chesapeake bay retriever

Chesapeake Bay Retriever: Temperament, History, Characteristics, and Care

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Looking for a loyal and hardworking companion?  The Chesapeake Bay Retriever breed might just be what you’re looking for!  In today’s article we look at the Chesapeake Bay Retriever, temperament, history, characteristics and how to care for this breed are all taken into account to bring you an introductory guide.

Originally bred for hunting waterfowl in the Chesapeake Bay, this breed of medium size dogs are known for their strength, endurance, and skill in cold, wet weather. They are also favoured for their distinctive coat, which is water-resistant and ranges in various colour shades ranging from brown to sedge to deadgrass.

Chesapeake Bay Retrievers (Chessies) are very smart, fiercely independent, and loyal protectors of their human families. Chessies are usually well-behaved with kids and other pets, but socialization and training must be started at a young age and done well.  If training is neglected or done badly these dogs will not become well-behaved adults — they will become knot-headed brats.  Before getting a Chesapeake, you need to realize this breed has a powerful and primitive hunter-prey drive.  This makes them an excellent sporting dog but a dangerous dog when left untrained.  They are an excellent breed, but they must be taught to obey commands when they are off-leash using positive reinforcement training.

If you’re considering adding a Chesapeake Bay Retriever to your family, you need to understand their crucial training, exercise, and grooming needs. Chessies need daily exercise and challenging stimulation to be healthy and happy. Because Chessies have a thick, double coat that sheds, they need regular brushing to prevent matting and sore spots. With proper care and training, a Chesapeake Bay Retriever can be a wonderful companion pet for an active family. 

The Complete Guide to Chesapeake Bay Retrievers

Karen Harris, an experienced Chessie owner and author, has written a comprehensive guide to this breed. Whether you are a new or experienced owner, this guide is an essential resource for anyone who wants to ensure the health and happiness of their Chesapeake Bay Retriever.

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Chesapeake Bay Retriever Breed History

If you’re interested in Chesapeake Bay Retrievers, you should appreciate and know their history. This breed has been around for a long time and has a fascinating history. Please read on to learn more about this wonderful breed. 


The Chesapeake Bay Retriever is a North American breed.  The breed began in the early 1800s in the United States. Waterfowl hunters in the Chesapeake Bay area of Maryland and Virginia wanted a good dog that could retrieve game birds from the frigid waters of the bay. They needed a dog that was tough, strong, and could withstand the cold windy conditions of the bay. To develop this new dog, they decided on a hybrid cross of local retrieving dogs with two Newfoundland pups that were rescued from a shipwreck in 1807. These puppies were named Sailor and Canton — they were the actual beginning of the Chesapeake Bay Retriever breed.

Breed Development

Soon after the Chesapeake Bay Retriever was born and trained, the new breed quickly became popular in the Chesapeake Bay area. These dogs became famous locally for their outstanding retrieving abilities in tough conditions. The outstanding new breed was recognized and named by the American Kennel Club (AKC) in 1878. 

The Chesapeake Bay Retriever continued to evolve and impress breeders and hunters alike as the breed became more refined and well-trained. Today, the Chessie remains a very popular breed among hunters and has become a beloved family dog.

Physical Characteristics

The Chesapeake Bay Retriever is a medium-large size sporting breed.  Chessies have a muscular build making it a fast runner and strong swimmer.  Chessies have a double coat that keeps the dog warm allowing it to better tolerate cold air and water. This “All American” dog breed is renowned for its hunting skills, body strength, extreme endurance, and superior athleticism.  The Chesapeake Bay Retriever is an excellent hunting companion and a loyal family pet. 

Here are some of the physical characteristics of the Chesapeake Bay Retriever:

Size and Weight

The Chesapeake Bay Retriever is a medium to large-sized breed that averages 67 pounds and stands 23 to 26 inches tall at the shoulder. Males are typically about 10% to 15% bigger and heavier than females, but males and females are equally sturdy, strong and muscular.


The Chesapeake Bay Retriever double hair coat is thick, wavy, and oily which helps the dog stay warm and dry in cold water. The outer coat consists of coarse, short hair and the undercoat is thick and wool-like. The haircoat may either be straight or curly, but it should never be soft, silky, or feathery. The Chessies need to be brushed often to keep it clean and healthy.

Chesapeake Bay Retriever Colour

The Chesapeake Bay Retriever coat is usually one of three primary colors, they are: 

  • Brown
  • Sedge
  • Deadgrass. 

