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Curly-Coated Retrievers: What's Good About 'Em, What's Bad About 'Em

Curly-Coated Retriever temperament, personality, training, behavior, pros and cons, advice, and information, by Michele Welton, Dog Trainer, Behavioral Consultant, Author of 15 Dog Books

Curly-Coated Retriever dog breed


This strong and robust dog is also elegant and graceful, quick and agile. His daily exercise requirement is such that he belongs with an athletic owner who will take him jogging, biking, hiking, and swimming.

Though reserved and sometimes distrustful with strangers, he should remain poised and hold his ground. A Curly Coated Retriever puppy needs more socialization than other retrievers to develop a confident temperament.

Many have sensible protective instincts and may not welcome strangers into their homes as will a Golden or Labrador Retriever.

He relates well to other animals and is playful and accepting.

Described as "wickedly smart," he may use his intelligence in clever, independent ways that suit his own purposes. Thus he needs early obedience training to establish that you are in charge.

All retrievers are slow to mature, and the Curly-Coat remains playfully puppyish for many years. This sounds delightful, but does require patience and control to live with.


If you want a dog who...

  • Is the most unusual-looking of the retriever breeds
  • Loves the great outdoors and thrives on vigorous athletic activities
  • Is steady and dependable
  • Is more cautious with strangers than Golden or Labrador Retrievers, but still usually polite
  • Is good with other animals

A Curly-Coated Retriever may be right for you.


If you don't want to deal with...

  • Vigorous exercise requirements
  • Rowdiness and exuberant jumping, especially when young
  • Destructiveness when bored or not exercised enough
  • Shyness or timidity with strangers when not socialized enough
  • Strong-willed mind of his own, requiring a confident owner who can take charge
  • Mouthiness -- carrying and chewing of objects, mouthing your hands
  • Waiting lists (hard to find)
  • Health problems

A Curly-Coated Retriever may not be right for you.

Keep in mind that the inheritance of temperament is less predictable than the inheritance of physical traits such as size or shedding. Temperament and behavior are also shaped by raising and training.

More traits and characteristics of the Curly-Coated Retriever

If I was considering a Curly-Coated Retriever, I would be most concerned about...

  1. Providing enough exercise and mental stimulation. Compared to the more familiar Labrador and Golden Retrievers, Curly Coated Retrievers are more active and more athletic. Curlies need more exercise – more opportunities to vent their energy and do interesting things. Otherwise they will become bored, which they usually express by barking and destructive chewing.
  2. Providing enough socialization. Standoffish by nature, Curly-Coated Retrievers need extensive exposure to people and to unusual sights and sounds. Otherwise their natural caution can become suspiciousness or shyness, which are difficult to live with.

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  3. Stubbornness. Again, compared to Labs and Goldens, Curlycoated Retrievers are more stubborn and can be manipulative. Yet they are smart dogs who are willing to learn if you show them, through absolute consistency, that you mean what you say. To teach your Curly to listen to you, "Respect Training" is mandatory. See Training Curly Coated Retrievers.
  4. Shedding and trimming. Curly Coated Retrievers do shed, so don't let anyone tell you that they're "light shedding" or hypoallergenic. They're not. Curlies also need occasional trimming to keep their curly locks from becoming too long and shaggy.
  5. Finding one. Curlies are not a common breed, so you'll need to search hard for a breeder, get on their waiting list, and pay a steep price.
  6. Potential health problems. All retriever breeds are susceptible to crippling joint and bone problems, and inherited eye diseases that can lead to blindness. In addition, epilepsy and heart disease are serious concerns in the Curly-Coated Retriever.

Michele Welton with BuffyAbout the author: Michele Welton has over 40 years of experience as a Dog Trainer, Dog Breed Consultant, and founder of three Dog Training Centers. An expert researcher and author of 15 books about dogs, she loves helping people choose, train, and care for their dogs.

To help you train and care for your dog

dog training videos Dog training videos. Sometimes it's easier to train your puppy (or adult dog) when you can see the correct training techniques in action.

The problem is that most dog training videos on the internet are worthless, because they use the wrong training method. I recommend these dog training videos that are based on respect and leadership.

book coverRespect Training For Puppies: 30 seconds to a calm, polite, well-behaved puppy. For puppies 2 to 18 months old. Your puppy will learn the 21 skills that all family dogs need to know.
If your dog is over 18 months, you'll want book coverRespect Training For Adult Dogs: 30 seconds to a calm, polite, well-behaved dog. Again your dog will learn the 21 skills that all family dogs need to know.
book coverTeach Your Dog 100 English Words is a unique Vocabulary and Respect Training Program that will teach your adult dog to listen to you and do what you say.
book cover11 Things You Must Do Right To Keep Your Dog Healthy and Happy helps your dog live a longer, healthier life.
book coverDog Quest: Find The Dog Of Your Dreams will help you find a good-tempered, healthy family companion.

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