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Curly Coated Retriever: Breed Information

curly coated retriever


Elegant and graceful, the Curly Coated Retriever has perfected the art of retrieving games on land and in the water long before Labs and Goldens came on the scene. Aside from its hunting capabilities, this breed has the built and agility that can keep up with any person’s active lifestyle. With its Poodle-like coat and retriever’s stature, Curlies are really just puppies in adult dogs’ bodies.



Although one of the oldest retriever breeds, little is known about the Curly Coated Retriever’s origin. Piecing the puzzle of its ancestry, it is now thought that the Curly originally came from two ancient breeds: the Irish Water Spaniel and the Retrieving Setter. This breed made its debut in the show ring in the 1860s and became a prized sidekick to gamekeepers of those days because of its spectacular hunting ability and intelligence.

In the 1880s, the Curlies were crossed to the Poodle giving them their distinctive dense and poodle-like coat. Over the years, the breed’s popularity waned with the Labs and Goldens taking the center stage. However, this retriever managed to snag a few but very ardent fans all over the globe.



If grit and determination will take on canine form, this breed will be the perfect poster dog. They have an indomitable personality, braving icy waters and difficult terrain just to get the job done. Their energy can be over the moon and when you don’t give it the physical activity it needs, your Curly can be a headache.

You need to have a firm hand when training this pooch. Otherwise, Curlies with their self-confident nature will have no problem running the show if you don’t show it who’s boss. They’re known to ignore their trainers if they get bored with the training, so Curlies are not for novice owners.

This hardworking pooch also knows how to chill and enjoy a good belly rub. They are affectionate and devoted to their humans just like their other retriever cousins. Unlike other retrievers though, Curlies can be reserved and wary of strangers. That’s why it’s best to give your pup exposure to different people, sounds, environment, and other animals while it’s still young.



The Curly-Coated Retriever sports an all-weather, crisp and curly coat that comes in two colors: solid black and solid liver. Their dense coat is also thorn-proof and waterproof, allowing them to retrieve games even in hard to reach areas. They are leggier than their retriever cousins, making them more agile. Adult Curlies can reach the height of 23-27 inches at the withers. And they can weigh 65-100 lbs., with the male generally bigger than the female.


Common Health Issues

Curlies are generally healthy and have a life expectancy of 9-12 years. However, health issues could arise, especially genetic conditions, and that’s largely because of irresponsible breeding. Here are the common health issues of this breed.


Hip Dysplasia

This is a common hereditary condition that could affect a Curly and other dog breeds, especially large pooches. Hip dysplasia occurs when the hip joint becomes deformed and the thighbones don’t fit into the socket snugly. Your pooch could suffer severe pain and lameness in the affected area. In severe cases, hip replacement surgery might be needed to give your pup the best quality of life.

Cost of Treatment: $4,000 to $6,000


Glycogen Storage Disease

Also known as glycogenosis, this genetic condition occurs when your pooch has a deficiency of the enzyme that’s responsible for the metabolism of glycogen into glucose. When this happens, the pup won’t have usable energy and will suffer from constant low blood sugar. Furthermore, there is an abnormal accumulation of glycogen, which could lead to enlargement and dysfunction of vital organs like the liver, heart, and kidneys.

Treatment may involve a change in diet and administration of intravenous fluids to boost the pooch’s blood sugar. However, these are all short-term management as this condition is quite fatal for dogs and long-term care is not feasible.

Cost of Treatment: $1,500 to $5,000



Recurrent seizures due to unknown causes could be a potential problem with Curlies. Generally, there are two types of seizures:

  • Partial Seizure. This type of seizure affects a part of the dog’s body. Usually, you will notice its face, one limb, or one side of the body twitching or jerking during an episode. 
  • Grand Mal Seizure. This type of seizure affects the entire body of the dog. If you notice your pooch involuntarily twitching its four limbs, it is suffering from a grand mal seizure. This could also lead to loss of consciousness.

If you notice your pup suddenly falling on its side, salivating copiously, and chomping on its jaws involuntary, you need to cushion its head and keep it away from stairs and other objects that could be a danger to your pooch. Treatment for epilepsy is dependent on the underlying cause of the condition. If a tumor is causing it, surgery might be needed to remove it. In most cases, the vet might prescribe antiepileptic and anticonvulsant medication to manage the frequency of episodes.

