Curly-Coated Retriever: Characteristics, Appearance, Price, and Pictures

curly coated retriever sitting

The Curly Coated Retriever is a witty and charismatic hunting dog with a strikingly different coat. As their name suggests, these pups are covered in tight curls that can be black or liver and, even though they look like Poodles, they’re not actually a mix at all! 

These beautiful dogs are hard workers and need to be entertained daily – think lots of games, exercise, and canine classes. A bored Curly can be difficult to handle!

They get on well with children and are fiercely loyal to those who take them out. But, before you rush to adopt a Curly Coated Retriever puppy, there are a couple of things you need to know…

Characteristics of the Curly-Coated Retriever

Life in an apartment
Good first dog
Tolerates solitude
Tolerates cold weather
Tolerates hot weather
Friendly with children
Friendly with strangers
Friendly with other animals
Hair loss
Drooling level
Easy to care for
Robust health
Easy to train
Tendency to bark
Tendency to nibble
Instinct to hunt
Adventurous spirit
Energy level
Level of intensity
Need for exercise

History and Origin of the Curly-Coated Retriever

Curly Coated Retrievers are thought to be one of if not the oldest of the Retriever breeds. But, compared to other beloved hunting dogs such as Spaniels and Pointers, they’re quite new. 

Breeders first started breeding the Curly Coated Retriever in the late 1700s. Whilst there isn’t any written documentation from this period, experts have determined that the main breeds involved in the breeding of the Curly are the English Water Spaniel and the Retrieving Setter. Both of these dogs are sadly now extinct.

Over the years, other breeds were also introduced – and yes, one of them was the Poodle! Breeders wanted even tighter curls, which only a Poodle could provide.

By the late 1800s, the Curly Coated Retriever was a favorite gun dog for hunters around England. They were slowly introduced to Australia and the US where they’re still loved amongst sportspeople and hunters. They were first recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1924.

But, these adorable dogs have somewhat been overshadowed by Golden Retrievers and Labrador Retrievers. While less of an iconic family dog, they’re still fun, affectionate, intelligent, and loyal – and the perfect breed for the right owners.

Personality and Character of the Curly-Coated Retriever

curly coated retriever side view

These pooches are even-tempered and very hard-working. They love to be employed retrieving waterfowl or accompanying their owners on a hunt. They’re also very happy to have the important job of frisbee retriever.

They need something to do and can easily get bored and frustrated if they don’t feel valued. 

They’re alert and self-confident and aren’t quite as goofy and friendly as their Golden or Labrador cousins. They need early socialization, but with it, they can be relaxed around others and keen to play.

Can the Curly-Coated Retriever Live in an Apartment?

Curlies are known for being quite independent and they’re much happier with a yard or fenced-in space to play in. Of course, they love to play with their owners but won’t mind chasing a ball around a yard by themselves either, which can make things a bit easier for you too.

Because they’re an active breed, they may get a bit of cabin fever in a small apartment. If you do have your heart set on a Curly Coated pup and you live in an apartment, you will have to take them out regularly to keep them stimulated and happy. You might want to think about one of these apartment dog breeds instead.

Can the Curly-Coated Retriever Live with Children?

These pups enjoy playing with kids and can be a great canine companion for them. They’re loyal, alert, and have lots of energy to match a kid’s. Curlies can be a bit more reserved to begin with, but they probably won’t be shy for long.

It’s important to teach your curly-coated pooch to play with kids safely and not be too boisterous with smaller kids. As with other dog breeds, children should always be supervised when playing and taught to respect a pup at all times. 

Are They Aggressive Dogs?

A well-trained and well-socialized Curly Coated Retriever shouldn’t be aggressive. Of course, however, this depends on their unique experiences. It’s essential to socialize them from puppyhood so that they become confident in new situations – aggression is often the result of a pup being afraid or uncertain.

Whilst not naturally aggressive, these sporting dogs aren’t overly friendly either (at least not like the Golden Retriever). They’re less likely to go bouncing up to a stranger and cover them in doggy kisses. They may take a little longer to warm up to someone or another pooch.

Do They Get Along Well With Other Animals?

Curlies usually get along well with other dogs and animals. Again, socialization is key as is supervising any introductions. Pups that have had a bad experience in the past may be more reserved around other dogs. However, normally, these pups are happy to play with their friends!

These pooches are Retrievers, so they naturally have a bit of a prey drive. Whilst not as prominent as with some other dogs, they may have a tendency to chase smaller animals. So, care should be taken if you have rabbits, gerbils, or guinea pigs at home.

