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Curly Coated Retriever

Nicole Cosgrove

June 18, 2021

curly coated retriever dog outdoors

The Curly Coated Retriever is from England and is a large purebred originally bred to be a waterfowl and upland bird hunter and retriever. It and the Wavy Coated (now called Flat Coated) Retrievers were the first retrievers to be recognized and were established as far back as the 1860s. Its name comes from the tight curls its coat is made up of. Today it still does well as a retriever but also is a good therapy dog, search and rescue dog, drug detection dog as well as competing in areas including agility, field trials, flyball and obedience.

The Curly Coated Retriever at A Glance
Name Curly Coated Retriever
Other names None
Nicknames Curly, CCR
Origin United Kingdom
Average size Large
Average weight 60 to 70 pounds
Average height 23 to 27 inches
Life span 8 to 12 years
Coat type Dense, short, water-repellant, curly, single
Hypoallergenic No
Color Brown, black, liver
Popularity Not popular – ranked 156th by the AKC
Intelligence Average, will obey first command 50% of the time or more
Tolerance to heat Very good – can handle hot climates just nothing extreme
Tolerance to cold Very good – can handle cold climates just nothing extreme
Shedding Moderate – some hair will be around the home
Drooling Low – not a breed prone to slobber or drool
Obesity Average – can gain weight if allowed to overeat but not particularly prone
Grooming/brushing Low to moderate – some basic grooming needs including brushing once or twice a week
Barking Occasional – some barking but not constant
Exercise needs Quite active – best with active owners
Trainability Moderately easy but can have a stubborn streak
Friendliness Very good with socialization
Good first dog Good but best with experienced owners
Good family pet Excellent with socialization
Good with children Excellent with socialization
Good with other dogs Very good with socialization
Good with other pets Good but need socialization – see small animals as prey to chase
Good with strangers Good with socialization and supervision
Good apartment dog Low – need space, and a yard or access to land
Handles alone time well Good – can be left alone for short periods of time
Health issues Not a healthy breed – some issues include various cancers, bloat, GSD, eye problems and joint dysplasia
Medical expenses $485 a year for basic medical care and pet insurance
Food expenses $270 a year for a good quality dry dog food and dog treats
Miscellaneous expenses $245 a year for license, miscellaneous items, basic training and toys
Average annual expenses $1000 a year as a starting figure
Cost to purchase $900
Rescue organizations Several including the Curly Coated Retriever Club of America and Curly Rescue
Biting Statistics None reported

The Curly Coated Retriever’s Beginnings

The Curly Coated Retriever is believed to be one of the oldest of the retriever dog breeds and comes from England where it is believed in its development was the St Johns Newfoundland, the Poodle, the English Water Spaniel, the retrieving setter, the Labrador and the Irish Water Spaniel. Specifics about its breeding are not actually known but it is understood it was valued especially by English gamekeepers, poachers and hunters for its ability to retrieve from both water or land. As well as being used hunter, gun dog and retriever it was used as a watchdog and guard dog. It was prized for its courage, ability and tenacity. Common birds it was used to retrieve were quail and duck.

It is known that the breed has been used since the late 1700s and it first appeared in a show ring in England in 1860. However its popularity with hunters using retrievers waned as the Labrador became the favored retriever instead. In 1907 the first one came to the US but with the advent of the first world war its numbers dropped even further and any recovery made after that war was negated when it almost disappeared after World War II.

New Lease on Life

The AKC recognized the breed in 1924 and interest in it was renewed in the late 1960s in the US. More were brought in from New Zealand, Australia and England. In 1979 the Curly Coated Retriever Club of America was formed. Its numbers today in the US still remain low where it is a rare breed. The AKC rank its popularity at 156th.

