Breed Type: Retriever, Gun Dog, Water Dog
Country of Origin: USA
Also known as: Chessi, CBR, Chesapeake
Size: Large
Males: Weight 35 to 45kg, Height 56 to 66cm
Females: Weight 32 to 41kg, Height 53 to 61cm
Care Requirements: Low-Medium
Exercise Requirements: High for a large breed
Life Span: Average 12 years

The Chesapeake Bay Retriever was developed in Maryland, USA as the gundog that was capable a fact willing to retrieve birds downed over the coldest of waters – they will even jump into this water with a partially frozen surface and use their powerful chest in front legs to break through the ice.

The Chesapeake Bay Retriever is a large dog, very clearly retriever in build. Their hindquarters a slightly higher than their shoulders and a slightly longer than high. They have distinctive yellowish or amber eyes. Typical of dogs bred to withstand extreme cold to have a double coat which is distinctly wavy on their shoulders and across the neck down their back and tips. The coat is exceptionally water resistant and feels oily to the touch, this oil also giving them a musky doggy odour. Toes are webbed to aid swimming.

There are three main colour groups

  1. Brown –  any shade of brown from very light to a deep dark chocolatey brown
  2. Sedge – which covers the spectrum from British yellow all the way through to bright red and chestnut.
  3. Deadgrass -the least common colour groups which includes dogs but Coates, faded tan colour to a somewhat dull yellow.

Some white highlighting is allowed that solid white is not permitted. They a round  broad head with a medium stop and rounded muzzle. They have thin lips and typical of water dogs there is a small so as not to lose heat through them. They have straight forelegs with especially strong hindlegs which they likely acquired from their Newfoundland heritage.

the Chesapeake Bay Retriever breed was created more by chance than planning. To Newfoundland pups were rescued from a shipwrecked boat off the coast of Maryland in the USA. The two pups were raised locally and their own experiment with them as gundogs may prove to be skilled in game water retrievers, something highly prized in dogs in the area at the time. Soon after the two dogs were used in breeding programs crossing them with other retrievers of uncertain genetics. Likely these included the Irish water spaniel, various hound crosses and perhaps other Newfoundlands.

At some point the breed was considered to have achieved its highest potential as well is starting to breed true as well is starting to breed true and the Chesapeake Bay Retriever breed came into existence. It was recognised as a breed in its own right in the US in the late 19th century. Curiously, it’s never really reached great heights in popularity as a pet dog even in the US we would think National pride would have made them more popular. (Editor’s note – perhaps it is the oily coat and doggy odour which turns some people off or the independent and dominant natures combined with their large size making them sometimes difficult dogs to handle)

they are ideal dogs to own if you have access to water, of course the colder the water the better. You may not own a gun or have a desire to shoot down ducks over a lake or Bay the stick will do just as well on your Chesapeake Bay Retriever or enthusiastically retrieve it over and over. They are independent thinkers and problem solvers and thus though they are intelligent and easy to learn teaching them is more a process of getting them to understand what the right thing to do is rather than trying to force them into a particular type of behaviour.

They have some livestock Guardian tendencies and can be very protective of their territory and their family and some are prone to aggressive displays towards other dogs in order to assert their dominance.  They are a long way different from the softhearted golden retriever – they are one of the toughest and strongest world of all the retrievers

Care and Grooming
Though there are water dog there are fairly short haired, their hair being dense and harsh making it easy to groom. Brushing should be done without the firm bristle brush which will move the dead hairs which would otherwise stick to their fur. You should resist regularly bathing them to try and remove their doggy odour. This will simply stripped the natural oils from their skin and cause them to overproduce this same oil and you will achieve little.

They were bred to the cold to they are not an ideal choice if you are living in Darwin that certainly they can make wonderful pets and you’ll have far more fun with them if you live in a colder highland area of Australia or in Tasmania as they’ll be able to be more active throughout the year.

Health Issues
From health perspective they are a bit of a mixed bag. For a large dog they are exceptionally long lived with an average age of around 12 years with some living several years longer. They are a fairly healthy breed that they are prone to some genetic eye problems and hip dysplasia, conditions which are unusual in our working breed. As such it is important to speak to your breeder about these conditions on whether they were present on your potential puppies parents or grandparents and get your puppy hits scored.

Suitability as a Pet
They are not a dog from the novice dog owner but they are certainly a wonderful dog for enthusiasts prepared to put in the time to properly socialise, train and exercise such a large and active dog. Rare in the US where they were created they are even rarer in Australia so finding a puppy may prove more of a challenge than with other breeds.

Veterinary Surgeon, London at Blue Cross UK | + posts

A London based Veterinary surgeon, Sanja is also an avid writer and pet advocate.