By Henry Chappell
If you’re a field trialer and perfectionist who expects a highly tractable retriever that always handles precisely, get a Lab. But if you’re a hardcore waterfowler and a bit of a maverick who admires resourcefulness and pure, cussed determination more than absolute obedience, consider a Chessie.
During the 1800s, the Chesapeake Bay retriever earned his keep in rough, cold water, fetching as many as 200 ducks per day for market hunters. At night, he’d guard his boss’s boat and equipment shed. The rough baymen had little time for formal training. Dogs that learned quickly, on the job, got fed. The rest didn’t live to pass on their deficiencies. Those old killers are long gone, but they left behind something of themselves in these big, tough, workaday dogs. Any wonder that in addition to being the toughest retriever in the world, the Chessie is a little independent and protective?
If the Labrador is the sports car of the retriever world, the Chessie is the heavy-duty pickup. Males measure 23-26 inches at the shoulder and run 65-80 pounds; females weigh 55-70 pounds. The coat is short, dense, and oily, with a thick woolly undercoat. The Chessie has no peer when it comes to breaking ice or working for hours in the coldest water.
Consider only working bloodlines.
Seek advice from experienced Chessie owners.
Watch a trained Chessie work before buying a pup.
Make your pup a member of the family.
Resort to harsh discipline. Chessies can be temperamental.