Chesapeake Bay Retriever

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Key Breed Facts
Breed Characteristics
Intelligence / Trainability
Children and Other Pets
Caring for a Chesapeake Bay Retriever
Average Cost to keep/care for a Chesapeake Bay Retriever

Key Breed Facts

Popularity #193 out of 238 Dog Breeds.

The Chesapeake Bay Retriever breed is also commonly known by the names Chessie, Bay, CBR, Chesapeake.
10 - 13 years
Pedigree Breed ?
Yes - KC Recognised in the Gundog Group
Males 61 - 66 cm
Females 56 - 64 cm at the withers
Males 34 - 45 kg
Females 30 - 40 kg
Average Price (More Info)
£850 for KC Registered
£600 for Non KC Registered

Breed Characteristics


The Chesapeake Bay Retriever has a very unique and distinct coat which means these dogs really do stand out in a crowd. They are large quite compact gundogs that boast 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. They are a great choice for families with children because Chesapeakes adore being around kids and seem to have an affinity with them.


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.

It is thought that other dogs used to create the Chessie included Flatcoated and Curlycoated 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 their own right 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 appear to have an affinity with children.


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 and which is extremely weather-resistant. The hair on a dog's neck, shoulders, their backs and their loins is wavy. Dogs are allowed to have a small amount of feathering on their tails. Accept breed colours include the following:

  • Ash
  • Brown
  • Dark brown
  • Deadgrass
  • Light brown
  • Sedge


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. With this in mind, it's important for their training to start as early as possible to curb any unwanted behaviours which includes being too protective.

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 on.

Intelligence / Trainability

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 can be quite wilful when it pleases them which is another reason they are not the best choice for novice dog owners. However, in the right hands and with the right guidance, direction and training, a Chessie is easy to train and will grow up to be a well-behaved, obedient dog. However, their training has to start early and it needs to be consistent. If they are not handled correctly from the word go, they can start to show a more dominant side to their nature.

Children and Other Pets

Chessies are known to be calm and level headed dogs 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 has to 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.

As long as a Chessie has grown up with cats and other pets in a household they are generally very good around them. They are also good around other dogs, but again puppies need to have been well socialised from a young age for them to grow up to be mature, well-rounded characters that accept being around other dogs.

For further advice please read our article on Keeping Children Safe around Dogs.

Chesapeake Bay Retriever Health

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:

  • Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) - Test available
  • Eye issues and more especially Entropion - Test available
  • Hip dysplasia - DNA test available
  • Elbow dysplasia
  • Degenerative Myelopathy (DM) - Test available
  • Umbilical hernia
  • Haemolymphatic
  • Von Willebrands disease
  • Cataracts - Hereditary
  • Ear Infections
  • Bloat

Caring for a Chesapeake Bay Retriever

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.


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 is allowed to build 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 has to 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 care has to 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 on 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 feed a dog just before or just after they have eaten either because this puts them more a risk of suffering from bloat.

Average Cost to keep/care for a Chesapeake Bay Retriever

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 £21.20 a month for basic cover but for a lifetime policy, this would set you back £47.37 a month (quote as of May 2016). 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 or not 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 all 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 pedigree puppy.

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