A brown Chesapeake Bay retriever standing in a grassy field.

Every dog breed came from somewhere. Most of the breeds we’ve discussed here originated in Europe before ending up as beloved American dogs. But the Chesapeake Bay retriever? American through and through.

The Chesapeake Bay retriever was truly “made in America.” According to an account posted by the American Chesapeake Club, a man named George Law rescued two pups from a ship that was sinking in the, you guessed it, Chesapeake Bay of Maryland in 1807. The pups were unrelated but of Newfoundland descent.

The dogs, a black female and a “dingy red” male, proved to be great water dogs with natural duck hunting instincts. They were sold off to separate parties but their offspring became the bones of the breed as we know them today. The breed was named the official dog of Maryland in 1964 but was “established” as a breed in 1884, when the American Kennel Club was founded.

Today, the Chessie is one of our favorite hunting and outdoor sport dogs, but they also make good family pets due to their calm temper and willingness to train. They’re solid dogs, weighing up to 80 pounds while reaching more than two feet tall at the shoulder. When they lean on you for scritchies, you know it!

Possibly the most unique thing about the Chessie is their waterproof coats. Bred to hunt ducks and other waterfowl on the Chesapeake Bay, the dogs needed to be able to withstand fearsome weather and frigid water. The inner layer of their double coat is thick enough to prevent water from getting to the skin, and the short outer coat prevents snags from reeds or burrs. Both coats produce a natural oil that repels water. Chessies also have webbed feet for maximum efficiency when swimming after downed prey.

Though they’re most famous for their red, rusty color, Chesapeake Bay retrievers can also be chocolatey brown or a tan/straw color known as dead grass.

Smart, Stubborn and Protective

Chessies take training easy, but that doesn’t mean they’re simple dogs to have around the house. They have minds (and noses) of their own and often decide to do what they want to do, especially if they catch a scent. Otherwise, they’re perfect dogs for active owners who love the great outdoors. Their heightened senses make for diligent guard dogs, and they are inherently protective of their people, much to the detriment of strangers at times.

Those senses also come in handy when it comes to working dogs. Chessies have been known to make comforting therapy dogs and scent hounds who can hold all manner of positions, from disease sensing to search and rescue.


A fact sheet listing three facts about Chesapeake Bay retrievers.

RELATED POST: Behind the Breed: Australian Shepherd


The information in this blog has been developed with our veterinarian and is designed to help educate pet parents. If you have questions or concerns about your pet's health or nutrition, please talk with your veterinarian.