Are Chesapeake Bay Retrievers Good House Dogs?

If you want a new dog for your household, you are probably evaluating different breeds to see if they will be a good fit. The Chesapeake Bay retriever may have caught your eye, but you aren’t sure whether you should get one of these charismatic hunting dogs. Do Chesapeake Bay retrievers make good house dogs?

Chesapeake Bay retrievers don’t make good house dogs for many people due to their need for plenty of vigorous exercise, firm handling, and tendency to become destructive when bored. However, they are protective, generally good with children and familiar animals, and fit a highly-active lifestyle.

Chesapeake Bay retrievers, also known as Chesapeakes, CBR, or affectionately as Chessies, are an all-American breed of hunting dog developed for retrieving ducks. Their ancestry and working purpose have given them characteristics that affect whether they are good as house dogs. Let’s take a look.

Why You Should Consider A Chesapeake As A House Dog

Chesapeakes have some great positive points regarding temperament that make them suitable for living in a family situation, provided you can also deal with its cons. They are also highly-active dogs, which could be a pro or a con depending on your particular requirements.

Chesapeakes Are Loyal And Protective

Chesapeakes are loyal and have a solid affinity for its people. Chessies will guard their family against dangers and stay alert when they feel it is warranted. They will also be protective of other animal family members. Their alertness makes them good watchdogs, although not necessarily in the same class as guarding breeds.

Chessies are naturally rather reserved and standoffish toward strangers. They will need plenty of socialization with many different people while young so that this tendency does not turn into a suspicious streak that could lead to aggression.

In addition to being loyal, Chesapeake’s are generally even-tempered and do not bark much unless bored.

Chesapeakes Are Good With Kids (Most Of The Time)

If you have kids, you want a dog that looks after them and is not aggressive. Chesapeakes fit this profile and are particularly good with older kids who have learned to treat dogs respectfully and not abuse them.

Chessies will not tolerate abuse such as ear-pulling, but they will probably just walk away from your kids if it happens. We recommend adult supervision of interaction between kids and a Chessie. These dogs can be protective of food and toys, which can create problems with young children who have not learned to respect a dog’s boundaries.

Chesapeakes Get On With Other Pets They Know

Chessies tend to show hostility toward strange dogs, and we recommend supervision. However, they get on very well with dogs they know. They will also be friendly with the family cat but will probably chase strange felines.

However, this is not always the case. Male Chesapeake, in particular, may show aggression toward other male dogs, and some Chessies have been known to have a problem with all cats. Introduce a Chessie into your household cautiously, and supervise interactions initially.

Chesapeakes Are Suitable For An Active Lifestyle

If you love getting out and exercising, a Chessie will suit you. They need at least an hour of vigorous exercise daily, with plenty of physical exertion and mental stimulation.

If you enjoy playing fetch with your dog or love going for long runs with your dog, a Chesapeake will fit into your lifestyle. They also enjoy swimming and playing in the water, which makes sense considering their intended purpose.

To work off their energy properly, you may need to enroll your dog in fieldwork so that they can get exercise closer to what hunters initially bred them for.

Chesapeakes Do Not Shed Much

The distinctive coat of Chesapeake Bay retrievers sheds only moderately with its waterproof undercoat and wavy topcoat. They are therefore suitable for having indoors, as they will not make much mess (apart from muddy paws).

Why You Should Avoid A Chesapeake As A House Dog

Chesapeakes have some distinctive traits that can make them unsuitable as house dogs. We’ll examine these characteristics so you can decide.

Chesapeakes Are Strong-Willed

Chessies are exceptionally strong-willed and stubborn and need massive obedience training (in conjunction with play to keep them stimulated and tire them out). They will probe every household member to see whether they are pushovers, and if you don’t act firmly, the Chessie will take over.

Letting them get away with undesirable behavior even once will create significant problems for you. You must be firm, kind, and consistent in showing them that you are the boss. We do not recommend Chessies for first-time owners or people who are not prepared to exert the necessary discipline.

Chesapeakes Can Be Rowdy And Destructive

While Chessies are young (up to about 3 years old), they are boisterous and have a tendency to jump, which is dangerous for kids, the elderly, and the infirm. While you can train them not to jump, it will take time and plenty of firmness.

They also become highly destructive when bored and will chew everything in sight if you haven’t given them plenty to do. A bored Chessie tends to bark a lot and generally be rambunctious. They may decide to chase cars, cyclists, or runners. Make sure you exercise them plenty and give them mental stimulation to prevent this from happening.

Another reason to avoid Chesapeake as house dogs is that they do best if they can get wet and retrieve ducks and geese. If you can’t provide a Chessie what they were bred for, you may find them becoming bored.

Chesapeakes Are Not Hypo-Allergenic

If you have animal dander allergies, you may want to avoid Chesapeake. Their coats are not hypo-allergenic and could potentially trigger a problem.

Chesapeakes Are Mouthy

Chessies were bred to retrieve, so they love having something in their mouths. They will chew things or carry toys or other objects in their mouths. You may not be very impressed with what other objects they have chosen, such as your shoes. They also tend to mouth at your hands, which can be annoying.


Chesapeake Bay retrievers can be good house dogs if you provide them with firmness, obedience training, and plenty of exercise. However, they are waterfowling dogs at heart, and you may find that you cannot give them what they need. While a Chessie could make a great pet, we urge you to consider whether they fit your situation.


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