Chesapeake Bay Retriever Breed Guide

Chesapeake Bay Retrievers, or Chessies, are powerfully-built dogs of medium size. Their coats are brown, deadgrass, or sedge in color, and they have short, wavy, and harsh outer coats and fine, dense, and wooly undercoats. Their eyes are amber or yellow, their ears are small, and their skulls are broad. Chesapeake Bay Retrievers have intelligent expressions. These dogs measure 21 to 26 inches tall at the shoulder and weigh 55 to 80 pounds. They live up to 13 years with proper care.

These dogs love water and were built for swimming in icy rivers and lakes.

Happy and active dogs, Chesapeake Bay Retrievers are best suited for outdoor-loving families, especially those that go boating or swimming. They make great companion animals and get along with everyone, including children.

Chessies are uncommon and highly desired dogs. Anyone wishing to purchase or adopt one should be willing to spend many months searching and waiting.

A happy and intelligent breed, Chesapeake Bay Retrievers love spending time with their family and get along very well with nearly everyone they meet, whether human or animal. These dogs are courageous and protective of loved ones. They are reserved with strangers, but are very warm and affectionate dogs provided they receive lots of love and attention.

Chessies have high exercise needs and benefit from at least a half hour of jogging, hiking, or brisk walking twice every day. They also enjoy less formal playtime with their family, which may include playing games in the yard or playing on the carpet. These dogs love water and were built for swimming in icy rivers and lakes.

When raised around people and allowed to be a full member of the household, Chesapeake Bay Retrievers make some of the best companion animals. They are sensitive to the needs and emotions of their human family members and are generally well behaved and in good spirits.

Chesapeake Bay Retrievers are a fairly healthy breed, but they are at risk for certain health conditions. Congenital hip dysplasia, gastric torsion, progressive retinal atrophy, entropion, OCD, and elbow dysplasia are all known to affect these dogs. Additionally, Chessies are prone to cerebellar abiotrophy, an inherited condition that can cause a variety of symptoms, including poor coordination and balance, tremors, and a wide-based stance.

Other health conditions known to affect Chesapeake Bay Retrievers include cancer, degenerative myelopathy, which is an incurable and progressive disease of the spinal cord, and hypothyroidism. These dogs are also prone to a bleeding disorder called von Willebrand disease. Researching a puppy's family line can help reduce the risk of adopting or purchasing a Chessie at risk for these disorders.

Routine veterinary care, proper nutrition, regular exercise, and timely vaccinations help ensure Chesapeake Bay Retrievers live a long and healthy life of 10 to 13 years.

Chesapeake Bay Retrievers are independent and strong-willed, but they are also obedient and eager to learn. Consistent training is important, however, as these dogs do not respond well to indecisive training methods. Firm, but positive, training will bring the most success. These dogs are likely to become annoyed if the same lessons are repeated over and over again. It's important to ease up once the Chessie has learned something new.

Because these dogs are confident and assertive, they may not be an ideal choice for first-time pet owners. Additionally, these dogs are hunting dogs to the bone; this cannot be trained out of them. Of course, that does not mean Chessies can't do well as therapy dogs or companion animals, because they can. It simply means the Chesapeake Bay Retriever's nature and instinctive behaviors must be worked around.

These dogs must be kept inside a fenced yard or they will chase every car, bike, and animal that passes by. When on walks, a strong hold on their leash is important. Chessies are very strong and can pull their humans behind their leash unless they've been trained otherwise.

To help protect them from the icy waters they were bred to swim in, the coat of Chesapeake Bay Retrievers contains oil that makes it water resistant. Regular grooming, which consists of a weekly brushing with a rubber curry brush, helps distribute this oil to keep the coat healthy. Brushing also removes most dirt and debris from the coat. During the spring shedding season, the coat should be brushed more frequently to keep loose hair off furniture and clothing.

These dogs should not be bathed unless absolutely necessary. Doing so can remove the oily film from their coat. A freshwater rinse after swimming in saltwater or lakes or ponds with algae is a necessity, however. When a full bath is needed, a gentle canine shampoo can prevent skin dryness and irritation.

The ears should be kept clean and dry to prevent infections, and they should be checked weekly for odor, redness, or other signs of infection. Regularly brushing the teeth is important to prevent tooth decay and periodontal disease, and the nails need trimming every few weeks to prevent snagging and breaking.

The Chesapeake Bay Retriever breed came about when an English brig wrecked off the Maryland coast in 1807. The ship was carrying two Newfoundlands. These dogs were bred to local retrievers, including the Curly-Coat and Flat-Coated Retriever and the English Otter Hound.

Chesapeake Bay Retrievers were bred to hunt waterfowl on land and water, and they originally hunted in icy, rough waters while still retrieving an impressive several hundred birds every day. These dogs are now primarily kept as companion animals, although their hunting instinct remains strong.

The breed takes its name from the Chesapeake Bay, where it was developed. Chesapeake Bay Retrievers are the state dog of Maryland.

The American Kennel Club officially recognized the Chesapeake Bay Retriever in 1878.