Appearance of the Curly-Coated Retriever

curly-haired retriever

These dogs have a similar appearance to some other Retriever breeds. Big eyes, floppy ears, adoring expressions, and a robust and athletic body are all typical Retriever characteristics. But these doggos do have one important difference – their iconically curly coats!

Size and Weight

The average Curly Coated Retriever is a medium to large pup. They typically stand at 23-27 inches tall and weigh 60-95 pounds.

Like Golden or Labrador Retrievers, females might be smaller than their male brothers.

How Long Does It Take for a Curly-Coated Retriever to Reach Adult Size?

Like most large breed dogs, the Curly-Coated Retriever typically reaches adult size around the age of 18-24 months, although they might continue to fill out and gain a bit of weight until they're around 2-3 years old.

Like other Retrievers (such as the Flat-Coated Retriever) these pups are quite slow to reach both physical and mental maturity. You can expect your Curly Retriever to act and be a puppy for up to 3 years.


The American Kennel Club recognizes two colors for the Curly Coated Retrievers. They are black and liver. Liver is the result of a dilution gene as is a beautiful red/brown color.


Curlies have a coat that’s perfect for a retrieving and hunting dog. It’s thick, water-resistant, and protects them from brambles when chasing through the undergrowth. 

Unlike other Retrievers, they don’t have an undercoat – but don’t think that means they don’t shed at all. Female pups are likely to shed quite a lot every 6 months. In fact, they may look quite different when going through this shedding process because they’ve lost so much hair! 


These dogs are both graceful and strong, and have a body to match. They’re well-balanced and slightly off-square, meaning that they’re slightly longer than they are tall. Their lines are neat, meaning they look taller than other Retriever breeds.


Curly Coated Retrievers have almond-shaped eyes that shouldn’t be too prominent. Black pups can have black or brown eyes and liver ones can have brown or amber. According to the AKC breed standard, these dogs should not have harsh yellow eyes.


Curly Coated Retrievers have a wedge-shaped head that’s longer than it is wide. They also have a long jaw with a preferred scissor bite. They should have large nostrils and black dogs should have black noses and liver dogs can have brown.

They have quite small ears which are floppy and lie just above their eye line.


Curlies have a straight tail that’s never docked. It should never curl over their back or be kinked in any way. It can be coated or trimmed. 

Grooming and Hygiene of the Curly-Coated Retriever

These dogs have few grooming requirements and their coat is relatively easy to care for. Of course, it’s important to clean their teeth so that they don’t develop dental problems or gum disease. 

It’s also important to clean their ears and clip their nails. Younger dogs should wear down their nails naturally but older dogs may need a little help.

How to Brush a Curly-Coated Retriever?

Most Curly Coated Retriever owners don’t brush their dogs as brushing can make their coat frizzy. Instead, they prefer to wash them and let them air dry which can actually enhance the curls!

If you do decide to brush your pup, it’s best to do it slowly and very gently. Their curls can get matted together in the brush which can be painful for your pooch.

What Brush for a Curly-Coated Retriever?

If you do want to brush your doggo it’s best to do it with a rake grooming tool. This is especially useful during shedding season and will help to remove most of the dead hair.

How Do You Wash a Curly-Coated Retriever?

This breed doesn’t need to be bathed regularly. Actually, many owners just decide to give them a quick wipe down or wash when they’re rolled in something (or gone swimming in a muddy pond).

Bathing can, however, help with shedding, so you might want to bathe them a little more often during the shedding season.

Start by getting a shampoo that’s gentle on curly coats. You might also want to think about a specific shampoo for shedding. Wet your pup and lather the shampoo all over their body, paying attention to their underbelly and tail too.

Rinse well and apply a conditioner for curly coats (if using). After rinsing off the conditioner, be sure to towel dry your pup well. They have a water-resistant coat so drying isn’t as important as with other breeds, but you still want to make sure they’re comfortable.

Is It a Hypoallergenic Dog?

These dogs are not considered a hypoallergenic breed. They shed moderately year-round and, especially females, shed more during the shedding season (when the temperatures change). 

Curly-Coated Retriever Training and Education

curly coated retriever portrait

Training your Curly Coated Retriever from puppyhood or as soon as you get them is a must. It’s also a really good way for you to bond with them and spend time together. 

These dogs are intelligent but may take a little more time than other breeds to pick up commands. But this isn’t because they’re incapable. They just get easily bored and might prefer to do something different!

That’s why it’s important these dogs have an experienced owner who can keep training time fun and diverse. They won’t enjoy doing the same routine over and over again. 

