Types of Retriever Dogs

Written by AZ Animals Staff
Published: November 9, 2021


Retriever dogs are dogs trained to retrieve game, mostly birds. Because of this, these dogs are trained to be obedient, responsive, and eager to please. They are also bred for physical toughness, for hunting fowl often happens in inclement weather, and the dogs often need to throw themselves into cold water to retrieve a duck or a goose.

Retrievers also have a keen sense of smell, a good memory, and “soft mouths” which means they can pick up a duck or a quail without biting or dropping it and bring it back to the hunter. Many retriever dogs are rather large or medium-sized, though there are small retriever breeds such as spaniels. Read on to learn more about the different types of retriever dogs.

1. Chesapeake Bay Retriever

Types of Retriever Dogs
A Chesapeake Bay Retriever is born to spend time in the water, and like the ducks they often help hunt, they have webbed feet to help them swim in the waters of the bay.

This hard-working dog was developed in the United States in the 1800s to retrieve water birds. Legend has it that the Chessie was descended from two puppies who were shipwrecked off the coast of Maryland and trained as retrievers. Plain of looks but notoriously reliable and sturdy, this retriever is also prized for the dense coat that protects it from the cold waters of the bay. It has a wide, round head, thin lips, drooping ears and powerful hindquarters and webbed toes that help it swim. It’s a medium-sized dog that stands between 22 and 26 in height at the shoulder and has a weight of between 55 and 75 pounds. Like other dogs its size, the Chessie lives around 12 years.

Go here to learn more about the Chessie.

2. Gordon Setter

Types of Retriever Dogs
A female Gordon Setter Hunting Dog relaxing on the beach in the holiday.

Among the different types of retriever dogs, the Gordon setter is the only one with black and tan coloration. It’s also the only Scottish setter. It’s known for its silky, luxurious coat which can be straight or somewhat wavy. Developed by the Duke of Richmond and Gordon in the 1600s to retrieve game birds, the Gordon setter is powerful, loyal, and sweet-tempered despite its glamorous looks.

Besides the coat, which needs to be brushed and detangled fairly regularly, the Gordon setter has a long muzzle, a deep head with a defined stop, and long ears. There’s feathering on the tail, the chest, the belly, and the legs, and the feathering on the tail is arranged in a way that makes the dog’s tail look triangular flag. The Gordon setter stands between 24.5 and 26 inches high at the shoulder and weighs between 56 and 65 pounds. Like a lot of retrievers, it needs a lot of exercise and doesn’t do well in an apartment. It lives around 10 to 12 years.

Read this for more information on the Gordon setter.

3. Curly Coated Retriever

Types of Retriever Dogs
A black curly coated retriever dog on the beach. Curly-coated retrievers are considered intelligent and easy to train.

This retriever looks very much like the Chesapeake Bay retriever, though it is a bit bigger, standing between 25 and 27 inches in height and weighing between 70 and 80 pounds. Another difference, of course, is that it has tightly curled and dense fur everywhere except on its face, which is smooth. Like the Chessie, it was bred to retrieve waterfowl, and its coat, which can be black or liver-colored, dries quickly. Its story begins in Great Britain in the 1800s, though no one quite knows how.

The dog’s hanging ears are short, its forelegs are straight, and like other dogs that retrieve in the water, it has powerful hindquarters that propel it as it swims. Its shoulders are deep, and its feet are round and webbed. Despite the coat’s unusual texture, it doesn’t need to be trimmed or stripped, and grooming is easy. This dog lives between 8 and 12 years.

To know more about the curly coated retriever, go here.

4. Flat-coated Retriever

Types of Retriever Dogs
Flat-Coated Retriever swimming in a Swedish lake. The flat-coated retriever was developed as a hunting dog to retrieve game from both land and water and they reached peak popularity in World War 1.

This dog, with its feathered tail, ears, forelegs, and belly, looks like a fancier version of the Chesapeake Bay retriever, though it was developed in Great Britain in the 1800s from the Labrador retriever and the Newfoundland. Aside from the feathering, its coat lies flat, fine-textured, and dense. It has a longer head and flatter skull than the Chessie, with straight forelegs and strong feet with an arch to the toes. It’s about the size of other retrievers mentioned and stands 22 to 23 inches in height with a weight of between 60 and 70 pounds.

A wonderful family dog, it is good around children and loves nothing more than a game of fetch. But like other retrievers, it needs at least a yard to run around in. The lifespan of the flat coated retriever is about 10 years.

Read this to learn more about the flat-coated retriever.

5. Golden Retriever

Types of Retriever Dogs
Golden Retrievers consistently rank among the top 3 most popular dogs in the U.S.

Among the different types of retriever dogs, the golden is one of the most popular. Developed in 19th century Scotland, born to please their humans, this strong-bodied dog stands 20 to 24 inches in height and weighs between 60 and 80 pounds. There are flat coated and wavy coated types, but both have a wide, roundish skull with a well-defined stop and a powerful muzzle. Despite this, the golden must have a soft mouth to bring back the birds it was trained to retrieve.

