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What Are the Different Types of Retriever Breeds and Which Is Best for Me?

Author:

Shelter worker, animal rescuer & advocate, Jan has become a well-regarded source of insights & know-how on pet care & behavior nationwide.

Breaking Down the Retriever Dog Breeds

Breaking Down the Retriever Dog Breeds

When someone says "retriever," most people will immediately think of either a Golden Retriever or a Labrador Retriever, but very few will think of one of the other four retriever breeds, and many don't know that there are a total of six dogs in this breed class.

While they all love to "retrieve" and seem to enjoy the water and swimming, they still have different personalities, temperaments, and health issues that make them each unique. Let's take a look at each breed of retriever and what makes them special.

Author's Golden Retrieve - Amber

Author's Golden Retrieve - Amber

Golden Retrievers

TempermentExerciseHealth IssuesTypes of Living

Lovable

Long Daily Walks

Prone to Cancer

Okay in Apartment with Exercise

Intelligent

Retrieving Tasks

Hip Dysplasia

Medium to Large Yard

Devoted

Mental Activities

Heart Problems

Moderately Active Indoors

Friendly

Skin Allergies

Energetic

Easily Overweight

Golden Retrievers

While all retrievers make pretty good family pets, the Golden Retriever is probably known as the best well-rounded companion for all family members—children, adults, other pets. They are super friendly, gentle, loving, and good-natured, and while they may bark when someone approaches you, you won't get much more use from them as a family protector as goldens naturally want to befriend everyone.

Golden Retrievers are very intelligent and well-mannered and this helps makes them a very trainable dog breed. They are very patient, loving, and gentle around children which is a top reason why they are so popular on the family pet list. They have lots of energy and are fairly self-assured and eager to please, making them great dogs for obedience training competitions and other sport-related trials.

While their high energy works great on the field, it can lead to a destructive or high-strung dog if they are not exercised mentally and physically on a regular basis. Some of the things that goldens tend to enjoy most are retrieving (obviously), agility courses, obedience trials, performing tricks for their family, hunting, and swimming. Goldens are also good at tracking, drug detection, and as therapy animals.

Dogs 101: Golden Retrievers

breaking-down-the-retrievers

Curly Coated Retrievers

TempermentExerciseHealth IssuesTypes of Living

Intelligent

High Energy

Epilepsy

Large Yard

Loyal

Loves the water/swimming

Prone to hip dysplasia

Part of Family (not alone)

Confident

Retrieving Tasks

Eye Problems

Not for Apartments

Trainable

Long Walks

Active Outdoor Oriented Owner

Can be Willful

Don't forget mental tasks

Excellent with Children

Affectionate

Curly Coated Retrievers

One of the oldest of the retriever breeds, the Curly Coated Retriever is distinguished from the others by its small, tight, water-resistant curls. And believe it or not, this kinky, curly coat is actually pretty easy to care for with just occasional baths. As a matter of fact, they don't recommend that you brush this breed as you will most likely make their coat frizzy. (If you do you can simply wet their coat and let it dry naturally.)

The Curly Coat is an agile and strong breed who was developed as a multi-purpose hunting retriever. This breed will work for you as long as you have work to be done. They can retrieve their game in even the thickest of cover and in the iciest of waters.

Curly Coats are not only courageous and perseverant, but also energetic and quite intelligent and have tremendous innate field skills. Curly Coats make great companions as long as they have an owner that gives them daily exercise and is consistent with their training. Without those two things, this breed will easily become bored and most likely destructive. They are probably the most independent of the retriever breeds and this causes them to come off as somewhat aloof, but as with most retrievers, they are actually very willing to please.

Curly Coated Retrievers

breaking-down-the-retrievers

Flat-Coated Retrievers

TempermentExerciseHealth IssuesTypes of Living

Friendly

Daily Walk

Cancer

Average Size Yard

Loves to Play

Hunt

Hip Dysplasia

Inactive Indoors

Intelligent

Swim

Epilepsy

Not for Apartments

Loyal

Makes Excellent Jogging Partner

Diabetes

Needs to be with Family

Gets Along with other Pets

Excellent with Children

Flat-Coated Retrievers

This retriever is another excellent family dog. With its reliable temperament and friendly nature, they get along great with all family members including children. They are a high-spirited, sweet breed with a puppy-like view on things and they seem to love everyone they meet. You'd be hard-pressed to find this pup in low spirits.

