by Doris Donnerman
(last updated April 3, 2009)
If you are looking for a dog to go duck-hunting with, the Chesapeake Bay Retriever is the dog that you are going to want. Fans of the breed say it is superior to any breed on earth. He has the ability to stand punishment in heavy seas and frigid weather. This claim goes back as far as 1827, and is still being made wherever duck-hunting conditions demand the ultimate courage and endurance in a dog.
The Chesapeake Bay Retriever is not a beautiful dog, weighing anywhere from 65 to eighty pounds with a shoulder height is between twenty-three and twenty-six inches. The most distinctive feature of the Chesapeake Bay Retriever is that he has a very dense, oily coat, yellow eye, and a strong tail that is rather long. The Chesapeake color ranges from brown to the color of straw. The neck is thick and muscular giving the appearance of being too short for his body, while his feet appear abnormally large.
The texture of the dog's coat is very important. The dog is used for hunting in all sorts of adverse weather conditions, sometimes working in ice and snow. The oil in the harsh outer coat and woolly undercoat is of extreme value in preventing the cold water from reaching the dog's skin and helping to aid in quick drying. The coat should resist water the same way a duck's feathers resists water. When the Chesapeake Bay Retriever leaves the water and shakes himself, the coat should not hold the water at all. The coat is so oily that if one scratches his fingers through it there would be a residual coating of oil on the fingers.
There are four qualities that make The Chesapeake Bay Retriever a peerless dog in cold weather and heavy seas. The first is water-going aptitude. Almost all the Chesapeake Bay Retrievers show an astonishing love for water. They do not walk or run into the water but rather they leap far out into the water. The coldness or the weather does not diminish the dog's desire for the water.
The second is the dog's coat. The typical Chesapeake Bay Retriever has a dense under coat, covered by a rather heavy, wavy coat of guard hairs. The coat is quite oily. This coat prevents him from getting thoroughly wet, as other dogs always do eventually. With just a couple of shakes the coat is entirely free of ice and water.
The third distinguishing quality of the Chesapeake Bay Retriever is his endurance with his protecting coat, great strength, and unusual aggressiveness. There are well-documented stories of Chesapeake Bay Retrievers retrieving as many as two hundred ducks in a single day in adverse weather conditions, where he would swim a mile or more for a single duck.
The fourth quality is his memory. Chesapeake Bay Retrievers appear to have extraordinary memories. Once they are experienced in duck hunting, they learn to mark down six or more ducks at a time. They never forget the location of the birds, which makes them a valuable hunting companion.
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