In a high school comedy with an all-canine cast, the Chesapeake Bay Retriever (aka Chessie) would play the handsome jock with a heart of gold. Smart, athletic and fiercely loyal, this muscular breed would do anything to protect their loved ones. Great companions for pet parents who are always on the go, high-energy Chessies are happiest outside running, playing or, better still, swimming the day away (pool party anyone?). Hunting dogs at heart, these sporty pups have the stamina to fetch that ball for hours on end. The Great Outdoors are calling, so be prepared to answer with your Chessie by your side—this breed just might answer the call for you both.
Chesapeake Bay Retrievers are best for large homes with plenty of outdoor space. Bonus if there's a pool or large body of water nearby—Chessies love to swim! These dogs are ideal for experienced, patient and active pet parents who are up for their daily exercise and training needs, and would do best in homes without small children or other pets.
Chesapeake Bay Retriever. Traits
Chesapeake Bay Retriever. Temperament
Pet parents who think there is just too much life to be lived to stay indoors will find their canine soul mate in the Chesapeake Bay Retriever dog. With energy levels that are through the roof, these dogs love the Great Outdoors and will thrive when they can accompany you on adventures.
Chessies aren’t aggressive by nature, nor do they have a tendency to bite. However, unlike some other retriever breeds who would gladly welcome anyone over and pour them a cup of coffee if they could (we’re looking at you, Labs), Chessies are reserved around strangers. Couple that with their strong bark and powerful physique and strangers and nosy neighbors might take pause.
Because of their high drive to hunt and retrieve, Chessies do best in a home without other animals, although they can be good with kids, as long as everyone respects each other’s boundaries. They are also prone to resource guarding, especially with their toys around young children—a behavior that needs immediate correction for a harmonious co-existence. Raising a Chesapeake Bay Retriever with kids and other dogs from puppyhood offers everyone the best chance to get along.
Chesapeake Bay Retrievers are affectionate, loyal and extremely protective of their family—and sometimes their toys, chews or retrievals. They are considered the most stubborn of the retriever breeds, and their intelligence and independent streak may test the patience of a new pet parent, though it shouldn’t stump those willing to put in the training time. And while Chessies love having an active job to do, they are also content to bond with their pet parents through active play and enrichment activities.
How to Care for a Chesapeake Bay Retriever.
The Chesapeake Bay Retriever dog breed may look like the picture of athletic elegance, but they do require a moderate amount of effort to keep them looking that way. Chessies need a ton of daily exercise, a balanced diet and a regular grooming and nail trimming routine to maintain their movie-star good looks and agreeable disposition.
Chesapeake Bay Retriever. Health
Chessies have a life expectancy of 10 to 13 years, although they are prone to some health issues. Knowing about these potential health problems in advance can help your pup stay healthy for longer.
- Hip Dysplasia: Hip dysplasia is a skeletal condition, most prevalent with large or giant breed dogs. Signs include lameness, decreased activity and thigh muscle loss. Treatments include lifestyle changes, joint supplements, medication and, in more severe cases, surgery.
- Ocular Conditions: Due to their high-performance outdoor, dirt-collecting tendencies, eye issues are common for Chesapeake Bay Retrievers. Eye conditions range from minor, easily treated infections, such as conjunctivitis to more serious corneal traumas that require ongoing care to inherited or age-related cataracts that could ultimately require surgery.
- Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA): PRA is a serious eye disease that eventually leads to blindness. The good news is that responsible breeders can avoid it with DNA testing for defective genes.
- Exercise-Induced Collapse (EIC): EIC is an inherited intolerance to exercise. Affected Chessies become uncoordinated and wobbly after a short period of strenuous exercise, with episodes lasting up to 20 minutes and completely subsiding after 30 minutes. As both parents need to have the defective gene to pass it down to their pups, this condition can be avoided by responsible genetic testing.
- Degenerative Myelopathy (DM): This is a neurological condition that causes older dogs to lose function in their hind limbs. Genetic testing by responsible breeders can help avoid the disease. While the test won’t guarantee that an affected dog won’t develop the disease, it is a good start.
