The Curly is an active, well-muscled dog bred for upland bird and waterfowl hunting. The Curly is somewhat different in structure than the more common retrievers. A well-bred Curly will appear slightly leggy but is actually slightly longer than tall. It is balanced and agile with a significant air of endurance, strength, and grace. Curlies are soft-mouthed and regularly handle game with care. Show standards call for dogs to be between 25 and 27 inches (64 and 69 cm) at the withers
, and for females to be between 23 and 25 inches (58 and 64 cm), however a wide range of sizes occurs, particularly in those dogs bred for the field, which generally run smaller. The country of origin calls for a taller dog and bitch, with only 27 inches (69 cm) for males and 25 inches (64 cm) for females listed. Taller is preferable to shorter. Weight should be in proportion to the height of the dog.
The Curly Coated Retriever was originally developed as a gun dog and their temperament and conformation reflect this purpose.