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  • Temperament: Affectionate, Bright, Sensitive
  • AKC Breed Popularity: Ranks 43 of 194
  • Height: 23-26 inches (male), 21-24 inches (female)
  • Weight: 65-80 pounds (male), 55-70 pounds (female)
  • Life Expectancy: 10-13 years
  • Group: Sporting Group

    The AKC has grouped all of the breeds that it registers into seven categories, or groups, roughly based on function and heritage. Breeds are grouped together because they share traits of form and function or a common heritage.

Chesapeake Bay Retriever standing in three-quarter view
Chesapeake Bay Retriever coat detail

GENERAL APPEARANCE

The breed’s characteristics are specifically suited to enable the Chesapeake to function with ease, efficiency and endurance. In head, the Chesapeake’s skull is broad and round with a medium stop. The jaws should be of sufficient length and strength to carry large game birds with an easy, tender hold. The double coat consists of a short, harsh, wavy outer coat and a dense, fine, wooly undercoat containing an abundance of natural oil and is ideally suited for the icy rugged conditions of weather the Chesapeake often works in. In body, the Chesapeake is a strong, well-balanced, powerfully built animal of moderate size and medium length in body and leg, deep and wide in chest, the shoulders built with full liberty of movement, and with no tendency to weakness in any feature, particularly the rear.

HEAD

The Chesapeake Bay Retriever should have an intelligent expression. Eyes are to be medium large, very clear, of yellowish or amber color and wide apart. Ears are to be small, set well up on the head, hanging loosely, and of medium leather. Skull is broad and round with a medium stop. Nose is medium short. Muzzle is approximately the same length as the skull, tapered, pointed but not sharp. Lips are thin, not pendulous. Bite-Scissors is preferred, but a level bite is acceptable. Disqualifications: Either undershot or overshot bites are to be disqualified.

BODY

Neck should be of medium length with a strong muscular appearance, tapering to the shoulders. Topline should show the hindquarters to be as high as or a trifle higher than the shoulders. Back should be short, well coupled and powerful. Chest should be strong, deep and wide. Rib cage barrel round and deep. Body is of medium length, neither cobby nor roached, but rather approaching hollowness from underneath as the flanks should be well tucked up. Tail of medium length; medium heavy at the base. The tail should be straight or slightly curved and should not curl over back or side kink.

FOREQUARTERS

There should be no tendency to weakness in the forequarters. Shoulders should be sloping with full liberty of action, plenty of power and without any restrictions of movement. Legs should be medium in length and straight, showing good bone and muscle. Pasterns slightly bent and of medium length. The front legs should appear straight when viewed from front or rear. Dewclaws on the forelegs may be removed. Well webbed hare feet should be of good size with toes well-rounded and close.

COAT

Coat should be thick and short, nowhere over 1½ inches long, with a dense fine wooly undercoat. Hair on the face and legs should be very short and straight with a tendency to wave on the shoulders, neck, back and loins only. Moderate feathering on rear of hindquarters and tail is permissible. The texture of the Chesapeake’s coat is very important, as the Chesapeake is used for hunting under all sorts of adverse weather conditions, often working in ice and snow. The oil in the harsh outer coat and wooly undercoat is of extreme value in preventing the cold water from reaching the Chesapeake’s skin and aids in quick drying. A Chesapeake’s coat should resist the water in the same way that a duck’s feathers do. When the Chesapeake leaves the water and shakes, the coat should not hold water at all, being merely moist. Disqualifications: A coat that is curly or has a tendency to curl all over the body must be disqualified. Feathering on the tail or legs over 1¾ inches long must be disqualified.

HINDQUARTERS

Good hindquarters are essential. They should show fully as much power as the forequarters. There should be no tendency to weakness in the hindquarters. Hindquarters should be especially powerful to supply the driving power for swimming. Legs should be medium length and straight, showing good bone and muscle. Stifles should be well angulated. The distance from hock to ground should be of medium length. The hind legs should look straight when viewed from the front or rear. Dewclaws, if any, must be removed from the hind legs. Disqualifications: Dewclaws on the hind legs are a disqualification.

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Chesapeake Bay Retriever

About the Chesapeake Bay Retriever

Chessies are strong, powerfully built gundogs standing anywhere from 21 to 26 inches at the shoulder. A male can weigh up to 80 pounds. The distinctive breed trait is a wavy coat that is oily to the touch. Chessies are solid-colored, either chocolatey brown, sedge, or deadgrass, with keen yellow-amber eyes that nicely complement the coat.

Chessies are more emotionally complex than the usual gundog. Chessies take to training, but they have a mind of their own and can tenaciously pursue their own path. They are protective of their humans and polite, but not overtly friendly, to strangers. Chessies make excellent watchdogs and are versatile athletes. A well-socialized Chessie is a confident companion and world-class hunting buddy.