Like other retrievers, it needs space to run around in but is an excellent family dog. It gets its name because of its lustrous coat, which can range from cream-colored to gold, but not red if the dog is shown. The coat does need regular grooming, especially when the dog is shedding. The golden retriever has a lifespan of about 10 to 12 years and unlike other retrievers can thrive in an apartment if it gets enough exercise.

To learn more about the golden, read this.

6. Labrador Retriever

Labradors are known for their gentleness, tolerance, and intelligence. Their easy-going nature is what makes them the top choice as American family dogs.

The Lab is another wildly popular retriever, not just because of its talent at helping fishermen pull their nets out of the water, but because of its lively and friendly personality. The Lab also has an excellent sense of smell and is used to sniff out contraband drugs and explosives.

The dog is about the size of most retrievers, standing 21.5 to 22.5 inches high and weighing 55 to 75 pounds. It is a muscular dog, with a deep chest, thick neck, long shoulders, and barrel ribcage. Its hindquarters, as with many larger retrievers, are powerful. Its tail is thick at its root, then tapers. The double coat that helps the dog bear cold water can come in black, chocolate, or yellow. Though the Lab was developed in 19th century Canada, it comes in English and American types, with the English Lab being bulkier. The lifespan of this companionable dog is 10 to 12 years.

Go here for more information about the Labrador retriever.

7. English Cocker Spaniel

Types of Retriever Dogs
The English Cocker Spaniel is a medium-sized dog breed with long ears and a happy disposition.

One of the small retriever breeds, the cocker spaniel was developed in Wales and southwest England to flush and retrieve woodcock, a small game bird. It has a beautiful, long, silky coat that is allowed to come in a variety of color types. Its body is compact and strong, it has a powerful neck, sloping shoulders, and straight front legs with a lot of feathering. Its ears are so long that the owner needs to check them to make sure that they’re free of debris, and the lush coat needs to be combed and brush regularly, and bathed when it’s called for.

The cocker spaniel stands only 15 to 16 inches high at the shoulder and weighs between 28 and 32 pounds. Because of this, it is an excellent dog for an apartment. Of a gentle and affectionate temperament, it is good with young children and other pets. One bonus of having one of the small retriever breeds is that they live longer than the larger breeds. The cocker spaniel’s lifespan is 12 to 15 years.

To find out more about the cocker spaniel, read this.

8. Retriever Mixes

Types of Retriever Dogs
A Corkie is a fairly energetic, small to medium-sized dog. The Corkie is a cross between an American Cocker Spaniel and a Yorkshire Terrier.

To be honest, most purebred retrievers started off as mixes. The beloved golden retriever, for example, is descended from a hodgepodge of the flat-coated retriever, the Tweed water spaniel, the Lab, the Irish setter and the bloodhound. Newer retriever mixes that aren’t yet recognized by all those kennel clubs are becoming more and more popular. Many share their retriever parents’ eagerness to please and hardiness. They include:

  • Golden Labrador. This dog is a cross between the golden and Labrador retrievers. Also called the goldador, this dog has a double coat and unfortunately is a rather heavy shedder. It lives about as long as its parents, which is about 10 to 12 years and has a weight of between 55 and 80 pounds and a height of between 21.5 and 25.5 inches. Read here about the golden Labrador.
  • Corkie. This little dog is a cross between an American cocker spaniel and a Yorkshire terrier. It is a fairly energetic, small to medium size dog that can live as long as 15 years. To learn more about the Corkie, go here.
  • Labmaraner. This elegant mix is the result of a Labrador retriever and a Weimaraner, two sporting dogs. It is a medium-sized dog that stands 23 to 24 inches high and can weigh between 60 to 100 pounds. Also called the Weimador, the dog is energetic, hard-working and personable and lives 10 to 12 years. Read this to learn more about the Labmaraner.

9. Portuguese Water Dog

Types of Retriever Dogs
Portuguese Water Dogs can dive as deep as 12 feet while chasing fish! They have an athletic body and webbed feet, which act like flippers, propelling them through the water.

When it comes to different retriever breeds, the Portuguese water dog is probably the most different. It is a retriever, but it differs from the other breeds in what it’s meant to retrieve. Basically, it was bred to jump into the ocean to retrieve items that its master dropped overboard. If it wasn’t doing that, it happily lept into the deep to deliver messages to the captain and crew of a nearby ship.

Interestingly, this dog doesn’t have an undercoat to keep it warm. The coat can be long with soft curls or short and thick with tight curls. The dog, also called the Cão de Água, was developed in Portugal in the 1500s. It is not large and can be said to be one of the small retriever breeds at 16 to 22 inches high and 33 to 35 pounds. But it has powerful legs and a deep chest joined to a strong, straight neck. The dog’s fur is sometimes trimmed like the poodle, another dog that does water work. Lively, loving and a bit goofy, this dog is small enough to take well to apartment living. The lifespan is 10 to 14 years. By the way, the Obamas’ dog was a Portuguese water dog named Bo.

Next Up: Do Grasshoppers Bite?