- Follicular Dysplasia Alopecia: This genetic type of hair loss caused by a deformity in the follicle’s structure gives Chessies’ coats a shabby appearance. There is no effective treatment available for this form of alopecia, although selective breeding can avoid the issue in the first place.
- Von Willebrand’s Disease: This is an inherited blood disorder caused by a deficiency of a protein (von Willebrand factor) that helps platelets stick together and form clots. Some dogs may never show signs of vWD, others will bleed more profusely after surgery or injury. There is drug treatment available for certain cases. Most dogs with the disease are managed by changing their lifestyle to avoid injury. Consult with your vet for options.
Chesapeake Bay Retriever. History
Descendant from Newfoundlands, Irish Water Spaniels and other undetermined dogs, the Chesapeake Bay Retriever originated with 19th-century duck club owners who bred these dogs to withstand freezing water conditions and retrieve hundreds of fowl per day. By the American Kennel Club’s inception in 1884, Chessies already existed as an emerging breed.
The breed is named after the Chesapeake Bay on the east coast of Maryland, which is where they hunted migratory ducks and geese. Their waterproof, oily double coat, powerful legs and webbed feet enabled them to withstand the elements for hours on end.
As successful as they are as duck dogs, Chessies’ speed, muscular build and keen sense of smell also make them excellent police K-9 dogs. At the same time, their athletic prowess and dashing good looks help them excel at dog sports and competitions.
So, where is the best place to find the Chesapeake Bay Retriever breed today? You can find a list of reputable breeders at the American Kennel Club’s website. Depending on the breeder, Chesapeake Bay Retriever prices average between $900 and $1,500. For these Chessie puppy prices, you can rest assured you are getting premiere breed characteristics and a dog bred to avoid significant Chessie temperament and health issues. Another way to bring a Chesapeake Bay Retriever into your home is to adopt from a rescue organization or animal shelter.
Do Chesapeake Bay Retrievers shed?
Yes, Chesapeake Bay Retrievers do shed. Since they are mixed with Newfoundlands, one of the heaviest shedders on the planet, they are above-average shedders, although they have a fairly low-maintenance coat overall.
Are Chesapeake Bay Retrievers aggressive?
While Chessies are protective and tend to be suspicious of strangers, they aren’t characteristically aggressive nor do they have abnormal biting tendencies. In fact, as the natural hunters they are, retrievers have a gentle bite in order not to harm the birds they retrieve.
How long do Chesapeake Bay Retrievers live?
The Chesapeake Bay Retriever life expectancy is 10 to 13 years.
Are Chesapeake Bay Retrievers good family dogs?
Chesapeake Bay Retrievers can be good family dogs for the right family. Chessies need a lot of exercise every day to stay healthy and happy, and they do well with older children who know how to respect the pup’s boundaries. A busy working family with very young children might not be able to provide the environment a Chessie needs to thrive.
Are Chesapeake Bay Retrievers good guard dogs?
Yes, Chesapeake Bay Retreivers are good guard dogs. Chessies are known to bark when an unfamiliar person or animal enters their property and are fiercely loyal and protective over their families.
What are the most common Chesapeake Bay Retriever mixes?
- Chesapeake Bay Retriever-Labrador mix (Chesador)
- Chesapeake Bay Retriever-Pitbull mix
- Chesapeake Bay Retriever-German Shepherd mix
- Chesapeake Bay Retriever-Border Collie mix
- Chesapeake Bay Retriever-Poodle mix (Chesa-Poo)
Chesapeake Bay Retrievers are high-energy pets who make great companions for experienced and active pet parents. They may need a lot of exercise and activities to keep them content, but it’s totally worth it. Whether out and about or at home by your feet, these loyal, loving dogs will bond with you for life.
Expert input provided by veterinarian Dr. Rachel Barrack, DVM, CVA, CVCH founder of concierge veterinary practice Animal Acupuncture and Amber Walker, KPA-CTP, zoologist, and owner of Animal Intuitions.
Photo credit for “How do I look?” American Kennel Club