I Really Want a Chesapeake Bay Retriever?
Why do you want a Chesapeake Bay Retriever? Hopefully it's not
because your neighbor has this really neat Golden Retriever and so you'd like to get one
of those retriever dogs too. That's the first thing we need to clear up now.
Chesapeake Bay retrievers are not related to Goldens or Labradors -
and because of this very basic genetic difference, you cannot compare Chessies to these
breeds. Chesapeakes are unique, intensely loyal, protective, sensitive, and serious dogs -
traits that require thoughtful consideration before adopting a dog.
Unique: Chesapeake Bay Retrievers are the result of
crosses with Newfoundlands, hounds, setters, water spaniels and other dogs and were first
recognized as a distinct breed in America in the middle of the 19th century. They were
ducking dogs used by market hunters for retrieving waterfowl and protecting the day's
catch. These early objectives in breeding and selecting for outstanding ducking dogs has
endured in today's Chessies - they are still remarkably tough working dogs and loyal,
Intensely Loyal: Today's Chessie enthusiasts like
to describe this breed as a truly all-around dog. The reason this can be is that Chessies
are intensely bonded to their family - anything you consider fun they will try and work at
liking it too. As Nancy Lowenthal has written, "they make exceptionally good, quiet
housedogs because they want nothing better than being with their owners." My dog, who
loves water, will still hike to a water-less mountain summit with us and smile for the
camera. Chessies are field champions, show champions, obedience champions, tracking dogs,
therapy dogs - all because their owners thought to ask. Older Chesapeakes can bond very
firmly with new owners; particularly if they have never had much attention. Consequently,
Chessies need to be part of the family. Dogs always kenneled outside or tied up in the
backyard are miserable. Chessies will not thrive, bond or work well under these
conditions. A Chessie would much rather be crated inside the house. Another result of the
Chessie loyalty is that they are indifferent to other people and dogs - very different
from Goldens and Labradors.
Protective: Chesapeakes are protective by nature.
They feel a strong sense of responsibility to protect their owner's property - the yard,
the house, the car, the children, the cats, the houseguests. Our dog even claims any
isolated mountain summit we've climbed - she's very inhospitable (at first) to new hikers
that join us - her form of "planting the flag!" As long as dog can be controlled
this is not unacceptable behavior. Chessies must never be encouraged to become aggressive.
Sensitive: Because Chessies can be intensely loyal
and bonded to their owners, they can be quite sensitive to their owners and members of his
family. Once bonded to an owner and taught to respect that owner, a Chesapeake can be
disciplined with a look or a low, sharp word. Over disciplining a Chessie can result in the
dog "shutting down." These big dogs require obedience training and must be kept
under control - you must work with your CBR in a constant, steady manner to achieve a good
working relationship. Chessies oftentimes do not work with enthusiasm for trainers other
than their owners - this is where they get their "stubborn" reputation.
Serious: Chesapeakes were bred to work hard and the
modern dogs still thrive on work. Anyone who owns one should be able to devote at least 20
minutes a day either working, training, retrieving or playing with them. Chesapeakes that
are not worked - both physically and mentally - are prone to mischief and will not
"think." Because of their love of water, 20 minutes of water retrieves is
usually much more intense work than an hour walking around the neighborhood nicely on the
leash. These active, intelligent dogs need jobs and responsibilities - it is best if you
designate what these jobs are - you might not agree with what your Chessie decides is
We recommend that you read all that you can in print and on the
internet about the Chesapeake Bay Retriever. One book we recommend is the recently
published book edited by Janet Horn and Dr. Daniel Horn, The New
Complete Chesapeake Bay Retriever, Howell Book House, New York, 1994.
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