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The Chesapeake Bay Retriever

Breed traits​

The Chesapeake Bay Retriever embodies the classic traits of a good retriever: loyal, upbeat, affectionate, and tireless. The Chessie is famous for his coarse, wavy outer coat that repels water and a dense undercoat that keeps him warm.  Affectionately, some call them “brillo butts”. ​

​Chessies are more emotionally complex than the usual gundog. Chessies take to training, but they have a mind of their own and can tenaciously pursue their own path. They are protective of their humans and polite, but not overtly friendly to strangers. Chessies make excellent watchdogs and are versatile athletes. A well-socialized Chessie is a confident companion and world-class hunting buddy.​

​See the ACC breed page for more information.​


Breed Standards

The Chesapeake Bay Retriever was designed for optimum functionality.    The physical attributes found in the ACC Chesapeake Breed Standard represent a balance in structure and confirmation that are fundamental to a dog’s long- term health and soundness.

Female Chesapeake

Height : 21-24 inches

Weight : 55-70 lbs

Color : light tan to dark brown small patches of white acceptable

Life expectancy : 10-13 years​

Male Chesapeake

Height : 23-26 inches

Weight : 65-80 lbs

Color : light tan to dark brown small patches of white acceptable

Life expectancy : 10-13 years​


The Chesapeake history

The Chesapeake Bay Retriever was an American bred retriever, specifically designed to withstand long days of hunting in the frigid waters of the Chesapeake Bay. Wealthy owners of duck clubs that lined the shores of the Chesapeake Bay during the 19th century focused their breeding programs on producing their ideal ducking dog. Newfoundlands, Irish Water Spaniels, and hounds of undetermined origin were among the dogs thought to be in the genetic mix. By 1884, AKC recognized the Chessie type.

To understand the Chesapeake Bay Retriever, one should consider the conditions to which these dogs were built to work.  The Chesapeake Bay is a shallow, 200-mile-long estuary situated between Maryland and Virginia. It’s water temperatures get down around freezing in early winter and stay there until spring.  Located along the Atlantic Flyway, a flight path taken by ducks and geese to their winter homes, the bay hosts a third of all migratory waterfowl wintering on the East Coast bird each year.

Old-time sportsmen hoping to exploit this duck hunter's paradise built a retriever well suited to withstand the bay's frigid waters and fierce winds. The thick, oily double coat of the Chessie is both insulating and waterproof; it repels moisture much the way a duck's feathers do. His broad chest acts a plow against the ice flows, and their powerful hindquarters and large webbed feet enable them to swim tirelessly against the slashing winds that whip across the bay. Ideally equipped to perform their primary function, this rugged breed retrieved hundreds of ducks per day, then as the story goes, guarded the catch by night as the hunters retreated to the local pubs.  True or not,  it conveys an essential truth: The Chessie is a reliable, indefatigable retriever.                                                                 source:                                                                                  

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So you think you want a Chessie...this sums it up!

I am not a dog. ​
I am a Chesapeake Bay Retriever.​
I am half wolverine, half vampire and all attitude. ​
I am a Ferrari engine in a Jeep body.​
I am either your best friend or your worst enemy, depending on YOUR attitude. ​
I can retrieve the biggest wing shot snow goose or play with the gentlest child.​
I can hunt all day in snowstorms, pouring rain or blistering heat and then ask you to throw the ball when we get done. ​
I will question you at every turn. After all, I know what I'm doing and the best way to get it done. ​
I am easy to feed.
I will eat your steak or the dead, rotten fish I found at the side of the river.​
You will never be without a navigator in the truck. ​
I will protect you from burglars, large wild animals, and that strange pesky shadow in the corner of the house. ​
I will hog the bed and the couch. ​
I will steal your sandwich, your chair, your boot, and your heart. ​
You will never have to go to the bathroom alone ever again. ​
I will lick your face right after I eat the head off the rabbit I just killed in the yard. ​
I will sleep next to you when you are sick and heal you with my love.
​I am a Chessie.​
Respect me. ​
Love me. ​
But NEVER underestimate me.

