The Chesapeake Bay Retriever started its journey as a water dog employed to hunt and retrieve waterfowl in Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay’s frigid waters. The strong frame, thick oily waterproof coat, stamina, and strength of the dog made them excellent for this task. Let us explore this American original commonly referred to as the “Sherman Tank” of retrievers and Chessies.
The Chesapeake Bay Retriever has no rival in the retriever world, being the first retriever breed recognized by the American Kennel Club. He’s a serious hunting dog, developed to resist the harshly cold waters of Chesapeake Bay, where he was bred to hunt waterfowl like geese and ducks.
The Chessie was developed from various breeds, including the Newfoundland, Irish water spaniel, and hounds. The end result was a dog with a thick, oily coat that resisted water and kept the dog warm in the winter. Chessies embody the characteristics of a retriever; loyalty, relentlessness, and are protective yet affectionate.
Chesapeake Bay Retrievers
Chesapeake Bay Retrievers, or Chessies as they are fondly referred to, have a long history. From being President Roosevelt’s dog of choice to establishing itself as the official dog breed of the United States.
Chessies prefer a cooler climate and will struggle in warm temperatures unless there are ample opportunities to emerge themselves in bodies of water. Chessies are both good family dogs and great hunting companions, and overall, man’s best greasy-coated friend.
History Of Chesapeake Bay Retrievers
Chesapeake Bay Retrievers is one of the rare breeds born in the United States. The breed is claimed to have originated in 1807 when a pair of Newfoundland dogs named Canton and Sailor were sailing on a ship destined for England.
The ship managed to run aground, but luckily the ship’s crew members and the pair of dogs were rescued. Sailor was placed with John Mercer of West River, while Canton found a home with Dr. James Stewart, who lived in Sparrow’s Point.
There’s no record of these two having a litter together because they lived in different bay area regions. They were bred with local dogs, including the Irish Water Spaniel, Newfoundland, and other hounds, focusing on talent rather than breeding to develop the foundations of the Chesapeake Bay Retriever breed.
When dog strains from Maryland’s western and eastern beaches reunited in Baltimore in 1877 at the “Poultry & Fanciers Association” exhibit, their likeness was enough to be recognized as a single breed, dubbed “The Chesapeake Bay Ducking Dog.”
Chesapeake Bay Retriever Personality & Temperament
Chessies are intelligent dogs that often come across as strong-willed (stubborn), yet they can be very bright and cheerful. A sign of their joyfulness (goofiness) is when they’re pretending to “smile” while baring their front teeth in a strange grin (a sign of excitement or submission.)
A Chessie’s personality is determined, assertive, and protective, and some may be hesitant around strangers, while others are quiet and outgoing. Chessies are not known for barking excessively or being extremely excited.
Other retriever types might be more friendly than Chesapeake Bay Retrievers. They are generally nice to youngsters, love children, and at times friendly to strangers. Chessies don’t mind being around other animals and can co-exist with other house pets.
Temperament can be influenced by several factors, including breeding, training, and socialization. Socialization is important for your Chessie puppy to develop into a well-rounded dog.
Enrolling them in puppy kindergarten is a terrific starting point. Regularly having visitors over and taking him to crowded parks, dog-friendly stores, and strolls to meet neighbors can help him improve his social skills.
According to some breed specialists, Chesapeake Bay retrievers are easy to train and housebreak. Others argue that some of these dogs are stubborn, that obedience training is essential, and that the Chessie may not be the greatest breed for inexperienced dog owners.
If all you desire is a companion, the Chessie is not the dog for you. Hunting remains the best pastime for most Chessies.No matter how much exercise, training, dog sports, or friendship you believe you can give him. Imagine you are born to play tennis, but all you get to do is play basketball. You won’t be as happy as when on a tennis court.
And he’s not just any hunting dog: he’s a waterfowling dog who thrives on getting wet in the pursuit of his feathery prey.
Physical Characteristics Of Chesapeake Bay Retrievers
The Chesapeake Bay Retriever is a gracefully proportioned canine known for its water-resistant double-coat that helps when making long swims retrieving their owner’s hunted ducks.
Physical Characteristics Of A Chesapeake Bay Retriever
The head is large and round. The jaws are long enough to capture game birds but short enough to maintain a firm grip, featuring narrow lips. The little drooping ears are well placed on the head. The body and tail are both of average length.
