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Key Breed Facts
Intelligence / Trainability
Children and Other Pets
Caring for a Chesapeake Bay Retriever
Average Cost to keep/care for a Chesapeake Bay Retriever
Breed Specific Buying Advice
The Chesapeake Bay Retriever boasts having a unique and distinct coat which means these dogs really do stand out in a crowd. They are large, compact gundogs with an interesting ancestry. They are high energy and therefore best suited to living with owners who lead busy, outdoor lives and in households where one member of the family usually stays at home when everyone else is out so that dogs are never left to their own devices for long periods of time.
They are a great choice for families with children because Chesapeakes adore being around kids and seem to have an affinity with them. However, playtime can be a little boisterous which means younger children and toddlers should always be supervised when they are around dogs. Chesapeake Bay Retrievers are not the best choice for first time dog owners because they must be socialised, handled and trained by people familiar with the needs of such an intelligent, high-energy dog.
The Chesapeake Bay Retriever's origins and history are quite interesting. It is thought the breed came about when two puppies were rescued from a shipwreck off the coast of Maryland some 200 years ago. These puppies were very similar to Newfoundland type dogs and it was found they adored being in water. As such they were bred to local retriever type dogs and it's thought the Curly Coat was one of the breeds used to develop the Chesapeake Bay Retriever.
One of the puppies rescued was a red dog called Sailor and he ended up being owned by Governor Lloyd who bred him to other dogs which produced excellent puppies that went on to be very well-known. The other puppy was a black female called Canton and she went on to be owned by a doctor by the name of James Stewart of Sparrow Point. She also went on to be well-known for her abilities and her offspring. Both dogs were bred to other dogs that belonged to Carrol Island Kennels as well as other kennels that existed at the time. They produced the Chesapeake Bay Retrievers we see today.
It is thought that other dogs used to create the Chessie included Flat coated and Curly Coated Retrievers, Irish Water Spaniels and Coonhounds. The result was a gundog with an extraordinarily water-resistant coat that boasted an oily and thick texture which offered these dogs tremendous protection from the elements and cold waters they were to work in.
A breed standard was established for the Chesapeake Bay in 1885 and the American Kennel Club recognised these dogs as a breed in 1933. The first Chessies arrived in the UK in 1933 and by the seventies, the Chesapeake Bay Retriever was already a popular gundog breed. Today, these attractive and lively dogs are still popular in the field, but they have also become a popular choice as both companion dogs and family pets, thanks to their affectionate, loyal although sometimes independent natures and the fact they have real affinity with children of all ages.
Height at the withers: Males 61 - 66 cm, Females 56 - 64 cm
Average weight: Males 34 - 45 kg, Females 30 - 40 kg
Chesapeakes are powerful and muscular dogs that boast having a very distinctive coat and they also have webbed feet. There is also quite a noticeable difference in the appearance of male and females Bays. Another very distinct feature is their broad head which has a medium stop and which is ever so slightly pointed. Their lips although thin do not hang and Bays have well developed nostrils. The colour of their nose and lips depends on the colour of a dog's coat.
Their eyes are medium in size and always very clear being either an amber or yellow colour and they are nicely set wide apart on a dog's face. Ears are quite small and set well up on a dog's head. They have moderate leathers which Bays carry close to their cheeks. These dogs have a strong jaw with a perfect scissor bite where their upper teeth neatly overlap their lower ones.
Necks are moderately long, but muscular and strong tapering down from a dog's head to their shoulders. Forequarters are well-boned and nicely muscled being well laid back and powerful. Their front legs are straight and strong. A Bay's body is moderately long with dogs having well sprung ribs. Chests are well developed, broad and quite deep. Their toplines are level, but a dog's hindquarters are a little higher than at the withers. Flanks can be slightly tucked up.
Hindquarters are well muscled, powerful and strong to match a dog's forequarters. Back legs are nicely developed and strong. Feet are very hare-like and webbed being quite large and dogs have well rounded, close toes which makes them powerful swimmers. Their tails are moderately long and can be either slightly curved or straight. They are heavier at the root and dogs carry them level or a little higher than their toplines.
