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Curly-Coated Retriever

The Curly-Coated Retriever, among the oldest of the retriever breeds, is a famously versatile gundog and peerless swimmer.

Overall Status

Height 23 to 27 inches
Temperament Confident, Proud, Wickedly Smart
Weight 60 to 95 pounds
Life Expectancy 10 to 12 years
Coat Color Black, Liver
Barking Level Medium

Quick Factors

Dog Friendly
Exercise Need
Grooming Needs
Strangers Friendly
Family Affectionate
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Daily Care

Grooming Tips Exercise Tips Feeding Tips Health Tips Trainability

The Curly coat of small, tight, crisp curls has little odor and is easy to care for. Comb or brush it out before bathing with an undercoat rake or a slicker brush and comb. Don’t worry that brushing will take the curl out of the coat.

Depending on how dirty Curly gets, a bath is necessary only every month or two. Most Curly coats dry quickly, sometimes in as little as ten minutes. Don’t blow dry a Curly unless you want him to look like a chia pet.

The only other grooming is a little trimming to neaten any straggly hairs, a bushy tail, or excessive feathering on the backs of the legs and behind the ears. Some Curlies have tufts of fur between their toes, giving the feet the appearance of fluffy house slippers. These tufts are usually trimmed for the show ring but can be left alone if you like the look.

Curlies don’t shed much, but they do shed. If your Curly spends time in the house, you will find hair on the furniture or floor. The coat usually sheds a small amount year-round, with a heavier shed twice a year.

Check the ears on a weekly basis for signs of infection, irritation, or wax build up. Cleanse regularly with a veterinarian-approved cleanser and cotton ball. Brush the teeth at least once per week to prevent tartar buildup and fight gum disease. Additionally, nails should be trimmed once per month if the dog does not wear down the toenails naturally.

Curlies do need a fair amount ofexercisebut are also wonderful about settling down and relaxing at home. Their home does not need to be a large one as long as they are with their owner and have adequate exercise. The breed is very easy to live with as long as they have been shown their “good manners” with basic training. They love to be outside, yet they are very happy to spend time indoors at home with their people. They are not a breed who is good at being left alone for long periods of time.

With this said, young Curly puppies should not be given too much exercise because their joints and bones are still growing and too much pressure on them could result in causing a dog a few problems later on in their lives. They should not be allowed to jump up or off furniture nor should they be allowed to run up and down the stairs because this puts too much pressure on their still growing joints and limbs.

Because of his high-energy and athleticism, the Curly-Coated Retriever needs a good quality diet specifically formulated for active dogs. It is best to feed dry food as it will help to eliminate plaque buildup on the teeth which can cause inflamed gums, tooth decay and smelly breath. The Curly should never be fed one large meal. Meals should be split into a morning meal and an evening meal to help prevent canine bloat, a potentially fatal problem. Free feeding is an option provided the dog does not overheat and become overweight.

If you get a Curly-Coated Retriever puppy from a breeder, they would give you a feeding schedule and it's important to stick to the same routine, feeding the same puppy food to avoid any tummy upsets. You can change a puppy's diet, but this needs to be done very gradually always making sure they don't develop any digestive upsets and if they do, it's best to put them back on their original diet and to discuss things with the vet before attempting to change it again.

Older dogs are not known to be fussy or finicky eaters, but this does not mean you can feed them a lower quality diet. It's best to feed a mature dog twice a day, once in the morning and then again in the evening, making sure it's good quality food that meets all their nutritional requirements. It's also important that dogs be given the right amount of exercise so they burn off any excess calories or they might gain too much weight which can lead to all sorts of health issues. Obesity can shorten a dog's life by several years so it's important to keep an eye on their waistline from the word go.

Learn about which human foods are safe for dogs, and which are not. Check with your vet if you have any concerns about your dog’s weight or diet. Clean, fresh water should be available at all times. Like many large breeds, Saint Bernard can experience bloat, a life-threatening condition where the stomach distends and twists. The causes of bloat aren’t fully understood, but experts agree that multiple, small meals per day and preventing vigorous exercise around mealtimes may help reduce the chances of it happening.

All dogs have the potential to develop genetic health problems, just as all people have the potential to inherit a particular disease. Run, don’t walk, from any breeder who does not offer a health guarantee on puppies, who tells you that the breed is 100 percent healthy and has no known problems, or who tells you that her puppies are isolated from the main part of the household for health reasons. A reputable breeder will be honest and open about health problems in the breed and the incidence with which they occur in her lines.

The average life expectancy of the Curly-Coated Retriever is between 10 and 12 years. Breed health concerns may includegastric dilatation and volvulus (bloat), canine follicular dysplasia,entropion,ectropion, distichiasis,cataracts, epilepsy, generalizedprogressive retinal atrophy, glycogen storage disease andhip dysplasia.

The owner of a Curly-Coated Retriever needs to be firm but kind in training of the dog. Too rough, and they will turn tail; too soft or unclear, and they will not pay attention. They are an intelligent breed and smart enough to need an owner who is smarter than they are. Two things are helpful to remember regarding training a Curly: First, avoid too much repetition, as the dog may become bored and lose interest. Also, it is important for an owner to try to make the learning situation as much fun as possible. The goal is to make it so that the Curly enjoys what is being taught.

Puppies should be properly socialized to develop the amiable, outgoing personality that is characteristic of the breed. They’re successful in performance and companion events such as earthdog, barn hunt, obedience, and agility.


The Curly-Coated Retriever is considered to be one of the oldest retriever breeds. It has been used for retrieving as long ago as the late eighteenth century in England, where it was developed. The breed descended from the English Water Spaniel, the St. John'sNewfoundland, the retrieving setter, thePoodleand possibly theIrish Water Spanieland theLabrador Retriever. The Curly-Coated Retriever is an excellent hunting companion and gun dog, waterfowl retriever and upland game hunter, with a gentle mouth.

They were often used to hunt duck and quail. The breed is pretty rare inside the USA but is more popular in Australia and New Zealand.The first exports to America were in 1907. The Curly-Coated Retriever was recognized by the AKC in 1924. This breed may take some effort to find. Some of the Curly's talents are hunting, tracking, retrieving, watchdog, guarding, agility and competitive obedience.

The spectacular rise of Labs and Goldens has long since eclipsed the Curly’s prominence among the retriever breeds, but they retain a small but ardent following around the world. The Curly entered the AKC Stud Book in 1924.

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