The chest is broad and deep. The hindquarters are at least as high as, and frequently higher than, the shoulders, which is a distinguishing trait. Chessies are powerfully built dogs. In the retriever world, the Chessie is fondly known as the “Sherman Tank” of retrievers due to them being as strong as one.
Chessies also have toes that are webbed that help with swimming and a big muscular chest that they use to break up ice when duck hunting in iced water. Chessies have clear, bright eyes that range from yellow to amber.
Weight: 55 to 80 pounds
Height: 20 to 24 inches (2 inches tall at the shoulder)
The Coat Of A Chesapeake Bay Retriever
The Chesapeake Bay Retriever has a textured, waterproof double coat that helps him navigate cold water. The outer coat is coarse, wavy, and short, while the undercoat is fine and wooly.
The oil found in a Chessie’s coat resists water keeping them dry and warm even when submerged in icy water. The coat may have a slick feel and can produce a musky odor. The color of the coat is typically one of the following colors or a mixture:
- Light To Dark Brown
- Sedge (Reddish Yellow To Bright Red To Chestnut)
- Cocoa Brown
- Deadgrass (Faded Tan To A Dull Straw Color)
Grooming The Coat Of A Chesapeake Bay Retriever
Chessies, like other retriever breeds, shed a lot. Once a week, brushing their coats with a rubber curry brush will eliminate dead hair and spread the skin oils. When you brush their coats regularly, it will ensure that loose hairs stay on the brush instead of on your clothes and furniture.
Avoid using a wire slicker brush or a coat rake, which can cause the hair to lose its wave and kink. It’s recommended to bathe a Chessie as little as possible to avoid losing the protective oils from the coat and compromising its water resistance.
A warm bath or two during shedding season helps loosen dead hair so the new coat may grow in. A double-coat that waves on the shoulders, neck, back, and loins are all distinguishing features of a Cressie.
As a rule, you should try and bathe your Cressie every 3-4 months by using a gentle shampoo, also ensuring to dry their coats thoroughly. More frequent baths can destroy the texture of a Cressie’s coat, also removing the protective oils found in its coat.
Chesapeake Bay Retriever Training And Exercise Requirements
They do well as hunting companions in hunt tests and the more competitive arena of field trials with suitable training.
If properly trained to accept the repetitive nature of the activity, Chesapeake Bay Retrievers can do well in obedience competitions. However, rally, flyball, and agility may be better choices for them. They’re also cherished pals, of course.
Training A Chesapeake Retriever
Chessies are strong-willed and require rigorous, persistent teaching from all household adults. You can’t let him do anything “one time only,” or you’ll have to retrain him for days or weeks.
It’s recommended that you start taking your puppy to a puppy kindergarten between the ages of 9 weeks and 4 months. It’s a great way to ensure that they get used to socializing from a young age, get in some required exercise, and, most importantly, receive training.
When your Cressie reaches 4 months, enroll him in weekly obedience classes until he reaches 6 months. Consistency and kindness are key to training a Chessie, including positive praise and food rewards.
You must keep the training interesting, making them feel that they have a choice in what’s going on. Catching your Cressie doing something inappropriate should be addressed using a firm tone.
A sharp look or a verbal rebuke is adequate to rein in bad behavior if you’re giving the correct leadership; more harsh punishment is overkill and will make him sulky and unresponsive.
Chessies excel in obedience and field trials. They are often trained as service dogs that work well with drug enforcement agencies, hospitals, and nursing homes. Many are trained to do search and rescue work (avalanche or sled dogs.)
While staying true to its origins as a hunting dog with outstanding stamina and ability, the Chesapeake Bay Retriever competes in field trials, hunt tests, conformation, obedience, agility, and tracking, showcasing its versatility.
Exercising Your Chesapeake Bay Retriever
Chessie puppies have special exercise requirements, and from an early age, you must ensure that they get enough of it and introduce them to their favorite element in the world – water.
From about 9 weeks to 4 months of age, let them play outside in the morning, afternoon, and evening. Playtime can be for 15 to 20 minutes per session. Start playing fetch with them. Use a ball or something that will fit in their mouths. Now is the perfect age to get them to experience water by splashing in a kiddie pool.
Apart from attending regular obedience classes from 4 to 6 months, add a daily half-mile walk into Chessie’s routine. Playtime in the yard must continue, and during this time of your Chessie’s development, you can start teaching him to swim (pool or lake.)