Canine classes are also a great way for your pooch to learn and use up energy. These dogs do well in many different areas such as tracking and agility.

What is the Price of a Curly Coated Retriever?

In the US, you’ll probably pay anywhere between $1000-$2500 for a Curly Coated Retriever. The exact price will depend on the specific dog (whether you intend to enter them into shows or hunt with them), their color, and the demand in the area.

Experienced breeders may also charge more, especially if they have a good stock of breeding pups.

Always be wary of breeders offering much cheaper puppies. They could be unethically breeding them. Reliable Curly Coated Retriever breeders will present you with all health checks for both puppies and parent dogs. 

Another good option is to adopt a pooch from a pound. You may find a purebred pup and if not you might find a mixed breed that looks a lot like a Curly Coated Retriever.  

Curly-Coated Retriever Feeding

These pooches need to be fed a diet of high-quality dog food that’s appropriate for a medium to large breed. Many owners feed their pups dry dog food, but others prefer a wet or even raw diet.

Curlies can be prone to obesity and obesity-related health issues so it’s important that you don’t over-feed them or feed them low-quality and calorie-rich food. Most of these dogs need 3-4 cups of good-quality food a day but check with your vet or the packaging of the food if you’re unsure.

Curly-Coated Retriever Health

curly coated retriever lying down

When these dogs get enough exercise, mental stimulation, vet checks, and are fed a nutritious diet, they’re usually healthy. Genetics can play a role, however, and some breeds are more prone to health issues than others.

Common Diseases

As we already said, one of the best ways to be sure you’re getting a healthy dog that will be with you for as long as possible is to get them from a reputable breeder.

They should be able to provide you with health checks from Orthopedic Foundation for Animals, especially for hip and elbow dysplasia.  Here are some other relatively common health concerns your pup might suffer from:

  • Entropion or Ectropion
  • Progressive Retinal Atrophy
  • Gastric Dilation Volvulus (AKA Bloat)
  • Retinal Dysplasia
  • Lymphosarcoma
  • Pattern Baldness
  • Various other types of cancer

What Is the Life Expectancy of the Curly-Coated Retriever?

A Curly Coated Retriever has a similar life expectancy to a Labrador Retriever – around 10-12 years. Genetics has a role in the life expectancy of your pooch, as does lifestyle and care.

What Is the Best Climate for a Curly-Coated Retriever?

These pups thrive in moderate climates that are neither very cold nor very warm. Their thick coats allow them to happily live in cooler climates but it can make summer a bit of a challenge. 

On hot days make sure you take your pooch out early in the morning or late at night when the sun is at its lowest. Always give them plenty of fresh water and keep them indoors or in the shade during the hottest parts of the day.

Breeds Similar to Curly-Coated Retrievers

No reputable Curly Coated Retriever breeders in your area? Or perhaps you want a pup with a different type of coat? Luckily, there are quite a few other breeds that are very similar to Curlies in both appearance and personality!

  • Labrador Retriever: These pups are very similar to Curlies but tend to have shorter and denser coats. They can be black, chocolate, and yellow and may be stockier than a Curly Coated Retriever.
  • Golden Retriever: Just like Labs, Goldies are a really popular dog breed in America. They’re sweet-natured, affectionate, and perfect family pets!
  • Flat Coated Retriever: Lots of people get Flat Coated Retrievers mixed up with Goldies but there’s one big difference – these pups can be black! 
  • Chesapeake Bay Retriever: This breed has a very tight and waterproof coat that can be almost any shade of brown. Chesapeake Bay Retrievers are great companions for hunters and families alike. 
  • Labradoodle: They can have tightly curled coats – very like a Curly Coated Retriever! This mixed breed (Labrador crossed with a Poodle) is friendly, charming, and very loving.
  • Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever: These pups may be a little smaller than Curly Coated Retrievers but they’re still great hunters and companions. They’re good-tempered and alert and get on really well with kids.


The Curly Coated Retriever is an amazing dog that’s sweet, athletic, intelligent, and loyal. They’re often considered more reserved than Labradors and Goldies but they’re still wonderful family pets and get on well with well-socialised dogs and kids. 

Training should always be fun and dynamic to keep these pups entertained. With it, they can be well-rounded and confident dogs that are very affectionate and sweet. They’re the perfect dog for someone looking for a walking or hunting companion that’s also happy to cuddle up after a long day.

Not sure this breed is for you? Why not take our fun quiz to find out which is your perfect pooch?

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