Chesapeake Bay Retriever Information

It was 1807 that a British ship was wrecked with two Newfoundland dogs on board, close to the Maryland coast. Thankfully, everyone on board was saved including these two Newfoundland dogs who were given to a dog loving family. Later the two were bred to local dogs which were a mix of Flat-Coated Retrievers, Otter-Hounds and curly Coated Retrievers. With careful breeding and selection over the years produced an outstanding enthusiastic, incredible, Retriever of great endurance and quite capable of. what they were used for – hunting waterfowl in icy and rough waters in the Chesapeake Bay.


The Chesapeake Bay Retriever is a muscular and powerful Retriever. He has a moderately wide head with a medium, but defined, stop; the muzzle is the same length as the back-skull which gradually tapers to a moderate blunt end; Eyes are wide-set and are amber to a yellowish colour; ears are moderately small but in proportion to the head and they hang loosely. His medium length tail is broad at the root tapering gradually to the end; His feet are webbed for swimming. His coat is quite short, oily and dense with waving. He comes in a coat with varying shades of red, sedge, brown or colours of dead grass.


Chesapeakes are a generally healthy breed. The breed standard for Chesapeakes requires a dog that is structurally sound and built for a hard day’s work. It suffers no exaggerations in shape or breed characteristics. However, as with all pedigree dogs and many non-pedigree dogs too, inherited diseases do occur. The problems listed below are not common, but have been reported in the breed. Tests and examinations can be done to reduce the risk of these problems occurring. The CBRC recommends that new puppy buyers check that the relevant tests have been carried out on both parents of any litter they consider looking at.
PRA (progressive retinal atrophy) is an inherited disorder that occurs in many breeds including Chesapeake Bay Retrievers. PRA causes cells in the retina at the back of the eye to degenerate and eventually leads to blindness. Early symptoms are failing eyesight at low light levels, hence the old term of ‘night blindness’.
Dogs that are affected with PRA will often not show symptoms until aged 8 or 9 years, which may be after they have been bred from. However, PRA can be avoided in future generations by genetically testing the dogs before breeding.
Responsible breeders will know the PRA status (clear, carrier or affected) of both parents of any litter they are planning. Dogs carrying the affected gene can still be bred from, but should only be bred to ‘clear’ dogs, to avoid producing affected offspring. Where both parents are clear, the offspring will all be clear.
There are many types of cataracts, and not all are hereditary. However, some types of cataract are hereditary and do occasionally occur in Chesapeakes. The pattern of inheritance is not known. It is recommended that dogs showing signs of hereditary cataracts are not bred from. Dogs being used for breeding should be checked annually for signs of hereditary cataracts.
If you are purchasing a puppy, check that both parents have had their eyes examined under the BVA/KC Eye Testing scheme within the past year. Breeders should have up-to-date certificates for both parents for you to view.
Degenerative myelopathy (DM) is a gradually progressive neurological disorder that affects Chesapeakes as well as many other breeds of dog. The first symptoms are usually a slight wobble in the rear legs, which progresses into a dragging of the rear feet. The hind legs become weaker until eventually the dog can no longer walk.
There is now a DNA-based test for one gene that has been associated with DM. The results of the test are described as either clear, carrier or at risk. Dogs are listed as ‘at risk’, rather than ‘affected’, as the test only identifies one of the genes responsible for DM. A dog identified as being at risk of developing the disease may well never have a problem with DM. At risk dogs can still be bred from, but the choice of mate should be carefully considered.
Hip dysplasia (HD) involves some degree of deformation of a dog’s hip joints. The disease has both a genetic and an environmental component. Some dogs will carry genes that will predispose a dog to hip dysplasia. However, the severity of the disease will also depend on environmental factors, such as the amount of exercise a dog receives, and whether it is overweight.
It is a complicated disease, affected by many factors, and the genes contributing to the condition have not been identified. Therefore the degree of hip malformation is assessed using x-rays. The x-rays of a dog’s hips are assessed by a panel of experts under the BVA/KC Scheme. The experts give the dog’s hips a score. A higher score indicates a greater degree of abnormality.
Elbow dysplasia (ED) describes the abnormal development of the elbow. The term includes a number of specific abnormalities, which affect different sites in the joint. Like hip dysplasia, it is a complex disease, probably involving a number of genes as well as being influenced by environmental factors.
The purpose of the BVA/KC Elbow Scheme is to reduce the incidence of the disease in dogs used for breeding. The degree of abnormality of the elbows is determined by x-rays of the elbow joints. Each elbow is graded on a scale of 0 to 3, by two specialists. The lower the grade, the better the anatomy of the elbow. In this scheme, if the dog has two different elbow grades, the higher of the two is used as the dog’s elbow grade.