Breed Standard – Temperament

A majority of the AKC (and other) Curly Coated Retriever Breed Standard’s focus is on the correct form and conformation of the breed. What the ideal structure should be to facilitate a day in the field hunting; and lifetime of activity. I’m no expert when it comes to judging this conformation, so I am not even going to attempt to wade into that topic. My personal belief is most pet quality puppies from a good breeder are going to have an acceptable level of conformation for everyday living and activity; if you are getting a puppy with the intent to compete heavily in dog sports or hunt often, I would suggest you speak with your breeder to identify a puppy that you both believe will stand up to the rigors of the activities you have planned. Likewise if you are searching for a show dog prospect, conformation will be a key concern to you and the breeder and yourself will likely spend hours agonizing over photos of the puppies to pick “the one” that appears to be the best show prospect. If you have questions about the conformation of your puppy, or simply would like to learn more I would certainly suggest asking the breeder about it. Or seeking out information from the breed club or show judges.

For the purposes of this post however I’m going to focus on the other side, the side that seems to play the biggest role in our lives with our dogs – temperament!

I really like the AKC standard, so I’ve used it as the basis for this post. They describe the breed temperament (as an ideal) as follows:

“Self-confident, steadfast and proud, this active, intelligent dog is a charming and gentle family companion and a determined, durable hunter. The Curly is alert, biddable and responsive to family and friends, whether at home or in the field. Of independent nature and discerning intelligence, a Curly sometimes appears aloof or self-willed, and, as such, is often less demonstrative, particularly toward strangers, than the other retriever breeds. The Curly’s independence and poise should not be confused with shyness or a lack of willingness to please. In the show ring, a correctly-tempered Curly will steadily stand his ground, submit easily to examination, and might or might not wag his tail when doing so. In the field, the Curly is eager, persistent and inherently courageous. At home, he is calm and affectionate. Shyness is a fault and any dog who shies away from show ring examination should be penalized. Minor allowances can be made for puppies who misbehave in the show ring due to overexuberance or lack of training or experience.”

As a novice first looking at the breed I struggled to understand a few of these descriptors so let’s go through it! My interpretation and comments inserted in orange below:

Self-confident, steadfast (unwavering; firm in purpose) and proud, this active, intelligent dog is a charming and gentle family companion and a determined, durable hunter (in this context I take it to mean they won’t quit while hunting, will preserve through difficult terrain, and from a “form from function” perspective physically capable of withstanding multiple days out in the field year after year). The Curly is alert (depending on the individual dog I could take this to mean “good watch dog” or “attentive” in training), biddable (willing; obedient; trainable) and responsive to family and friends, whether at home or in the field. Of independent nature (more self-reliant; look for their own fun; or do things their own way) and discerning intelligence (smart enough to know when to listen!), a Curly sometimes appears aloof (there was a really interesting post on Facebook about this topic, I have posted the comments below blacking out the authors names for privacy, but I would recommend reading some of their experiences. One definition I found described aloof as “not friendly or willing to take part in things; or not interested or involved, usually because you do not approve of what’s happening” [this last definition cracked me up in relation to the breed! I can imagine Tess not approving of much of what I try to get her to do!], another dictionary defined it as “reserved or reticent; indifferent; disinterested”. The later part of this statement refers to this as applying more towards strangers, which I sounds like some – not all- dogs of the breed, however in my experience I wouldn’t say this applies to family or friends at all. They seem very happy to partake in whatever we are doing with great enthusiasm!) or self-willed, and, as such, is often less demonstrative (I take this to mean they will not tend to be as “clingy” or seek out cuddles and attention as other “more affectionate” retrievers like the Labradors and Goldens. Again I wouldn’t say they are not demonstrative, just less so than some other retrievers – and more so with strangers than family and friends.), particularly toward strangers, than the other retriever breeds. The Curly’s independence and poise should not be confused with shyness or a lack of willingness to please. In the show ring, a correctly-tempered Curly will steadily stand his ground, submit easily to examination, and might or might not wag his tail when doing so. In the field, the Curly is eager, persistent and inherently courageous. At home, he is calm and affectionate. Shyness is a fault and any dog who shies away from show ring examination should be penalized. Minor allowances can be made for puppies who misbehave in the show ring due to overexuberance or lack of training or experience.

“Aloof” Post

aloof-post_li

Seems there is quite a bit of variety on dogs in the breed who are aloof, I would guess this comes down some combination of their personality and early socialization. I love the comment above about how it may be beneficial in a working environment, which is very true. I love the questions it raised, and I have no answers.

For interest’s sake I wanted to compare Tess to the breed standard:

“Self-confident (depends on the situation), steadfast (YES!) and proud (very much so), this active, intelligent dog is a charming and gentle family companion and a determined, durable hunter (the most Tess hunts is tennis balls and sticks, but I would say she shows all these qualities when she is “hunting” or in the field doing her own doggie things. I would not say she is super self-confident in all scenarios but I suspect that was mainly my fault for not socializing her enough [or properly] as a puppy. When it’s her decision to do something though, nothing will stop her!). The Curly is alert, biddable and responsive to family and friends, whether at home or in the field (I would say this has been very true for her, she has been easy to train and eager to please). Of independent nature and discerning intelligence (again I would say this is pretty accurate, she is independent and happy to find her own doggie interests when we are out walking or when she is “supposed” to be doing an agility course! And of course I think she is very smart), a Curly sometimes appears aloof or self-willed, and, as such, is often less demonstrative, particularly toward strangers, than the other retriever breeds (for Tess I would say this is very true, she may, or may not, come say “Hi” to a stranger but then she’s off exploring again. From the other posts this sounds more like individual personality than a breed trait. However, when it comes to family, friends, or her favorite trainers in class forget being “aloof” all dignity is lost and she isn’t happy until she has properly greeted you!). The Curly’s independence and poise should not be confused with shyness or a lack of willingness to please (again I would say I have found this to be true, Tess very much wants to make me happy and hates it when she gets things “wrong” but it’s all on her time…so you have to be willing to take it in stride! Or make her think it’s her idea!). In the show ring, a correctly-tempered Curly will steadily stand his ground, submit easily to examination, and might or might not wag his tail when doing so (I haven’t competed with Tess in the show ring so can’t speak to that side of things, but I think the insinuation  from this to a non-showing situation would be that they should not be shy or aggressive when greeting strangers, but may not be as overtly “friendly” as other breeds. I think this has been a training fault in my program with Tess as a puppy, so she is not always great about meeting new people. I would think this comes down more to early socialization again than breed trait.). In the field, the Curly is eager, persistent and inherently courageous (again we haven’t hunted, but I have found this to be true. She is happy to dive into freezing lakes, thick brush, or off hills and banks I wouldn’t dream of attempting!). At home, he is calm and affectionate (yep). Shyness is a fault and any dog who shies away from show ring examination should be penalized (same as previous showing comment). Minor allowances can be made for puppies who misbehave in the show ring due to over exuberance or lack of training or experience.”

Well that’s it from me, I’m curious how closely your dogs would compare to the breed standard; or their breed standard if not a Curly. It’s interesting to see how much seems to be hereditary and how much is socialization and training.

If anyone knows of a “conformation for dummies” on the Curly Breed Standard, or that can speak to the physical side of things I’d love to post it! If you have a differing view on the temperament side I’d love to hear that too! So what’s your take?

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