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Chesapeake Bay Retriever

Chesapeake-Bay-Retriever

 

Chesapeake Bay Retriever

• History

The Chesapeake Bay Retriever is one of the few breeds that can claim to be born in the USA. The breed is thought to descend from two Newfoundland dogs named Sailor and Canton who were traveling aboard a ship bound for England in 1807. The ship ran aground, but the crew and the two dogs Sailor, a dingy red male, and Canton, a black female, were rescued. Sailor found a home with John Mercer of West River and Canton with Dr. James Stewart of Sparrow’s Point.

Both dogs gained a reputation as excellent water dogs, especially when it came to duck hunting, and their puppies inherited their abilities — and their unusual yellowish or amber-colored eyes. There was no recorded mating of the two dogs, but seventy years later, when strains from both the eastern and western shores of Maryland met at the Poultry & Fanciers Association show in Baltimore in 1877, their similarities were sufficient that they were recognized as one breed, “The Chesapeake Bay Ducking Dog.” Records show that the offspring of Canton and Sailor were intermingled at the Carroll Island Kennels and spread from there throughout the region.

By the time the American Kennel Club was established in 1884, a definite Chesapeake variety had been developed and was well known for its prowess in the rough, icy waters of the Chesapeake Bay. The American Chesapeake Club was formed in 1918. The American Chesapeake Club held the first licensed retriever trial in 1932. Fittingly, the front door of the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum in St. Michael’s, Maryland, is guarded by a pair of cast-iron statues of Chessies.

• Size

Males stand 23 to 26 inches at the shoulder and weigh 65 to 80 pounds; females 21 to 24 inches and 55 to 70 pounds.

• Personality

A proper Chessie has a bright and happy disposition combined with courage, intelligence, a strong work ethic, and an alert nature that makes him an excellent watchdog. He’s strongminded, though — read: stubborn — and requires firm, consistent training by all the adults in the household. You can’t let him do something “just this once,” or you’ll spend days or weeks retraining him. If you’re providing the right leadership, a sharp look or verbal reprimand is enough to rein in bad behavior; more severe punishment is overkill and will only cause him to become sulky and unresponsive.

The Chessie can have a goofy sense of humor, but the entertainment value can be offset by his sometimes obsessive stubbornness. Once he gets an idea into his head, it can be hard to remove. And when he wants something, he will be persistent in going after it. That’s great if you have him retrieving ducks, not so great if he’s bugging you for something else, like a kid in the grocery store who wants candy.

Temperament doesn’t occur in a vacuum. It’s affected by a number of factors, including heredity, training, and socialization. Puppies with nice temperaments are curious and playful, willing to approach people and be held by them. Choose the middle-of-the-road puppy, not the one who’s beating up his littermates or the one who’s hiding in the corner. Always meet at least one of the parents — usually the mother is the one who’s available — to ensure that they have nice temperaments that you’re comfortable with. Meeting siblings or other relatives of the parents is also helpful for evaluating what a puppy will be like when he grows up.

Socialization helps ensure that your Chessie puppy grows up to be a well-rounded dog. Enrolling him in a puppy kindergarten class is a great start. Inviting visitors over regularly, and taking him to busy parks, stores that allow dogs, and on leisurely strolls to meet neighbors will also help him polish his social skills.

• Health

Chessies are generally healthy, but like all breeds of dogs, they’re prone to certain diseases and conditions. Not all Chessies will get any or all of these diseases, but it’s important to be aware of them if you’re buying or living with a Chessie.

Hip Dysplasia: This is a heritable condition in which the thighbone doesn’t fit snugly into the hip joint. Some dogs show pain and lameness on one or both rear legs, but you may not notice any signs of discomfort in a dog with hip dysplasia. As the dog ages, arthritis can develop. X-ray screening for hip dysplasia is done by the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals or the University of Pennsylvania Hip Improvement Program (PennHIP). Dogs with hip dysplasia should not be bred. If you’re buying a puppy, ask the breeder for proof that the parents have been tested for hip dysplasia and are free of problems. Hip dysplasia is hereditary, but it can also be triggered by environmental factors, such as rapid growth from a high-calorie diet or injuries incurred from jumping or falling on slick floors.

