Chesapeake Bay Retriever Guide

Sporting Dog Breeds

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The Chesapeake Bay retriever was developed to hunt waterfowl under adverse conditions, facing strong tides in rough water, high winds and sometimes even having to break through ice. It is an extraordinary swimmer, with a strong, yet tender, bite enabling it to carry birds. It has powerful limbs and webbed feet. The Chessie is slightly longer than tall, with its hindquarters as high, or higher, than its forequarters. Its coat is rendered virtually waterproof by virtue of its oily, harsh outer coat and dense wooly undercoat. The color matches its working surroundings: any shade of brown, sedge or dead grass.

The Chesapeake Bay retriever is hardy enough to not only withstand, but also relish, repeated plunges into icy water. It loves to swim and retrieve. Despite an active life when outdoors, inside it tends to be calm. The Chessie tends to be independent, although it is eager to learn. It is reserved with strangers and can be protective; it also can be aggressive toward strange dogs if challenged. This is the hardiest, most strong-willed and protective of the retriever breeds.


FAMILY gundog, retriever

AREA OF ORIGIN United States


ORIGINAL FUNCTION water retriever

TODAY'S FUNCTION water retriever, retriever field trials, companion

AVERAGE SIZE OF MALE Height: 23-26 Weight: 65-80

AVERAGE SIZE OF FEMALE Height: 21-24 Weight: 55-70


Energy level Medium energy

Exercise needs Medium

Playfullness Moderately playful

Affection level Very affectionate

Friendliness toward other dogs Friendly

Friendliness toward other pets Friendly

Friendliness toward strangers Shy

Ease of training Moderately easy to train

Watchdog ability High

Protection ability Moderately protective

Grooming needs Low maintenance

Cold tolerance High tolerance

Heat tolerance Medium tolerance

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The Chessie is a large active dog that needs a daily chance to exercise. It enjoys a good walk or swim. It can live outside in temperate conditions, but more than anything it prefers to spend time with its family. The oily, wavy coat needs weekly brushing but is generally easily maintained. It seldom needs washing; in fact, it's hard to get a Chessie wet! Bathing destroys the coat's oils and thus, its water resistance.
• Major concerns: CHD, gastric torsion
• Minor concerns: PRA
• Occasionally seen: entropion, OCD, elbow dysplasia, cerebellar abiotrophy
• Suggested tests: hip, eye
• Life span: 10 – 13 years
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The history of the Chesapeake Bay retriever is one of the most fascinating — and fortunate — in dogdom. In 1807, an American ship rescued the crew and cargo from a shipwrecked English brig off the coast of Maryland. Among the rescued were two presumably Newfoundland pups that were given to the rescuers. These pups (one black and one red) later proved to be skilled water retrievers, and as their reputations grew, many local retrievers of uncertain background came to be bred to them. It is also thought that Irish water spaniel, Newfoundland, bloodhound and other local hound crosses added to the development of the breed. Gradually a distinct local breed emerged, a dog that would repeatedly swim through the rough icy waters of the Chesapeake Bay and unerringly retrieve duck after duck. Even today, the Chessie is renowned for its remarkable ability to mark and remember where a bird has fallen. Its reputation spread well beyond the Chesapeake Bay area. By 1885, the breed was thoroughly established and recognized by the AKC. Despite being one of the oldest AKC recognized breeds, as well as one of the few breeds that can boast of being made in the United States, the Chessie's popularity has remained modest.
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