--Written by Lani Scheman
Chesapeake Bay Retriever
For committed dog owners with active, head strong dog experience.
Average Life Span:
12 to 14 years
Breed standard is: Females 55 to 70, Males 65 to 80. Some dogs tend to run much larger with males sometimes seen over100 pounds. This is not a breed standard
Females 21-24 "; Males 22- 26" at the withers
Color And Coat:
Color is anything from a light wheaten color called dead grass, through the red tones, called sedge, to any color of brown from light to dark. White appears on breast, toes, belly, and a spot above the large pad on the back of the feet. White is not desirable so the less the better. Some light toned dogs will have mixed colors in the coat resembling a brindle pattern or some will have masking on the top of the head. However, it is important to note that there is no black pigment in the breed so any black fur, a black nose, or black spots in the mouth would suggest a mix. Eyes should be a pale yellow to dark amber- not brown. The coat is quite unique. It is short but thick with a tendency to wave on the neck, back, and rump only. The coat should not be curly all over nor be longer than 1.5 inches anywhere. The coat contains quite a bit of oil, should have a good, downy undercoat, and should be springy to the touch. Those coat qualities are what keep the Chessie dry in water. The Chesapeake was bred for endurance swimming in rough, icy conditions. Coat quality will vary greatly, depending on genetic factors as well as living conditions. Outside dogs will keep a more proper breed type coat than indoor dogs.
Chesapeakes should be groomed as little as possible. Bathing strips the protective oil off the coat and excessive brushing pulls out the undercoat. Regular swimming should keep the dog odor free. Never use wire card brushes on the coat as they risk permanent damage. A hound glove or soft bristle is more appropriate. Chessies tend to blow coat twice a year and shedding can be quite dramatic if the dog is heavily coated. Between these times, shedding is very light. Although Chesapeakes are not typically listed as "hypoallergenic", their coats do not tend to bother allergy prone people.
Typical Health Problems:
Fortunately, the Chessie tends to be a healthy breed overall. The following are some issues seen in the breed: Hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, osteochondritis (affecting shoulder or hock); cataracts, progressive retinal atrophy, Von Willebrands disease (clotting disorder), yeast overgrowth in ears.
History and Personality:
: Chesapeakes are an American breed, developed around 1830 and recognized by the AKC in 1880. They are traced back to two early Newfoundlands, Canton and Sailor. These two dogs, rescued as pups from a shipwreck off the coast of Maryland in 1806, developed into outstanding retrievers. Canton and Sailor were not bred to each other but were bred to the local stock and their progeny were bred to water spaniels, hounds, and setters to develop the retrieving and hunting ability, the unique coat, and the tremendous endurance required of a dog who would accompany the market hunter. Market hunters supplied meat and feathers to the food and millinery trades. In the early days, there were no bag limits and the dogs would be in the icy waters of the Chesapeake Bay for hours at a time retrieving bird after bird and literally just tossing them over the side of the boat. They instinctively knew to chase down cripples first and developed an independent streak that would serve them well in conditions that required a dog to think rather than simply obey. When the hunt was over, these dogs were also expected to guard the daily catch. The dog that developed from these early demands is an animal of great endurance and physical stamina who is driven, intelligent, protective, and active. Chesapeakes are extremely loyal, affectionate, clownish, and love to play games where they can figure things out. They have engaging personalities punctuated by their "smile"- a greeting that is a grimace with all teeth bared as well as their unique vocalizations - a happy "woo woo" sound that is somewhere between a growl and a howl. They learn obedience commands easily with consistent training but may not obey consistently if the owner is lax. They need to be challenged and trained. They need a regular exercise program with retrieving and swimming to be happy and stay out of mischief. They tend to be inactive indoors and make great house dogs as well as hardy outdoor dogs. Their strong desire to be near people requires that they be in a situation where they will have sustained contact and "outdoors only" is not recommended. Some people regard them as stubborn but they are rather easy to motivate if the owner takes the time to find out what motivates them. They do not tolerate harsh treatment and will shut down or bite if abused. They tend to be dominant dogs and require an owner who will be firm, fair, and consistent or they will "take over". Some dominant dogs become overly possessive of objects, people, or property and may be somewhat aggressive if challenged. Stay away from dogs who are overly possessive or who have not been properly socialized. Chesapeakes are a lot of dog. They inspire great and fierce loyalty from the people who love them and have taken the time to understand and work with their complex personalities. People who prefer dogs who are more obedient and submissive tend not to like Chesapeakes at all.
Why are these dogs typically in animal shelters?
Most often because the owner is moving or the dog got lost. Less often, but significantly, because an adolescent dog's exercise needs are too demanding for a particular owner. Sometimes the dog has gotten too protective over property and has bitten or intimidated others.
How do these dogs handle rescue or shelter life?
Because Chesapeake's are very one person or one family oriented, they tend to shut down in shelters and ignore people. Depression sets in fairly quickly. Some may show barrier aggression (barking and lunging at the kennel/ kennel door aggression) but as soon as they are taken out of the kennel they settle right down and are friendly. They do well in foster care as a general rule.
Who should own this breed?
Easy, laid back dogs can go with a committed, educated novice owner. But generally, this breed is active and somewhat headstrong. As a result, experienced owners and owners who have a strong commitment to training and exercising the dog do better with a Chesapeake. They are a breed that should be contained, due their protective nature.
Is this breed good with children?
Yes and no. Some Chesapeake's are great with children. Early socialization to children is extremely helpful. Overly dominant or possessive dogs may not be good with children and caution is recommended. They can also be exuberant or too large and active for smaller children if not trained well. No child should ever be left alone with any dog.
How easy is training and house training with this breed?
Chesapeakes housebreak very easily and learn obedience commands quite easily, if clear consistent methods of training are used. Due to their independent decision making nature and a tendency to like to work things out for themselves, they are not as reliable on commands as some other retriever breeds. Their exuberance and drive can also interfere with commands in situations of high excitement. The owner must be consistent to get a consistent performance from the Chessie.
Is this breed good with other dogs in general?
If well socialized to other dogs, Chesapeake's are generally fine with other dogs. Some may be dog aggressive
without socialization. Overall, Chesapeakes don't really gravitate to the company of other dogs and, although they may get along with them just fine, they don't really interact beyond a cordial greeting. Dogs in the same household will play and interact much more.
Socializing this breed?
Socializing is a must. The Chesapeake who has been introduced to all kinds of people, animals, and situations from a young age is usually a stable and well-adjusted individual who will be curious, outgoing, and friendly. Dogs without socialization are often the fearful or suspicious characters who end up on the aggressive side. Socialization, exercise, and good training are key to Chesapeake Bay Retriever successful ownership.