Chesapeake Bay Retriever

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Chesapeake Bay Retrievers: Saved by a Shipwreck

Chesapeake Bay Retriever
Chesapeake Bay Retriever

It’s rare that a shipwreck is fortuitous – and it probably wasn’t for everyone the day a cargo ship floundered off the coast of Maryland – but for two dogs who managed to be rescued, it was the start of something big. Sailor and Canton, the two rescued dogs, played an important role in the development of what would become the Chesapeake Bay Retriever.

Melting Pot

The two dogs rescued from the sinking ship in 1807 were actually St. John’s Water Dogs. After being rescued, they went on to live in separate parts of the bay area and most likely never were bred together, despite being a male and female. However, they were recognized as quality dogs and were bred with other local retrievers, spaniels and hounds. The focus was on creating an exceptional water dog, preferring skill and ability over anything else.

Over the next 70 years, the dogs in the Chesapeake Bay area developed certain similarities and the three main groupings became known as Chesapeake Bay Ducking Dogs by 1877. By 1918, the dogs were narrowed down to one type, which became recognized by the American Kennel Club as the Chesapeake Bay Retriever. Since then, the breed has changes very little.

Made for Water

In the muddy, marshy waters of the Maryland bay, duck and goose hunters needed a dog that could happily plunge in and out of the often cold, muddy water multiple times a day, while also returning the birds to the hunter without any damage. These skills are what the Chesapeake Bay Retriever was bred for and what they have become renowned for ever since.

One of the reasons why the breed is able to perform so well is because of its coat. The thick, water-resistant coat protects the dog, allowing him to wade and swim through water for hours on end, without becoming troubled by the temperature and the dampness. The Chesapeake has a thick double coat that provides insulation against the cold, while the oily outer coat and wooly under coat help to repel water from reaching the skin. It tends to be slightly wavy on the neck, back and shoulders, but is never more than 1.5 inches long.

As makes sense, the Chesapeake’s coloring is suited to its environment, providing natural camouflage. Thus, typical colors for the breed are brown, deadgrass, and sedge. The Chesapeake’s eyes are a complementary yellow or amber color.

The Chesapeake Bay Retriever is strong and agile in order to face the harsh conditions. Not only does he have to work on both land and water, but he may even have to break ice in order to retrieve. Thus, his chest is wide and deep and his ribs barrel shaped. His jaws are equally important, being long enough and strong enough to carry retrieved birds while soft enough not to damage them.

Happy Smile

The Chesapeake Bay Retriever is sometimes said to smile, showing his front teeth as a sign of happiness or submission. This fits well with the breed’s overall temperament, which is one of happy intelligence, affection, and protection. The Chesapeake makes an excellent pet for an active family, happy to play and spend time with those in his circle, while always keeping a protective eye on them. This is a breed that loves to work, so it is important that you can provide him with enough mental and physical exercise each day. Without it, as with any dog, he may become destructive and temperamental. The Chesapeake can be quite stubborn, so it is important to follow through with consistent obedience training.

Even if hunting isn’t your passion, you can still explore a number of other activities with a Chesapeake Bay Retriever. They do well with many competitions, particularly those that include jumping and retrieving. The Splash Dog events that include dock jumping may be an excellent way to keep your Chesapeake active and happy. No matter what type of sporting activity you do with your Chesapeake, you’ll be sure to create a solid, long-lasting bond with your dog.

  • The Chesapeake Bay Retriever is often called a Chessie.
  • Besides hunting, the Chesapeake has also worked with military and law enforcement, as well as serving as therapy dogs and assistance dogs for the handicapped.
  • A Chesapeake named Glory used to help her farmer owners find eggs that the hens had laid and hidden.
  • The Chessie was named the official state dog of Maryland in 1964, and is the mascot of the University of Maryland.
  • General Custer and President Theodore Roosevelt both had Chesapeake Bay Retrievers.
 
 
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