Flat-Coated Retrievers

Flat-Coated Retrievers Make Fine Hunting Dogs

Outdoors with Mike Norris


November 20, 2002

The Lenoid meteor shower provided an entertaining beginning to a day of hunting wild pheasants in east-central Illinois.

At the invitation of Ken Abraham, an avid outdoorsman and producer of my radio show, "Outdoors with Mike Norris" (Thursdays, 3 to 4 p.m., AM-1280), I drove the 120-mile trek to Paxton early last Tuesday morning while a spectacular light show blazed overhead.

Neither the meteor show nor the day spent watching pointers and retrievers do their thing disappointed me.

Joining Abraham and I on the hunt was Todd Berg, a Mundelein based fishing guide whose "Into The Outdoors" website is popular among area outdoorsmen. I have spent time in the field with a variety of hunting dogs, including English pointers, black labs, Brittanys, German wire-haired pointers, and Vizslas but I don't think I've spent a day with a more beautiful and warm-hearted hunting dog then Todd Berg's flat coated retriever named Gunner.

The flat coated retriever was developed in England about the middle of the nineteenth century. From this time, until about the end of World War I, the breed enjoyed great fashion and was the hunting dog of choice, especially among European game-keepers.

"The gamekeepers in Europe used to always have them because they hunt anything," Berg said. "They'll hunt rabbits, upland game and waterfowl."

By the end of World War II there were only 62 flat coated retriever dogs left in Europe, mostly because keepers stopped breeding them during the war. When the war ended, breeders started rebuilding the line again.

"Currently there are only about 5,000 of them in North America," Berg said. "They have never really taken off here because unlike a Labrador retriever, who will work on a blind retrieve all day long, a flat coated retriever will want to do six different things. They consider repetitious work boring and will want to do something else."

But they are very smart dogs insists Berg.

"You put a golden retriever at the line and the Golden will 'say tell me what you want, why you want it and I'll do it,'" Berg said. "You put a Labrador retriever at the line, it will say 'tell me what you want, I don't care why you want it, I'll just get it done.' A flat coated retriever at the line says 'I already know what you want, and why you want it, now step aside and I'll show you a better way.'"

Berg was first introduced to flat coated retriever's when a friend of his in college owned two of them. Berg had lost his Labrador retriever to old age last September, and asked his wife, Veronica, what kind of dog she wanted? At one time or another they had owned an English pointer, a German short-hair, and the Labrador, and wanted something different.

So they started looking around and found out about flat coated retrievers at a dog show in Chicago.

There they learned about Inglis Kennels, located in the Canadian town of Dalmeny, near Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.

"We decided to purchase one of their pups and originally were going to go up to Saskatchewan to pick it up, but he wasn't supposed to be ready until about the first of June," Berg said. "So I suggested to Veronica that we take the boat up to Saskatoon, fish for a couple weeks, and then pick up the dog. As it turned out, the mother came into heat early, took the stud right away, and she welt the pups the 20th of February. Gunner was ready for pickup on the 20th of April. Instead of driving to Saskatoon that early in the season, we asked the kennel to put him on a plane and he was flown down here."

"He's a great dog and Veronica and I have just had a blast with him," Berg said. "He'll do anything for you, and he loves going out in my boat."

And despite the tall, thick prairie grasses fields we hunted in last Tuesday, Gunner proved his worth while retrieving bird after bird.

For more information on flat coated retrievers, check out the Inglis Kennels website.

"Outdoors with Mike Norris" is heard every Thursday from 3-4 p.m. on AM-1280 WBIG. Mike Norris can be reached at wallimike@aol.com


Reprinted with permission from Mike Norris.