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Chesapeake Bay Retriever | Dog Breed Info: Pictures, Traits & Facts

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By Emma Braby


Height: 21 – 26 inches
Weight: 55 – 80 pounds
Lifespan: 10 – 13 years
Colors: Brown, sedge, deadgrass
Suitable for: Active families, homes with large yards, young families, experienced dog owners
Temperament: Intelligent, active, independent, affectionate with family, aloof with strangers

The Chesapeake Bay Retriever is similar to America’s favorite dog breed (the Labrador Retriever) but with a few twists. He has a curly waterproof coat, and he makes an excellent watchdog as he is wary of strangers. He also has an independent streak that means he’s not always obedient, but with an experienced dog owner, he should be 95% obedient.

He is relatively rare in America, and you will probably be the only Chessie owner in town. Unless you live in the Chesapeake Bay, of course. He makes an excellent option for those who live or hunt near water. Or for those looking for a twist on a common canine breed.

He’s certainly not for every family, but for the right family, he makes an awesome companion. This breed guide is a must-read for those thinking about welcoming one of these guys into their life. Is that you? If you answered yes, let’s get started on the Chesapeake Bay Retriever 101.

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Chesapeake Bay Retriever Puppy

Chesapeake Bay Retriever puppy
Image Credit: Kerrie T, Shutterstock

The Chesapeake Bay Retriever is a beautiful dog who makes a fantastic family pet, but as the famous saying goes, not all that glitters is gold. So, let’s take a look at the reality of the Chesapeake. This guy is not the most obedient of dogs, so for this reason, they need an owner who is experienced in owning independent dogs.

They can also be quite dominant dogs. Their strong personality needs a firm master. You don’t need to be a canine behaviorist, but experience and knowledge are crucial for a happy relationship with them. They are very demanding when it comes to exercise needs. A casual stroll around the block, even for an hour or two, will not do here. Instead, this guy needs at least 60 to 90 minutes of intense exercise every day. And because they are so intelligent, you’ll need to mix their activities up to keep them interested.

The Chesapeake Bay Retriever does not like apartment life. From the wide-open spaces of the Chesapeake Bay and days spent outdoors, the Chessie is not a dog to be kept indoors. They will get cabin fever for sure, and with that will come behavior problems and unhappy family dynamics.

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3 Little-Known Facts About the Chesapeake Bay Retriever

1. The Chesapeake Bay Retriever’s coat is oily.

On top of being a curly-coated Retriever, his jacket is oily to the touch. This helps his coat to be water-resistant even more than it already is.

2. The Chesapeake’s feet are webbed.

The Chesapeake Bay Retriever genetic mix includes the Newfoundland. The Newfie is a water baby who has webbed feet that help him to swim and rescue drowning men (yes, this is his job). The Chessie was purposely bred to have these webbed feet so that he could swim for much longer.

3. The Chesapeake Bay Retriever is one of America’s original breeds.

Not many people know that this guy was one of the nine first dog breeds to be registered with the American Kennel Club. This makes him an American original.

Brown Chesapeake Bay Retriever running_Zuzule_shutterstock
Image Credit By: Zuzule, Shutterstock

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Chesapeake Bay Retriever Temperament & Intelligence 🧠

There is much more to the Chesapeake Bay Retriever than the traits listed in the ‘before you buy’ section. If you can provide the structure and the hard-working environment that he thrives in, he is a fun pooch to have around the house. He loves to play a game of fetch, and he makes a great jogging partner, so whatever your hobbies are, they’ll soon become his too.

He is loving with his family, and after a long day’s work, he will be found laying by your feet in front of the fire. Or, if he’s feeling super cuddly, squished between his master and whoever else happens to be there.

He does tend to favor the person who is his primary caregiver, but his loyalty to his master is what makes him such a good gun dog. If his master isn’t there, he will happily snuggle up to whoever else is available for cuddles.

Despite being super cuddly and affectionate, he does not extend this to strangers. He is wary of those that he doesn’t recognize, and it may take him a while to warm up to them. If your family is forever having new visitors, or parties most weekends, the Chesapeake will probably not approve. This guy is a country dog who loves the quiet life with his close family.

He will also let his family know when there is someone on the property outside of his family unit, making him an excellent watchdog. This is another reason why he wouldn’t make a good apartment doggo because the incessant barking might drive your neighbors up the wall.

When it comes to his intelligence, this guy is up there with the clever canine clogs. He is loyal and eager to please his master, so he will pick up commands and training easily if you are consistent and persistent.

However, unlike his Labrador cousin, he is not entirely devoted to his humans, and he does have a stubborn streak. This means that without structure or the right family environment, he might not respond well to your training all the time. If you are seeking a fully obedient dog, the Chessie might not be the one for you.

Chesapeake Bay Retriever
Image Credit: Radomir Rezny, Shutterstock

Are These Dogs Good for Families? 🏡

The Chesapeake Bay Retriever makes a fantastic family pet, but only for the right family. He needs a family that has the time, and energy, to accommodate his exceptionally high energy needs. In addition to his exercise, he also needs constant stimulation throughout the day to keep his smart little brain ticking.

As long as he is placed with an active family, any type of family will do. He can happily live alongside young children all the way up to grandma and granddad. Although he is active and stocky, he is a serious pup who isn’t overly boisterous. This makes him an excellent choice for younger humans.

