Frequently, when I ask what breed of dog someone has, I hear "a Retriever" as the response. When I press further, "What kind of Retriever?" answers are either immediate - a Golden or a lab, or I get a confused look in response. Do you know that there are actually 6 recognized breeds of Retrievers. Everyone knows Labs and Goldens, but have you heard of the Curly-coat? What about the Flat-coat? And there's even 2 more...
Let's Start with the Toller (Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever)
You've all likely seen these two characters - Reggie and Ned. They are Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retrievers and are actually one of the few breeds indigenous to Canada. They are the smallest of the 6 Retrievers, bred to toll waterfowl and then to retrieve them once they are shot by the hunter.
To toll means to lure or entice game. Tolling is actually a natural phenomenon. Foxes will often utilize tolling as a hunting tactic. Basically, one fox will play along a shoreline. Certain waterfowl birds will become naturally transfixed by the fox's actions and will swim in closer to investigate the fox. Once the birds are closer to the shoreline, another fox who has been hiding up to this point will ambush the flock and voila! Dinner is served.
Hunters in Nova Scotia created Tollers to mimic foxes. Because of the location, there was a need for both an inland piping dog and an ocean-worthy retriever, which fuelled the significant size differences still seen in the Toller. This is evident in the size difference between Reggie (18" male) and Ned (20.5" male). The hunter will throw a stick or bumper along the shoreline and when the waterfowl swims in closer to investigate the dog, they come within firing range and once downed, the Toller will retrieve them.
Next Up - The Flat-coated Retriever
The Flat-coated Retriever was developed during the 19th century, likely using a combination of the Newfoundland, Spaniels, Setters and Pointers. Later, the collie was added in to straighten out the coat. Hunters were looking for a dog who would retrieve shot flight birds and chase down wounded game. The Flat-coat is one of the few remaining retrievers that has not suffered a breed split. Dogs who can perform in the field are also able to clean up for the show ring and vice-versa!
As a companion, the Flat-coat is an affectionate friend, often described as having a clownish nature. Typically friendly to everyone they meet, they are also intelligent and fun! They are a tireless and energetic retriever who can keep up as a hunting companion all day long.
The Flat-coat can reach heights up to 24.5 inches and can weigh up to 70 pounds. Coat colour can be either black or liver.
What's a Chessie? It's a Chesepeake Bay Retriever!
The Chessie is the Macho-man of the retriever family. This dog, while still a retriever, has a very different temperament than most. Chessies were bred to face and overcome some of the most difficult weather conditions, including wind, waves and long swims through ice. They are built to be powerful and brave and there is a certain amount of tenacity that comes with that role.
This dog needs a job! Being such a powerful breed, they have the energy to go all day long. Like all retrievers, the Chessie will not be content lounging on the couch all day and evening and a walk around the block won't cut it. They need activity including mental and physical stimulation. With anything less, they'll be unhappy and subsequently, they'll make you unhappy as well!
Last, but not least: The Curly-coated Retriever
This is likely the least known and the least popular of the retrievers. They are easily recognizable by the tight set of curls that cover their body. The coat was developed to repel water, burrs and other elements that are traditionally hard on softer types of coat. They can be either black or liver.
They are by far the tallest of the retrievers, with acceptable heights ranging from 23" - 27". They were traditionally used for upland and waterfowl hunting. Temperament wise, they would be closer to the Chessie than the Labrador. Often described as aloof with strangers, but very affectionate with their immediate family.
I hope you've enjoyed learning a little bit about each of the 4 lesser-known Retrievers! There are 175 recognized dogs in the CKC (Canadian Kennel Club). Go out and learn about some of the rare breeds out there and you might just find out that a few of the world's best kept secrets wear fur!
As always, Happy Training!