The Chesapeake Bay Retriever
He's been called the "most rugged retriever:" the courageous and water-loving Chesapeake Bay Retriever is a powerful gundog, renowned for his prowess in rough, icy water especially. His keen, yellow-amber eyes draw attention to an upbeat, intelligent face. He's smart, with a notably bright and happy disposition, but he is also quiet and affectionately protective of his people—including the family cat—and his turf. His friendly, if occasionally reserved, demeanor makes him an excellent and trustworthy companion animal.
Physical Description/Breed Standard
Coat - The distinctive breed trait is a thick, water-resistant double coat that's oily to the touch; it is wavy on the shoulders, neck, back, and loins, but not elsewhere. The outer coat is short and harsh, and the undercoat is dense, fine, and wooly, with an abundance of natural oil, an adaptation to working the icy waters of the Chesapeake Bay. The oil helps keep the cold water from reaching his skin, resisting it the same way a duck's feathers do; it also helps the coat dry quickly—when the Chessie 'shakes' his coat, it does not hold water at all. Chessies are solid-colored, either "chocolate-y" brown, sedge (red-gold), or deadgrass (straw), occasionally with white spotting on the chest or feet; no single color is preferred over another.
Male: 65-80 pounds
Breed Standard and History
The Chesapeake Bay Retriever has a round, broad head with jaws made to carry large game birds tenderly. He is strong, well-balanced, and powerful, moderately sized and of a medium length, with a deep, wide chest; his hindquarters are a tad higher than his shoulders. His medium-large eyes are clear, in a yellowish or amber hue, and set wide apart in the head. His smallish ears hang loosely, attached high on the head, and his muzzle is about as long as his skull. His height as measured from the shoulder to the ground is slightly less than his length as measured from the breastbone to the buttocks. His tail is straight or slightly curved, and his good-sized feet are well webbed. His gait is smooth and effortless, with no restriction of motion, and leaving an impression of power and strength.
This purely American breed was developed along Maryland's Chesapeake Bay to hunt waterfowl under punishing weather conditions, and has been known to stoically break through icy waters without concern, time and again during the course of multiple retrieves. The original pair were Sailor, a red male, and Canton, a black female, each of them Newfoundland puppies rescued in 1807 from the wrecked American ship Canton. Sailor and Canton grew into superior retrievers and were bred to other local dogs (but never to each other), giving rise to the thick-coated, bright, and happy Chesapeake Bay Retriever as a distinct breed. They were first recognized in 1877 at the Poultry and Fanciers Association Show in Baltimore as the Chesapeake Bay Ducking Dog. The American Kennel Club officially recognized the CBR in 1878, and the American Chesapeake Club held the first licensed retriever trial in 1932.
Today the Chessie is as much prized for his companionship as for his prowess in the field.
AKC Breed Category
The most powerful of all the retrievers, and the most headstrong, the adult Chesapeake Bay Retriever is bright, sensitive, perceptive, and family-oriented. But don't expect an effusively friendly dog in the company of strangers—the Chessie is more discriminating than Goldens or Labs during introductions, and will warm up to new people in his own time. The consummate outdoorsman's dog, this steady and dependable breed wants a job to do, and a simple walk around the block is not likely to satisfy his need for industry. If you will not hunt with him, enroll him in training for fieldwork, or at the minimum plan to play vigorous games of fetch, and often, as you may not appreciate the games he'll invent if you leave him to his own devices.
Are Chesapeake Bay Retrievers Good with Kids? They make exceptionally good family dogs, and are good with kids, but should be supervised. The Chesapeake Bay Retriever does not tolerate abuse from children; he will most likely simply get up and walk away in this scenario, but an adult should monitor any situation where there is interaction between a Chessie and children. Be advised that Chessies sometimes guard food and toys, and thus might make a poor choice as a companion animal in a household with very young children who have difficulty respecting boundaries.
