Chesapeake Bay Retriever Breed Info Guide: Quirks, Pictures, Personality & Facts

Written by: Dr. Katy Nelson

October 7, 2019

Welcome to the BarkPost guide to dog breeds where we belly flop straight into the depths of dog breed origin, evolution, and purpose. Follow along each week as we publish new guides that highlight the strangest, most interesting, and most surprising stuff about these creatures who have been our best buds the last 30,000 years.  

Intro / Overview

(All dogs are individuals, which means any single dog from any breed can be any number of ways, both good and not so good. Keep that in mind as we discuss breed generalities!)

The loyal Chesapeake Bay Retriever is one of America’s oldest dog breeds and is obviously part of the Retriever family. Dating back to the 1800s in the Chesapeake Bay region of America, this dog is one of the original hunting dogs. He’s smart, affectionate, and wants to chase and catch things to bring you. These dogs love to swim and will happily splash around in a lake with you if that’s something you’re into. They may be a less common Retriever than their cousins the Golden or the Labrador, but they’re just as smart, earnest, and kind.

Also Known As…

Chessies. CBR. Chesapeake. “The most chocolate-y smooth of the Retriever breeds.”


The Chesapeake Bay Retriever naturally has ties to the Chesapeake Bay in the United States. It was one of the first dog breeds in America and is assumed to be a mix of Newfoundlands, Irish Water Spaniels, and hounds. The Chesapeake Bay Retriever was bred to be the perfect dog for everything the bay entails.

Chessies have a waterproof double coat that is perfect for how cold the water in the bay gets. They also have incredibly strong back legs and webbed feet designed to cut through the water and catch all the ducks.


Male Chessies usually range from 23-26 inches in height and females are a bit smaller at 21-24 inches.

Weight Range

Male Chessies can weight from 65 pounds up to 80 pounds and females are a little smaller at 55 to 70 pounds.


Chesapeake Bay Retrievers love to work. They’re incredibly smart dogs that were designed to hunt, so they love to do just that. They can, however, be very stubborn! These dogs need a heavy hand when it comes to training, because of their ability to be stubborn, so keep that in mind if you’re considering getting one.

On the other hand, though, Chessies are kind and loving dogs that are eager to please. They’re bright and fun and love to be active.

Intelligence / Trainability

These dogs are very, very smart but absolutely need trained. You should have your Chesapeake Bay Retriever in puppy classes right away to start on socialization and learning how to obey commands. Due to the fact that they can be stubborn, you’ll want to avoid ever letting things slip in their behavior. If you let them slip once, they’ll continue to try to get their way.

Best Training Techniques For Chesapeake Bay Retrievers

Chessies will respond to training with treats, but you have to be firm with them. Don’t let them stray from the training, because if you give them an inch, they’ll take a mile. They need puppy classes from early on in life to learn how to listen to commands and do what they’re told. They’re keen to protect and serve, but you have to keep on them throughout their lives and make sure they continue to listen.

Ideal Environment

The Chesapeake Bay Retriever is very active and loves to swim. These are the type of dog that does best in a large space, like a home with a yard and maybe even a pond or lake. Because these dogs were bred to be in the Chesapeake Bay and catch ducks, that is what they’re prone to do, so if you can provide them a space and a body of water, they’ll be very happy.

Good For Families And Kids?

In general, the Chesapeake Bay Retriever does fine with people, including children. They might get annoyed with a child and walk away, but they tend to be pretty docile. However, because the Chessie is a hunting dog who is very protective, they can misinterpret playtime with a small child. It’s always a good idea to supervise any time your dog spends with little ones, just in case something goes awry.

Average Lifespan

Chesapeake Bay Retrievers usually live between 10 and 13 years.


Hip dysplasia is the most common health concern Chessies experience. It is a health issue that’s highly likely in large-breed dogs, and the Chessie is no different. It’s a condition that happens with the dog’s hip ball and socket don’t fit properly, causing the joint to grind and deteriorate.

