Chesapeake Bay Retriever

Written by: Jamie
Updated: November 25, 2020

Interested in learning all about the official dog of Maryland? Then check out our latest dog breed guide for detailed information on the Chesapeake Bay Retriever.

Typical Chesapeake Bay Retriever in the garden

Height: Male 23-26 inches, female 21-24 inches
Weight: Male 29-36 kilos, female 25-32 kilos
Lifespan: 10-13 years
Pedigree? (registered with the KC?): Yes, this breed is registered with the Kennel Club.

Positives and Negatives

Check out the positive and negative traits of the Chesapeake Bay Retriever below:


  • Highly intelligent
  • Low grooming maintenance
  • Likes water, can live on a boat
  • Family-friendly, also ideal for older owners


  • High exercise needs
  • Not very dog friendly
  • Prone to weight gain
  • Not ideal for first-time owners


The Chessie dog isn’t an ideal breed for everyone. This Retriever and Gun dog requires an experienced owner that can guide this pooch into the working dog they are destined to be. Chesapeake Bay Retrievers can still live as family pets but will need lots of exercise and mental stimulation to satisfy their needs.

Exercise is also important to this pooch as they are prone to weight gain. In a worst-case scenario, this could lead to obesity and further health issues. Chessies are a protective breed and will guard their household without a second thought. They are known to be more aggressive than other Retrievers, so early socialization is deeply important.

Chesapeake Bay Retriever in the garden

Chesapeake Bay Retrievers don’t require lots of grooming maintenance, but they are heavy shedders. A quick weekly brush and a bath every 3-4 months will work a treat. The waves of the Chessies coat relies on their natural oils, which is why baths need to be kept to a minimum.

This pooch is rare outside of their native homeland, Maryland, USA. They are mostly bred by hunters, particularly waterfowl hunters and are still used for their working purposes today. The United Kingdom have their own Chesapeake Bay Retrievers Club for British Chessie enthusiasts. It was established in 1983.


The Chesapeake Bay Retrievers story begins aboard a ship in 1807. Two now extinct Lesser Newfoundland puppies (aka St Johns Water Dog) were rescued from a boat off the coast of Maryland, USA. They were then bred with other local dogs initiating the creation of the Chessy.

Retrievers, Spaniels, and Hounds are some of the breeds thought to have contributed to their development. By 1878 the breed was the first of 9 to be registered in America. They were then recognized by the American Kennel Club after its foundation in 1884.

Deeply loved in their American state, the community decided to class this canine as the official dog of Maryland. They’re also used as a Mascots for universities such as Baltimore County and the University of Maryland. President Theodore Roosevelt, Senator John McCain, and famous actor Paul Walker were all proud Chessie owners.

Chessies were mostly used to hunt and retrieve waterfowl on both land and water. They’re versatile and adaptable, with the ability to work in harsh climates, plunging themselves into freezing cold water. The breed is one of the only Retrievers that were also used for guarding purposes.

Related: Learn about the Pomsky, the new designer dog, here in our guide.


Unlike other Retrievers, the Chesapeake dog isn’t as sociable. They are, however, deeply affectionate towards those in their family. Their independence allows them to tolerate being left alone, but do make sure they have items to keep themselves occupied.

To this day, some still consider the Chesapeake as one of the toughest Retrievers. They were developed to guard, an instinct that is still seen in the breed today. Whilst the modern Chesapeake is less aggressive than those of its past, they’re still a protective breed.

Are Chesapeake Bay Retrievers Good With Strangers?

This canine is known to hold a guarding instinct. They will protect their territory, alerting their owner to any newcomers approaching their home. Initially, the Chesapeake Retriever will be wary of those they don’t know. Eventually, they will settle down, but this may take a while.

Nice chesapeake bay retriever puppy lying

Are Chesapeake Bay Retrievers Good With Children?

Yes, this breed is friendly and loving to all in their household, but sometimes a child’s behavior can be a little overwhelming. For this reason older children would be better suited to the breed. A boisterous and playful dog like the Chesapeake could accidentally knock over smaller children, so do be aware of this.

Socialization plays a huge role in turning this multi-purpose working dog into a loveable family pet. Chesapeake Bay Retriever puppies can easily adapt to children as opposed to older Chessies.

Are Chesapeake Bay Retrievers Ok With Other Dogs?

