Dogs from the retriever grouping are incredibly popular across the world, both as working dogs and as pets. While retrievers were historically bred and kept only for working roles, their open temperaments and sunny dispositions mean that they have easily bridged the divide between solely working roles and domestic life with relative ease, and are some of the most versatile dogs around!
As well as being worked as actual retrievers, retrievers are also an excellent fit for working roles such as being assistance dogs for people with disabilities, and assisting with search and rescue work thanks to their excellent scenting abilities. They are also good all-rounders, and can often be seen competing in canine sports such as agility and flyball.
Essentially, a retriever is a dog that originally fell into the gundog grouping, and would have been trained and used to work alongside of game hunters.
Skills that the retriever requires include obedience, a superior aptitude for training, and an enthusiastic, lively manner. When a shooting party was on the hunt, retrievers would work with them to scent out and retrieve downed game birds, bringing them back to the hunters unharmed. This included retrieving both on land and in the water, and most retrievers are keen and enthusiastic swimmers that very much enjoy getting wet and mucky!
The Labrador Retriever is not only one of the best known retriever breeds, but also one of the most popular companion pets within the UK. They are enthusiastic about life, but also very kind and gentle with both strangers and their family, getting on well with children of all ages and being very accepting and empathic towards nervous people and those with special needs. They are a medium sized dog that can be seen in either yellow, black or chocolate coloured coats, and they are also renowned for their hearty appetites and love of food!
The Golden Retriever is another dog that is very popular within the UK, being handsome, relatively large and kind of face. They have kind natures and bond strongly with their families, as well as being excellent social dogs, both with other dogs and with strange people. Like the Labrador, they are also often used for assistance work, and have both the intelligence, tenacity and skills to fulfil the role. The Golden Retriever has a relatively long coat, which is renowned to shed prolifically!
The Curly Coated Retriever does not have the conformation and appearance that most of the other retriever breeds share, generally being slightly leaner and longer with finer legs. One of their most defining characteristics is their coats, which are composed of dense, short hair that is very curly, and excellent at repelling water and thorns, burrs and other hazards. Curly Coated Retrievers may be seen in either black or yellow colours, they are kind, enthusiastic and personable dogs.
The Flat Coated Retriever used to be known as the Wavy Coated Retriever, and shares some physical similarities with the Golden Retriever. The two dogs have a similar size, height and conformation, and are lean and muscular without being overly heavy. The Flat Coated Retriever can be seen in black, yellow or liver colours, but black is the most common colour of the three.
The Flat Coated Retriever is a real people pleaser, that works hard to impress its handlers and go the extra mile to get the job done. They are happiest when active and working or playing, and like all of the retriever breeds, get on well with children.
The Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever or “Toller” hails from Canada, and the full name of the breed comes from their historical usage as tolling dogs. Tolling is a process that involves using the dog to encourage or flush birds out towards hunters, often on the border between land and water.
They have medium length coats with a soft and dense undercoat, and are a bright, vibrant red auburn shade in colour. They are renowned for having a vaguely fox-like appearance at first glance.
The Chesapeake Bay Retriever is an American dog breed, which looks roughly similar to the Labrador Retriever in size and shape. Their coats are brown or sage in colour, and may contain white spots. Their coats are slightly longer in places than the Labrador Retriever coat, having a slightly curly or wavy appearance on the shoulders.
The Chessie is a happy, bright and intelligent dog that is always happy to play or go to work, the breed has a reputation for being somewhat stubborn, but correct handling and training can deal with this issue if it presents itself. The Chesapeake Bay Retriever is also noted for being good with children and nervous people.