How Oily Is A Chesapeake Bay Retriever?

The Chesapeake Bay Retriever dog breed began as a water dog employed to hunt and recover waterfowl in Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay’s icy waters. The dogs were suited for this task because of their solid frame, dense coat, endurance, and strength. A Chesapeake Bay Retriever’s oily coat is the reason that they can hunt in freezing water temperatures.

reichreivers in water
Three Chesapeake Bay Retrievers playing fetch in a body of water.

When touching the coat of a Chesapeake Bay Retriever, it has a slightly greasy feel to it, similar to touching a duck’s oily feathers. Chessies have an extremely thick wooly undercoat covered by a short, harsh coat containing natural oils, essentially making the Chessie waterproof.

A Chesapeake Bay Retriever has no problems jumping into ice-cold water and retrieving waterfowl for a whole day. In the Chesapeake Bay, Maryland, water can often reach 32°F or less. The only reason that Chessies can withstand these freezing temperatures is due to their coats. If it weren’t oily, there would be no hunting dog willing to hunt in the area.

How Oily Is A Chesapeake Bay Retriever?

chesapeack bay reichreiver shaking water out
Chesapeake Bay Retriever has just pulled a tennis ball from the lake. Motion blur and flying water droplets as he shakes himself to dry. Retrieved ball lays at his feet.

The oily outer coat of a Chesapeake Bay Retriever, with the help of a woolly undercoat, offers enough protection for a Chessie to hardly ever get wet.

The waterproof coat has a somewhat oily feel, like touching the oily feathers of a duck, working in a similar way to keep the Chesapeake Bay Retriever waterproof.

The coat provides excellent insulation, allowing him to hunt in any weather, including ice and snow.

Description Of A Chesapeake Bay Retriever’s Coat

reichreivers running
Chesapeake Bay Retrievers running together in the garden

The coat of the Chesapeake Bay Retriever begins at the skin with a rich, dense, and wooly undercoat that is so thick that finding the skin when it is divided is difficult. The top coat is short, thick, rough, and oily.

The oily outer coat and woolly undercoat prevent cold water from contacting the Chessie’s skin, providing excellent insulation in any weather, including ice and snow. The coat of a Chesapeake Bay Retriever measures about an inch to an inch and a half in length.

When investigated, it has a faint greasy feel to it. When a Chessie shakes after coming out of the water, he is barely moist. The Chessie possesses a coat that repels water like a duck’s feathers do, which is ideal for his role as a water retriever.

Why Is A Chesapeake Bay Retriever So Oily?

Waterfowl hunting in Maryland’s harsh and frigid Chesapeake Bay required a robust dog to withstand the cold water and icy weather. The Chesapeake Bay Retriever, known as the ‘Sherman Tank’ of retrievers, was created for these challenging circumstances. Sailor and Canton, two Newfoundland puppies who survived a shipwreck in the area in 1807, are thought to be his ancestors.

They were discovered to be excellent retrievers and were mated to native dogs. The brown Chesapeake Bay Retriever with thick, water-shedding hair, a bright and pleasant demeanor, intellect, and courage was the end product. A wavy coat that is greasy to the touch, with a slight musky odor, distinguishes the Chesapeake Bay Retriever breed.

The dogs had to break through the ice occasionally to get their birds, which was not a problem because they were deep-chested, strong swimmers, and most importantly, not affected by the cold water. When a Chesapeake Bay Retriever hits the water, it’s like the “water of a duck’s back.”

How To Take Care Of A Chesapeake Bay Retriever’s Coat

The coat of a Chesapeake Bay Retriever requires very little maintenance, consisting mostly of brushing once a week with a short-tooth brush, the odd wash here and there, and a light trim when required.

Brushing A Chesapeake Bay Retriever’s Coat

Use a rubber curry brush to remove dead hair and distribute the skin oils. Please don’t use a wire slicker brush or a coat rake, as these could remove their coats’ natural kink and oils.

How To Wash A Chesapeake Bay Retriever

Although it is difficult to get a Chesapeake Bay Retriever completely wet, they should be washed every 3 to 4 months, according to their shedding cycle, with a gentle shampoo and thoroughly dried after. Brushing or washing more frequently can destroy the texture of the coat by removing the protecting oil and possibly even the undercoat.

Best Shampoos To Wash A Chesapeake Bay Retriever

Chesapeake Bay Retrievers tend to shed a lot. That’s why picking an anti-shed shampoo for its quarterly wash makes sense. Let us quickly discuss shampoos that cater to different requirements when you eventually wash your Cressie.

Best Shampoo For Odor Removal

Unfortunately, your Chessie may have a musky smell from all the water activities and the fact that it’s not healthy to bathe them as often as you would another dog. Try the following shampoo that contains oatmeal to relieve itchy skin and vanilla oil to eliminate any odor:

Best Waterless Dog Shampoo

Bathing a Chesapeake Bay Retriever can be daunting as it is so difficult to get wet in the first place. Using a waterless shampoo might be an easier option, as you spray the shampoo on the coat, and there’s no need to wash it off.

The product is vet recommended, the formula is PH balanced, and contains coconut oil which gently cleanses and hydrates the coat. Sulfate and paraben-free, this formula is a safer and healthier alternative to traditional dog shampoo:

Best Shed Control Dog Shampoo

A Chesapeake Bay Retriever is a moderate shedder. To counter the shedding, you can choose a shampoo to help lessen hair loss by exfoliating and hydrating your Chessie’s skin, thereby reducing shedding.

The product is also paraben-free, soap-free, dye-free, and made with organically derived components:


A Chesapeake Bay Retriever should have an oily coat. The more oil, the better insulated the Chessie. The thick wavy oil-infused coat is probably the most distinguishing feature of the ‘Sherman Tank’ of retrievers. In case you missed it, a Chesapeake Bay Retriever’s coat is as oily to the touch as a duck’s feathers.


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