When it comes to their coat, the Chesapeake Bay Retriever boasts having a very distinct coat which consists of a harsh, oily outer coat and a fine, denser and woolly undercoat which covers their entire body which is extremely weather-resistant. The hair on a dog's neck, shoulders, their backs and their loins is wavy. Dogs can have a small amount of feathering on their tails. Accept breed colours for Kennel Club registration are as follows:
It is worth noting that the accepted breed colours for Kennel Club registration can differ from those set out in the breed standard.
When a Chesapeake Bay Retriever moves, they do so with a powerful, smooth, free and strong, effortless action. As they get faster, their feet converge.
The Kennel Club frowns on any exaggerations or departures from the breed standard and would judge the faults on how much they affect a dog's overall health and wellbeing as well as their ability to perform.
Males should have both testicles fully descended into their scrotums and it is worth noting that a dog can be a little lighter or heavier as well as slightly taller or shorter than set out in the Kennel Club breed standard which is only given as a guideline.
Chesapeake Bay Retrievers are known to be affectionate and loyal by nature and they boast having a natural affinity with children which makes them a great choice as family pets. However, they do boast being independent thinkers and protective by nature, but because they mature quite late which is typically around the time they are 3 years old, the Chessie does not get overly protective until they are about 18 months old. It's important for their training to start as early as possible to curb any unwanted behaviours which includes being too protective. It is also important to note that Chessies like to understand what is being asked of them which many people confuse with “stubbornness” which it is not.
These dogs love being around water and in the great outdoors. They are not the sort of dog that would suit living in an apartment with people who lead more sedentary, indoor lives. They would, however, thrive living in the country with people who boast very large back gardens and who enjoy spending as much of their free time as possible in the great outdoors with a canine companion.
Although friendly, affectionate and highly intelligent, the Chessie is not the best choice for first time owners because they need so much more in the way of exercise and mental stimulation for them to be truly happy, well-rounded dogs. If they are not given the right amount, these dogs can quickly develop some unwanted behavioural issues that can be hard to correct later.
Chessies are not the best choice for first time dog owners because they need to be socialised, handled and trained by people who are familiar with the needs of such a highly intelligent and high-energy dog. They must know their place in the pack and who is alpha dog in a household to prevent them from showing a more dominant side to their natures.
Chesapeake Bay Retrievers have a high prey drive which is something that is deeply embedded in their psyche even when they are in a home environment. As such, care should always be taken as to where and when a dog can run off the lead more especially when there is wildlife and/or livestock close by.
Chessies have a very playful side to their natures and love to entertain and be entertained. When well trained, they excel at all sorts of canine sports which includes obedience and agility to name but two activities they are known to enjoy.
Chesapeakes are better suited to people who live in the country and who spend a lot of their time in the great outdoors with an intelligent, energetic canine companion with a lot of stamina at their side.
Chessies form strong ties with their families and are never very happy when they find themselves left on their own for longer periods of time. They are better suited to people who either work from home or in households where one person stays at home when everyone else is out, so they are never alone for any length of time which could see a dog suffering from separation anxiety. This can lead to them being destructive around the home which is a dog's way of relieving any stress they are feeling and a way to keep themselves entertained.
Chesapeakes are not known to be “barkers” and will only generally voice an opinion when they want something or to alert an owner to something they don’t like that’s going on in their environment. In short, Chessies only tend to bark when they think it is necessary which is why they make such good watchdogs. With this said, rarely would a Chessie show any sort of aggressive behaviour preferring to keep their distance and bark.
It would be hard to keep a Chessie out of the water no matter what the weather because swimming and getting their feet wet is something they thoroughly enjoy and having webbed feet, they are excellent swimmers. However, care should always be taken when walking a Chesapeake off the lead anywhere near more dangerous watercourses just in case a dog decides to leap in and then needs rescuing because they cannot get out of the water on their own.
Chessies are natural watchdogs and always quick off the mark when it comes to letting an owner know when something is amiss in their environment. They are very protective of their owners and their property although by no means are they good “guard dogs”.
