Most Important – Temperament

At its national specialty in 2002, the American Chesapeake Club sponsored a seminar covering the characteristics of the breed. Once the floor was opened for questions, a newer exhibitor asked me how important temperament should be in a breeder’s program. Without hesitation, I answered, “Temperament is the most important thing to consider in your breeding program.”

While many of us breed for conformation, obedience, tracking, agility, or field competition, the majority of the dogs we produce will go into homes as family pets or hunting dogs. Over the past decade, the breed has become much more popular, resulting in most Chesapeakes enjoying the role of family pet. The Chesapeake Bay Retriever differs from many other sporting dogs in that its lineage includes traits of a guard dog with a protective nature and stamina.

Consequently, Chesapeakes need to be trained in basic obedience so they do not develop unruly manners such as jumping up on people or being overly possessive.

When breeders provide dogs for family pets, it is essential that they place puppies in homes that appear to be ready and permanent. New Owners need to be aware of the Chesapeake’s unique nature. To quote our breed standard, “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.” However, placing puppies is never foolproof; thus, breeders should inform their puppy purchasers that if for any reason they are unable to keep the puppy, returning it to the breeder would be appropriate.

The unique characteristics of instinct and courage have led Chesapeakes to rescue adults and children in treacherous situation, including water rescues. In addition, the Chesapeake’s guarding instinct keeps most owners unconcerned about strangers entering their homes. The dog is expected to protect the hunter’s belongings, including any fowl shot that day. It is easy for Chesapeakes to discern whether a person is a nonthreatening visitor or a friend; his intelligence enables the dog to understand when his owner conveys that he is not in danger or being threatened.

Each individual Chesapeake has a very special personality of his own. Some of the delightful traits I have witnessed during many years of ownership include snickering and smiling, talking with many unique sounds, moving a person’s hand into a petting position, desiring to retrieve and carry around just about anything – shoes and slippers, rocks, tree limbs, buckets, children’s toys, and frolicking endlessly in the water, whether it be in the ocean’s waves or calmer bays and lakes.

Surely, as breeders and owners, we can all joyfully testify that the Chesapeake’s temperament must be foremost in our breeding programs.

Nathaniel Horn


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