Breed Clubs and Rescue

Want to connect with other people who love the same breed as much as you do? We have plenty of opportunities to get involved in your local community, thanks to AKC Breed Clubs located in every state, and more than 450 AKC Rescue Network groups across the country.
Chesapeake Bay Retriever

Find a Puppy: Chesapeake Bay Retriever

AKC Marketplace | PuppyFinder

AKC Marketplace is the only site to exclusively list 100% AKC puppies from AKC-Registered litters and the breeders who have cared for and raised these puppies are required to follow rules and regulations established by the AKC.
Find Chesapeake Bay Retriever Puppies

Care

NUTRITION

Generally any good-quality dog food is fine for the Chesapeake. For especially active or high-energy dogs, a formula with at least 20-percent protein can be beneficial. Treats can be an important aid in training, but giving too many can cause obesity. Give table scraps sparingly, if at all, especially avoiding cooked bones and foods with high fat content. Learn about which human foods are safe for dogs, and which are not. Check with your vet if you have any concerns about your dog’s weight or diet.

GROOMING

This is a shorthaired breed with a soft undercoat and a harsh outer coat. They do shed, and a good brushing about once a week will keep the dead hair on your floor to a minimum. Basically, Chessies don’t require much grooming or bathing. As with all breeds, the nails should be trimmed regularly, as overly long nails can cause discomfort and problems walking and running.

Grooming Frequency

Occasional Bath/Brush
Specialty/Professional
2-3 Times a Week Brushing

Shedding

Infrequent
Frequent
Regularly

EXERCISE

This is an intelligent, high-energy breed. They really need a job and plenty of exercise. Hiking, running, hunting, and swimming are what they love to do. They excel in all the dog sports, such as obedience, tracking, and agility, although of course hunting and field work is what they were bred for.

Energy Level

Couch Potato
Needs Lots of Activity
Energetic

TRAINING

Obedience training is a must for the Chesapeake. Young puppies should start out with early socialization and puppy training classes. These help to ensure that the Chesapeake will grow into a well-adjusted, well-mannered companion.

Trainability

May be Stubborn
Eager to Please
Agreeable

Temperament/Demeanor

Aloof/Wary
Outgoing
Reserved with Strangers

HEALTH

Hip dysplasia is a concern in most dogs, Chesapeakes included. There are some other hereditary diseases that can affect the breed, but fortunately there are tests that responsible breeders use to assess these and screen breeding stock. It is important for breeders to supply the health information about the sire and dam to anyone interested in obtaining a puppy. As with all breeds, a Chesapeake’s ears should be checked regularly for signs of infection, and the teeth should be brushed often, using a toothpaste designed for dogs.

Recommended Health Tests from the National Breed Club:

  • Hip Evaluation
  • Elbow Evaluation
  • Ophthalmologist Evaluation
  • PRA Optigen DNA Test
  • EIC DNA Test
  • Degenerative Myelopathy DNA Test

Read the Official Breed Club Health Statement.

Chesapeake Bay Retreiver
Chesapeake Bay Retriever
Chesapeake Bay Retriever
Chesapeake Bay Retriever
Chesapeake Bay Retriever
Chesapeake Bay Retriever

History

Wealthy owners of duck clubs that lined both shores of the Chesapeake Bay during the 19th century set the basic breed type of the Chesapeake Bay Retriever. Newfoundlands, Irish Water Spaniels, and hounds of undetermined origin were among the dogs thought to be in the genetic mix. By the time the AKC was founded in 1884, a definite Chessie type had been established. (Colorful regional breed names for the era’s Chessie included the Red Chester and the Brown Winchester.)

To understand the Chesapeake Bay Retriever, you must understand the Chesapeake Bay. For this purpose, there are two key features of this 200-mile-long estuary surrounded by Maryland and Virginia. First, because the bay is relatively shallow it has a low capacity for storing heat: Water temperatures get down around freezing in early winter and stay there until spring.

Second, the Chesapeake Bay is located along what’s called the Atlantic Flyway, a flight path taken by ducks and geese to their winter homes. Every year the bay hosts a third of all migratory waterfowl wintering on the East Coast.

Old-time sportsmen hoping to exploit this duck hunter’s paradise built a retriever well suited to the bay’s frigid waters. The thick, oily double coat of the Chessie is both insulating and waterproof; it repels moisture much the way a duck’s feathers do. His broad chest acts a plow against the ice floes. And powerful hindquarters and large webbed feet enable him to swim tirelessly against the slashing winds that whip across the bay. Ideally equipped to perform their primary function, it has been reported that some Chessies are capable of retrieving 300 ducks in a single day. Whether this is true or simply the fireside boasting of hunters, it does convey an essential truth: The Chessie is a reliable, indefatigable retriever.
Happily, the Chessie isn’t a one-trick dog. These perceptive and sensitive souls make excellent therapy workers. Their sturdy build and acute scenting ability are highly valued by K-9 handlers in the fields of search-and-rescue work and drug- and bomb-detection. And their dashing good looks and athleticism are employed to great advantage in show rings and in a variety of dog sports.