The Dog You See Today

This is a large dog weighing 60 to 70 pounds and standing 23 to 27 inches tall. It is not structured quite the same as more well known retrievers. It has a muscled body that is a bit longer than it is tall but it does have long legs. It has a strong neck that has a bit of an arch to it and it has a deep chest but nothing really wide. Its tail is natural not docked and reaches its hocks and is held straight. The dewclaws are more often removed than not. Its coat, as its name indicates, is curly with small curls that are tight, short, water-repellant and dense. Common colors are brown or liver and black. Some pet standard dogs may have white patches but it is not something show quality dogs should have. The curls are not always on the front of its front legs, forehead, feet or face. There it can be feathering or short straight hair.

The Curly Coated Retriever has a head that is less wide and more long. Its muzzle is tapered and wedge shaped and it has a black nose if its coat is black, or brown on liver coated dogs. Its nostrils are wide and it has small ears that hang down. Its eyes are almond shaped, large and either brown, amber or black in color. Yellow eyes can happen but are rare.

The Inner Curly Coated Retriever


The CCR is an alert dog and is an excellent watchdog who will bark to let you know of any intruders. It is not though considered to be a protective breed, so it can not be relied upon to act to defend you. It is an independent dog, it is intelligent and lively and does bark occasionally so will not be completely quiet. This is an easy dog to get along with, it is loyal, responsive, gentle and fun but needs to be with strong owners not meek ones. You also need to be prepared for a puppy like nature for up to three years as it takes longer to mature than others. Therefore while some new owners could be fine with this breed, some experience would be better, or at least some preparation.

The ideal home will have active owners who if not using it as a hunting dog are prepared to be active daily. It could be a great family dog, it is eager to please and is a somewhat sensitive dog who can handle being left alone for short periods of time, but can be reserved with strangers. In the home it tends to be calm once it is past the puppy stage and as long as it gets enough physical activity. It is an affectionate dog, confident and even tempered.

Living with a Curly Coated Retriever

What will training look like?

When it comes to training, it is moderately easy though this might be more on the difficult side if you are too meek with it. You will get gradual results with a firm and consistent approach using positive training methods and short and engaging sessions. They can be independent and get distracted easily when sessions become long, tedious or overly repetitive. They are far more stubborn than say the Golden Retriever. Make sure you set clear rules and stay confident and make it clear you are the pack leader.
The Curly Coated Retriever needs socialization more so than other retrievers. It is reserved around strangers which can turn to suspicion and it can lean towards being too shy and cautious. Early socialization will help it grow into a more confident and happier dog rather than something more standoffish and unable to deal with different people, sounds and places.

How active is the Curly Coated Retriever?

The Curly Coated Retriever is a fairly active breed and is more agile and leggy than other retrievers. As a hunting dog its coat was developed to handle either cold waters or heavy thickets with briars. It is not best suited to apartment living because of its size and because ideally it needs access to a large yard or even some land. How much it needs can vary but in essence the more you give it physical and mental stimulation the calmer it will be. It should have a couple of 20 to 25 minute brisk walks at least each day, along with other opportunities such as running off leash somewhere safely and playing doggy games with you. A dog park is one place where you can do this and it gives it a chance to socialize too. It will also be happy to join you with your activity, jogging, swimming, hiking, cycling and so on. As exuberant as it is outside when inside it tends to be more calm. As well as its physical needs make sure it has puzzle toys to play with, training or some form of mental stimulation daily too. If it is under exercised and bored it gets difficult, chews everything, destructive and hard to control.

Caring for the Curly Coated Retriever

Grooming needs

This breed does shed a moderate amount so there will be a need to vacuum often and you can expect to have some hair around the home. It has a single coat of tight curls and for that reason brushing or combing is not a good idea as it does make the coat become frizzy. If that does happen it can be fixed just by getting the coat wet and then letting it air dry. When it needs it, like during seasonal shedding times use a plastic or wood wide tooth comb instead. Too tidy up the coat it may need some scissoring now and then. Those with some fringing may need that brushed each day to prevent mats, or have it trimmed. Only give it a bath when it really needs one, only use a dog shampoo when you do. Bathing too often or using inappropriate products can cause skin problems as it damages the natural oils in its skin. If you are keeping a show dog avoid shaving.

