Chesapeake Bay Retriever

The Chesapeake Bay Retriever has a strong sense of “both dignity and duty.” This high praise comes from former president Theodore Roosevelt, who was a big fan.

This highly energetic gun dog from the Sporting Group is a versatile hunting talent. While the Chessie is a strong and tireless hunter by land, they can do as much damage by water.

Yet, this is a mellow breed at home, looking to give and receive love from their master.

So what makes this American made breed such a wonderful addition to someone’s family?

Here is what you need to know about the Chesapeake Bay Retriever.

History

As the name implies, the Chessie was born along the Chesapeake Bay. Moreover, the story of the Chesapeake Bay Retriever is one that even a Hollywood executive would love.

In 1807,  two Newfoundlands were on board a sinking ship off the coast of Maryland, that was on its way to England. When an American ship, Canton, came to the scene, a man by the name of George Law, claims to have found two dogs in need of rescue.

Indeed, that is what Law did, and from there the rest is history. Law claims in a letter, that after saving these two dogs; Canton and Sailor, that Maryland Governor Lloyd and Dr. James Stewart ended up with them.

Neither Canton or Sailor would mate with one another. The breeding process of the Chesapeake Bay Retriever is still a mystery. Yet, some believe that breeders chose a spaniel, duck retriever dog and hounds.

Immediately, once word got out about this breed, many hunters along the Chesapeake Bay and even the Midwest, became staunch enthusiasts of the Chessie. Legend has it, that duck hunters would use the Chesapeake Bay Retriever to retrieve as much as 300 ducks per day.

What made the breed so effective was their incredible aptitude for hunting. They were also built for the conditions. Hunters and breeders knew the weather elements were concerning. The need of a dog with an insulate coat, that was strong in swimming, was an absolute must. Of course, a breed of dog that could listen to commands and not destroy the game with its teeth was equally as important.

In 1877, after a variety of different strains made an appearance at a Baltimore Poultry and Fancier Association show, the breed was given singular recognition. 

Along with hunters, the breed’s popularity took off with everyone from General George Custer to 26th U.S. president, Teddy Roosevelt. The breed would receive recognition from the United Kennel Club in 1927 and became Maryland’s official dog in 1964.

Today, the breed is still an avid and eager land and water hunting dog. Not only is the Chesapeake Bay Retriever a great gundog, they are also wonderful family companions. This highly energetic American masterpiece is the 43rd most popular breed, according to the American Kennel Club.

Size

The Chesapeake Bay Retriever is a medium size breed. According to the American Kennel Club’s standards for this breed, a male should stand between 23 to 26 inches. A female will range between 21 to 24 inches.

With regards to weight, a male should fluctuate between 65 to 80 pounds. A female should weigh between 55 to 70 pounds.

Personality/Temperament

You could describe this breed as a jumping, swimming, and fun outdoor dog, that loves its people and enjoys affection. Mellow with their family, and with proper socialization, is great with everyone including children. They feed off the companionship of their master especially during hunting excursions.

Yet, the Chesapeake Bay Retriever is a serious dog, full of energy with a tireless work ethic. This is a dog that wants nothing more than to make their master proud. Chessies can break ice with their powerful chest, and swim in chilly conditions like it’s nobody’s business. Their insulate coats and web toe make them wonderful swimming dogs. This is a dog that enjoys swimming and outdoor adventures. They thrive on family encounters and don’t like being left alone for long periods of time.

Not a dog’s dog. You will need to watch out for other dogs around the Chesapeake Bay Retriever. That’s because this is a breed that is highly protective and becomes territorial. Not all but most seem to have issue sharing pet duties with other canines.

Most dog breeders would agree that the Chesapeake Bay Retriever is best for someone with experience. Novice owners may have a hard time with training, as this breed can be stubborn at times during early socialization and obedience. 

For the right person, however, the breed is full of cheer, that has courage and loves to vocalize its happiness. 

As far as strangers, this is a breed that is aloof and wary of people it doesn’t know. Supervising the Chesapeake Bay Retriever around friends and family is necessary. Again, protective and territorial are two traits that is hard to shake from this dog.

All in all, they are willing and hard working hunters. They can be aloof to strangers or ignore their presence around the company of their favorite people. This is a dog that wants something to do, they want to hunt, or compete in canine sports, anything that keeps their boredom at a low.

Health

The Chesapeake Bay Retriever, if healthy, can live a rather long life from 10 to 13 years. Moreover, when you buy a Chessie from a breeder, do your homework and make sure this breeder is reputable and can provide you with the proper health clearances and documentations. Also, you should make sure to schedule regular veterinarian visits for your Chessie to ensure a long and fulfilling life.