The Chesapeake Bay Retriever is known to be a very intelligent dog, but they are also known to have a mind of their own and “free thinking” which can be mistaken for stubbornness which are previously mentioned, it is not. Chessies like to understand a command before reacting, but once they do understand, they are always willing and eager to obey. This is one of the reasons why they are not the best choice for novice dog owners. With this said, their training must start early, and it needs to be consistent throughout a dog’s life. If they are not handled correctly from the word go, they can start to show a more dominant side to their nature and therefore much harder to handle.
Like other puppies, Chessie puppies are incredibly cute which means it is all too easy to spoil them when they first arrive in their new homes. However, once a puppy is nicely settled, owners must start out as they mean to go on by teaching a puppy the rules and boundaries, so they understand what is expected of them. It also helps establish a pecking order and who is the alpha dog in a household. The first commands a Chessie puppy should be taught are as follows:
Chessies are known to be calm and level-headed although a tad reserved as compared to a Lab or Golden Retriever and as such they get on well with children of all ages. With this said, any interaction between children and a dog should be well supervised by an adult to make sure playtime does not get too boisterous which could end up with someone getting frightened or hurt.
Providing a Chessie has grown up with cats and other pets in a household they are generally very good around them. However, this is not to say they won’t chase cats and other animals they don’t know. They can be difficult around other dogs which is why early socialisation is a must for them to grow up to be mature, well-rounded characters that accept being around other dogs they don’t already know.
For further advice please read our article on Keeping Children Safe around Dogs.
The average life expectancy of a Chesapeake Bay Retriever is between 10 and 13 years when properly cared for and fed an appropriate good quality diet to suit their ages.
Like so many other breeds, the Chessie is known to suffer from a few hereditary health issues which are worth knowing about if you are planning share your home with one of these active and good-looking dogs. The conditions that seem to affect the breed the most include the following:
It is worth noting that the average COI for the breed currently stands at 7.4%
Chessie puppies would have been given their initial vaccinations before being sold, but it is up to their new owners to make sure they have their follow-up shots in a timely manner with the vaccination schedule for puppies being as follows:
There has been a lot of discussion about the need for dogs to have boosters. As such, it's best to talk to a vet before making a final decision on whether a dog should continue to have annual vaccinations which are known as boosters.
A lot of vets these days recommend waiting until dogs are slightly older before spaying and neutering them which means they are more mature before undergoing the procedures. As such they advise neutering males and spaying females when they are between the ages of 6 to 9 months old and sometimes even when a dog is 12 months.
Other vets recommend spaying and neutering dogs when they are 6 months old, but never any earlier unless for medical reasons. With this said, many breeds are different and it is always advisable to discuss things with a vet and then follow their advice on when a dog should be spayed or neutered.
Like other breeds, some Chessies gain weight after they have been spayed or neutered and it's important to keep an eye on a dog's waistline just in case they do. If a dog starts to put on weight, it's important to adjust their daily calorie intake and to up the amount of exercise they are given. Older dogs too are more prone to gaining weight and again it's essential they be fed and exercised accordingly because obesity can shorten a dog's life by several years. The reason being that it puts a lot of extra strain on a dog's internal organs including the heart which could prove fatal.
Some Chessies are prone to suffering from allergies and ear infections and it's important for a dog to see a vet sooner rather than later if one flares up. Allergies can be notoriously hard to clear up and finding the triggers can be challenging. It is very important to thoroughly dry off a Chessie once they’ve been in water paying special attention to their ears. With this said, a vet would be able to make a dog with an allergy more comfortable while they try to find out the triggers which could include the following:
All responsible Chesapeake Bay Retriever breeders would ensure that their stud dogs are tested for known hereditary and congenital health issues known to affect the breed by using the following schemes:
Apart from the standard breeding restrictions for all Kennel Club recognised breeds, there are no other breed specific breeding restrictions in place for the Chesapeake Bay Retriever.
