Chesapeake Bay Retriever Standard

American Kennel Club

Developed along the Chesapeake Bay and named the state dog of Maryland, the Chesapeake Bay Retriever is a truly American sporting breed and the toughest water retriever. He is a strong, powerfully built medium-sized breed with yellowish or amber eyes and a distinctive coat - a short, harsh, wavy outercoat with a dense fine wooly undercoat. His color can be brown, sedge or deadgrass and must be as close to that of his working surroundings as possible.

A Look Back
In 1807, an English brig shipwrecked off the coast of Maryland and two Newfoundlands were rescued from the cargo. When bred to local retrievers, including the English Otter Hound, Flat-Coat and Curly-Coated Retriever, the "Chessie" type developed. Bred to work on land and water, the Chesapeake Bay Retriever originally hunted waterfowl in rough and icy waters, often retrieving several hundred birds per day.

Right Breed for You?
The Chesapeake is a happy and intelligent breed whose courage, working ability and love of water mesh best with active, outdoor-loving families. His coat is short, but owners must brush and maintain it regularly, as both the outercoat and undercoat contain oils for protection in harsh conditions.

If you are considering purchasing a Chesapeake Bay Retriever puppy, learn more here.

* Sporting Group; AKC recognized in 1878.
* Average size: 55 to 80 pounds and 21 to 26 inches tall at the shoulder.
* Water dog; Retriever.

© The American Kennel Club, Inc.
Chesapeake Bay Retriever Breed Standard
Sporting Group

General Appearance
Equally proficient on land and in the water, the Chesapeake Bay Retriever was developed along the Chesapeake Bay to hunt waterfowl under the most adverse weather and water conditions, often having to break ice during the course of many strenuous multiple retrieves. Frequently the Chesapeake must face wind, tide and long cold swims in its work. The breed's characteristics are specifically suited to enable the Chesapeake to function with ease, efficiency and endurance. In head, the Chesapeake's skull is broad and round with a medium stop. The jaws should be of sufficient length and strength to carry large game birds with an easy, tender hold. The double coat consists of a short, harsh, wavy outer coat and a dense, fine, wooly undercoat containing an abundance of natural oil and is ideally suited for the icy rugged conditions of weather the Chesapeake often works in. In body, the Chesapeake is a strong, well-balanced, powerfully built animal of moderate size and medium length in body and leg, deep and wide in chest, the shoulders built with full liberty of movement, and with no tendency to weakness in any feature, particularly the rear. The power though, should not be at the expense of agility or stamina. Size and substance should not be excessive as this is a working retriever of an active nature.

Distinctive features include eyes that are very clear, of yellowish or amber hue, hindquarters as high or a trifle higher than the shoulders, and a double coat which tends to wave on shoulders, neck, back and loins only.

The Chesapeake is valued for its bright and happy disposition, intelligence, quiet good sense, and affectionate protective nature. Extreme shyness or extreme aggressive tendencies are not desirable in the breed either as a gun dog or companion.

Disqualifications: Specimens that are lacking in breed characteristics should be disqualified.

Size, Proportion, Substance
Height--Males should measure 23 to 26 inches; females should measure 21 to 24 inches. Oversized or undersized animals are to be severely penalized. Proportion--Height from the top of the shoulder blades to the ground should be slightly less than the body length from the breastbone to the point of buttocks. Depth of body should extend at least to the elbow. Shoulder to elbow and elbow to ground should be equal. Weight--Males should weigh 65 to 80 pounds; females should weigh 55 to 70 pounds.

The Chesapeake Bay Retriever should have an intelligent expression. Eyes are to be medium large, very clear, of yellowish or amber color and wide apart. Ears are to be small, set well up on the head, hanging loosely, and of medium leather. Skull is broad and round with a medium stop. Nose is medium short. Muzzle is approximately the same length as the skull, tapered, pointed but not sharp. Lips are thin, not pendulous. Bite--Scissors is preferred, but a level bite is acceptable.

Disqualifications: Either undershot or overshot bites are to be disqualified.

