The Chesapeake Bay Retriever is a breed of dog that was developed in the United States, specifically around the Chesapeake Bay area during the 19th century. The breed has a unique history; it's believed to have originated from two puppies that were rescued from a shipwrecked vessel off the coast of Maryland in 1807. These puppies, named Sailor and Canton, were described as Newfoundland dogs, though some believe they might have been lesser Newfoundland or St. John's water dogs. These dogs were noted for their excellent retrieving abilities and were subsequently bred with local dogs, which possibly included English Otter Hounds, Flat-Coated Retrievers, and Curly-Coated Retrievers, resulting in the breed we know today as the Chesapeake Bay Retriever.
Chesapeake Bay Retrievers can suffer from degenerative myelopathy and progressive rod-cone degeneration. Genetic testing for these and other conditions such as skin fragility syndrome, exercise-induced collapse, chondrodystrophy and intervertebral disc disease (CDDY and IVDD risk) with or without chondrodysplasia (CDPA) can assist veterinarians with diagnosis and proactive care, as well as help breeders identify affected and carrier dogs.
Chesapeake Bay Retrievers are known for their intelligence, loyalty, and protective nature. They are excellent family dogs, known to be affectionate with their families but can be reserved towards strangers. The breed is also known for its versatility and is often used as a hunting dog, search and rescue dog, and a companion dog. Chesapeakes have a reputation for being hardy, tough dogs with an excellent work ethic. They love water and are excellent swimmers, which is a characteristic of their retriever heritage. They require plenty of regular mental and physical exercise to keep them happy and healthy.
They are known for their skill navigating through the rough, icy waters of the Chesapeake Bay in winter. Chessies have powerful hindquarters and webbed feet that contribute to their strong swimming capabilities.
According to the AKC, some Chessies have the ability to retrieve 300 ducks in a single day of hunting.
These dogs are also highly valued as therapy dogs and by K-9 handlers for tasks such as search-and-rescue work.