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For other uses, see Retriever (disambiguation).
A black Standard Poodle retrieving Mallard. Poodles are rarely used for retrieving any more, and are most commonly used as companions

A retriever is a type of gun dog that retrieves game for a hunter. Generally gun-dogs are divided into three major classifications: retrievers, flushing spaniels, and pointing breeds. Retrievers were bred primarily to retrieve birds or other prey and return them to the hunter without damage. Although spaniels and some pointing breeds routinely retrieve game, and many retrievers are skilled in finding game, retrievers are distinguished in that non-slip retrieval is their primary function. As a result, retriever breeds are bred for soft mouths and a great willingness to please, learn, and obey. A soft mouth refers to the willingness of the dog to carry game in its mouth without biting into it. "Hard mouth" is a serious fault in a hunting dog and is one that is very difficult to correct. A hard-mouthed dog renders game unpresentable or at worst inedible.

The retriever's willingness to please and trainability have made retrievers such as the Labrador Retriever and Golden Retriever popular as assistance dogs.


In order to carry out the duties of a gun dog, a retriever should be trained to perform the following tasks:

Although most individual retrievers have the raw capacity to be trained to perform as a gun dog, a significant amount of thought and effort is given to breeding in specific desired traits into dogs from field bred lines that greatly enhance the training process. When breeding retrievers for field work extensive consideration is given to:

Life Span[edit]

The average life span of a retriever is about 10–12 years. Some may live up to 15 years.

Retrievers include[edit]

Other Dogs with retrieving skill:

The Boykin Spaniel is most often worked as a non-slip retriever, though it originated as a duck- and turkey-flushing dog. Many would classify it as a flushing spaniel rather than as a retriever. Similarly, the American Water Spaniel could be listed in either category. Dogs such as the Poodle, which are rarely used in hunting today, are difficult to classify, but their traditional job was that of a retriever.

See also[edit]