These highly intelligent, active, and loyal dogs are amazing adventure buddies and beloved family members.

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Retrievers are a lovable bunch. So lovable, in fact, that some retriever dog breeds are among the most popular breeds in the world—and for good reason. These natural helpers are eager to please their humans and are sure to do so thanks to their inherent intelligence, athleticism, loyalty, and determination. But did you know there are six different types of retrievers? We'll explore the various breeds, so you can find which retriever may be the best fit for you and your family.

What Makes Retriever Dog Breeds Unique?

Retriever dog breeds are multi-talented in that they are hard-workers who want to put their mind and energy to good use so they can thrive. Retrievers love a good challenge and the opportunity to learn new skills.

"Retrievers are a popular group of dogs that are exceptionally smart, energetic, and great with people," says George Melillo, VMD, and co-founder and chief veterinary officer of Heart + Paw. "They fall into the sporting dog group, as they originally were bred as hunting dogs to help retrieve game. In doing so, it was important for the retriever to run through terrain and water to gently pick up the hunted animal and return it intact to the hunter. This required a certain athleticism and the ability to learn quickly and partner with their handler, all of which have been bred into them over time."

Retrievers are easy to train, love to play (especially games of fetch!), and want to make their owners proud. So, it comes no surprise that they make incredible canine companions, additions to the family, and service dogs.

6 Types of Retriever Dog Breeds

While retriever dog breeds share the same passion for work and play, they have their own unique characteristics that set them apart. Keep reading to find out which might be the perfect choice as your next canine companion!

Labrador Retriever

chocolate labrador retriever in grass
Labrador retrievers have held the title of "America's Most Popular Dog Breed" for nearly three decades.
| Credit: otsphoto / Adobe Stock

The Labrador retriever has consistently been voted as the number one most popular dog breed in the U.S. for almost 30 years, which goes to show just how widely loved Labs are! They are as active as they are outgoing.

"[Labs] originated from Northeast Canada where they worked with fishermen to haul in nets and their catch," Melillo says. "They love the water, are athletic, intelligent, and eager to please."

Labrador retrievers have three main colors including black, yellow, and chocolate. Variations of those colors combined can result in Labs with a fox red, polar white, or silver coat.

Chesapeake Bay Retriever

Outdoor portrait of Chesapeake Bay retriever, profile view
Credit: ktatarka / Getty

The Chesapeake Bay retriever is an adaptable breed who is willing to do anything with you. He loves to work his mind and body, so as long as there's a task at hand, he's happy.

Chessies are the only American-bred retriever, and boy, do they love to swim! They excel in just about any physical activity and have been said to be capable of retrieving up to 300 ducks in a day. (We wouldn't put it past them.)

"Chesapeake Bay retrievers arose from working dogs [Sailor and Canton] who were ship-wrecked off the coast of Maryland," Melillo says. "These dogs interbred, and the results are what we now know as Chesapeake Bay retrievers."

Golden Retriever

owner petting their golden retriever on the head
Credit: Wang Yukun / Getty

Highly intelligent, loving, and active, golden retrievers have been stealing hearts for centuries. Originally hailing from the Scottish Highlands, these playful pooches were bred to be the perfect gundog. They thrive with adequate exercise and mental stimulation. (There's no wondering why Bud from 'Air Bud' is a golden retriever, as well as why there's a whopping 14 films in the franchise. He could do it all!)

Fun fact: there are three different types of golden retrievers. Yes, really! The different types include the American golden retriever, Canadian golden retriever, and English golden retriever.

The American golden retriever often finds himself in the American Kennel Club's (AKC) top 10 most popular dog breeds. (And rightfully so!) American golden retrievers are amazing family dogs. They have a sleek build and a feathery, golden coat.

The Canadian golden retriever is taller and leaner in appearance when compared to the other two types. Their coats are generally thinner and darker in color.

And last but not least, the English (or British) golden retriever has broader features, is typically lighter in color, and is heavier compared to their retriever counterparts.

Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever

Portrait of Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever outdoors
Credit: fotorince / Adobe Stock

William Shakespeare once wrote, "Though she be but little, she is fierce." And that's perhaps the best way to describe the Nova Scotia duck tolling retriever, also called a toller.

While they're the smallest of the retrievers, tollers are quite active. "[Tollers] originated in Nova Scotia where hunters bred and trained them to play near and in the water to attract curious waterfowl," Melillo says.

Tollers feel their best when they can put their intelligence and agility to use. They are ambitious, loving dogs who enjoy spending time with others.

Flat-Coated Retriever

Black Flat-Coated Retriever running in the water
Flat-coated retrievers don't need a ton of baths—but they do love water! These pups will happily join you for a summer afternoon splash.
| Credit: THOMAS KIENZLE / Getty

The flat-coated retriever has an unbounded love for playing. So, if you consider yourself active, a flatty may be your perfect match.

Bred in England in the mid-1800s, the flat-coated retriever accompanied the English high society and became known as the "gamekeeper's dog." These smart, active pups are happy to do whatever it takes to burn off energy—whether it be hiking, running, swimming, or just about any other outdoor activity.

Flat-coated retrievers are outgoing, loyal, and sweet. No matter their age, they have a never-ending thirst for adventure (and cuddles).

Curly-Coated Retriever

black curly coated retriever wearing a blue collar with his tongue out
Credit: Sean / Adobe Stock

The curly-coated retriever is another breed known for her ability to work and play all day long. To say the curly-coated retriever is an active dog breed may be a massive understatement.

Curly-coated retrievers were bred for upland bird and waterfowl hunting in the 1800s, and according to the AKC, were likely "the first breed used for serious retrieving work in England"—making them one of the oldest retriever breeds. Thanks to their tightly curled, water-resistant coats, these determined canines can retrieve in harsher conditions, including cold water.

Much like flat-coated retrievers, they are athletic, intelligent, youthful, and affectionate.