The first thing you need to ask yourself when considering this breed is if the Flat Coated Retriever is right for you. FCR's have the usual problems associated with large dogs that may include hip dysplasia, elbows, patella and inherited eye defects. However, the primary problem associated with FCR's is cancer. The average lifespan of a FCR is around 7 or 8 years. That is not to say your dog couldn't live into it's teens, but that isn't likely.
There are no cancer free lines due to the small nature of the breed's gene pool. All Flat Coats are descended from the same individuals. Any breeder making claims of cancer free lines is in denial, hasn't been in the breed very long or is just plain lying!
What are your living arrangements and your schedule like? Do you have children? Do you travel? Do you have other pets? Are you able to devote time to daily training? Can you afford proper veterinary care? Do you have time for a FCR? These are things you should be asking yourselfbefore you purchase any pet, not just a FCR.
Some of the things that make "Flatties" so appealing to potential owners are the very things that cause problems when you bring one home. That long coat needs to be brushed to keep it healthy and to reduce shedding. Ears need to be barbered to avoid matts. Toenails need to be kept trimmed. That happy energetic dog needs to be walked daily, preferably turned loose in an enclosed area to play fetch with. FCR's are full of fun and have busy minds. They like to be worked! A bored FCR is an unhappy one!
"Flatties" need to be with their people. They want/need your attention. They lick constantly and their tails never stop wagging! They are good with other animals and children. Caution should be taken (as with all pets) when around small children. All that "need to please" can turn destructive if you ignore them! On the plus side, those very traits make them highly trainable. They take to obedience/hunt training with ease. They are easily bored, however, and will think of creative ways to problem solve!
Is a Flat Coated Retriever right for you?
"Flatties" LOVE water and they do feel the need to "share" this pleasure with their owners. They also like all things rotten, smelly or decaying which they happily present to you either in person or by rolling in it! This need to share extends to bringing you everything in the house, preferably socks, shoes and underwear. FC's are notorious for eating socks!