The Ch­e­sa­peake Bay Retriever

Tough and tena­cious, the Chessie is a retriever with a twist!


Tough and tena­cious, the Chessie is a retriever with a twist!

You may not have heard of him, but the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay Retriever is any­thing but new to the dog scene. His roots are wellestab­lished, and his ori­gins are down­right ro­man­tic.

It was 1807 when a Bri­tish ship wrecked off the coast of Mary­land in the frigid wa­ters of the Eastern Se­aboard. Among the res­cued were two dogs named Sailor and Can­ton. Early re­ports were that the dogs were New­found­lands, but that’s be­come the sub­ject of some de­bate over the years. Some con­tend that Sailor and Can­ton were Lesser New­found­lands, or St. John’s Wa­ter Dogs, a breed now ex­tinct. Re­gard­less, the two ship­wreck sur­vivors were in­stant celebri­ties—both for sur­viv­ing, as well as for their soon-ap­par­ent re­mark­able adept­ness at re­triev­ing wa­ter­fowl. The dogs caught the eyes of lo­cal en­thu­si­asts, who bred them to hounds, set­ters, wa­ter spaniels, and other re­triev­ers. The re­sults of those breed­ings served as the be­gin­nings of to­day’s Ch­e­sa­peake Bay Retriever. Come 1878, the first Ch­e­sa­peake Bay Retriever, named Sun­day, was of­fi­cially rec­og­nized by the Amer­i­can Ken­nel Club (AKC).

Per­haps not sur­pris­ing given their sur­vivor her­itage, the breed is a re­mark­ably tough one. The Chessie is pre­pared to take on the icy wa­ters of the At­lantic and ca­pa­ble of re­triev­ing up­wards of 200 wa­ter­fowl a day.

Ac­cord­ing to AKC stan­dards, Chessie males stand be­tween 23 to 26 inches, with fe­males 21 to 24 inches. Pro­por­tions are em­pha­sized of course, but noth­ing is given more at­ten­tion in the stan­dard than the coat, which is thick, short, and ac­cepted in eight colours but with no vari­a­tions. The Chessie has webbed toes which give him some ad­van­tage when swim­ming. His eyes are bright and clear with an amber hue—yes, yes, we call this dreamy in dog-talk.

Phys­i­cally, the Chessie is ar­guably the most tank-like of the gun dogs. He was bred to work in an in­cred­i­bly hos­tile and un­for­giv­ing en­vi­ron­ment, and it shows. But, let’s be clear: this breed is tough enough to with­stand al­most any­thing Mother Na­ture can throw at him—but this is not a dog who will thrive as an out­sider. Though phys­i­cally tough as nails, the Chessie brings a sen­si­tive soul to the ta­ble, and is very de­voted to his fam­ily, so make way for that big, beau­ti­ful Chessie in your home or find another breed!

This brings us to the sub­ject of tem­per­a­ment, and the Chessie is cer­tainly an in­ter­est­ing case. He’s a dog with a mind of his own—as­sertive and con­fi­dent, but with a soft side. The best way to train a Chessie is with early so­cial­iza­tion and pos­i­tive re­in­force­ment. These dogs bond in­tently with their loved ones and even a harsh look or word can be hurt­ful. Chessies are smart, bid­dable, and eager to please their loved ones—pretty much a dream for those seek­ing a dog who can be taught good man­ners.

The Chessie is an “up for any­thing” dog—es­pe­cially if it in­volves phys­i­cal or men­tal ex­er­tion. He’ll thrive if you en­gage him in field tri­als, hunt tests, agility, track­ing,

obe­di­ence, or con­fir­ma­tion. He wants to work and he wants to please. Talk about a win­ning com­bi­na­tion.

One thing is for sure, this is a work­ing dog, born and bred, through and through. The Chessie wants to work. For those in search of “just” a com­pan­ion, this is not the breed. The Chessie does love his peo­ple and will take in as much dotage as they can of­fer—but he’ll be miss­ing some­thing if he doesn’t have a job. This breed needs to be busy—runs, hunts, walks, plays… what­ever, so long as he’s kept en­gaged.

The Chessie is down­right aloof if you com­pare him with many Retriever breeds. He’s not a Vel­cro dog—the kind who con­stantly re­minds you how much he loooooves you. That’s not his style. He’ll al­most al­ways be close by, and to a de­gree he’ll be on guard for you, but mostly, he will sim­ply be with you. Lov­ing you, giv­ing you space, and ask­ing for it in re­turn. For some, and I won’t lie—I’m one—that sounds like a dream.

Rest as­sured, when you’re ready to get a move on, your Chessie will be by your side. He’ll be right there with you, up for the next big ad­ven­ture.

Shed­ding and ‘eau du chien’ are things you may just have to learn to ac­cept about the breed. The Chessie loves be­ing in the wa­ter and that oily coat is built for it. But it can be a bit… smelly. As for shed­ding, at least once a year, plan on some pretty epic shed­ding. Even with reg­u­lar brush­ing, it’s in­evitable. Cheap-o vac­u­ums need not ap­ply at the homes where Chessies run the show.

So, is the Chessie the right dog for you? Let me put it to you as sim­ply as I can: If you love the idea of a Labrador Retriever, but can’t stop think­ing about those amber eyes and that dense curly coat… then no, the Chessie is not for you.

Why? Be­cause he’s not just a ver­sion of a Lab or a Golden or of any­thing, for that mat­ter. He’s his own dog. And he’s a lot of dog. This is a sport­ing an­i­mal for se­ri­ous an­i­mal lovers. The best guardian for a Chessie is the one who gets him—a fel­low sports­man or out­door en­thu­si­ast who wants to ded­i­cate the time and re­sources needed to giv­ing this beau­ti­ful soul what he needs. Se­ri­ous in­quiries only, as the say­ing goes—be­cause Chessies are spe­cial, in­deed, and they de­serve noth­ing but the best. If you like the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay Retriever, you might also give some con­sid­er­a­tion to the:


Curly-Coated Retriever Ot­ter­hound Flat-Coated Retriever

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