Does This Breed Get Along with Other Pets? 🐶 😽

As long as the Chesapeake Bay Retriever is socialized well as a pup, he will get along with most other pets. We say most because if you have any kind of bird in the home, be that ducks, chickens, parrots, etc., your winged friends’ are going to have a hard time relaxing around this guy.

Any other animal is fine, but as with any pet introduction, be sure to do it slowly and in a controlled environment to make sure that they like each other. If you are a multi-pet household, make sure you know that all the animals get along well before you commit to the Chessie.

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Things to Know When Owning a Chesapeake Bay Retriever:

Now you know about his personality and what you can expect from the Chessie, here is the list of things that he expects from you as his soon-to-be mom or dad.

Food & Diet Requirements 🦴

The Chesapeake Bay Retriever is an energetic dog and has a large muscle mass. To fuel his day, he will consume around 2½ cups of food every day. This will be dependant on his age, size, and energy levels, so always follow the feeding instructions on the packaging.

The Chessie is a large dog who is known to suffer from elbow and hip dysplasia. For this reason, you need to feed him a high-quality kibble that is designed for the unique nutritional needs of large breed dogs.

They will contain the optimum calcium and phosphorus ratio, which will help to control bone growth. Research has shown that feeding a large breed dog a large breed kibble can help to prevent or delay the onset of joint dysplasias and other bone diseases.

Thankfully, this guy is not food orientated like his Labrador cousin, so you shouldn’t have to worry about him becoming obese. But as with any dog, go easy on the treats if you aren’t using them for training purposes.

Chesapeake Bay Retriever
Image Credit By: Kerrie T, shutterstock

Exercise 🐕

The Chesapeake Bay Retriever needs 60 to 90 minutes of intense exercise every day. Come rain or shine, there is no excuse not to take this boy out. And if you keep finding excuses, he’ll keep chomping at your furniture and cause you untold problems.

As he is intelligent, he needs varied exercise too to keep his mind stimulated. If you do the same walk day in and day out, after a week, he’ll start nudging you in a different direction. Long walks in the forest, treks along the bay, visiting the local doggy park, and swimming in the nearest lake are all to be done in the week to keep this boy happy.

This guy has a high prey drive, so you need to think about keeping him on a leash. During duck season, you’ll have to keep him on a leash constantly and be prepared for the pull, because he’ll shoot if he sees one.

Constant stimulation throughout the day is required to keep him happy. Brain games are a great and easy way to stimulate his mind, so be sure to rotate a few of these games throughout the week to keep him occupied.

Training 🦮

Training the Chesapeake Bay Retriever is not particularly tricky, but it isn’t without its trials. Because of his independent streak, his master needs to have experience in owning and training other independent dogs. If you haven’t got previous experience, but you are deadest on getting a Chessie, you need to enroll yourself into puppy obedience classes straight away.

If he isn’t in the mood to listen, he probably won’t. And if he hears you calling his name but can see a juicy duck in the distance, he will listen to his instincts over you. To avoid a diva dog, start your training with him straight away, and be persistent and consistent with it.

Chesapeake Bay Retriever Blonde
Image Credit: PxHere

He is a protective dog, so it’s essential to keep his behaviors in check and make sure that he doesn’t become dominant or see himself as the alpha male. Thankfully, in the right environment, this shouldn’t be too much of an issue.

The best way to train him is to use the positive reinforcement training method, and he’ll pick up your commands in no time. And as with any dog, socialize him well, and continue this with regular visits to the local doggy park to keep his manners up to date.

Grooming ✂️

The Chesapeake Bay Retriever has a unique coat that needs a unique brush. Because his jacket is oily and thick, he needs a rubber curry brush, similar to ones used for horses, to keep him looking his best. These will help to remove dead hairs, stimulate blood flow in his skin, and spread his natural coat oils.

Bathe the Chessie as little as possible to avoid damning his natural coat oils. Bath his once or twice during the shedding season to help releases the hairs that he is shedding.

Health Conditions ❤️

The Chesapeake Bay Retriever is a relatively healthy dog breed who enjoys an average lifespan of 10 to 13 years. There are a few health concerns that affect his breed more so than other conditions, so it’s essential to research these and understand what symptoms to look out for.

Minor Conditions
  • Exercise-induced coma
  • Degenerative myelopathy
Serious Conditions
  • Hip and elbow dysplasia
  • Eye concerns

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Male vs. Female

There is little difference between male and female Chessies, other than the fact that males tend to be on the larger end of the weight and height scales compared to females.

When it comes to his personality, training, and the right family environment will shape this moe than his gender will.

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Final Thoughts: Chesapeake Bay Retriever

The Chesapeake Bay Retriever is a wonderfully loving and affectionate dog who can offer much more than just gun dog services. Lots of cuddles, watchdog warnings, and an exercise buddy are just a few of his attributes.

He is a unique dog that will make heads turn on the street, and you’ll likely get asked if he is a Labradoodle. And just like any dog breed, he needs the right family to be happy. So, you need to be honest about whether you can give him what he needs.

If you think you can offer him the time and energy to exercise him, and you have the stubborn doggy knowledge, you might just be a match made in heaven. You also need the space to accommodate him and be firm but fair with your training techniques.

But, if you can tick all of his boxes, he will be a fantastic pet, and much more.

Featured Image Credit: rokopix, Shutterstock

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