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The 4 Lesser-Known Retrievers

Have you met all six types of retrievers?

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When people talk about retrievers, they almost always mean a Golden or a Lab. But there are actually six types of retrievers, including the Flat-Coated and Curly-Coated. Let’s meet the four lesser-known but equally wonderful retrievers!

Photo KimKuehke/ Shutterstock

Flat-Coated Retriever

The joyful, tireless, trainable Flat-Coated Retriever is a champion tail-wagger known for its irrepressible joie de vivre and cheerful optimism. These happy dogs aim to please and are noted for their forever-young spirit.

Photo Lelusy/ Shutterstock

Flat Coats resemble a leaner Labrador Retriever but with a longer head. The AKC notes a “smart and kindly expression.” The trademark flat-lying coat comes in black or liver and features feathering at the legs and tail. This cheerful, very energetic breed excels at flushing birds and requires plenty of outdoor activity.

Photo Anna-av/ Shutterstock

The Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever

The Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever is the smallest of the retrievers and one of the few breeds indigenous to Canada. Tollers were originally developed to assist hunters by tolling—dancing on the shore like a fox to entice waterfowl—and then retrieving the birds once shot down.

Photo Anna-av/ Shutterstock

Known for their trademark beautiful red coat, Tollers are affectionate, outgoing, smart, and enthusiastic. These dogs need to keep busy, like to wallow if they find mud/water and make a unique screaming sound to indicate readiness. These “Little Red Retrieving Machines” are definitely not for everyone, though their charms are many.

The Curly-Coated Retriever

You can easily recognize the elegant, super-smart Curly Coated Retriever—the least  common of the retriever bunch—by its tapered, wedge-shaped head and the tight set of crisp curls that covers its body.

Photo Matthias Mahlstedt/ Shutterstock

The Curly’s personality also sets it apart. Though affectionate, loyal, and playful with family, the Curly is more aloof with strangers than Goldens or Labs. Bred to be a gundog, the Curly is an incredible, tireless athlete and swimmer known for high intelligence and endurance.

Discerning and independent, this is a dog that needs a lot of exercise and engagement. A bored Curly will find something to do—and you may not like their choices. 

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Chesapeake Bay Retriever

Chesapeake Bay Retriever puppy. ​​​​​Photo JL Photo/ Shutterstock

The Chesapeake Bay Retriever’s coat and personality are unique among the retrievers. The Chessie’s famously wavy, waterproof coat is the quickest way to ID this dog—it’s oily to the touch and a unique chocolately brown, sedge or dead grass colour. Yellow-amber eyes complete the look.

Photo Tanya Consaul/ Shutterstock

The strong and powerful Chessie was bred to endure some of the toughest conditions—wind, waves, and icy waters—and, as a result, his breed has a tenacity that sets it apart from the pack. The Chesapeake Bay Retriever NEEDS a job to do in order to be happy (and in order for you to be happy, too). Bright and sensitive, they take to training but can have a mind of their own. Protective toward their people and not overtly friendly to strangers, they can make great watch dogs and excellent outdoor companions.

Photo Zuzule/Shutterstock

Looking for your breed match? Find more breed profiles at


This article originally appeared in the award-winning Modern Dog magazine. Subscribe today!


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