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  • Should I get a Chesapeake even if I am not going to hunt?
    Most certainly. Chessies are wonderful companions, and will be your best friend in all your outdoor pursuits including hiking, swimming and retrieving. Keep in mind Chesapeakes were bred to be a working waterfowl retriever. Today’s dogs still thrive on a having a job that provides physical and mental challenges. Chesapeakes that are not worked - both physically and mentally - are prone to mischief and destruction. These active, intelligent dogs will find their own job if you don’t designate one for them. ​ Chessies excel in any number of venues besides hunting. You may want to consider competing in AKC events as a joint activity for you and your pup. Chessies excel in most dog sports such as scent work, obedience, agility and pet therapy, but hunt tests and field work is where their natural abilities shine. ​
  • Are Chessies good family dogs?
    Chessies can be great family dogs. With proper socialization and training, they will protect and love you, your children, and your other animals. Chessies can make great companions for children as long as you teach your children respect for the dog and how to treat the dog. Typically, Chessie puppies integrate well into a house with other dogs and cats. ​
  • How much time do Chessies need for exercise?
    Chessies have considerable energy. They are great dogs for an active and outdoor lifestyle such as hunting, hiking, swimming and retrieving. They will not quietly be relegated to a kennel or couch until they’ve had their requisite daily exercise. Generally, an adult CBR needs a minimum 20-30 minutes of walking, jogging, swimming or retrieving several times per day to maintain their health and muscle tone. For puppies, shorter and slower walks, several times per day are preferred for exercise and housebreaking.
  • How much grooming do Chessies need?
    Chessies are pretty much a ‘wash and wear’ breed. Usually a quick rinse and a towel is all you need to clean up a dirty dog. They don’t require brushing except to help loosen and remove a shedding coat. Occasional bathing is fine. Keep their nails trimmed and ears cleaned on a weekly basis is all the grooming that’s needed.
  • What is the lifespan of a chessie?
    The life span of a Chesapeake Bay Retriever is from 10 to 15 years. That means you should commit yourself for the dog's entire lifetime. With that comes a lifelong commitment to leadership, health care and training so that the puppy will grow into a well -behaved citizen and family member. Should you ever need to rehome a dog (god forbid) remember that your breeder should be your first stop.
  • Why does a Chesapeake cost so much?
    Chesapeakes are not an easy breed to reproduce. Running a careful breeding program that accounts for temperament, trainability, physical soundness (hips & eyes especially) and health guarantees cannot be done cheaply. The time the breeder puts into each puppy's "pre-school" and socialization is also costly. The "bargain" puppy from a "back-yard breeder" who mates two CBRs with little regard for health and temperament may be far more costly in the long run in terms of bad temperament, unsound physique, debilitating health issues and /or shorter life span. The upfront investment in a well-bred puppy should pay off by lowering the risk of health issues, treatment and allowing for a longer life with a healthy happy dog.
  • I/We work during the day. Can we still give a pup the time it needs?
    It is the quality of the time that you spend with the dog and not necessarily the amount of time. Puppies though should not be confined to a crate/cage for long periods alone. There are pet sitters and walkers who can come and take the puppy out. Or, you can build a secure outdoor pen for the puppy for use during the times you are not at home. Just keep in mind, the puppy will be happy to see you and will need some fun bonding time before starting any training session.
  • What colors do Chessies come in?
    Chessies come in varying shades of brown from light to dark. They range from deadgrass (blonde) to sedge (red) to dark chocolate brown. Personal color preferences are often dictated by hunting style (camouflage) or past dog preferences, yet all shades of browns work well in the field. We prefer to select puppies based on gender, personality and field traits that align with a customer’s needs and use.
  • What sex puppy should I get?
    In general, female dogs of any breed are usually easier to train as they do not test your authority as much. Males may typically be more consistent in their disposition, more fun loving, and affectionate. In actuality, the individual personality of the puppy maymake the biggest difference in selection. Be sure you communicate your expectations and desires with your breeder so they can pair you with the best companion for you
  • When should I start training my puppy?​
    You should start training your puppy the day you get him or her. From 8-16 weeks is the optimum period in which puppies retain the most information with the least amount of input. During that time you can teach basic commands like ‘sit’, ‘down’, and ‘come’, ’heel’ on and off lead. This is great time to shape behaviors, including basic fetch and hand signals with positive reinforcement. The biggest things to remember are to be insistent (firm) and consistent, and to keep the sessions short. We highly recommend puppy "kindergarten" classes and formal obedience classes to provide the best training for you and your puppy in a highly charged setting.
  • Should I wait until my puppy is fully vaccinated before I begin socializing?
    Absolutely not. It has been proven that 8-16 month-old period is the most critical socialization period. You should make every effort to expose your puppy to people and animals of all ages and types. You should expose them to all the places and situations they will encounter as an adult. Because puppies are not fully vaccinated, we advise managing their interactions with small groups of dogs who you can verify are fully vaccinated. We recommend avoiding large dog gatherings such as dog parks, dog events and public dog walking areas until the last vaccine.
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