Although a variety of hunting dogs had been used for centuries, the advent of the shotgun created a need for a specialized “retriever”. In the early days, any dog that returned with game was identified as a “retriever” but they mostly consisted of mixes of the St. John’s Water Dog, a variety of setters and spaniels, and a dash of working collie.
S.E. Shirley (the founder of the Kennel Club) is credited with stabilizing Flat-Coat ‘type’ during the mid to late 1800s. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, Flat-Coats were the first choice of English gamekeepers for their working ability as an all-round retriever. However, the two World Wars left the Flat-Coat in serious danger of being lost completely.
Due to the dedication of a handful of serious breeders and sportsmen, the breed was preserved and rebuilt to its current worldwide numbers. Although no longer the most common retriever, the Flat-Coat of today has held true to its ancestors of a hundred years ago….in appearance, working ability and temperament.