Chesapeake Bay Retriever

Temperament: Affectionate, Bright, Sensitive

  • Height: 23-26 inches (male), 21-24 inches (female)
  • Weight: 65-80 pounds (male), 55-70 pounds (female)
  • Life Expectancy: 10-13 years
  • Group: Sporting Group 

The Chesapeake Bay Retriever, peerless duck dog of the Mid-Atlantic, is an American original who embodies the classic traits of a good retriever: loyal, upbeat, affectionate, and tireless. The Chessie is famous for his waterproof coat.


The breed’s characteristics are specifically suited to enable the Chesapeake to function with ease, efficiency and endurance. In head, the Chesapeake’s skull is broad and round with a medium stop. The jaws should be of sufficient length and strength to carry large game birds with an easy, tender hold. The double coat consists of a short, harsh, wavy outer coat and a dense, fine, wooly undercoat containing an abundance of natural oil and is ideally suited for the icy rugged conditions of weather the Chesapeake often works in. In body, the Chesapeake is a strong, well-balanced, powerfully built animal of moderate size and medium length in body and leg, deep and wide in chest, the shoulders built with full liberty of movement, and with no tendency to weakness in any feature, particularly the rear.

About the Chesapeake Bay Retriever

Chessies are strong, powerfully built gundogs standing anywhere from 21 to 26 inches at the shoulder. A male can weigh up to 80 pounds. The distinctive breed trait is a wavy coat that is oily to the touch. Chessies are solid-colored, either chocolatey brown, sedge, or deadgrass, with keen yellow-amber eyes that nicely complement the coat.

Chessies are more emotionally complex than the usual gundog. Chessies take to training, but they have a mind of their own and can tenaciously pursue their own path. They are protective of their humans and polite, but not overtly friendly, to strangers. Chessies make excellent watchdogs and are versatile athletes. A well-socialised Chessie is a confident companion and world-class hunting buddy.

NUTRITION Generally any good-quality dog food is fine for the Chesapeake. For especially active or high-energy dogs, a formula with at least 20-percent protein can be beneficial. Treats can be an important aid in training, but giving too many can cause obesity. Give table scraps sparingly, if at all, especially avoiding cooked bones and foods with high fat content. Learn about which human foods are safe for dogs, and which are not. Check with your vet if you have any concerns about your dog’s weight or diet.

GROOMING This is a short-haired breed with a soft undercoat and a harsh outer coat. They do shed, and a good brushing about once a week will keep the dead hair on your floor to a minimum. Basically, Chessies don’t require much grooming or bathing. As with all breeds, the nails should be trimmed regularly, as overly long nails can cause discomfort and problems walking and running.

EXERCISE This is an intelligent, high-energy breed. Chessies really need a job and plenty of exercise. Hiking, running, hunting, and swimming are what they love to do. They excel in all the dog sports, such as obedience, tracking, and agility, although of course hunting and field work is what they were bred for.

TRAINING Obedience training is a must for the Chesapeake. Young puppies should start out with early socialization and puppy training classes. These help to ensure that the Chesapeake will grow into a well-adjusted, well-mannered companion.

HEALTH Hip dysplasia is a concern in most dogs, Chesapeakes included. There are some other hereditary diseases that can affect the breed, but fortunately there are tests that responsible breeders use to assess these and screen breeding stock. It is important for breeders to supply the health information about the sire and dam to anyone interested in obtaining a puppy. As with all breeds, a Chesapeake’s ears should be checked regularly for signs of infection, and the teeth should be brushed often, using a toothpaste designed for dogs.

Recommended Health Tests from the National Breed Club:

  1. Hip Evaluation
  2. Elbow Evaluation
  3. Ophthalmologist Evaluation
  4. PRA Optigen DNA Test
  5. EIC DNA Test
  6. Degenerative Myelopathy DNA Test

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