Chesapeake Bay Retriever

Water-Loving Dog is Loyal Family Companion

Fate brought the Chesapeake Bay retriever to life. One night, during a particularly stormy gale at sea, two pups were destined to make history in the world of dog breeds.

No doubt many families are pleased with the lucky outcome; the Chesapeake Bay retriever has been a family favorite, both a loyal hunting partner and affectionate, playful companion, since the early 19th century.

Chesapeake Bay Retriever

The history of the Chesapeake Bay retriever dates back to 1807, when, according to the Chesapeake Bay Retriever Club, George Law rescued two dogs from a sinking Newfoundland-bound vessel off the East Coast. Law took the two dogs, which the sinking ship’s captain said were Newfoundland dogs, back to Maryland, where they were split up.

The male dog, called Sailor, and the female pup, named Canton (after the boat on which it was pulled to safety), were each given to two men who lived in different areas of the Chesapeake Bay. Both dogs displayed an affinity in water, particularly when it came to retrieving ducks, and Sailor and Canton quickly became well-known in the area, producing offspring with area dogs and creating the beginning of a new breed: the Chesapeake Bay retriever.

This new breed became known as the “Chessie” and was quickly distinguished for its love of water and its ability to hunt waterfowl.

The Chesapeake Bay retriever became the official dog of Maryland in 1964 and went on to become the mascot for the University of Maryland.

The Chesapeake Bay retriever is known to be a very loyal and loving family pet, with a friendly, happy temperament and protective nature.

Affectionate and intelligent, this breed responds well to socialization and training, which is recommended for a working dog such as the Chesapeake Bay retriever.

One quirky tidbit about the breed: the Chesapeake Bay retriever is known to “smile” when very happy, baring its front teeth as if grinning. The breed can also become vocal when excited or happy.

Chesapeake Bay Retriever

The Chesapeake Bay retriever is commonly mistaken for a Labrador retriever. While the two breeds may share some physical similarities, the Chesapeake Bay retriever has a notably different fur coat. Double-thick and water-resistant, it has a wavy texture most noticeable on the dog’s neck, shoulders, back and loins.

The double-thick coat protects these water dogs when swimming in icy cold ponds or lakes, typically while hunting waterfowl. A natural oil in the breed’s coat resists the water and keeps the dogs dry and warm.

The breed is generally seen in three colors: brown (light to dark), “sedge” (varying from a reddish yellow, bright red or chestnut shade), and “deadgrass” (a faded tan or straw color). The Chesapeake Bay retriever also has amber-colored eyes.

The Chesapeake Bay retriever is a medium to large size dog, weighing 70 to 100 pounds.

Chesapeake Bay Retriever
  • Alopecia is the deficiency of hair in a dog’s coat. It does not necessarily refer to “loss” of hair. Specifically, it includes a hair deficiency due to either to failure of the hair to grow or loss of all or part of the hair shaft after growth has occurred. The condition can result from numerous disorders, infections, parasites, hormonal imbalances, allergic reactions and trauma. This condition typically affects Chesapeake Bay retrievers in a particular region of their body. Treatment depends on the underlying cause of the condition.
  • Cataracts are an opacity of the lens of the eye and may cause blindness if not treated surgically. Symptoms can include discoloring of the pupil, and treatment may include surgery to remove the cataract.
  • Hip dysplasia is a hereditary malformation of the hip joints most commonly associated with large breed dogs. These malformations cause discomfort, lameness and result in arthritis. X-rays of the elbows and hips when dogs are around two years of age can identify these problems. Your veterinarian should be consulted about treatment options for these crippling conditions.
  • Progressive renal atrophy (PRA): The type of PRA found in Chesapeake Bay retrievers is known as "progressive rod-cone degeneration." This form of PRA has a late onset with dogs being between four and 10 years of age. Symptoms begin with night blindness that eventually progress to complete blindness. Since this is a genetic disorder It is important that breeding stock be checked annually by an eye specialist until 10 years of age. Because  the type of PRA in Chesapeakes is of late onset, an eye clearance at an early age does not guarantee that the dog is free of this disease.
  • von Willebrand disease is a common inherited blood disorder, characterized by a deficiency in clotting factor VIII. The main symptom of vWD is excessive bleeding following injury or surgical procedures.
As with any pet, be sure to regularly consult a veterinarian for routine care and medical advice for your four-legged friend.