Chesapeake Bay Retriever is an American breed, bred and developed along the eastern seaboard, particularly (as the name implies) around the Chesapeake Bay. In 1807, a British brig was lost during a storm, with the ship sinking and all hands evacuated. An American ship, the Canton, picked up survivors, among whom were two puppies the ship had picked up in Newfoundland. The male, named Sailor, the female, Canton, and their individual progeny became well-known for their abilities in the water and as superior hunting dogs and retrievers. Duck hunters along the Chesapeake Bay crossed the two original dogs and their offspring with local hunting dogs, including yellow hounds and Irish Water Spaniels, to improve the local breeds. By the late 1800s, the Chesapeake Bay Retriever was an established breed. This is a physically tough breed, built to withstand the harsh conditions of the Chesapeake Bay region.
The Chesapeake Bay Retriever breed is 21 to 26 inches tall, weighing between 55 and 80 pounds, with females smaller than males. The head is broad, the eyes are yellow to amber, and the ears are dropped. The chest is deep and wide, the back is short, and the tail is of medium length. Dewclaws on the front legs may be removed; any on the back legs must be removed. The coat is thick and short, with a dense undercoat. The coat is oily, which enables the dog to work in cold, harsh conditions, including retrieving birds in the ice-packed Chesapeake Bay. Color may be any shade of brown, dead grass, or sedge. The undercoat does shed, so the dog should be thoroughly brushed twice a week. The oil in the coat can also create a doggy odor, but bathing the dog destroys the protective oils.
The Chesapeake Bay Retriever can be quite active. Chesapeake Bay Retrievers play hard and sleep hard. A bored Chesapeake will quickly make confetti out of favorite footwear, unattended mail, and magazines. Chesapeake Bay Retrievers were bred as hunting dogs and retrievers and still perform those tasks today, but they also enjoy other dog sports, including agility, flyball, tracking, and search and rescue.
Training should begin with puppy classes, which provide socialization as well as the foundation for command (obedience) training. This is a very intelligent breed that learns quickly and loves to please. However, the breed is also very strong-willed and will readily adopt ‘bad’ behaviors if instruction is neglected. The Chesapeake Bay Retriever breed does best with an experienced dog owner, as he can be strong-willed and independent at times.
Compare a Chesapeake to a 4-year-old child with four legs and a tail. They love to tease and are full of mischief. Although affectionate and loving with his family, the Chesapeake Bay Retriever is wary of strangers. He is good with kids who respect him. He can be great with cats when raised with them but should be supervised with other small pets. Chesapeake Bay Retrievers, especially males, can also be aggressive toward other dogs. Health concerns include hip and elbow dysplasia, eye disorders, bloat, and torsion.