Height: 21-26 inches
Weight: 55-80 pounds
Life Span: 10-12 years
Coloring: Any shade of brown, dead grass or sedge to match their working surroundings. Small white marks on the belly, chest, and feet are allowed, but solid colored dogs are preferred. Scars obtained while working are not penalized.
Area of Origin: USA
Similar Breeds: Curly-Coated Retriever, Flat-Coated Retriever, Golden Retriever and Labrador Retriever.
History and Origin:
The Chesapeake Bay Retriever (often called a “Chessy”) originated from a pair of Newfoundland dogs who were aboard a wrecked ship from England in 1807 which was rescued by a local ship and its crew. These dogs were then bred by local hunting dogs creating a string of puppies who excelled at retrieving. To refine the newfound breed, Otter Hounds, Flat and Curly-Coated retrievers were added to the mix and by 1884, they had created a semblance of the Chesapeake Bay Retriever known today.
These dogs are known for their lack of fear of the dangerous and freezing waters of Chesapeake Bay. They are well known for their soft mouth and willingness to please which makes them wonderful birding dogs and they are frequently sought out specifically for this purpose. While there have been some changes over the years, and the breed is now much more defined and has a broader range of color, this dog has stayed true to its roots. It continues to excel in most sports and competitions.
The breed itself was first recorded by name in England in 1877 and officially recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1918.
Personality and Temperament:
The Chesapeake Bay Retriever is an incredibly versatile dog. It is highly intelligent and playful often getting it into trouble as a puppy. These dogs are not avid barkers, love to please and are very soft in the mouth which makes them excellent for bird retrieval. They also are extremely fond of the water, and their water-tight coat keeps them warm even on the coldest days.
While these dogs are affectionate and protective of their family, this dog is not especially tolerant of strangers, particularly around the children. These dogs are very patient with children. Because they are very playful and do not settle until they are a few years of age, they can often accidentally knock over smaller children so caution should be taken to avoid accidents.
The Chesapeake Bay Retriever is tolerant of other animals and does well when hunting with other dogs as long as they do not challenge the Chesapeake Bay Retriever for dominance. Smaller animals, such as rabbits and rodents may be considered prey and as a result caution should be shown to avoid any unfortunate incidents. Again, as these dogs stay in the “puppy phase” for a number of years, they may be too playful for smaller dogs and may be inclined to chase cats. Calm and consistent training and reinforcement will prevent this from becoming a problem.
The Chesapeake Bay Retriever is well suited to almost anything they put their mind to. They excel in obedience, tracking, guard duties, and hunting. Some of these dogs are being used as drug-detection dogs quite successfully; however, fowl retrieval is where these dogs truly shine.
Overall, the Chesapeake Bay Retriever is a big puppy for their early years and like all puppies will get into things. Once they settle down, they are incredibly calm, noble dogs that will do almost anything to earn the approval of their owners.
Exercise & Training:
While these dogs are not overly active indoors, they do require a yard and are very active out of the home. Homes without yards are not recommended as these dogs require room to move. While these dogs do require room, it is not recommended that you allow your dog to roam as they can be prone to dominance and aggression with other local dogs. If left uncontrolled, this behavior can lead to one dog or both ending in injury and may cause issues with your neighbors.
These dogs require considerable exercise and enjoy hiking, running, swimming and staying active. They will keep up with the busiest owner and still have energy left to play ball in the yard.
These dogs also require exercise that not only challenges the body, but the mind as well. As these are such intelligent dogs, if their minds are not challenged or given a job they will often get bored and can become aggressive and destructive.
These dogs are not for the first time owners, nor are they for shy or submissive owners. These dogs require a firm leader they can respect or they will happily take the role that can cause many unwanted issues to emerge such as aggression and property destruction.These traits must be stopped before they become habit as they can be dangerous to your family and those who come into contact with the dog.
Training these dogs for jobs such as hunting and property protection are two areas where this dog will excel. Both of these areas will require specialized training and trainers who have many years of experience. Finding one of these trainers is important if it is your first dog if only to mentor your training to make sure you get the most out of your dog.
These dogs do not require extensive grooming yet, as they do frequently shed, the dog should be brushed at least every other day to ensure there is no excessive hair build up. Bathing these dogs should be done very infrequently as the oils in their hair protect them from the cold water, and this is stripped when they are bathed.
As with most dogs, teeth and nails should be checked at least every other week and dealt with accordingly.
Health and Wellness:
Overall, the Chesapeake Bay Retriever is a fairly healthy dog. Unfortunately, like all dogs they do have a few health concerns show up occasionally. The issues most commonly seen in this breed are:
A genetic condition where the dog’s hip joint is shaped incorrectly causing painful rubbing and tearing of the surrounding tissue. This condition is usually treated with medication, physiotherapy, massage therapy and diet for mild cases. Severe cases may require surgery to fix or replace the affected joint. This condition can be tested for by the parents.
Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA)
A genetic condition that is known for causing the dog to lose their vision slowly until they eventually go blind. There is no treatment; however, there is a simple DNA test that can be taken by the parents prior to breeding to prevent the likelihood of this being passed on to any offspring.
A disease with a potential genetic factor which can cause full body seizures (grand mal) or misfiring in the brain with no outward symptoms (petit mal). There is, unfortunately, no cure yet with proper medication this is quite manageable
Chesapeake Bay Retrievers are relatively long-lived for their size, and while their average lifespan is around nine years, there are a significant number who live to 12 years if not more with proper care and nutrition.
One issue with these dogs that may be inherited is aggression and shyness. While these can be overcome to a degree with careful handling, some dogs may not be able to overcome these issues. These issues are more frequently seen in companion dogs as opposed to working dogs. This behavior heavily implies that dogs without proper training and jobs are more prone to acting out than their working siblings. Because of this it is important that these dogs have proper training, socialization and mental stimulation.
Interesting Facts About the Chesapeake Bay Retriever
- The Chesapeake Bay Retriever is the official dog of Maryland and has been since 1964.
- While these dogs can be aggressive, they are very sensitive and are properly chastised with a disapproving look or a disapproving voice.
- These dogs are excellent exercise companions as they have a significant amount of energy.
- These dogs are very healthy and have few faults, the most common issues are related to behavior as opposed to physical maladies.
- The Chesapeake Bay Retriever’s toes are webbed, similar to that of a duck’s, to allow for powerful strokes when swimming through rough, icy water.
Organizations Dedicated to the Chesapeake Bay Retriever
- American Chesapeake Club
- American Chesapeake Club Rescue Network
- Chesapeake Bay Retriever Relief & Rescue, Inc