Chesapeake Bay Retriever

PetMD Editorial
By PetMD Editorial
Published: July 29, 2009

The Chesapeake Bay Retriever is often regarded as the toughest of the water retrievers. He is strong, medium-sized and has a distinctive coat. The dog can be brown, sedge or deadgrass in color, depending on its working surroundings.

Physical Characteristics

The Chesapeake Bay Retriever has webbed feet, powerful limbs, and an oily coat, all of which enables it to move effortlessly through across water. This coat, which is nearly waterproof, consists of a dense undercoat and a rough, wind-resistant outer coat. The brownish color of its coat, meanwhile, allows it to blend in with its surroundings (i.e., sedge or deadgrass).

The Chesapeake Bay Retriever is slightly longer than it is tall, and its hindquarters are higher than its forequarters. Despite its strong bite, it holds onto birds tenderly.

Personality and Temperament

The Chesapeake Bay Retriever is sturdy, strong-willed and always keen to learn new things. It enjoys swimming and diving into ice cold water. And although it is active outdoors, it remains gentle and calm inside the house.

Some Chesapeake Bay Retrievers may show signs of aggression towards other dogs. Moreover, many prefer to stay away from strangers.


One does not need to wash a Chesapeake Bay Retriever on a regular basis, as its coat is water resistant. A weekly brushing and combing is enough. To keep remain fit, a regular exercise routine in the form of swimming, walking, or other physical activities should be developed for the dog. The Chesapeake Bay Retriever is also adaptable to living outdoors in temperate weather.


The Chesapeake Bay Retriever, which has an average lifespan of 10 to 13 years, is prone to some major health issues such as gastric torsion and canine hip dysplasia (CHD), and minor concerns like hypothyroidism and progressive retinal atrophy (PRA). Some other potential issues affecting the breed include elbow dysplasia, entropion, cerebellar abiotrophy, and Osteochondrosis Dissecans (OCD). To identify some of these issues, a veterinarian may recommend regular eye, hip, and thyroid exams for the dog.

History and Background

Although the Chesapeake Bay Retriever was developed in the United States, it came from stock destined for England. In 1807, an the American vessel Canton rescued the crew and cargo of a English ship wrecked off the coast of Maryland. Also rescued were two Newfoundland pups and a black female named "Canton."

These dogs were discovered to be excellent swimmers, and were later crossbred with the Bloodhound, Irish Water Spaniel, local hounds, and Newfoundlands, to create a breed that could swim in the harsh, ice-cold waters of Chesapeake Bay. This breed came to be known as the Chesapeake Bay Retriever and was used by local hunters for retrieving ducks.

It received recognition by the American Kennel Club in 1885, and is one of the oldest breeds on record. Its name is probably derived from the Chesapeake Bay, an ice-cold body of water it frequently swam in. It is, however, also referred to as the "Chessie," and is excellent at pointing birds.

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