Chesapeake Bay Retriever

Filed Under: Dogs, General Care

The Chesapeake Bay retriever is a native of Maryland in the United States. This water dog evolved with the breeding of Newfoundlands and English Otter Hounds with local retrievers, including curly-coated and flat-coated retrievers, back in the early 1800’s.

The breed was developed for its keen intelligence and a willingness to retrieve no matter how harsh the weather or how icy the water. This breed is considered to be the toughest of the water retrievers. They are named for the Chesapeake Bay area from which they hail.

This is a sturdy and hardy breed, but don’t expect them to be a Labrador Retriever in a curly coat. “Chessies,” as they are often and quite fondly called, have a more dominant personality and may be less willing to please than a Labrador retriever. They can be great family dogs but may challenge family members for dominance. This breed requires early socialization and a dominant leader.

The Chesapeake Bay retriever has an outer coat and a finer, dense and wooly undercoat. With the addition of natural oils, this coat keeps the icy cold water from penetrating the skin. In fact, it is ill-advised to bathe them too frequently as it will strip the coat of these essential oils before swimming. They come in three colors referred to as brown, sedge, and dead grass.

This breed requires sufficient exercise in order to prevent destructive behavior.

The Chesapeake Bay retriever typically weighs from 55 to 80 pounds and has a height of 21 to 26 inches at the shoulder, with males being larger than females of the breed.

Recognized problems occurring in the Chesapeake Bay retriever include the development of Von Willebrand’s disease. Von Willebrand’s disease is an inherited bleeding disorder that prevents blood coagulation following surgery or injury. The intensity of the bleeding disorder will vary with the individual affected.

As with many large breeds of dogs the Chesapeake Bay retriever may be more likely to develop hip dysplasia. This breed also has a propensity to develop cranial cruciate ligament rupture.

Exercise-induced collapse, which has been seen in Labrador retrievers, does also occur in Chesapeake Bay retrievers. Affected dogs will lose control of their hind limbs following intense physical activity such as hunting. The dynamin gene 1, which is involved in exercise-induced collapse, is an important part of synaptic nerve transmission. When this particular gene has a mutation it may result in diminished communication between nerves, which in turn results in the synaptic interruption of information during intense exercise. The muscles actually go limp because they are receiving inadequate information as to when to contract. The gene is seen clinically, or symptomatically, in dogs that are homozygous recessive (have two genes for the defect).

This breed is also affected by an eye disorder called progressive rod cone degeneration (PRCD). This disorder is believed to result from an autosomal recessive mode of inheritance.

The “Chessie” also suffers from Degenerative Myeopathy which is a progressive spinal cord degenerative disorder which can lead to a loss of use in the hind limbs.


Bonagura, John and David Twedt, Ed. Kirk’s Current Veterinary Therapy XV. W.B. Saunders 2009. Pp. 277 and 1057.

Hoskins, Johnny. “Exercise-induced Collapse in Labrador Retrievers.”  DVM, October 2008. Pp. 8S-11S.

Kustritz, Margaret, “Determining the Optimal Age for Gonedectomy of Dogs and Cats.” JAVMA. Vol 231, No. 11, December 1, 2007. Pp. 1665-1675.

Pham, Angela. Pet Product News International. September 2009. Pp. 92.

Veterinary Practice News. Vol. 20, No. 11. November 2008. P. 4.

Topics: retrievers

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