Chesapeake Bay Retriever: Dog Breed Profile and Information

Chesapeake Bay Retriever
Photo by mburleson

The Chesapeake Bay Retriever, or Chessie, as it is generally referred to, is a breed developed for its excellent waterfowl retrieving skills and originated from Maryland.

The Chesapeake Bay Retrievers are a tenacious, highly intelligent, loyal, active, and athletic breed. Unlike its cousins, Golden and Labs, Chessies aren’t that cool-headed.

They can be very feisty and strong-willed. Owners who know nothing about handling them have no business adopting them.

Breed Overview

  • Group: Sporting
  • Height: Male Chessies can reach up to 23 – 26 inches; while the female can reach up to 21 – 24 inches
  • Weight: Males can weigh up to 65 – 80 pounds; while females can weigh up to 55 – 70 pounds
  • Coat and color: Short, thick, and wavy waterproof coat that comes in varieties of colors like solid shades of brown, sedge and dead-grass
  • Life expectancy: Can live up to 10 – 12 years


  • Affection Level: High
  • Friendliness: Medium
  • Kid-Friendly: Medium
  • Pet-Friendly: Medium
  • Exercise Needs: High
  • Playfulness: Medium
  • Energy Level: High
  • Trainability: High
  • Intelligence: High
  • Tendency to Bark: Medium
  • Amount of Shedding: High


The Chesapeake Bay Retriever was developed to retrieve ducks from the Chesapeake Bay estuary, which flows through the States of Maryland into Virginia.

This popular Bay is the nesting place of vast waterfowl, and it’s usually hunting season during winter migrations.

It was earlier believed that the bread was developed after two Newfoundland dogs arrived in the area in the 19th century. The first of Chessie dogs came when they were bred with local dogs.

The dog was developed to endure the freezing water in the Bay. Their thick, double-layered waterproof coat acts as the perfect insulator.

Chessies are excellent swimmers with webbed feet that help them navigate the waters easily and a muscular, athletic physique that helps them endure for a long.

They have a fantastic ability to pick up a scent, and coupled with their high tenacity, they can retrieve hundreds of games every day.

Because they were bred to watch the catch of the day, this protecting instinct has remained ingrained in them till this day.

The breed gained official recognition by the American Kennel Club (in 1918), and it became Maryland’s official dog in 1964.

Chesapeake Bay Retrievers are often displayed on tourist paraphernalia for the area.

To this day, Chessies are used as hunting dogs. Their high intelligence and precise sense of smell mean they do tasks that involve search and rescue, and sometimes, drug and bomb detection.

Care for the Chesapeake Bay Retriever

Chesapeake Bay Retrievers aren’t recommended for novice owners, unlike the Golden and Labrador Retrievers that are more easy-going.

While Chessies maintain the same level of intelligence, they are more driven and strong-willed.

Their work ethic is absolute, and they require a very active and stimulating environment to prevent behavioral complications. Chessies are a breed that does excellently well in many dog competitions.

These competitions could range from obedience tests to agility tests to scent trials. Because these dogs love water so much, they also excel in Dock Diving competitions as well.

This is a breed that develops a strong bond with its family. They do well among the company of their owners and would often bond with other dogs around their environment.

Despite their friendly nature, Chessies can become aggressive towards strangers and get standoffish when they see strange faces.

This could be a result of the basic instinct to guard their owners and their territory. Proper steps must be f to ensure that this aggressive behavior doesn’t get out of control.

Chessies’ high level of intelligence usually pushes them towards pleasing their owners. They can be overly tenacious in ways that portray them as stubborn.

Owners should be patient when training them to channel their tenacity positively properly.

The Chesapeake Bay Retrievers are not high-maintenance dogs and do not require an extensive grooming regime. Their short, oily fur doesn’t require any clipping.

However, a useful de-shedding tool and a vacuum cleaner are recommended during their annual shedding, when shedding is excessive. It is also essential that their ears are checked regularly to avoid any nasty infection.

Common Health Problems

Although Chesapeake Bay Retriever is generally categorized as a healthy breed, they are prone to several hereditary complications.

Meeting a reputable breeder when adopting a Chessie pup helps to minimize the risk of developing these conditions.

Reputable breeders would have carried out all the necessary health screening on your Chessie parents, hence, given you all the information you need before adopting your dog.

Some of the health problems Chesapeake Bay Retrievers can be prone to include:

Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA)

PRA is a degenerative condition that can eventually lead to blindness. Although no cure, dogs with PRA still lead a healthy life while blind. This is why it’s necessary to carry out all the required health screening.

Hip Dysplasia

Very common among most retrievers and is regarded as the most common issue the breed faces.

Chronic Ear Infections

Because this breed loves to be water, their low-hanging ears expose them and result in serious infections.

Regular checks should be performed to monitor any signs of infections like mucus coming from the ears, scratching, foul smells, or head shaking.

It could lead to irreversible damage and sometimes deafness.

Diet and Nutrition

Similar to all dogs, Chessies should be fed high-quality protein-rich food. They should also be on an appropriate portion-monitored diet. You can meet with your veterinarian to discuss the best diet plan for your pet.

If your Chessie is being used for work and is regularly working in the field, then a diet that would balance their energy requirements should be maintained.


  • Chessie is just The right dog for you If you lead a very active lifestyle
  • They are very intelligent dogs that respond well positive reinforcement training
  • They are very loyal to their owners
  • They make excellent companions that form a strong bond with their owners and family


  • Their strong-willed and protective nature could mean they aren’t suitable for novice dog owners
  • They are almost always sensitive and serious and would suit owners looking for a funny and goofy breed
  • They can become aggressive towards strange people and other dogs. It might become a problem if they are not socialized early enough.

Adopting or Buying a Chesapeake Bay Retriever

You must meet a responsible and reputable breeder when you are looking for a Chesapeake Bay Retriever puppy.

Proper health checks must have been carried out that should rule out possible health complications. You could check in with the American Chesapeake Club to find respected breeders.

Adopting a dog can be a beautiful and advantageous experience. Patience may be required when searching for the perfect Chessie, but it’s best to take your time so you don’t make any mistakes that you might regret.

You can also find some breed-specific rescues that may hasten your search, and some of them include;

  • Chesapeake Bay Retriever Relief and Rescue,
  • Chesapeake Safe Harbour

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