Neck, Topline, Body
Neck should be of medium length with a strong muscular appearance, tapering to the shoulders. Topline should show the hindquarters to be as high as or a trifle higher than the shoulders. Back should be short, well coupled and powerful. Chest should be strong, deep and wide. Rib cage barrel round and deep. Body is of medium length, neither cobby nor roached, but rather approaching hollowness from underneath as the flanks should be well tucked up. Tail of medium length; medium heavy at the base. The tail should be straight or slightly curved and should not curl over back or side kink.

There should be no tendency to weakness in the forequarters. Shoulders should be sloping with full liberty of action, plenty of power and without any restrictions of movement. Legs should be medium in length and straight, showing good bone and muscle. Pasterns slightly bent and of medium length. The front legs should appear straight when viewed from front or rear. Dewclaws on the forelegs may be removed. Well webbed hare feet should be of good size with toes well-rounded and close.

Good hindquarters are essential. They should show fully as much power as the forequarters. There should be no tendency to weakness in the hindquarters. Hindquarters should be especially powerful to supply the driving power for swimming. Legs should be medium length and straight, showing good bone and muscle. Stifles should be well angulated. The distance from hock to ground should be of medium length. The hind legs should look straight when viewed from the front or rear. Dewclaws, if any, must be removed from the hind legs.

Disqualifications: Dewclaws on the hind legs are a disqualification.

Coat should be thick and short, nowhere over 1½ inches long, with a dense fine wooly undercoat. Hair on the face and legs should be very short and straight with a tendency to wave on the shoulders, neck, back and loins only. Moderate feathering on rear of hindquarters and tail is permissible. The texture of the Chesapeake's coat is very important, as the Chesapeake is used for hunting under all sorts of adverse weather conditions, often working in ice and snow. The oil in the harsh outer coat and wooly undercoat is of extreme value in preventing the cold water from reaching the Chesapeake's skin and aids in quick drying. A Chesapeake's coat should resist the water in the same way that a duck's feathers do. When the Chesapeake leaves the water and shakes, the coat should not hold water at all, being merely moist.

Disqualifications: A coat that is curly or has a tendency to curl all over the body must be disqualified. Feathering on the tail or legs over 1¾ inches long must be disqualified.

The color of the Chesapeake Bay Retriever must be as nearly that of its working surroundings as possible. Any color of brown, sedge or deadgrass is acceptable, self-colored Chesapeakes being preferred. One color is not to be preferred over another. A white spot on the breast, belly, toes, or back of the feet (immediately above the large pad) is permissible, but the smaller the spot the better, solid colored preferred. The color of the coat and its texture must be given every consideration when judging on the bench or in the ring. Honorable scars are not to be penalized.

Disqualifications: Black colored; white on any part of the body except breast, belly, toes, or back of feet must be disqualified

The gait should be smooth, free and effortless, giving the impression of great power and strength. When viewed from the side, there should be good reach with no restrictions of movement in the front and plenty of drive in the rear, with good flexion of the stifle and hock joints. Coming at you, there should be no sign of elbows being out. When the Chesapeake is moving away from you, there should be no sign of cowhockness from the rear. As speed increases, the feet tend to converge toward a center line of gravity.

The Chesapeake Bay Retriever should show a bright and happy disposition with an intelligent expression. Courage, willingness to work, alertness, nose, intelligence, love of water, general quality and, most of all, disposition should be given primary consideration in the selection and breeding of the Chesapeake Bay Retriever.

1. Specimens lacking in breed characteristics.
2. Teeth overshot or undershot.
3. Dewclaws on the hind legs.
4. Coat curly or with a tendency to curl all over the body.
5. Feathering on the tail or legs over 1¾ inches long.
6. Black colored.
7. White on any part of the body except breast, belly, toes, or back of feet.

The question of coat and general type of balance takes precedence over any scoring table which could be drawn up. The Chesapeake should be well proportioned, an animal with a good coat and well balanced in other points being preferable to one excelling in some but weak in others.

