The Curly Coated Retriever was originally bred in England as an upland bird and waterfowl hunting dog; owners who hunt over them call them a well kept secret, such is their ability for basic upland and waterfowl hunting. This is a flushing dog who bursts into cover to startle the bird into flight. After the hunter has dispatched the bird, a Curly will follow the bird with her eye and retrieve the bird back to the hunter.
Owners add that while the breed is fairly easy to train for field work, this is because they’re doing what they were bred to do – and they love it. Curlies have deep passion for upland hunting. They’re cooperative souls who bond well with a fair owner, so they tend to hunt close to the gun — and that makes them a good choice for an older hunter not inclined to chase after a dog all day.
That said, the Curly can be a bit hard-headed, and disaster awaits the person who uses pressure, a heavy hand, and/or repetitive drill to get results. The Curly Coat doesn’t do well with boredom or strong punishment of any type, they respond far better to praise, and especially to fun. Why? Because these dogs are natural clowns!
Another advantage is found in the breed’s name: Curly Coat. A coat of tight crisp curls protects dogs in harsh field conditions and essentially acts like chainmail on water and land.
One more thing. Back in 2012, the AKC permitted Curlies to enter Spaniel Hunting Tests. The program includes hunting in the field, finding birds in blind retrieves (birds in places where the dog didn’t see it fall), and land and water marked retrieves.
The Curly Coat: A versatile hunter, and perhaps not a secret for much longer.
Image: A shooting party thought to be dated to 1900.