high activity
Low Medium High
Rec. Walk Mileage Per Week
14 miles
walk mileage
Minutes of Activity Per Day
90 minutes
activity minutes

Top Curly Coated Retriever Breeders

Check out who made our list for the most reputable Curly Coated Retriever breeders of 2024.
Top Curly Coated Retriever breeder Summerwind Retrievers
Summerwind Retrievers
Buckeye, Arizona
Top Curly Coated Retriever breeder Brio Retrievers
Brio Retrievers
Thompson, Ohio
Top Curly Coated Retriever breeder Darkside Curly Coated Retrievers
Darkside Curly Coated Retrievers
Vienna, Ohio
Top Curly Coated Retriever breeder Charwin Curly Coated Retrievers
Charwin Curly Coated Retrievers
Los Angeles, California
Top Curly Coated Retriever breeder SoftMaple Curly Coated Retriever
SoftMaple Curly Coated Retriever
Croghan, New York
Top Curly Coated Retriever breeder Windsong Retrievers
Windsong Retrievers
Memphis, Tennessee

Curly Coated Retriever Owner Experiences

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