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Flat-Coated Retriever vs. Labrador

photo of a yellow Labrador Retriever and one of a Flat-Coated Retriever meeting in the middle on the diagonal with the letters VS. in the middle

According to AKC, Labrador is at the top of 192 registered dogs while Flat-Coated Retriever is ranked as 102nd. This difference may seem alarming to some because both these breeds were discovered in the 19th century. Similarly, they had a lot in common, but Flat-Coated Retriever couldn’t gain the popularity Labs got. The scarce population of FC retrievers is one of the biggest reasons for this difference. Keep reading to know more about Flat-Coated Retriever and Labrador to decide which breed suits you the most.

Flat-Coated Retriever

Black Flat-Coated Retriever Standing outdoors in a yard

This breed was bred in England (in the mid-1800s) to serve as a close-working shooting dog. It was originally developed as a dual-purpose retriever for land and water games. Over time, these dogs have served as therapy and SAR dogs. Before Labs and Goldens, it was the most popular retriever dog due to its wide use among English aristocrats. It was at that time called, ‘Gamekeeper dog’.

Flat-coated retrievers are sleek, robust, and elegant-looking dogs. They have a strong and well-muscled loin that helps them in sprinting, swimming, jumping, and all other physical endeavors. They weigh up to 60 to 80 pounds and stand up to 23 to 25 inches tall. These pups generally come in two shades, black and liver.


Chocolate Labrador Retriever laying in grass with bright green grass in the background.

This breed came to light in the 1830s when St. Johns Water Dogs (bred by European settlers in Newfoundland) were first introduced to Britain. They came in ships trading between Canada and Poole in Dorsetshire. Crossbreeding of these water dogs with British hunting dogs resulted in the development of the Labrador Retriever. The purpose of breeding these dogs was similar to that of Flat-coated retrievers.

Labradors are medium-sized dogs with a sturdy physical buildup. When fully grown, they weigh between 55 to 80 lbs and grow up to 21 to 24 inches. These dogs have well-structured legs and spine and their balanced physique is termed as ‘short coupled’. Labs usually come in three colors, black, chocolate brown, and yellow.

Differences Between Flat-Coated Retrievers and Labradors

The following table shows some marked differences between these breeds.

CharacteristicsFlat-Coated RetrieverLabrador
Height23-25 inches21-24 inches
Lifespan8-10 years10-13 years
CoatDouble, glossy, and smoothShort and dense
SheddingConstantModerate (seasonal)
Grooming requirementModerateLow
ColorBlack, liverBlack, chocolate brown, yellow
Barking levelHighModerate

Similarities Between Flat-Coated Retrievers and Labradors

Brown Flat-Coated Retriever and a chocolate Labrador retriever sitting in a field of dead winter grass.

Some of the major similarities between these breeds are discussed below.

Weight – Both Flat-Coated Retrievers and Labradors weigh about 55-80 pounds when they are fully grown.

Trainability – Both breeds are highly intelligent and obedient. They are always ready to please their owners and tend to learn new tricks and commands quickly. This makes the training equally enjoyable for the owner and dog.

Temperament – Both these dogs are outgoing, even-tempered, and gentle.

Good with Kids – Flat-Coated Retrievers, as well as Labradors, make a great choice for families with kids. This is because these canines love to be around kids and play with them.

Exercise Needs – Both dog breeds are highly active and will require a lot of exercise to stay calm. You can’t keep them idle for long or they may develop negative habits.

Weight Gain – Although both breeds are quite lean, they can quickly become overweight. A well-maintained balance between diet and exercise is the only key to prevent obesity.

Energy Level and Stamina – Both these pups have high energy and stamina. Hence, they are very effective in physical games, like fetching, racing, and swimming.

Sociability – Both these breeds love to be around humans and behave well in front of guests. In fact, they also do well in front of strangers.

Behavior with Other Pets – Both breeds are friendly with other dogs and pets if their space is not compromised.

Health issues – Both Labrador and Flat-Coated Retriever are prone to health issues, like Cataracts and Hip Dysplasia.

What is Better about a Flat-Coated Retriever?

Brown Flat-Coated Retriever sitting in a field of wheat

Flat-coated retrievers have almost all the qualities that are present in Labradors. However, there are some traits in which these pups hold an upper hand over Labradors. For instance, their abilities as watchdogs are much higher than Labradors. Moreover, if you are looking for a sportive dog, Flat-Coated Retrievers are a better alternative than Labs.

What is Better about a Labrador?

Yellow Labrador Retriever walking in tall grass and weeds with sun dappled in the background as if shining through trees

There is no doubt in Labradors being the best dog of all time. High sociability, friendly demeanor, and sporting abilities are best among all dogs. In comparison with Flat-coated retrievers, Labradors are much easier to train. This is because Labs don’t get distracted easily (unlike FC retrievers). That’s why Labradors are preferred for services, like guiding, therapy, search-and-rescue, and all other tasks requiring absolute obedience.

Who Should Get a Flat-Coated Retriever?

Black Flat- Coated Retriever sitting in green grass

Flat-Coated Retrievers are much more sportive than Labradors. Therefore, if you are looking for a companion for different adventures (like hunting and tracking), this breed is your best bet. Moreover, the Flat-coated retrievers get along well with senior citizens because they hustle less than Labs. However, these pooches shed a lot because of their long, wavy coat. Hence, you must prepare yourself for fulfilling their grooming needs.

Who Should Get a Labrador?

Yellow Labrador Retriever resting in Autumn leaves and green grass

Exploring outdoors and collecting games on land or in the water is what Labrador lives on. If you’re planning to walk, run, and play with your dog, this is your breed. Labradors can also be a great choice for families with large social circles where they have to encounter many people. This is because Labs behave well in front of guests (and even strangers).

It is worth mentioning that Labs require plenty of space to play freely. So, if you live in an apartment or small cottage, make sure to take your dog out for regular walks.

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