Like most large and active breeds, the Chessie may be prone to hip Dysplasia. This is a malformation of the hip joint, that can be incredibly painful and present lameness. American Staffordshire Terrier and Alaskan Malamutes are prone to this common orthopedic complication.

The most common issue affecting the Chesapeake Bay Retriever’s eyes is Cataracts. This is a cloudiness of the crystalline lens leading to opacity. You may need to watch out for Progressive Retinal Atrophy as well, another common ocular concern. PRA is when the rod cells inside the retina systematically die. This is common with Terriers, Mastiffs and the Siberian Husky.

Hypothyroidism is another issue that affects the Chessie’s metabolism system. This can lead to hair loss, weight gain, and lethargy. The breed suffers from epilepsy as well, which may have something to do with this thyroid gland disorder.

Degenerative Myelopathy, which is prevalent among Boxers and Corgis, is a progressive spinal cord disease in older dogs, usually between 8 to 14 years. This will lead to lack of coordination and immobility.

Von Willebrand’s, Bloat and skin cancer are other issues to keep an eye out for. According to their U.K. club survey, old age at 22% and cancer at 13.3% were the leading causes of this breed’s death.

Care

When you get yourself a Chesapeake Bay Retriever puppy, you should immediately sign them up for puppy kindergarten classes. At the least, you will need plenty of early socialization and constant reinforcement of this breed. That’s why most breeders recommend someone with experience.

This is a breed that wants to be outdoors. They love to swim, they love to hunt. You should exercise your Chesapeake Bay Retriever regularly and up to 45 to 60 minutes per day.

Introducing them to other people early on in their young life will help raise a friendly dog. Again, this can be a very protective breed, that has been known to be aloof with others. Smaller children and other pets will warrant careful supervision around the Chesapeake Bay Retriever.

Chessies shouldn’t be left to their own devices. This is a breed that needs to stay busy and be around its family. This is not an apartment dog, and needs plenty of space to move around and expend its natural energy. Hiking, agility, obedience, tracking, are all great activities for this breed to thrive.

Trimming their nails regularly, inspecting their ears after a hunt, and whenever necessary, a bath should suffice the basic care of this breed.

Feeding

If you own a Chesapeake Bay Retriever, then you can almost bet you’ll be feeding your dog often. This is a breed that needs a high quality calorie count and a good protein base diet. Food with 20 percent per serving and more is the recommendation of the American Kennel Club.

Most owners suggest feeding your Chessie around 2 to 2.5 cups of high quality dry food per day. Of course, you should break that up into two meals, so that you can avoid your dog suffering from Bloat. Bloat is common among dogs that are rapid growers.

Meat should be the first ingredient in this breed’s diet. You can feed your Chesapeake Bay Retriever anything from lean chicken, turkey, lamb to salmon. Fruits and veggies are fine. Taurine and Omega 3 and 6 are great for heart health and their joints.

A Chesapeake Bay Retriever that is a typical companion dog weighing between 55 to 80 pounds, will need to get around 1400 to 1870 calories per day. Likewise, for a dog that is moderately working at the same weight bracket, you’ll need to provide them between 2350 to 3110 calories per day.

As always, you should provide your Chesapeake Bay Retriever with fresh drinking water.

Coat

For the Chesapeake Bay Retriever, the coat may very well be the most important feature on the dog. Their natural oils allow them to confront icy conditions while swimming. Their double coat is insulated and the top layer is thick and short, with a dense undercoat.

This is a dog that does shed regularly and you should keep on top of it by brushing them 2 to 3 times per week.

Slight feathering on the legs and tail is acceptable. 

According to the American Kennel Club, the following coat colors are up to the standard: Brown, tan, dark brown, dead brass, dark deadgrass, sedge, light brown, light deadgrass.

Fun Chesapeake Bay Retriever Facts

  • Theodore Roosevelt’s dog was named, Sailor Boy. Roosevelt would often marvel at what a  great companion dog, and how vicious his Chessie could be when the dog was under threat.
  • The late Paul Walker from the Fast and Furious series is among the well known popular Chesapeake Bay Retriever owners.
  • Along with Labs, Newfoundlands, Poodles, Barbets, the Chessie is one of the strongest swimming breeds.
  • The Chesapeake Bay Retriever can also work as k-9 handlers, therapy dogs and dog show competitors.

Closing Words

The Chesapeake Bay Retriever is the kind of dog you want if you’re a hunting enthusiast who enjoys the companionship of a dog. 

This is a breed specifically bred to withstand the nasty natural elements that often comes with the sport of duck hunting. From their weather resistant coats to their powerful ice breaking chests, the Chessie is a godsend for hunters all around the world.