- The Chessie’s oily coat protects him in the water, but it also gives him a doggy odor.
- Chessies enjoy spending time with their family and should not live outdoors with little human interaction.
- Chessies are an uncommon breed. Expect to spend some months or even a year or more on a waiting list before a puppy is available.
AKC group: Sporting Group
UKC group: Gun dog
Average lifespan: 11 – 13 years
Average size: 55 – 80 pounds
Coat appearance: Thick, harsh and oily. Water runs off the coat similar to a duck.
Coloration: Red, brown and tan
Other identifiers: Muscular body, webbed toes, high-set hanging ears, medium-length tail, yellow or amber eyes, thin lips and brown nose
|A Chesapeake Bay Retriever circa 1915
The Chesapeake Bay Retriever is one of the few breeds that can claim to be born in the USA. The breed is thought to descend from two Newfoundland
dogs named Sailor and Canton who were traveling aboard a ship bound for England in 1807. The ship ran aground, but the crew and the two dogs Sailor, a dingy red male, and Canton, a black female, were rescued. Sailor found a home with John Mercer of West River and Canton with Dr. James Stewart of Sparrow’s Point.
Both dogs gained a reputation as excellent water dogs, especially when it came to duck hunting, and their puppies inherited their abilities — and their unusual yellowish or amber-colored eyes. There was no recorded mating of the two dogs, but seventy years later, when strains from both the eastern and western shores of Maryland met at the Poultry & Fanciers Association show in Baltimore in 1877, their similarities were sufficient that they were recognized as one breed, “The Chesapeake Bay Ducking Dog.” Records show that the offspring of Canton and Sailor were intermingled at the Carroll Island Kennels and spread from there throughout the region.
By the time the American Kennel Club was established in 1884, a definite Chesapeake variety had been developed and was well known for its prowess in the rough, icy waters of the Chesapeake Bay. The American Chesapeake Club was formed in 1918. The American Chesapeake Club held the first licensed retriever trial in 1932. Fittingly, the front door of the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum in St. Michael’s, Maryland, is guarded by a pair of cast-iron statues of Chessies.
The Chesapeake Bay Retriever has the strongest personality of all retrievers. They are not as easy-going as the other breeds, are more independent and are probably the hardest to train. Despite that, they are some of the most durable hunting dogs around. They love to swim and can handle an entire day of retrieving ducks or sticks from frigid waters. They are a true outdoorsperson’s dog and will happily accompany people on hikes, bike trips, jogs or camping excursions.
The Chesapeake Bay Retriever, which has an average lifespan of 10 to 13 years, is prone to some major health issues such as gastric torsion and canine hip dysplasia (CHD), and minor concerns like hypothyroidism and progressive retinal atrophy (PRA). Some other potential issues affecting the breed include elbow dysplasia, entropion, cerebellar abiotrophy, and Osteochondrosis Dissecans (OCD). To identify some of these issues, a veterinarian may recommend regular eye, hip, and thyroid exams for the dog.
Chesapeake Bay Retrievers are not recommended for apartment life. They are relatively inactive indoors and will do best with at least an average-sized yard. Chesapeake Bay Retrievers often enjoy sleeping outdoors if it is cooler outside, as they prefer cool climates.
In many ways, the Chesapeake Bay Retriever is a classic retriever when it comes to behavior and training. They are loyal, easy to get along with, and don’t mind being put to work. This breed especially has been bred for water retrieving and other similar activities, so helping them understand their role in your family can include those sporty activities.
Generally, a well-socialized Chesapeake Bay Retriever will be about as friendly as you can hope a big dog to get. Proper training and raising, as always, is important for any dog.
Chesapeakes need a lot of exercise and a couple of walks around the block won’t cut it. They are a hunting dog who loves to be outdoors – they can retrieve in cold water all day long (up to 200 ducks a day) and never tire of working alongside hunters. They also enjoy jogging, hiking, chasing sticks and catching frisbees. The Chesapeake Bay Retriever is by no means an apartment dog. They are rowdy and rambunctious well into adulthood, need a lot of exercise, and if they don’t get it they can be quite destructive.
The Chessie has an oily, harsh outer coat atop a dense, fine, woolly undercoat. Dirt and debris brush out easily with a rubber curry brush. The undercoat sheds heavily in the spring, so be prepared to brush the dog more frequently during this time to keep loose hair from collecting on clothing and furniture.
Give the Chessie a thorough freshwater rinse after he’s been in saltwater or swum through slime in a pond or lake, but to maintain the coat’s water resistance, avoid bathing him unless absolutely necessary. That can be as little as twice a year.
The rest is basic care. Keep the ears clean and dry so they don’t get infected, and trim the nails as needed, usually every couple of weeks. Brush the teeth for good overall health and fresh breath.
Children And Other Pets
In general, Chessies love kids but won’t put up with a lot of harassment, instead preferring to walk away. They can, however, be possessive of food and toys, which can make them a poor match for homes with young children. They are protective of children but can misinterpret their play with their friends and react inappropriately. Many breeders won’t sell Chessie puppies to families with children younger than 8 years of age. An adult Chessie who’s familiar with children is a better match for a family with young kids.
Always teach children how to approach and touch dogs, and always supervise any interactions between dogs and young children to prevent any biting or ear or tail pulling on the part of either party. Teach your child never to approach any dog while he’s eating or to try to take the dog’s food away. No dog should ever be left unsupervised with a child.
Chessies can be aggressive toward strange dogs, but should get along fine with other family dogs and cats if they’re raised with them.
Is this breed right for you?
Although a wonderful breed for the family life
, the Chesapeake Bay Retriever requires an outdoor environment with a lot of activity to truly be happy. A natural retriever, it needs proper training and a confident owner to understand its own boundaries. While relatively inactive indoors, the Chessie is not at all recommended for apartment life
and should have a very large yard, preferably with a swimming area for regular exercise. It will get along with cats if raised with them, but it may have an issue when introduced later in life and will most likely not get along with other dogs. Simple to groom, the Chesapeake Bay Retriever does require regular bathing to avoid smelling fowl.
Did You Know?
The Chessie isn’t hardwired to be a companion; he’s a hunting dog, pure and simple. And not just any old hunting dog – he’s a waterfowling dog and lives to get wet in the quest to bring back his feathered quarry.
A dream day in the life
The Chesapeake Bay Retriever will be happy waking inside or outside, so long as it’s cool enough. Going for a quick dip, it’ll easily shake off the water to enjoy some downtime in the house with its family members. After a nice long hunt or walk, the Chessie would love to practice some obedience training and engage in a bit of play before heading in for the night. Regardless of where it is, this breed will always be on the lookout to ensure the home is safe and sound from human and furry intruders.