Positive Scale of Points
Head, including lips, ears and eyes 16
Neck 4
Shoulders and body 12
Hindquarters and stifles 12
Elbows, legs and feet 12
Color 4
Stern and tail 10
Coat and texture 18
General conformation 12
Total 100

Approximate Measurements Inches
Length head, nose to occiput
9½ to 10
Girth at ears
20 to 21
Muzzle below eyes
10 to 10½
Length of ears
4½ to 5
Width between eyes
2½ to 2¾
Girth neck close to shoulder
20 to 22
Girth at flank
24 to 25
Length from occiput to tail base
34 to 35
Girth forearms at shoulders
10 to 10½
Girth upper thigh
19 to 20
From root to root of ear, over skull
5 to 6
Occiput to top shoulder blades
9 to 9½
From elbow to elbow over the shoulders
25 to 26

Approved November 9, 1993
Effective December 31, 1993


The Kennel Club (UK)

A Breed Standard is the guideline which describes the ideal characteristics, temperament and appearance of a breed and ensures that the breed is fit for function. Absolute soundness is essential. Breeders and judges should at all times be careful to avoid obvious conditions or exaggerations which would be detrimental in any way to the health, welfare or soundness of this breed. From time to time certain conditions or exaggerations may be considered to have the potential to affect dogs in some breeds adversely, and judges and breeders are requested to refer to the Kennel Club website for details of any such current issues. If a feature or quality is desirable it should only be present in the right measure.


General Appearance
Well proportioned, active worker with a distinctive coat and intelligent expression. Strong muscular appearance.

Independent, affectionate, and courageous, with a great love of water. Makes a good guardian and companion, especially with children.

Bright and happy disposition, alert and intelligent and showing a willingness to work.

Head and Skull
Broad and round with medium stop. Medium-short muzzle, pointed but not sharp. Lips thin, not pendulous. Nostrils well developed. Nose and lips of colour to harmonise with coat.

Medium size, very clear, of yellow or amber colour and set wide apart.

Small, well set up on head, hanging loosely and of medium leather.

Jaws strong with a perfect, regular and complete scissor bite, i.e. upper teeth closely overlapping lower teeth and set square to the jaws. Level bite tolerated.

Of medium length with a strong muscular appearance tapering from head to shoulders.

Forelegs straight, with good bone of equal length to depth of body and showing good muscle. Shoulders well laid back, long in blade with upper arm of equal length placing legs well under body with no restriction of movement. Strong. Pasterns slightly bent.

Chest strong, deep and broad, with well sprung ribs. Body of medium length, short but not cobby. Flanks well tucked-up. Back well coupled and powerful. Topline not roached, but rather approaching hollowness.

Should be as high or a trifle higher than shoulders. Powerful to supply power for swimming. Stifles well angulated. Good hindquarters are an essential requirement for this breed. Hocks of medium length. Dewclaws, if any, must be removed from the hindlegs.

Of good size, hare feet well webbed. Toes well rounded and close.

Should extend to hock. Medium heavy at base and strong. Should be straight or slightly curved. Moderate feathering is permissible.

Powerful with no restriction of movement. Correct conformation will lend to single track movement.

Coat and texture. A distinctive feature. Coat should be thick and reasonably short, not over 4 cms (11/2 ins) long, with harsh oily outer coat and dense, fine woolly undercoat covering whole body; hairs having tendency to wave on neck, shoulders, back and loins. Hair on face and legs only should be very short and straight. Moderate feathering on stern and tail permissible. Curly coat not permissible. Texture of coat very important as dog is used for working under all sorts of adverse weather conditions, often working in ice and snow. Oil in harsh coat and woolly undercoat of extreme value. The coat should resist water.

Dead grass (straw to bracken), sedge (red gold), or any shade of brown. White spots on chest, toes and belly permissible. The smaller the spot the better. Self-coloured dogs preferred. Colour of coat and its texture must be given every consideration when judging.

Height: dogs: 58-66 cms (23-26 ins); bitches: 53-61 cms (21-24 ins). Oversized or undersized dogs highly undesirable.

Any departure from the foregoing points should be considered a fault and the seriousness with which the fault should be regarded should be in exact proportion to its degree and its effect upon the health and welfare of the dog, and on the dog's ability to perform its traditional work.

Male animals should have two apparently normal testicles fully descended into the scrotum.

Last Updated - January 2009