◦Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA): This is a degenerative eye disorder that eventually causes blindness from the loss of photoreceptors at the back of the eye. PRA is detectable years before the dog shows any signs of blindness. Fortunately, dogs can use their other senses to compensate for blindness, and a blind dog can live a full and happy life. Just don’t make it a habit to move the furniture around. Reputable breeders have their dogs’ eyes certified annually by a veterinary ophthalmologist and do not breed dogs with this disease.

◦Von Willebrand’s Disease: This is a blood disorder that can be found in both humans and dogs. It affects the clotting process due to the reduction of von Willebrand factor in the blood. A dog affected by von Willebrand’s disease will have signs such as nose bleeds, bleeding gums, prolonged bleeding from surgery, and prolonged bleeding during heat cycles or after whelping. Occasionally blood is found in the stool. This disorder is usually diagnosed in your dog between the ages of 3 and 5 and cannot be cured. However, it can be managed with treatments that include cauterizing or suturing injuries, transfusions of the von Willebrand factor before surgery, and avoiding certain medications.

◦Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus (Bloat): Commonly called bloat, this is a life-threatening condition that affects large, deep-chested dogs, especially if they’re fed one large meal a day, eat rapidly, drink large amounts of water rapidly, or exercise vigorously after eating. Bloat occurs when the stomach is distended with gas or air and then twists. The dog is unable to belch or vomit to rid himself of the excess air in his stomach, and blood flow to the heart is impeded. Blood pressure drops and the dog goes into shock. Without immediate medical attention, the dog can die. Suspect bloat if your dog has a distended abdomen, is drooling excessively, and retching without throwing up. He also may be restless, depressed, lethargic, and weak with a rapid heart rate. If you notice these symptoms, get your dog to the vet as soon as possible.

◦Epilepsy: Chessies can suffer from epilepsy, a disorder that causes mild or severe seizures. Epilepsy can be hereditary; it can be triggered by such events as metabolic disorders, infectious diseases that affect the brain, tumors, exposure to poisons, or severe head injuries; or it can be of unknown cause (referred to as idiopathic epilepsy). Seizures may be exhibited by unusual behavior, such as running frantically as if being chased, staggering, or hiding. Seizures are frightening to watch, but the long-term prognosis for dogs with idiopathic epilepsy is generally very good. Epilepsy can be controlled with medication, but it cannot be cured. A dog can live a full and healthy life with the proper management of this disorder. If your Chessie has seizures, take him to the vet right away for a diagnosis and treatment recommendations.

◦Chondrodysplasia: This genetic disorder is commonly mislabeled as “dwarfism.” Dogs with the deformity have abnormally short limbs for the breed. It ranges in severity from “nearly normal” to severe crippling. In less severe cases, dogs have lived full and healthy lives but a dog that is diagnosed with chondrodysplasia or screened as a carrier should not be bred so as not to pass on the genes for the condition.

• Care

Chesapeake Bay Retrievers like a cool climate. They do best in a warm climate if they have frequent opportunities to swim. Chessies require a great deal of exercise to remain happy, and if they do they’re quiet housedogs who will be happy to relax with you while you watch TV. Give him a minimum of 20 minutes per day of intensive work, training, water retrieves, or play, or up to an hour of a more sedate walk. Chessies love to swim and do well if swimming can be included in their daily exercise regime. They are a country or suburban dog, not a city dog.

Puppies have special exercise needs. From 9 weeks to 4 months of age, puppy kindergarten once or twice a week is a great way for them to get exercise, training, and socialization, plus 15 to 20 minutes of playtime in the yard, morning and evening. Throw a ball for them to fetch or let them splash in a kiddie pool. From 4 to 6 months of age, weekly obedience classes and daily half-mile walks will meet their needs, plus playtime in the yard. Start teaching them how to swim in a pool or lake, weather permitting. From 6 months to a year of age, play fetch with a ball or Frisbee for up to 40 minutes during cool mornings or evenings, not in the heat of the day. Continue to limit walks to a half mile. After he’s a year old, your Chessie pup can begin to jog with you, but keep the distance to less than a mile and give him frequent breaks along the way. As he continues to mature, you can increase the distance and time you run. These graduated levels of exercise will protect his developing bones and joints.

