The Flatcoated Retriever Type & Function - Edward J. Atkins

   Originally posted in the New Zealand Kennel Club Flatcoated Retriever Supplement 06

The development of retrieving dogs required the specialized need for this function. During the middle 1600’s the British Royal family and many of the nobility took refuge with the French aristocracy during the English revolution, and up to the Restoration. The French Royals had developed the sport of shooting large numbers of birds into a grand social pastime and when the British bluebloods returned to England they brought this with them. Various types of dogs were used to drive, locate or recover the game. Early prints of shooting scenes in France show many Spaniels, and some very sturdy setter like dogs  retrieving. As the shotgun technology improved there was a need for a specialized dog to collect game from land and water. Each landed family or region developed strains of retrievers from whatever worked. The heavy type setter seen in the early prints seems to have been the basis of this development. These were crossed with working “collies” to make them more trainable, the shipboard dogs brought back from the Grand Banks of Newfoundland and Labrador and truthfully anything else that man or critter could perceive. By the mid 1800’s the fashion was to favor solid black as the color for a retriever and this led to some standardization for conformation that suited the dogs to the work required. This can be seen in prints, paintings and bronze statues of dogs from the period.
When shows began the animals exhibited were the better looking workers. Dr. Bond Moore a country doctor in the British midlands was also a show judge and shooting man. He was very instrumental in helping to standardize retriever shape, size and in providing the “right sort” to wealthy patrons such as S. E. Shirley, of Ettington, who was for the next 30 years the breeds great patron and also founded the Kennel Club. What evolved is a strongly built dog of medium size with a dense weather resistant coat that lay generally flat as opposed to being curly or rough. First referred to as Wavy Coated and then with the current breed name, Flat Coated. In no manner should these terms be confused by a show trend to excessively groom for a smooth coat.

The one thing that separates a quality flatcoat from other retrievers is a very distinctive and practical outline. The head is long and clean with the strength to carry any game. It is a one piece head with little distinction between skull and foreface and these are equal in length. Stop is slight and gradual but a down face or collie like head would be atypical. It is set upon a strong neck that flows well into the dogs back. This is essential for a proper front end and makes the back of the dog appear square while the overall profile shows a long (from point of the breast or prow to the last rib) deep ribcage that tapers up to a strong square loin. The forechest is only moderately broad but viewed from front or side will show a distinct prow. This prow is a physical structure not a fluff of hair. The shoulder blade ( top point of withers to shoulder joint),  upper arm (shoulder joint to the elbow), and forearm (elbow down to the pastern or wrist) are each of approximate equal length. With the shoulder blade and upper arm set at about a 90 degree angle. This structure with the round well arched foot and strong but sloping pastern of moderate length provide the shock absorber system to protect the integrity of the skeletal system and the internal organs.

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