From 6 months to a year, increase the playtime to 40-minute sessions in the mornings and evenings, skipping the mid-afternoon sessions when the day is at its hottest. Limit walks to half a mile.
From a year onwards, your Cressie can start jogging with you. Keep it at half a mile, giving your pup enough time to rest in-between. As he matures, you can increase the distance and time you run.
Gradually increasing the levels of exercise can only protect its developing joints and bones, making for a happier and noticeably healthier dog in the long run.
Chesapeake Bay Retriever Diet
A Chessies optimal diet will include a good mix of proteins, fat, and carbohydrates from various sources. You must pay close attention to the source of these components because they are found in most dog diets but aren’t always good for your pup.
For your pup’s nutrition, always choose a dog food that contains real meats, veggies, and fruits. Making sure that your Chessie has a well-balanced diet is one part of the equation, as you also need to ensure that they are fed food appropriate for their age.
Different formulas exist for dogs based on their current age, whether they are puppies, adults, or seniors. Each one offers the proper nutrients for your puppy’s stage of development.
Chesapeake Bay Retriever Puppy Diet
It’s critical to offer your Chessie a high-protein, high-fat food throughout the puppy stage to help them grow as quickly as possible. During this time, it’s advisable to offer them around 2000-2500 calories of food with at least 20% protein and 10% fat.
Try some of the following products if you are unsure what to feed your Cressie puppy:
- Merrick Real Beef And Sweet Potato Grain-Free Dry Puppy Food
- Blue Buffalo Life Protection Natural Puppy Dry Dog Food
- Purina Pro Plan High Protein Puppy Food Lamb & Rice Formula
Chesapeake Bay Retriever Adult Diet
When a Chessies’ growth slows during the adult period, reducing their calorie consumption based on their current weight is fine. With high-quality, protein- and fat-rich cuisine, a daily calorie intake of roughly 1500 is a decent baseline.
A common rule is to consume approximately 20% protein and 8% fat; here are some options:
- Hill’s Science Diet Adult Sensitive Stomach & Skin Dry Dog Food
- Natural Balance Limited Ingredient Diet Salmon And Sweet Potato Adult Dog Food
- Instinct Raw Boost Healthy Weight Real Chicken Natural Dry Dog Food
- Zignature Trout & Salmon Formula Grain-Free Dry Dog Food
- Blue Buffalo Wilderness High Protein Natural Adult Dry Dog Food
- Earthborn Holistic Venture Rabbit Meal & Pumpkin Dry Dog Food
- Natural Balance Limited Ingredients Duck & Brown Rice Dry Dog Food
Chesapeake Bay Retriever Senior Diet
You want to be sure that you’re meeting your dog’s specific demands as he gets older. If your Chessie is gaining weight as their activity level decreases, you should reduce their calorie intake. At this age, 1200-1500 calories are recommended.
Make sure your Chessie is eating high-quality protein sources made from real meat:
- Blue Buffalo Life Protection Natural Senior Dry Dog Food Chicken & Brown Rice
- Nulo Freestyle Grain-Free Senior Trout And Sweet Potato Recipe
- Diamond Naturals Senior Real Meat Chicken Egg & Oatmeal Recipe
Chesapeake Bay Retriever Feeding Chart
Following a food chart is a smart approach to keeping your dog slim and healthy while minimizing the chance of bloat.
The best method to figure out how much and how often to feed your Chessie is to consult with your veterinarian, but here are some general guidelines to get you started:
Chesapeake Bay Retriever Puppies – ¾ cup three times per day.
Chesapeake Bay Retrievers Adults – 2 to 2.5 cups two times per day.
Chesapeake Bay Retrievers Seniors – 2 to 2.5 cups two times per day.
Are Chesapeake Bay Retrievers Healthy?
Chesapeake Bay Retrievers is a healthy dog breed in general. Chessies, like all types of dog breeds, are prone to specific diseases and more likely to suffer from certain conditions.
It’s not to say that your Cressie will suffer from any diseases listed below. It’s important to know what to expect with regards to their breed.
Von Willebrand Disease
Von Willebrand disease is a blood disorder commonly found in dogs and humans. It is caused by a lack of quality or quantity of von Willebrand factor (VWF), a multimeric protein necessary for platelet adhesion, which influences the clotting process.
