The Chesapeake Bay Retriever is a large breed of gundog originally bred for all-weather hunting and retrieving with a unique oily coat that effectively repels water which makes it an excellent land and water retriever. It has a well proportioned and strong muscular appearance with intelligent expression. The broad head features a medium stop, short pointed muzzle but not sharp, a nose with large nostrils that compliments the colour of the coat. It has widely set eyes that comes in yellow or amber and small, ears that hangs loosely to the side of the head. A medium length but muscular neck provides efficient support to the broad head. Like most dog breeds, the Chesapeake Bay Retriever has straight forelegs with good bone and muscle and a muscular and powerful hindquarters which is important for swimming. The hare-like feet are webbed which provides the needed power when swimming in the water. At rest, the tail extends down to the hock, usually straight or slightly curved. The distinctive topcoat is short but thick, usually 1.5 inches (4 cm) long, with harsh and oily texture covering a dense, woolly undercoat. The harsh oily topcoat and the woolly undercoat play an important role for working under extreme weather conditions, including ice and snow. The breed comes in colours of dead grass (straw to bracken), red gold, or any shade of brown.
The origin of the Chesapeake Bay retriever is strewn with luck and charm. In 1807, an English brig was shipwrecked off the coast of Maryland and the crew and cargo, along with two Newfoundland puppies were rescued by an American ship. These young pups, a red male dog named “Sailor” and a black female named “Canton”, were eventually given as gifts to the rescuers. Locals say these two were eventually crossed with the Irish water spaniel, bloodhound and other local hounds to produce the “Chessie” as it is affectionately referred to in the United States. There are however, some sources that claim the Chesapeake Bay retriever hailed from a cross between an English Otter hound, and a flatcoat retriever. The new breed turned out to be an excellent retriever, used to hunt ducks under adverse weather and water conditions and became popular for repeatedly swimming through icy waters of the Chesapeake Bay to retrieve ducks. Not only was it good for retrieving, the breed was also used to guard the boat against thieves when the game was taken to market. It has been said that this breed was able to retrieve 200 ducks in one day in frigid waters. Today, the popularity of this breed extends beyond Chesapeake Bay and is still widely used to recover water fowls in the water.
The Chesapeake Bay retriever is known for its bright and cheerful temperament. It is highly intelligent, affectionate and protective of its master, which makes an excellent companion. It will recognize only one master and may tend to regard others as equal or lesser. Although, it is a naturally dominant breed, it will not typically be aggressive as to assert its dominance towards others, but will rather defend itself and its position as the dominant breed.It is a trainable breed, but can be a slow learner. Swimming and retrieving are the most important talents of this breed.
An effective training for the Chesapeake Bay retriever should include consistent handling coupled with kindness from an experienced and positive handler, hence, it is not recommended for an inexperienced dog owner. Early socialization is required in order to raise a breed with no dominance problem.
The harsh, short coat is quite easy to maintain. Brushing with a firm bristle brush on a regular basis to remove loose or dead hairs is sufficient. Occasional bathing is necessary to prevent the noticeable musky odour.
In general, the Chesapeake Bay retriever is a healthy breed, with a lifespan between 10 to 12 years. Although like most dog breeds, it has a few known health issues including joint problems such as Hypertrophic Osteodystrophy, hip dysplasia and elbow dysplasia, and eye problems such as entropion, progressive retinal atrophy and cataracts. A diet high in poultry fat and protein, and carbohydrate from brown rice or wheat is ideal.
It has a very high exercise demand and typically requires a great deal of dynamic activity, especially swimming if possible. This breed tends to get bored if not properly provided with the right amount of physical activity requirements.
It is generally good with children and other household pets especially if it is raised with them, but is typically reserved with strangers.