Eager to play and especially to retrieve, these dogs are very active, but with plenty of exercise and stimulation, they can be fairly quiet indoors, saving up their energy for outdoor play. With their high energy and being very trainable, the Flat-Coated Retriever can bore easily so variety is definitely the key with this breed. You want to keep their training times short, varied and fun to keep them engaged. They are smart and loyal and very sociable and should be given lots of chances to mingle.

Author's Labs - Sugar & Pepper

Author's Labs - Sugar & Pepper

Labrador Retrievers

TempermentExerciseHealth IssuesTypes of Living

Affectionate

Long Brisk Walk

Hip & Elbow Dysplasia

Okay in Apartment with Exercise

Loyal

Love to have a job to do

Mast Cell Tumors

Moderately Active Indoors

Patient

Energetic

Eye Disorders

Average Size Yard

Highly Intelligent

Gain Weight Easily

Good Natured

Eager to Please

Labrador Retrievers

Labrador Retrievers have been in one of the top three stops on the popularity charts for years, but did you know there are two types of Labrador Retrievers? There is the English and American versions of the breed. The English breed tends to be heavier and blockier than its American counterparts. The American breed was bred to be taller and lankier. Labs have the short, hard, water-resistant coats, one of the easiest to care for out of the retriever breeds.

The English breed tends to be more laid back and calm than the American breed and they also tend to mature quicker than the American breed as well. There are both show lines and field lines of Labrador Retrievers with the show lines being more easier going and the field lines being very energetic.

Labs are known for their intelligence, eagerness to please, and love of work and play. Most Labs will chase a ball all day, love the water and children, and are very easy to train. There are some Labs that may be a bit reserved with strangers, but this can be overcome in most cases by early and frequent socialization.

Labs can quickly become destructive if they are not exercised often, both physically and mentally. Their high energy needs regular outlets and Labs are game for just about anything. Adult Labs are generally very strong, so train them well as pups so you are not dealing with a pulling dog or one that bolts from doors.

Most labs will make good watchdogs, but very few are worth anything as a guard dog. They can be great at obedience trials, agility courses, and other sports and are happy to try whatever you through at them.

breaking-down-the-retrievers

Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retrievers

TempermentExerciseHealth IssuesTypes of Living

Devoted

High Energy

Thyroid Issues

Okay in Apartment with Exercise

Intelligent

Long Daily Walk

Autoimmune Issues

Does well in cold climate

Clever

Likes to Retrieve

Progressive Retinal Atrophy

Good with Children

Playful

Good with other Pets

Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retrievers

Some might mistake a Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever as a small golden upon first glance, but the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever originates from Canada and the Golden Retriever originates in the Scottish Highlands; once you take a closer look you will see noticeable differences.

This breed is a very devoted breed that is intelligent and easy to train. They are sensible dogs, good with children, and make excellent companions. As with all the other retriever breeds, this breed needs plenty of exercise to curtail their energetic needs. Duck Tolling Retrievers can be reserved with strangers which is another big difference between them and their Golden Retriever counterparts. This is definitely a water dog, through and through, and is happiest once "in the hunt."

If you think that labs like to retrieve, you should try out a Toller's love of this "game" and basically any other retrieving game. Tolling (luring) is a natural trait, and these dogs sure do get excited about their job. Let the kids throw the ball for these dogs and all will be happy.

Tollers make excellent family pets and get along well with other pets as well as humans. They are very patient with the kids and have the energy to keep up with them as well. As far as family protection, they will most likely bark if they sense danger, but that is about all you will get from them.

breaking-down-the-retrievers

Chesapeake Bay Retrievers

TempermentExerciseHealth IssuesTypes of Living

Intelligent

Vigorous Activity

Eye Problems

Not for Apartments

Obedient

Swimming

Hip Dysplasia

Inactive Indoors

Brave

Daily Walk/Jog

Average Sized Yard

Affectionate

Retrieving Tasks

Prefer Cooler Climates

Can be slow to learn

Enjoy Sleeping Outside

Can be Dominant & Willful

Chesapeake Bay Retrievers

This retriever is a powerful, strong, and muscular dog. They are also intelligent, like all the retriever breeds, as well as willing to please making them quite trainable. Like the others in the retriever line, Chesapeakes are loving, affectionate and friendly. They are also good with kids and make good family pets. Although they usually do well with cats already in the house, they may chase other cats. They do seem to be the most dominant of the retrievers so they should definitely be socialized well and have owners that take the lead. Without this leadership role, the Chesapeake can become a bit aggressive, willful, or territorial. They are not really recommended for any owner that is inexperienced.

They are also water dogs and have a similar passion for swimming and retrieving as the other retriever breeds. Chesapeakes tend to be slow to mature, but as with most breeds, with the right owner, they can be a joy to own.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.