Meet the Chesapeake Bay Retriever: State Dog of Maryland

August 13, 2010
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The Chesapeake Bay Retriever is easy to recognize due to its coat. They have a waterproof double-coat that is wavy but not curly, slightly oily to the touch but not greasy, and musky smelling but not dirty. “Chessies,” as they are often called, also have very clear, bright eyes that are the color of amber or yellowish. This breed was used to hunt fowl on water and land and are able to swim in rough and icy water.

Brief History

The chessie history was well documented and can be traced back to 1807 when an English brig shipwrecked off the coast of Maryland. There were two Newfoundlands that were rescued and later bred with the retrievers in Maryland. The Chesapeake Bay Retriever was developed shortly after.

In 1885, the AKC recognized the breed and in 1964 was declared the official state dog of Maryland.


Aside from their distinctive coat and captivating eyes, the chessies also have a body that is made for hunting. Their hindquarters are as high or sometimes a tiny bit higher than their shoulders and the head is round and broad with thin lips and ears that are medium length. Their front legs are straight and have a dense look to them due to their bone density. The chessies all have webbed toes which help make them excellent swimmers.

They do not require much maintenance other than regular brushing. Bathing them can take away some of the natural oils of their coat and dry out their skin and should only be a few times a year.


The personality of the Chesapeake Bay Retriever is often described as happy, bright, and affectionate but like all dogs they need lots of socialization to ensure they do not become overly protective of their family or fearful of strangers. They are known to be intelligent and easy to train but they may also be strong willed and resistant to certain methods or become bored. Finding what motivates a chessie to learn is key and often training sessions should begin and end with some play time.

They make great family pets and can be taught commands and tricks pretty easily once you recognize what works best. Chessies are loyal to their family, like to be included in many activities, and can be sensitive to their owners changes of mood. Chessies are sometimes used as therapy dog and often thrive as a “working” dog.

If you’re looking for a dog that may enjoy playing on the beach and running through the water catching a frisbee, or want a dog that you can teach to do an agility course, a Chesapeake Bay Retriever may be the one for you. If you would like to adopt a Chessie, the Chesapeake Bay Retriever Relief and Rescue Organization has several beautiful dogs available.


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