Did You Know?

The Chesapeake Bay Retriever originated in the United States.
The Chesapeake Bay Retriever can be brown, sedge or deadgrass in color.
The parent club, the American Chesapeake Club, was founded in 1918.
The Chessie is known for its prowess in rough, icy water.
The breed is active in all areas of AKC competition.
The original dogs sparking the Chesapeake breed were "Sailor" and "Canton", Newfoundlands rescued from the wrecked American canton.

The Breed Standard

GENERAL APPEARANCE

The breed’s characteristics are specifically suited to enable the Chesapeake to function with ease, efficiency and endurance. In head, the Chesapeake’s skull is broad and round with a medium stop. The jaws should be of sufficient length and strength to carry large game birds with an easy, tender hold. The double coat consists of a short, harsh, wavy outer coat and a dense, fine, wooly undercoat containing an abundance of natural oil and is ideally suited for the icy rugged conditions of weather the Chesapeake often works in. In body, the Chesapeake is a strong, well-balanced, powerfully built animal of moderate size and medium length in body and leg, deep and wide in chest, the shoulders built with full liberty of movement, and with no tendency to weakness in any feature, particularly the rear.

HEAD

The Chesapeake Bay Retriever should have an intelligent expression. Eyes are to be medium large, very clear, of yellowish or amber color and wide apart. Ears are to be small, set well up on the head, hanging loosely, and of medium leather. Skull is broad and round with a medium stop. Nose is medium short. Muzzle is approximately the same length as the skull, tapered, pointed but not sharp. Lips are thin, not pendulous. Bite-Scissors is preferred, but a level bite is acceptable. Disqualifications: Either undershot or overshot bites are to be disqualified.

BODY

Neck should be of medium length with a strong muscular appearance, tapering to the shoulders. Topline should show the hindquarters to be as high as or a trifle higher than the shoulders. Back should be short, well coupled and powerful. Chest should be strong, deep and wide. Rib cage barrel round and deep. Body is of medium length, neither cobby nor roached, but rather approaching hollowness from underneath as the flanks should be well tucked up. Tail of medium length; medium heavy at the base. The tail should be straight or slightly curved and should not curl over back or side kink.

FOREQUARTERS

There should be no tendency to weakness in the forequarters. Shoulders should be sloping with full liberty of action, plenty of power and without any restrictions of movement. Legs should be medium in length and straight, showing good bone and muscle. Pasterns slightly bent and of medium length. The front legs should appear straight when viewed from front or rear. Dewclaws on the forelegs may be removed. Well webbed hare feet should be of good size with toes well-rounded and close.

COAT

Coat should be thick and short, nowhere over 1½ inches long, with a dense fine wooly undercoat. Hair on the face and legs should be very short and straight with a tendency to wave on the shoulders, neck, back and loins only. Moderate feathering on rear of hindquarters and tail is permissible. The texture of the Chesapeake’s coat is very important, as the Chesapeake is used for hunting under all sorts of adverse weather conditions, often working in ice and snow. The oil in the harsh outer coat and wooly undercoat is of extreme value in preventing the cold water from reaching the Chesapeake’s skin and aids in quick drying. A Chesapeake’s coat should resist the water in the same way that a duck’s feathers do. When the Chesapeake leaves the water and shakes, the coat should not hold water at all, being merely moist. Disqualifications: A coat that is curly or has a tendency to curl all over the body must be disqualified. Feathering on the tail or legs over 1¾ inches long must be disqualified.

HINDQUARTERS

Good hindquarters are essential. They should show fully as much power as the forequarters. There should be no tendency to weakness in the hindquarters. Hindquarters should be especially powerful to supply the driving power for swimming. Legs should be medium length and straight, showing good bone and muscle. Stifles should be well angulated. The distance from hock to ground should be of medium length. The hind legs should look straight when viewed from the front or rear. Dewclaws, if any, must be removed from the hind legs. Disqualifications: Dewclaws on the hind legs are a disqualification.

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Chesapeake Bay Retriever

Colors & Markings

Colors

Description Standard Colors Registration Code
BROWN Check Mark For Standard Color 061
DARK BROWN Check Mark For Standard Color 078
DARK DEADGRASS Check Mark For Standard Color 079
DEADGRASS Check Mark For Standard Color 081
LIGHT BROWN Check Mark For Standard Color 117
LIGHT DEADGRASS Check Mark For Standard Color 118
SEDGE Check Mark For Standard Color 175
TAN Check Mark For Standard Color 195

Markings

Description Standard Markings Registration Code
WHITE MARKINGS 014