It is mandatory for all Assured Kennel Club Breeders to use the following tests on their dogs and all other breeders are strongly advised to follow suit:
The Kennel Club also strongly recommends that all breeders use the following schemes on their dogs:
As with any other breed, Chessies need to be groomed on a regular basis to make sure their coats and skin are kept in top condition. They also need to be given regular daily exercise to ensure they remain fit and healthy. On top of this, dogs need to be fed good quality food that meets all their nutritional needs throughout their lives.
Chessie puppies are boisterous and full of life which means it's essential for homes and gardens to be puppy-proofed well in advance of their arrival. A responsible breeder would have well socialised their puppies which always leads to more outgoing, confident and friendly dogs right from the word go. With this said, any puppy is going to feel vulnerable when they leave their mother and littermates which must be taken into account. The longer a puppy can remain with their mother, the better although it should never be for too long either.
It's best to pick a puppy up when people are going to be around for the first week or so which is the time needed for a puppy to settle in. Puppy-proofing the home and garden means putting away any tools and other implements that a boisterous puppy might injure themselves on. Electric wires and cables must be put out of their reach because puppies love chewing on things. Toxic plants should be removed from flowerbeds and the home too.
Puppies need to sleep a lot to grow and develop as they should which means setting up a quiet area that's not too out of the way means they can retreat to it when they want to nap and it's important not to disturb them when they are sleeping. It's also a good idea to keep "playtime" nice and calm inside the house and to have a more active "playtime" outside in the garden which means puppies quickly learn to be less boisterous when they are inside.
The documentation a breeder provides for a puppy must have all the details of their worming date and the product used as well as the information relating to their microchip. It is essential for puppies to be wormed again keeping to a schedule which is as follows:
There are certain items that new owners need to already have in the home prior to bringing a new puppy home. It's often a good idea to restrict how much space a puppy plays in more especially when you can't keep an eye on what they get up to bearing in mind that puppies are often quite boisterous which means investing in puppy gates or a large enough playpen that allows a puppy the room to express themselves while keeping them safe too. The items needed are therefore, as follows:
All puppies are sensitive to noise including Chessie puppies, bearing in mind that they don’t respond well to raised voices and harsh handling. It's important to keep the noise levels down when a new puppy arrives in the home. TVs and music should not be played too loud which could end up stressing a small puppy out making them withdrawn, timid and shy.
Keeping vet appointments
As previously mentioned, Chessie puppies would have been given their first vaccinations by the breeders, but they must have their follow up shots which is up to their new owners to organise. The vaccination schedule for puppies is as follows:
When it comes to boosters, it's best to discuss these with a vet because there is a lot of debate about whether a dog really needs them after a certain time. However, if a dog ever needed to go into kennels, their vaccinations would need to be fully up to date.
Older Chessie need lots of special care because as they reach their golden years, they are more at risk of developing certain health concerns. Physically, a dog's muzzle may start to go grey, but there will be other noticeable changes too which includes the following:
Living with a Chesapeake Bay Retriever in their golden years means taking on a few more responsibilities, but these are easily managed and should include looking at their diet, the amount of exercise they are given, how often their dog beds need changing and keeping an eye on the condition of their teeth.
Older Chessies need to be fed a good quality diet that meets their needs at this stage of their lives all the while keeping a close eye on a dog's weight. A rough feeding guide for older dogs is as follows bearing in mind they should be fed highly digestible food that does not contain any additives:
Older Chessies don't need to be given the same amount of daily exercise as a younger dog, but they still need the right amount of physical activity to maintain muscle tone and to prevent a dog from putting on too much weight. All dogs need access to fresh clean water and this is especially true of older dogs when they reach their golden years because they are more at risk of developing kidney disorders.
Chesapeake Bay Retrievers have medium length coats that consist of tight curls that feel crisp to the touch and it covers their entire body, but not their muzzles or faces. They do not have an undercoat which means they are not heavy shedders as such they are not high maintenance in the grooming department. The structure of their coats makes them incredibly water resistant which means that water and dirt simply rolls off leaving a dog's coat clean. A twice weekly brush when a Chessie is moulting is all it takes to keep their coats looking tidy and a dog's skin in good condition.
It's also important to check a dog's ears on a regular basis and to clean them when necessary. If too much wax builds up in a dog's ears, it can lead to a painful infection which can be hard to clear up. In short, prevention is often easier than cure when it comes to ear infections.
