When you meet Labrador and Golden Retriever owners with your very young Flat Coated Retriever at an honorable event, you are often greeted with an “Oh it’s a Flat”. In the family of the Retrievers the Flat is often perceived as the annoying little brother and nobody knows yet how he will turn out. But like the parents of Michel Lönneberger, who accept their son with a sigh, the owners of Flats often say apologetically “Well, I just like the Flats!”. Flats are not bothered by such traditional animosities. Understatement is not really a fundamental trade of them.
While his relatives await the things to come with a calmness and collectedness, the Flat will use his time to the fullest. He avidly frees the soil from moss; woodblocks are sedimented and other plants are chewed up in a dramatic way. Then when the attention shifts to the little or sometimes not so little dog anymore, soil clings between the teeth or a little woodstick sticks in the palatal. He overeagerly and quite spectacular tries to remedy his situation, but unfortunately unsuccessful, he needs help!
Depending on the composition of the group, there are either ecstatic sniggers or an unnerved shake of the head “well, it is a Flat”. The owners of the Flats try damage control and try to wipe down the slobber on their trouser leg very discretely or with a sigh “well, it is a Flat”. One of my most beloved female Flat mistress friends always had an extra drool towel pinned to her dummy vest! Visually a disaster and difficult to explain to “non Flat owners”, but in her case very useful.
When I see Flats, they always remind me of foals. The legs spindly, hardly stable and too long compared to the rest of the body. The strait long head framed with fringed ears, the fur not very sure if it should grow long and silky or short and solid. A curious expression, with eyes that capture everything, blinking at his owner again and again. The Eyebrows seem to dance, to emphasize his devotion and liveliness. It seems like this little dog can do no wrong, but the mischief clearly visible. In my opinion you have to know the Setter to understand the Flat fully. His joy with running, not constricting himself, always moving forward, insisting on commitment, while always keeping his own independence. If nothing else his vitality, that he retains all his life. You may need more patience for his training than you would need for another dog. The Flats stay a child for very long. If you adapt to this, and use it to begin the training with your dog playfully, he will learn easily. He will grow with his enthusiasm for the common thing and the attention given to him from his master and mistress. With that they have courage to do things, where they might blockade in other situations with pressure. The basics like concentration, patience, walking the dog on a leash are often critical in the beginning, however they swim to the other riverside with a enthusiasm like not many else. If he somehow can’t be bothered with a task he will blockade it but very subtly. As a person you then not know if the little “Sweetheart” doesn’t know the command, isn’t able to follow it or he purely doesn’t want to do it.
When I think about the Flat Coated Retriever I visualize a typical training situation: During the time the trainer explains the task to the owner and both are in deep concentration, the Flat Coated blinks past the legs, to the side, back and in a circle. The fluffy ears tense with a thrill of anticipation. It is now the challenge of the owner to get him and his dog to focus on the task at hand, but because he often also has a little temper, it may not work at once. While watching it, some spectators think or whisper repeatedly “…well, it is a Flat”.
But a Flat Coated Retriever also grows up. They evolve to wonderful dogs, they radiate sovereignty, learn to accept serenity, without losing their liveliness and youthfulness.
Their remarkable interest in game and in hunting predestinates them for a hunting or at least hunting-like training.
During the search over a wide area, when the dog, while being in play with the wind, gets into running and his silky fur displays every movement of the muscles, then the melody of the Flats is playing and the entranced choir sings “well, it is a Flat”.