Chesapeake Bay Retriever



The Chesapeake Bay Retriever was named for the famous bay where the breed originated and it is one of the few breeds actually developed in the United States. In 1807, an American ship called The Canton rescued the crew and two St John’s Newfoundland puppies from a grounded British brig. These two pups, Sailor and Canton, are considered to be the foundation of the breed and it is likely that Curly or Flat Coated Retrievers and Irish Water Spaniels contributed to the development of the breed. The first Chesapeake was registered by the American Kennel Club in 1878.


This extremely versatile dog is accomplished in many areas beyond the field and water work it is famous for. It makes a wonderful companion and devoted family dog as it is good with children and protective of them. The breed is found excelling in all aspects of life from competition ring, Obedience trials, field trials, drug enforcement, service dogs to visiting nursing homes and search and rescue work.

The Chesapeake is first and foremost an excellent hunting dog and water retriever. It possesses a natural retrieving desire with an excellent nose and extraordinary ability to remember multiple falls.


The breed’s characteristics are specifically suited to enable the Chesapeake to function with ease, efficiency and endurance. The jaws should be of sufficient length and strength to carry large game birds with an easy, tender hold. The double coat consists of a short, harsh, wavy outer coat and a dense, fine, woolly undercoat containing an abundance of natural oil – ideally suited for the icy rugged conditions the Chesapeake often works in.

In body, the Chesapeake is a strong, well balanced, powerfully built animal of moderate size and medium length in body and leg, deep and wide in chest. Distinctive features include eyes that are very clear, of yellowish or amber hue.


The Chesapeake’s coat requires little grooming other than a regular brushing to bring the natural oil on its coat to the surface. It drops coat twice a year, so the regular brushing will help to reduce the amount of hair deposited around the house. Too much bathing will strip the oil from the coat, so regular swimming and a coat spray will keep any doggy odour at bay.


The Chesapeake is an overall healthy breed, having only the typical orthopaedic issues of many large breeds, and testing is available for potential parents.

It can also experience Hip and Elbow Dysplasia and Perennial Retinal Apathy (PRA) and there is a DNA test for this genetic condition. The average lifespan for a Chesapeake is similar to other Retrievers and ranges from about 12 to 14 years.

Temperament and Suitability

The Chesapeake becomes firmly attached to its family, so does not rehome well and needs to be in a ‘forever’ home. It is intensely affectionate, sensitive and perceptive. It knows when it is liked and when it is not and responds in kind. It is reserved and cautious with strangers.

With a keen sense of hearing and a very protective nature, it is a good watchdog. Due to its natural protective instincts it must be properly socialised and trained. It is an active dog that needs regular attention and exercise.

Words: Daphne Nimmons-Marvin

Image: worlddogshow

In Conclusion

Now you know a little about the Chesapeake Bay Retriever, you may think that this is the dog for you. Before you make a decision, please make contact with the breed club or your State controlling body for purebred dogs. They will be able to give you information about available puppies and also suggest dog shows where you can see the breed and speak to breeders. In this way you will gain a better perspective of the Chesapeake Bay Retriever and its needs, and whether this breed would suit your lifestyle.