The coat may also have white markings on the chest, belly, and feet, but the main coat color  should be solid.  However, there should be no solid white patches or white spots. The eyes of the Chesapeake Bay Retriever are typically amber or yellow and the nose is usually brown or amber, but the nose should never be black.  Off colors are indicative of a mixed breed, not a purebred Chessie.

Chesapeake Bay Retriever Temperament

The Chesapeake Bay Retriever is an active, energetic, and loyal dog breed.  He or she will be a great hunting companion and best friend for an avid game bird hunter or an active family. However, owning a Chessie takes a big commitment, a lot of patience, and a deep love for the dog’s loyalty and excitable personality.

Personality Traits

Chessie’s are known for their tenacity, hardiness, loyalty, and intelligence. They are also protective of their family and can be wary of strangers. But, they can be trained to be friendly and well-behaved around new people and other animals with proper socialization and training.

Chessie’s have a native hunter-prey mentality.  These dogs love to ride, run, walk, hunt, chase, retrieve, swim, and play.  Chessie’s are hyperactive and have an unbridled urge to go all the time. They bore easily and need frequent attention.  Chessie’s are happiest when they have a job to do and they’ll become bored quickly when they don’t.  These dogs are very vocal and bark or howl if they are bored, anxious, or excited.  If you like that sort of dog behaviour, great.  If you don’t, then this breed is not for you — keep looking.

Training Chessies

Training a Chesapeake Bay Retriever takes a lot of perseverance, patience, consistency, and positive reinforcement.  These great dogs respond well to food/treat rewards, praise, and playtime. But, they can be stubborn and independent at times. As the dog’s owner, you need to train Chessies confidently, exuding leadership and positivity.

Chessies set a high bar for other sporting dog breeds in obedience, agility, and hunting competitions. They are also great therapy or service dogs when properly trained. It is important to train and socialize Chessies as young as possible (preferably starting as early as eight weeks, if possible) to avoid bad behaviour or aggression towards other people and pets.

Chessies are a great breed but an owner must be willing and able to commit much time, energy, and resources to the dog’s training and socialization.

Chesapeake Bay Retriever Health

Chesapeake Bay Retrievers are prone to several health concerns. Five of the most common maladies are listed here:

  • Hip dysplasia
  • Progressive retinal atrophy
  • Ear infections
  • Degenerative myelopathy
  • Exercise-induced collapse

If you notice symptoms for any of these diseases then take your pooch to the vet as soon as you can. Early diagnosis and treatment will help prevent these problems from becoming serious afflictions.

Proper care is essential for your Chesapeake Bay Retriever’s sake. The following tips may help you care for your Chesapeake Bay Retriever:

  • Feed your dog a healthy, well-balanced diet
  • Provide plenty of exercise and mental stimulation
  • Semi-annual vet checkups and needed vaccinations
  • Be Mindful — Keep your dog’s ears and teeth clean
  • Check often for any illness or discomfort — deal properly with symptoms

Keep your Chesapeake healthy and happy for years to come by following these five simple tips.

Your Dog’s Activities

Chesapeake Bay Retrievers are extremely energetic and athletic. You have to properly train and socialize them.  Keeping them active and engaged is necessary for their physical and mental health. This is a “must do” if you want to be a proud owner of this fabulous “All American” breed.   If you can’t commit to that, then try another breed.

Here are some activities that you and your Chesapeake Bay Retriever will enjoy:

Bird Hunting

As a hunting/retrieving breed, Chesapeake Bay Retrievers love to fetch downed game birds from fields or water. Hunting requires experienced training, patience, and preparation. For fun and safety’s sake be sure your dog is properly trained before you go hunting.

Judged Competitions

Chesapeake Bay Retrievers are masterful competitors in judged sporting events like obedience, agility, retrieving, obstacle courses, swimming, and dock diving. These contests are both mental and physical for your dog.  These competitions are also a great bonding experience for you and your Chessie. 

Your Chesapeake Bay Retriever may also enjoy:

  • Swimming: Chessies are natural swimmers and love to be in the water.
  • Hiking: Chessies love to go on hikes so let yours enjoy the outdoors.
  • Running: Chesapeake Bay Retrievers explode with energy and love to run.
  • Biking: If your Chessie is well-trained, he or she makes a great biking companion.
  • Riding: If yours is a typical “Go-With” Chessie, then going for a ride is a must-do.

In conclusion, remember to be watchful of your Chessie. Be sure to always give your dog plenty of fresh water, nourishment, and rest during hikes or any other exertion. With proper training , socializing, activities, and exercise your Chesapeake Bay Retriever will be a happy and healthy companion and family dog.

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