Most Chessies are friendly with other dogs however, some have been known to become aggressive. Early socialization can help prevent this. Most conflict arises with dogs of the same sex and larger breeds that could be interpreted as a threat. Chesapeake Retrievers can live with other dogs and cats.

Related: Want to learn more about the Bouvier Des Flandres?


Chesapeake Bay Retrievers will need over two hours’ worth of exercise each day. They make excellent jogging, hiking, and cycling partners. Swimming, however, is one of their favorite activities. A Chesapeake is most content when in the water. Try and introduce this activity into the Chesapeake’s exercise routine as often as possible.

Chesapeake Bay Retrievers running in the garden

Mental exercise will also be needed. Interactive games, tricks, doggy puzzles, working for food, and dog sports are all ways to mentally stimulate a dog. The Chesapeake is a working pooch that won’t be satisfied with a walk around the block. If a potential owner can’t meet these high demands, a Chessie won’t be suitable in their home.

Chesapeake Retrievers can become frustrated if they aren’t receiving efficient exercise. This can lead to bad attitudes like snapping, barking, chewing, and other forms of destructive behaviour. Dog sports are great for Chessies, especially family pets. Rally, agility, flyball, and water sports are all categories this dog excels in.


Check out the breed-related health conditions of the Chesapeake Bay dog below:

  • Cataracts- An abnormal cloudiness appears due to a change of lens. If small it won’t affect vision, if large vision can become blurry, eventually causing blindness.
  • Hip Dysplasia- The ball and socket of the hip don’t fit correctly due to abnormal development. This leads to symptoms such as pain, lameness, inflammation, and swelling.
  • Progressive Retinal Atrophy- The deterioration of the photoreceptor cells within the eye affects vision, causing eventual blindness. This disease is inherited.
  • Elbow Dysplasia- This inherited disease causes the abnormal development of the elbow joint. The most common symptom is lameness.
  • Degenerative Myelopathy- Typically affecting older dogs aged between 8-14 years old, this progressive health condition affects the spinal cord. Symptoms include wobbling, falling over, and dragging the hind legs.

Intelligence & Training

The Chesapeake Retriever is an intelligent sporting dog that requires an experienced owner to guide them through training. The breed is a multi-purpose working dog, if they are solely companions, exercise and mental stimulation will be needed.

Training will be incredibly difficult, possibly worthless if a dog isn’t receiving their daily activity needs. Exercise and training go hand in hand. If a dog has pent up energy inside, frustration will build quicker and their attention span will be much shorter.

Obedience is the most important. Experienced owners won’t have to work continuously trying to gain their Chessie’s respect. Dominant breeds such as Terriers take much longer trying to gain their respect. The Chesapeake must be obedient with a good recall, allowing them to perform their working tasks to the best of their ability.

Chesapeake Bay Retrievers are classified as sporting, retriever, and gun dogs. If you are experienced with dogs, but not with breeds under these types of categories, you may benefit from 1-1 professional training classes. Compared to other Retrievers the Chesapeake isn’t very dog friendly. Due to this, socialization is highly important.

Puppy training classes would be an ideal place to learn whilst meeting new pooches and people. Go to different outdoor spaces and begin socializing the Chessie dog as early as possible. Training should be short, fun, and positive. Sessions can begin as early as 8 weeks and should ideally last around 10-15 minutes.

Related: Planning to own a Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier? Then read our comprehensive guide first.


Chesapeake Retrievers have a short-haired coat, comprised of a soft undercoat followed by a harsh outer layer. The breed does shed quite heavily. Some Chesapeake owners find daily brushing helps prevent fur from covering their home, however, once a week is also fine. Rubber brushes/mitts and metal combs are best for this coat type.

Dog looking into Camera - Chesapeake Bay Retriever

Slicker brushes, wire brushes, and grooming rakes could damage the natural waves of the fur. Baths should be given every 3-4 months. Frequent bathing can damage the coat, stripping away the natural oils. In worst cases, it could destroy the undercoat below.

Basic care such as ear cleansing should be completed weekly. Remove any excess strands obstructing the ear canal. Ideally, nails should be trimmed every 3-4 weeks but can take place every 6-8 weeks for the active Chesapeake. Teeth should be brushed at least 3 times a week however, vets recommend daily brushing.

About the Author

Hi, I'm Jamie! I've always been around dogs and now writing about them is an absolute joy.
Read more about my story here.
Reach me at or connect with me on LinkedIn below.

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