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     Supporting agility dogs with specialist lifetime cover

Flatcoated Retriever

In a nutshell: Enthusiastic, boisterous, waggy dogs with a wicked sense of humour.

Flatcoat making a wish as it leaps through the wellAlso known as: Flattie, Flatcoats

Description: Black or chocolate in colour, Flatcoated Retrievers are similar to but a little more athletic looking than the Golden Retriever. The breed motto is 'Power without lumber, raciness without weediness.'

Temperament: Friendly, inquisitive and people-centric. A flat-coat is never happier than with his or her family and always wants to be in on the action. The car sticker describes them well -- “flatcoats do it with a wagging tail”. Some unkind people call them 'scatty flatties' but, like all dogs, once you’ve shown them the fun in the work, they will apply themselves.

Spread jumps pose no threat to the FlatcoatAdvantages as an agility dog:

  • Flatcoats have an enthusiasm for life and work that can be channelled effectively into agility.
  • Both my flatcoats are accurate and responsive. My bitch makes up time in fantastically tight turns in the air and around the jump wings along with running contacts. She’s keen as mustard to work. My dog will work ahead of me on a good day. Both dogs work primarily on body position. Both dogs demand clear leadership on the course. My bitch was a brilliant first agility dog – she was fast enough to be competitive, but steady enough for me to learn agility. Both dogs are very forgiving and have merrily ignored poor handling and done the right thing anyway.
  • One of the biggest advantages is that no one expects flatties to be any good; so when they are, people make very nice and surprised comments about the dog and your handling, and when they aren’t, it’s credited to their breed and not your handling!

Disadvantages as an agility dog:-

  • Conformation: They are bigger dogs, with deep chests. My bitch is too small and wiry for the breed standard and has consequently been competitive in Novice and the less frenzied Intermediate classes, beating many collies in her career. My dog struggles with minimum paced jumps and those tiddly contact areas. Look for small parents.
  • Motivation: like most ABC’s they prefer to work closer to you than a confident collie. When it’s hot, neither of my dogs can find any pace; winter shows and bad weather work well for us.
  • Distraction: Snack wagons, water, lovely smells – these are a few of a flatcoat's favourite things. Moral – be the most interesting thing on the course.
  • Trainers: My trainers were really interested in helping me get the best out of my flatcoats and they encouraged and supported me through some training challenges. Not all trainers take you seriously and take the time to give you proper feedback if you have a flatcoat. Alternatively they may – out of the kindness of their heart - give you too much leeway and allow you to get away with poor handling because they don’t believe a flatcoat can really do it. And finally, they may not have enough interest or experience with ABCs to help you bring the best out of your team-mate. So look for a trainer who’s interested and handled/successfully trained some dogs other than those annoying collies.

Kim and Poppy in the ABC agility ring at CruftsRating out of 10 and why: For fun: 10/10. For challenge: 10/10. Don’t believe those people who say life’s too short to train a flatcoat! For (reliable) competitive achievement: 7/10. You’re unlikely to go as far as you would with say, a Belgian – but what a feeling when you do shock the judge!

Examples of dogs that have done well in agility: I’m only aware of two flatcoats that have done well. A lady in Kent had a flatcoat dog called Buster who became Senior. Jo Rhodes’ first agility dog was a flatcoat and I think she took her to Senior. Poppy, my bitch has won out of Starters, qualified for the Agility Voice Pairs, qualified for the ABC final in 2001 and was a first reserve in 2000 and 2002. But she’s never had the turn of speed for us to become Senior. Watch out though – there are some very likely looking flatcoats coming onto the agility scene.

What's it like to live with as a pet? Fantastic. Loving, in your face, with you, full of the joys of life – they make you feel great. I spend a great deal of time on a walk feeling proud that these happy, fit beautiful dogs are mine! However they aren’t necessarily sensitive if you’re feeling a little blue – perhaps because they can’t conceive of being unhappy?

Would you buy another one for agility? I already have two and my second has achieved much less than my first. In some senses he’s been heartbreaking because he has so much more potential than my first and I haven’t been able to tap into it, so I’m a little wary. I think that I will get another flatcoat when I’m a more experienced handler and have a better understanding of agility training.

Thank you (flatcoat) guys – I couldn’t have asked for more.

Source: Kim Whitmore

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