Are Chesapeake Bay Retrievers Good with Other Pets? Chessies do well with other household animals around whom they've been raised. They can be aggressive towards other dogs and for this reason must be trained to defer to the human in charge when it comes to interactions with other animals and people. In short, Chessies are good with other dogs with supervision. And while most Chessies get along with the family cat, don't be surprised if yours takes off in pursuit of an unknown neighborhood feline.
Are Chesapeake Bay Retrievers Good Guard Dogs? The Chessie barks when necessary; he makes an excellent watchdog, highly protective of his family and property.
He is a moderately active dog, but mellow around the house. When working, Chessies are indefatigable.
Indoor The Chesapeake Bay Retriever adapts poorly to apartment living, nor is he recommended as a good first dog for the novice owner in any living arrangement. But for an experienced human with an active lifestyle, the Chessie makes a happy, quiet house dog so long as his exercise requirements are met adequately. Once he's given a minimum of 20 minutes (but preferably more) of intense work, training, retrieving, or playing, he's as happy to be a sofa dog.
Outdoor Chessies crave outdoor activities, and swimming especially. When a Chessie is introduced to the water as a pup, he will become a strong and powerful swimmer, learning to use his tail as a rudder. He tolerates the cold and ice exceptionally well, but access to swimming water is best for a Chessie who will spend time outdoors in the heat.
Exercise This smart, active breed needs plenty of exercise and can easily overpower an inexperienced owner. Daily opportunities for long walks or the chance to swim will satisfy this dog and keep him quiet at home.
Endurance Chessies in the field face wind, tide, and long, cold swims: they rise to these occasions, functioning with ease, efficiency, and endurance.
Activity distance rating
Food Most Chesapeake Bay Retrievers thrive on about two cups of high-quality dry kibble daily, divided into two meals. But how much an individual dog needs depends on his size, age, build, metabolism, and activity level. Consult your vet for help fine-tuning your Chessie's diet.
Alone Time The Chesapeake Bay Retriever does not do well left in isolation for long periods: invite him into your family's fold, and give him plenty of affection, which he'll return to you in kind.
Health and Grooming
10 - 13 years
The Chesapeake Bay Retriever is only an average shedder who blows his coat seasonally, but his distinctively thick, wavy hair benefits from a brushing weekly with a rubber curry brush. Chessies need little bathing, and over-bathing can strip the coat of the oils which make it so wonderfully water-resistant to begin with. Save bathtime for the heaviest shedding seasons to help release dead hair so the new coat can come in.
Brush your Chessie's teeth a couple of times a week to reduce tartar buildup, and trim his nails once or twice monthly if he does not wear them down naturally through activity. Check his ears every week for redness or odor that indicates an infection; wipe them out with a cotton ball dampened with a gentle ear cleaner.
Common Health Issues
This hardy breed is generally healthy, but the following issues can occur in a Chessie:
You can minimize serious health concerns in a Chesapeake Bay Retriever by purchasing him from a reputable breeder who engages in responsible breeding practices, and through screening for common diseases and conditions.
Basic obedience training is a must for Chessies, who generally respond well to it; positive reinforcement and food rewards are the best strategies. And your Chessie will enjoy more success in basic obedience training when you keep sessions interesting, avoiding too much repetition. Quit while you're ahead: end all obedience sessions on a high note.
Chessies tire of the repetitive nature of obedience competition, but can do it with creative training. They're best at rally, flyball, agility, and any kind of water sports.
Sporting Dog Training
The Chessie is a born hunter with an excellent nose, a superior gundog in the field. He possesses a stubborn streak, which serves him well when searching for fallen game. The lore surrounding the breed suggests some dogs have retrieved as many as 100 ducks in a single day. The CBR can be trained for hunting, for hunting tests, and also for competitive field trials.
How many puppies in a typical Chesapeake Bay Retriever litter?
Is the Chesapeake Bay Retriever related to the Golden or Labrador Retriever?
When should I take my Chessie to basic obedience training?
Why do Chessies 'smile?'
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