You also need to take care of some other needs, such as its teeth, its ears and its nail. Brush its teeth at least two to three times a week. Its ears should be checked for signs of infection and then you can use a cotton ball or cloth to wipe them clean using a dog ear cleanser. Its nails should be kept trimmed to prevent them from becoming too long. You can do this yourself just make sure you use proper dog nail clippers and do not cut into the quick, the part of the nail that has blood vessels and nerves which will hurt he dog and cause bleeding. If in doubt have a groomer or vet do it for you.

Feeding Time

The Curly Coated Retriever needs on average between 2 1/2 to 4 cups of dry dog food a day, split into at least two meals. Use a good or high quality dry dog food as it is better for your dog’s health. You may need to try several foods before you find one your dog is happy with and one that keeps its skin and coat in great condition. How much exactly your dog needs can vary depending on its age, activity, metabolism, build and size.

How is the Curly Coated Retriever with children and other animals?

This is a breed that is good with children and being raised with them and well socialized does help too. It is affectionate towards them and loves to play but keep in mind its puppy exuberance when it is in an adult sized body means it easily knocks down toddlers and small children by accident. Make sure the children themselves are taught how to play nicely and stroke safely. Always supervise small children. In general a Curly gets alone well with other dogs and other pets though socialization is still an important part of that.

What Might Go Wrong?

Health Concerns

Curlys have a lifespan of 8 to 12 years but are not considered a healthy breed as they are prone to many possible health concerns. Included in those issues are bloat, various forms of cancer, epilepsy, eye problems, heart problems, EIC, joint dysplasia, GSD and pattern baldness.

Biting Statistics

When looking at US and Canada reports of dogs attacking people over the last 35 years there is no specific mention of the Curly Coated Retriever, though retrievers are mentioned including the Chesapeake Bay and the much loved Lab and Golden. The Curly Haired Retriever is not prone to attacking people or other dogs, and is not a dog to be worried about or wary of. However it does help when a dog is burning off its energy and being mental stimulated, is getting enough attention and affection and has been fed properly, socialized and at least has basic training. That being said any dog, even the friendliest ones can have off days, or have something spook them or cause them to over react. Any dog has the capability of attacking a person in certain situations.

Your Pup’s Price Tag

A Curly puppy will cost you around $900 for a pet quality dog from a decent breeder. For a show dog bred from a top breeder you can pay a lot more than that, up into a few thousand dollars in fact. Finding Curly coated retrievers is the difficult part, less than 150 are registered a year, compared to more than 60,000 Goldens! Expect to be put on a waiting list and have patience about it if you are set on this breed. Avoid taking the easier and quicker option of using back yard breeders, pet stores or other puppy mill supplied options. Not only are these not places most decent people would not want to fund, at best they re just ignorant and at worst that are cruel.

When you have your new companion there are some things you need to have for it, and some medical concerns to take care of. At home it needs a crate, bowls, leash and collar and such. These initial items will cost about $200. Then the trip to a vet will involve a physical exam, blood tests, micro chipping, deworming, shots, spaying or neutering depending on its sex. This will cost about another $290.

Then there are yearly or ongoing costs to cover. Feeding costs vary mostly according to size though some breeds are fussier than other or have more delicate stomachs. On average a good quality dry dog food with dog treats will cost about $270 a year. For basic medical care like flea and tick prevention, shots and physicals, along with pet insurance you can expect a starting figure of $485 a year. Then other costs under miscellaneous like license, basic training, toys and miscellaneous items will cost another possible $245 a year. This gives a starting figure yearly cost for the Curly of $1000.


The Curly Coated Retriever is a unique looking retriever, it is active and needs an active owner and it is steady, loyal and affectionate. It is more cautious than Labs or Goldens so socialization and training are especially important to make sure that does not turn to being overly timid or suspicious both of which can lead to defensive aggression. It can be strong willed and owners need to be firm and confident. It is slow to mature and can be destructive if not given enough attention or activity.

Featured Image Credit: otsphoto, Shutterstock

Nicole Cosgrove

Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts' knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.

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