Chessies work well with people, but they can be independent, with a mind of their own. Train them with kindness and consistency, using positive reinforcements that include food rewards and praise. The Chessie who’s treated harshly will simply become more stubborn and less willing to do your bidding. Your best bet is to keep training interesting and make him feel as if he has a choice in what he’s doing.

When your Chessie does something inappropriate such as countersurfing or lifting his leg in the house, you must let him know right then and there — loudly and firmly — that his behavior is unacceptable and not to ever be repeated. No exceptions!

• Feeding

Recommended daily amount: 2 to 2.5 cups of high-quality dry food a day, divided into two meals. NOTE: How much your adult dog eats depends on his size, age, build, metabolism, and activity level. Dogs are individuals, just like people, and they don’t all need the same amount of food. It almost goes without saying that a highly active dog will need more than a couch potato dog. The quality of dog food you buy also makes a difference — the better the dog food, the further it will go toward nourishing your dog and the less of it you’ll need to shake into your dog’s bowl. Puppies eat a lot, but err on the side of slenderness to protect their still developing joints. You should be able to feel but not see their ribs, and they should have a visible waist when you look down at them. A four-month-old puppy may eat two cups of adult food or large-breed puppy food twice a day, for a total of four cups. For more on feeding your Chessie, see our guidelines for buying the right food, feeding your puppy, and feeding your adult dog.

• Coat, Color and Grooming

As befits his purpose as a water retriever, the Chessie has a coat that resists water in the same way that a duck’s feathers do. The top coat is short, thick, harsh, and oily, and the undercoat is fine, dense, and woolly. Together, they provide super insulation, allowing him to hunt in all conditions, including ice and snow. The oily outercoat and woolly undercoat prevent cold water from reaching his skin and help him to dry quickly. After he leaves the water and shakes, his coat is merely moist because it doesn’t hold water.

The Chessie’s coat is meant to help him blend in to his surroundings — canine camouflage, as it were. He can be any shade of brown, sedge, or the dull tan or strawlike color known as deadgrass, a perfectly descriptive term.

Deadgrass has no red tones. Deadgrass can vary from almost yellow to tan. Sedge is an almost strawberry blonde coloration with definite reddish undertones on a relatively light-colored coat. Brown is darker and may have red undertones (light brown, brown and dark brown).

Occasionally the Chessie may have a white spot on the chest, belly, toes, or back of the feet immediately above the large pad.

Like most retriever breeds, Chessies shed heavily. Brush the coat weekly with a rubber curry brush to remove dead hair and distribute the skin oils throughout the coat. Regular brushing will help keep loose hair on the brush and off your clothes and furniture. Avoid using a wire slicker brush or coat rake, which can break down the wave and kink in the hair. Bathe a Chessie as little as possible to avoid stripping out the protective oils and destroying the coat’s water resistance. A warm bath or two during shedding season helps release dead hair, however, so the new coat can grow in.

• Children and other pets

In general, Chessies love kids but won’t put up with a lot of harassment, instead preferring to walk away. They can, however, be possessive of food and toys, which can make them a poor match for homes with young children. They are protective of children but can misinterpret their play with their friends and react inappropriately. Many breeders won’t sell Chessie puppies to families with children younger than 8 years of age. An adult Chessie who’s familiar with children is a better match for a family with young kids.

Always teach children how to approach and touch dogs, and always supervise any interactions between dogs and young children to prevent any biting or ear or tail pulling on the part of either party. Teach your child never to approach any dog while he’s eating or to try to take the dog’s food away. No dog should ever be left unsupervised with a child.

Chessies can be aggressive toward strange dogs, but should get along fine with other family dogs and cats if they’re raised with them.

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Chesapeake Bay Retriever

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