Are Chesapeake Bay Retrievers Aggressive?

Chesapeake Bay Retrievers (CBRs) have big personalities but are not as friendly toward strangers as other retriever breeds. This may give people the perception that they are aggressive, but this is seldom the case. CBRs are intensely loyal to family members but reserved with outsiders and possess what breeders call good discriminatory instincts.

The Chesapeake Bay Retriever is an emotionally complex dog with a mind of his own and can be stubborn. It is not regarded as an aggressive breed, but the dog is very protective of family members and can be unfriendly to outsiders. CBRs are suspicious of unfamiliar people but okay with family pets.

Chesapeake Bay Retrievers are not usually aggressive, but they are wary of strangers and can be territorial. Combined with their protectiveness, these traits can lead to defensive behavior such as growling and barking. With his hackles raised, this dog can look very intimidating, but this is not necessarily aggression.

Temperament Of Chesapeake Bay Retrievers

The American Kennel Club describes these dogs as sensitive, bright, and affectionate. Most of the time, what comes across as aggression in CBRs is actually territorial behavior. The dog regards its humans as its pack and does not want other dogs or people near them.

They are intelligent and may sometimes seek to dominate other dogs and certain people in the household. A lot of unwanted behavior in these dogs is not due to poor temperament but rather to a lack of understanding and leadership on the owner’s part. One way of providing this is by adding clear rules and structure to the dog’s daily life. 

Another reason for apparently aggressive behavior is that the dog is not getting enough physical activity. CBRs are high-energy dogs that need a lot of exercise and love going on long walks. They were bred mainly for duck hunting, so they are sporting dogs at heart.

CBRs have all the traits most desirable in a retriever. They are upbeat, affectionate, loyal, and tireless. These dogs are powerfully built, so they need a firm hand.  They are fine watchdogs but are more likely to guard you and your family than your possessions.

They become fiercely attached to their people and are very protective of them. If a stranger threatens a family member, the dog will show aggression by snarling and barking. They are not naturally friendly to people they don’t know and take a while to trust them.

The CBR does not have the same eagerness to please as other retrievers. However, they are superb hunting dogs. They need a lot of attention and love swimming and hunting. If you don’t have a large garden, they will need to go on long walks every day for at least an hour.

This dog has been described as the hardiest, most protective, and strong-willed of the retrievers. CBRs have a characteristic “smile,” which involves curling the lips and baring the teeth. They tend to do this when they are happy or excited, but people who don’t know them may mistake this for aggression.

Chesapeake Bay Retrievers can also be quite vocal with their owners. These dogs tend to be socially dominant and will become your boss if you let them. They need calm, self-assured leadership.

When confronted by a threat, CBRs are not likely to back down and may respond more aggressively than other dog breeds. They have a natural inclination to discourage intruders and protect their families. If not properly trained, they may not allow visitors through the door.

If Your Chesapeake Bay Retriever Is Aggressive, This Could Be A Medical Issue.

In 2009, Nicholas Dodman, director of the Animal Behavior Program at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, wrote that Chesapeake Bay Retrievers can suffer from bouts of rage. Owners and vets have long been puzzled by this phenomenon.

He suggests that this is a neurological problem stemming from seizures in the area of the brain responsible for affective aggression. These seizures can be picked up on an EEG, which shows abnormal brain waves. Treatment of one Chesapeake Bay Retriever with anticonvulsants led to a significant improvement, and the dog went on to enjoy a peaceful life with his owner.

Partial complex seizures have been shown to affect the behavior of CBRs and many other dog breeds. Rage syndrome is thought to be a genetic condition that is inherited. The sudden onset of aggression is something the dog cannot control and has no apparent cause.

It is most commonly reported in English Cocker Spaniels and Springer spaniels but is known to occur in many others, including Bassets, Bulldogs, Dachshunds, German Shepherds, Great Danes, and CBRs. Various experts have suggested that rage syndrome is a seizure disorder rather than a temperament disorder, like dominant aggression.

Are Chesapeake Bay Retrievers Easy To Train?

The Chesapeake Bay Retriever can be a strong-willed dog that needs a firm hand in training. You need to establish that you are his boss so that he respects you and accepts your instruction. Because some of them can be difficult to train, you should start the process while they are still puppies.

They love to be outdoors. If you own a Chesapeake Bay retriever, then you need to be prepared to spend a lot of time outdoors yourself. They are usually even-tempered, not particularly excitable, and don’t bark excessively.

The dog must be well socialized if you intend to take him to a busy dog park. It is wiser not to let them run off-leash in such situations because they are not naturally friendly to other dogs and people.

Some breeders say they are easy to train, while others do not recommend the breed for a novice owner. They require a structured environment with a confident, masterful owner. Initial training should be on obedience and introductions to strangers.

CBRs love learning as they have active minds that need stimulation. Training should always be fun for them because they can get bored quickly. Playing games and using interesting dog toys in training is recommended.

Training a CBR to respond consistently when called is not optional. You should also teach him lie down and stay commands and how to walk on a leash. He must be taught to respect your house rules, such as not taking food off the table and not climbing on the furniture.

Whatever your house rules are, you must consistently and persistently enforce them.

You should take the dog to obedience training by a professional trainer and then doing a couple of homework sessions every day for reinforcement. As puppies, CBRs are relatively easy to train. If you don’t start training him when the dog is young, he could become a problem due to his self-assertive personality and physical strength.

A CBR owner should not rely only on professionals for dog training. They must be prepared to be personally involved in training their dog every day.

Chesapeake Bay Retrievers Are Not Apartment Dogs

They are large dogs that need considerable space in which to be active. Exercise keeps them physically and mentally healthy. A dog that is stressed can sometimes show aggression. Some of them can be a bit aloof and may not be that interested in cuddling with their owners.

However, CBRs form strong bonds with their families and need to spend time with them. They can suffer from separation anxiety if you are gone too long. Most of these dogs are good with children but are not keen on rough-housing.

They have a confident footing on all types of terrains, so you can take your dog hiking with you without worrying if he can keep up. CBRs are hardy dogs that can tolerate icy cold water and have been favored by fishermen for more than a century.


Chesapeake Bay Retrievers are not naturally aggressive, but they do have dominant personalities. Combined with their wariness of strangers and their instinct to protect their pack, this can lead to defensive behavior that comes across as aggressive. They are not as likely to back down from a fight as many other dog breeds and need a firm and confident owner prepared to put in a lot of effort to train them.

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