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Chesapeake Bay Retrievers: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

By: Lizz Caputo

Bred for their strength and resilience, Chesapeake Bay Retrievers are their happiest – and best behaved – with daily exercise and mental stimulation. Let's dive into this water-loving breed.

Chesapeake Bay Retriever puppy sitting in front of home


As the name suggests, Chesapeake Bay Retrievers originate from Maryland's Chesapeake Bay. According to the American Kennel Club, two shipwrecked Water Dogs named Sailor and Canton were rescued alongside the crew, taken to Baltimore, and bred separately. Thanks to Sailor and Canton, we now have the Chesapeake Bay Retriever, one of the world's best duck-hunting dogs.

Chesapeake Bay Retriever Looking at Camera


Affectionately called "Chessies," Chesapeake Bay Retrievers are known for their brown, water-resistant fur coat. Their golden eyes are beloved by breed enthusiasts, ranging from a deep amber to a light yellow hue.

Wavy and wiry in appearance, the coat allows the dogs to brave icy waters for extended periods. Meanwhile, their webbed feet propel them quickly and efficiently through the water.

Side note: how crazy that dogs evolved to have feet like frogs due to their affinity for the water. Nature is amazing!

How big do Chesapeake Bay Retrievers get?

You can expect your Chessie to reach anywhere from 21 to 24 inches (female) to 23 to 26 inches (male). Depending on age and gender, they can weigh between 55 to 80 pounds.

Chesapeake Retriever breed size comparison

Similar breeds

The Chesapeake Bay Retriever is similar to the Curly-Haired Retriever in appearance and temperament. Though the Curly Haired Retriever is slightly larger than Chessies and has a somewhat warmer demeanor, the breeds both have brown curly fur and are intelligent, protective, and athletic.

You can also consider the beloved Labrador Retriever. They are both hunting/retriever breeds that originated from Newfoundland and were used to retrieve birds or other prey from water or land. They also share that iconic, water-resistant coat that can be black, brown, or yellow. However, the Chesapeake has a thicker and more oily coat than the Labrador.

If you're looking for a more sociable, easy-going version of the Chessie, give the Golden Retriever a try! While they are both loyal, loving dogs that make great family pets with similar physiques, the Golden is known for being much more outgoing and laid-back.


Whether a coveted chew toy or a close family member, Chessies don't like to share. You're there for life once you've made it to a Chessie's inner circle. These dogs are fierce loyalists who typically only build strong and loving bonds with a handful of humans.

These intelligent and independent dogs can be receptive to training but require patience and stability. Chessies are typically a powerful breed, making it essential to establish a training routine as early as possible. The breed is known to be competitive, which may lead to conflict with other dogs if left unchecked.

But if you ask most owners, stimulation is the key to unlocking the sweet nature of these athletes. The more exercise and play your Chessie gets, the more trainable and well-natured they become.

figo-breed-guide-Chesapeake Bay Retriever-superlative

Are Chesapeake Bay Retrievers hypoallergenic?

Chesapeake Bay Retrievers have two fur coats and are not hypoallergenic. The breed sheds twice yearly – once in the fall and once in the spring - like clockwork!

Beyond shedding, Chessies require minimal grooming beyond a weekly brushing routine. Owners should only bathe their Chesapeake Bay Retriever once every two to three months, as soaps can break down the oils that make their fur water-resistant.

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If you'd like to learn more about hypoallergenic dogs, check out our guide to hypoallergenic breeds.

Illness/health concerns

Chesapeake Bay Retrievers are generally healthy dogs. However, they may be genetically predisposed to specific health conditions.

Their naturally muscular and narrow chests increase the risk of gastric dilation-volvulus syndrome (GDV), in which the dog's stomach bloats and twists, restricting proper digestion and blood flow. The condition is often fatal but can be resolved through immediate surgical intervention.

As they age, Chessies can also develop hip dysplasia and eye conditions such as cataracts and Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA).

Regular vet check-ups will allow you to stay on top of your Chessie's health needs.

Chesapeake Bay Retriever Name ideas

Life expectancy

Expect these curly-coated companions to live between 11 and 13 years.

Expected lifetime cost

Becoming a parent to a beautiful Chesapeake Bay Retriever can cost you approximately $23k over their lifetime.

Estimated cost to insure

You can expect insurance for a Chesapeake Bay Retriever to cost anywhere between $40 and $80 a month.

The good, the bad, the ugly

Like any dog breed, Chesapeake Bay Retrievers have pros and cons. The trick is to make sure that their traits - good, bad, and ugly - are compatible with your lifestyle and pack. So, here are a few key characteristics of our favorite curly-haired pups.

  • Ride or die: When you bring a Chesapeake Baye Retriever home, you get a committed companion for life. When this breed loves, they love hard.

  • Vigilantes: Chesapeake Bay Retrievers are protectors and don't always take kindly to perceived threats to their owners or belongings. So, if you're looking for a dog that will bow down to strangers, another retriever may be better suited for your preferences.

  • Natural Born Swimmers: This breed instinctively loves the water and can be trained to do a variety of water-inclusive sports and activities. They're excellent companions for those with active lifestyles and a love for the outdoors. These dogs thrive when a job needs to be done – particularly if there's swimming involved.

  • Teacher's Pet: Chesapeake Bay Retrievers are obedient companions at heart, which is why they are easily trainable, even if it takes them a bit of repetition to learn. It's not for lack of enthusiasm, which they seem to have no limit of.

Breed traits chesapeake bay retriever

So, you want a Chesapeake Bay Retriever...

True to the retriever family, Chessies have energy and love to spare. However, the Chesapeake Bay Retriever distinguishes itself from its fellow retrievers through an unrivaled work ethic, incredible strength, and protective temperament. So, if you're looking for a retriever that breaks the everyday mold, a Chesapeake Bay Retriever could be the right dog.

Chesapeake Bay Retriever looking soulfully at camera outside

Figo writer Lizz Caputo


Lizz Caputo

Manager of Content Strategy at Figo

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