I enjoyed reading David Tomlinson’s column on the flatcoated retriever (Sporting
dog, May issue). Several years back I took the decision to give this wonderful breed a try – and I have not regretted it. I am now a flatcoat convert.
Previously, labradors and cocker spaniels had been my working friends of choice for both shooting and some trialling. I have loved them all, trained them and enjoyed many magical moments, both breeds earning the respect and deserving the huge following that they have.
However, as the shooting field has become overrun by the same popular breeds, the time for change surfaced, bringing with it a fresh challenge, new dynamics, slightly different handling and one that still ticks the magical-moments box.
Having now owned and bred flatcoats, I would encourage fellow gundog enthusiasts to consider this breed. Their presence in the field is rewarding and pleasing on the eye. Yes, they are different but if you understand canine psychology and are patient you can have a dog that is steady, has in-built style and charm, is bold in cover, shows initiative and, importantly, one that is consistently the king of game finders. In my experience, they really do sweep up game that is left behind in cover once the guns have moved on to the next drive. In difficult scenting crops such as turnips, cabbages and rape they can outperform other dogs.
Interestingly, Dan Higgs, who last season made history in the trialling world by achieving success with a flatcoated retriever, a labrador and a golden retriever, recently said: “if I stuck a good game-finding flatcoat and an effective lab in a block of woodland, the flatcoat would more often than not come back with something over the lab”.
As to the “fatal flaw”, thoroughly investigate parentage and you can select a dog that can bring many years of pleasure.
Neil Gilbert, Tunstall, Suffolk