Chessies are high energy dogs and they need to be given a minimum of 2 hour's exercise every day. A shorter walk in the morning would be okay, but a much longer and more interesting one in the afternoon is a must to keep these dogs happy and healthy. They also benefit from being allowed to roam around a back garden as often as they can, but the fencing must be very secure to keep these dogs in.
Because they are such intelligent dogs, Chessies also need to be given a tremendous amount of mental stimulation to prevent boredom from setting in. A bored Chesapeake will find ways to amuse themselves which could result in dogs developing some unwanted behavioural problems and becoming unruly, therefore harder to manage. These dogs excel at all sorts of canine sporting activities which includes obedience and agility because they boast incredible endurance and stamina. They also love being in water, so as previously touched upon, care must be taken when walking one of them anywhere near dangerous water courses.
With this said, young Chessie puppies should not be given too much exercise because their joints and bones are still growing and too much pressure on them could result in causing a dog a few problems later in their lives. They should not be allowed to jump up or off furniture nor should they be allowed to run up and down the stairs because this puts too much pressure on their still growing joints and limbs.
If you get a Chesapeake Bay Retriever puppy from a breeder, they would give you a feeding schedule and it's important to stick to the same routine, feeding the same puppy food to avoid any tummy upsets. You can change a puppy's diet, but this needs to be done very gradually always making sure they don't develop any digestive upsets and if they do, it's best to put them back on their original diet and to discuss things with the vet before attempting to change it again.
Older dogs are not known to be fussy or finicky eaters, but this does not mean you can feed them a lower quality diet. It's best to feed a mature dog twice a day, once in the morning and then again in the evening, making sure it's good quality food that meets all their nutritional requirements. It's also important that dogs be given the right amount of exercise so they burn off any excess calories or they might gain too much weight which can lead to all sorts of health issues. Obesity can shorten a dog's life by several years so it's important to keep an eye on their waistline from the word go.
Because Chessies are prone to suffer from bloat (gastric torsion), it is really important that they be fed twice a day instead of giving them just one larger meal a day. It's also a good idea to invest in a stand to place their feed bowl which makes it easier for these large dogs to eat comfortably without having to stretch their necks down low to reach their food. You should never exercise a dog just before or just after they have eaten either because this puts them more a risk of suffering from bloat.
Puppies need to be fed a highly nutritious, good quality diet for them to develop and grow as they should. As a rough guide, a Chessie puppy should be fed the following amounts every day making sure their meals are evenly spread out throughout the day and it's best to feed them 3 or 4 times a day:
Once a puppy is 15 months old they can be fed adult dog food.
Once fully mature, an adult Chessie should be fed a good quality diet to ensure their continued good health. As a rough guide, an adult Chesapeake Bay Retriever can be fed the following amounts every day:
If you are looking to buy a Chesapeake Bay Retriever you may have to go on a waiting list because not many puppies are registered with The Kennel Club every year and you would need to pay anything from £850 upwards for a well-bred pedigree puppy. The cost of insuring a male 3-year-old Chessie in northern England would be £23.87 a month for basic cover but for a lifetime policy, this would set you back £49.45 a month (quote as of March 2018). When insurance companies calculate a pet's premium, they factor in several things which includes where you live in the UK and a dog's age and whether they have been neutered or spayed.
When it comes to food costs, you need to buy the best quality food whether wet or dry, to feed your dog throughout their lives making sure it suits the different stages of their lives. This would set you back between £50 - £60 a month. On top of this, you would need to factor in veterinary costs if you want to share your home with a Chessie and this includes their initial vaccinations, their annual boosters, the cost of neutering or spaying your dog when the time is right and their yearly health checks, all of which quickly adds up to over a £1000 a year.
As a rough guide, the average cost to keep and care for a Chesapeake Bay Retriever would be between £80 to £110 a month depending on the level of insurance cover you opt to buy for your dog, but this does not include the initial cost of buying a well-bred, Kennel Club registered pedigree Chesapeake Bay Retriever puppy.