Symptoms of Von Willebrand disease include the following:
Prolonged Bleeding (Surgery)
Prolonged Bleeding (Heat Cycles)
Prolonged Bleeding (After Whelping)
Blood In Stool
The disease is incurable and is typically diagnosed between the ages of three and five. Procedures like cauterizing/suturing injuries, avoiding certain prescriptions, and Von Willebrand factor transfusion before any surgery can help address the issues around the disease.
Epilepsy is a condition that causes mild to severe seizures in Chessies. The following are possible causes of epilepsy:
- Metabolic Abnormalities (Liver Failure/Hypoglycemia)
- Viral Diseases Of The Brain
- Degenerative Disease
- Infections (Distemper/Encephalitis)
- Toxic Exposure (Materials)
- Head Injuries
- Unknown Reason (Idiopathic Epilepsy)
Look out for any out-of-character activity in your Cressie; frantically fleeing as if being chased, staggering, or hiding – can indicate a seizure. Seizures are frightening, but dogs with idiopathic epilepsy have a fairly good long-term prognosis.
Epilepsy can’t be cured but managed with medicine. With correct management of this condition, a dog can live a long and healthy life. Take your Chessie to the vet if he has a seizure for a professional diagnosis that includes treatment options.
Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA)
Certain dog breeds, Chessie included, and some cats suffer from this genetic disease. PRA is a degenerative eye disorder that results in the loss of photoreceptors at the rear of the eye, typically leading to blindness.
Before showing any signs of blindness, PRA can be detected, yet it remains uncurbable. Fortunately, dogs can compensate for their eyesight with their other senses, and a blind dog can live a full and happy life.
To help a dog suffering from PRA maximize its quality of life, implement the following:
- Leave all furniture in its place (no rearranging), as your dog will memorize the environment’s layout.
- Use a short leash when taking your blind dog out for a walk.
- Erect safety barriers where needed, for instance, around pools and balconies.
Every year, reputable breeders have their dogs’ eyes examined by a veterinary ophthalmologist and do not breed dogs with this condition.
Hip dysplasia is an irregular formation found in the hip socket (the thighbone does not fit snug into the hip joint), often leading to lameness and joint arthritis in its more severe form. It’s a polygenic (genetic) trait that’s influenced by environmental factors such as rapid growth (high-calorie diet) or injuries (falling or jumping.)
It affects many dog breeds, especially the larger ones, and is the most common cause of hip arthritis in dogs. To do a screen test for hip dysplasia, contact the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals.
When purchasing a puppy from a breeder, you are entitled to ask for proof that the pup’s parents were tested for hip dysplasia and other results of other tests that may have been performed.
Bloat (Gastric Dilation Volvulus)
Gastric dilatation-volvulus is a killer condition that affects deep-chested, large, and giant dog breeds. Bloat can be brought on when your dog eats one big meal a day rapidly, gulps down large amounts of water after eating fast, and does too much exercise straight after.
The stomach then becomes full of gas and air and then proceeds to twist. The canine cannot release this excess air, whereby blood flow to the heart becomes impeded. When the dog’s blood pressure drops, the canine will go into shock and can die without medical attention.
The following signs could indicate bloat, and if you notice some of them in your dog, take him to the vet immediately:
- Excessive Drooling
- Retching With No Vomit
- Rapid Heart Rate
Osteochondrodysplasia (OCD) is a bone and cartilage growth and developmental defect that causes a lack of normal bone growth and abnormalities. The terms “osteo” refer to the bone, “chondro” refers to cartilage, and dysplasia refers to abnormal growth in general.
The condition causes dogs to have abnormally short limbs for their breed. Its severity ranges from “near normal” to severely disabling. The severity of the problem will translate to how comfortable your dog feels and how long it will live.
Your dog can enjoy a relatively pleasant and healthy life if the problem is small.
Life Expectancy: 10 to 12 years (average lifespan is 9.4 years, 1 in 5 don’t live past the age of 5 years.)
If you’re looking for one of the top hunting companions, look no further than the Chesapeake Bay Retriever, which was born to retrieve ducks and geese. Chessies have strong personalities, are excellent guard dogs, and are super protective of those they love.
Looking after a Chessie involves some extensive training and exercise routines, actions that are non-negotiable when owning one. Be sure that you can match their energy before getting one.
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