Cost of Treatment: $200 to $15,000


Heart Disease

Since there is no genetic test to check if parent dogs will pass on hereditary heart diseases prior to breeding, your pooch could inherit cardiac problems from its parents. In fact, dogs that are cleared from any heart problems could still pass on the recessive gene to their offspring. With Curlies, there have been instances of the following heart diseases:

  • Cardiomyopathy. Pooches with this condition have weak heart muscles and dilated thin walls in the heart chambers. Symptoms of this condition include exercise intolerance, coughing, difficulty breathing, and fainting. This condition entails frequent visits to the vet where affected pups are prescribed with cardiac medication.
  • Aortic Stenosis. This is a hereditary heart condition wherein there’s a narrowing of the aortic valve, the valve where blood leaves the heart and circulated to different parts of the body. Due to this narrow passage, cardiac muscles have to exert more effort to pump the blood out. And this will gradually lead to muscle failure and other heart complications. Treatment usually involves beta-blocker medication and in severe cases, surgery could be the last resort.
  • Tricuspid Valve Dysplasia. This congenital heart defect is due to the malformation of the tricuspid valve, the valve that separates the right ventricle from the right atrium. Due to the malformation, the blood is regurgitated back into the right atrium instead of going to the right ventricle. Medical intervention is aimed at improving the quality of life for the affected pooch and to prolong the onset of heart failure.

Cost of Treatment for Heart Disease: $100 to $20,000


Eye Disease

Curlies are also predisposed to a number of eye diseases, which include:

  • Entropion. This is a condition where your pooch’s eyelid rolls inward. This could lead to complications like a corneal ulcer or perforations since the eyelid rubs against the cornea. To treat this abnormality, surgery is needed to reverse the eyelid inward rolling.
  • Ectropion. Ectropion is a condition where your puppy’s eyelid rolls outward, giving it a droopy appearance. This exposes the conjunctival tissue and dries out the cornea, which could lead to complications like conjunctivitis and keratitis. Lubricating eye drops are usually used to prevent drying out the eye. The vet could also prescribe antibiotics and in severe cases, surgery might be needed to correct ectropion.
  • Distichiasis. Distichiasis are eyelashes that grow in an abnormal spot in the eyelids, particularly at the opening of the meibomian gland or the areas surrounding it. These abnormal eyelashes can cause corneal ulcers, excessive eye discharge, and chronic pain of the affected eye or eyelid. To treat this condition, an eye lubricant or lubricating film may be used to manage irritation of the eyelid and cornea. However, in grave cases, surgery may be needed to remove the abnormal eyelashes and kill the hair follicles to prevent future growth.
  • Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA). The retina is the image-forming layer of the eye. With this hereditary condition, the retina degenerates gradually, ultimately causing blindness in affected dogs. If you notice your pooch constantly bumping into things at night, it may be losing its night vision, which is one of the initial signs of this condition. Unfortunately, there’s no cure for PRA although antioxidant supplements could delay the progression of this disease. 
  • Persistent Pupillary Membranes (PPM). These are fetal tissues, which are remnants of the blood vessels that supply the nutrient to the fetus’s developing eyes. These tissues are supposed to disappear after birth. But in pups with PPM, the tissue strands remain, interfering with vision. Although this condition will not worsen with time, the opacity could be a nuisance to your pooch and if the condition is extensive, you can opt for surgery to have it removed.

Cost of Treatment for Eye Disease: $50 to $3,000


Tips for Taking Care of this Breed

To ensure that your furry friend has the best life possible, here are keys to keeping it healthy and happy.

Choosing a Puppy

Your responsibility as a pet parent starts right at the moment you decide to get a puppy. Make sure that you only deal with responsible breeders who go through great length to ensure that they’re breeding Curlies in tiptop health. You don’t want any surprises with your vet bills, so take the time to inspect their facility and see if the dogs’ well-being is their priority.


If you want to ensure that your pup has the best quality of life, you can’t do without pet insurance. Whenever health issues arise, you could always go to the vet without having to worry about an enormous bill. Choose an insurance that has these key coverage:

  • Emergency Care
  • Illnesses
  • Accidents
  • Orthopedic Issues
  • Cancer
  • Hereditary Conditions
  • Prescription Meds

Pet insurance companies will not cover pre-existing conditions. Thus, it’s wise to get your pet insured while it’s young and healthy.


Curlies are a seasonal shedder. Their fur sheds usually during spring and fall, making their coat fairly easy to maintain. You only need to brush it occasionally. Trim its nails regularly. When you hear those nails clicking on the floor, that’s a good sign that those nails need your attention.


Your Curly would need adequate nutrition to keep with its active lifestyle. On average, it would need 3-4 cups of dry food, given in two meals per day. Of course, you can adjust this based on its activity for the day.

Ideal Living Conditions

The Curly-Coated Retriever is not like its cousins that can adapt well to apartment living. This breed is used to wide open spaces as its playground and if you plan on having one, the least you should offer is a spacious fenced yard where it can show off its natural skills.

Curlies can be tons of work in terms of training and exercise needs. But if you’re no slacker yourself and confident in your ability to train a very intelligent pooch, a Curly could just be the best friend you’ve been waiting for.


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