Hip dysplasia can happen any time in a dog’s life, so what you need to look out for is decreased activity level, stiffness, and difficulty jumping. Any of these can be a sign that something is wrong and it’s important to discuss it with your vet.


Chessies love to play. They have a lot of energy to expend, so you need to make sure you give them ample time outside to run around a bit. They will do fine with a daily brisk walk, but they thrive in open spaces where they can really run. Once they’ve run around a bit for the day, they’ll be happy to snuggle with you on the couch.

Friendly With…(Dogs? Strangers? Cats/Other Pets?)

Chesapeake Bay Retrievers don’t ordinarily have issues with other dogs, especially if they’re well-socialized. They can easily get along with other dogs in the house if they are raised with them.

As for strangers, Chessies will likely be welcoming toward them, but they can be protective if they view the person as a thread. As ever, training and socialization go a long way toward mitigating this sort of thing.

As for other pets, Chessies usually do fine if they’ve been raised together. If we’re talking about introducing a new pet to the family…there are definitely strategies you’ll want to employ. In the meantime, keep an extra close eye on interactions between dogs and other animals unfamiliar with one another (and maybe even when they’re familiar!).

Coat & Grooming

Chessies have a double coat, ideal for swimming in cold water. That being said, they don’t require a whole lot of grooming. They do well with a weekly brushing to remove any excess hair and a regular nail trim and teeth brushing. Otherwise, these guys are good to go.

Toys Chesapeake Bay Retrievers Would Like Best

  • Super Chewer Toys: Chessies are big dogs that are very tenacious, so let them loose with a tough toy that they can really chew on!
  • Plush Toys: After a long day of playing outside, let your Chesapeake Bay Retriever snuggle up on the couch with you and a plush toy. They’ll love it.
  • Fetch Toys: A Chessie loves to chase things, so anything you can play fetch with is something they’ll love.

Recommended Diet Or Supplements

There’s no special diet you need to follow with your Chesapeake Bay Retriever. It’s always a good idea to feed your dog high-quality dog food and avoid table scraps. You don’t want to overfeed your dog food or treats as it can cause an unhealthy weight gain, but because these dogs are fairly active, they should be able to manage keeping their own weight in check.

If you run into any health issues with your Chessie, you and your vet might decide on a different feeding regimen or a supplement that they might need. Any large-breed dog could probably benefit from a joint supplement since they’re prone to issues, so ask your vet if that’s something you need for your Chessie.

Glucosamine Supplement For Hip & Joints

Bark Hip + Joint soft chews are veterinarian-formulated in the USA with powerful ingredients like glucosamine, MSM, chondroitin, and hyaluronic acid to keep your dog’s joints strong, flexible, and pain-free. ($32.99.)

Recommended Products

For Chessies with joint or hip issues – or any dog who just loves to lie around! – a nice comfortable bed with orthopedic support is probably a good idea.

Orthopedic Ultra Plush Memory Foam Dog Bed

Whether or not your Chesapeake Bay Retriever ends up with hip dysplasia, they’re sure to love an orthopedic bed made from memory foam and gel foam. It’ll give them a comfy place to rest in the house between all their swimming sessions. ($64.99.)

Notable Rescues to Find The Chesapeake Bay Retriever Of Your Dreams

Notable Instagram Chesapeake Bay Retrievers

Cooter @cooter_the_goon

Dax and Ava @my2chessies

Boatie @mainelyboatie

Emmy @yelloweyedemmy

***Looking for a gift to blow your Chessie’s mind? Spoil them with BarkBox! Every month BarkBox delivers 2 original toys, designed in-house, 2 full bags of all-natural treats, and a chew. Sign up here and receive a free extra toy every month. <– This deal is worth up to $120 in value if you sign up for a 12-month subscription!

Large dog with BarkBox

Featured image via Cooter_The_Goon/Instagram

Want More Breed Guides Like This?

Labrador Retriever Breed Information Guide

Golden Retriever Breed Information Guide

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Written by: Dr. Katy Nelson

October 7, 2019


A themed collection of BARK-designed toys, treats, and chews.


A themed collection of BARK-designed toys, treats, and chews.