The Chesapeake Bay Retriever and the Labrador Retriever are very similar in their appearance, and even fanciers of both breeds can struggle to tell the difference between the two by just looking at them. The Chesapeake Bay Retriever is also known as the Chessie, and the Labrador Retriever is really just known as the Labrador. You may find us refer to them as such moving forward.
On the other hand, their personality is almost entirely different, the Chesapeake is not as sociable or happy-go-lucky as the Labrador and requires a much stronger leader due to his protective and dominant personality, whereas the Labrador is always happy and will always prefer to be sitting with, or on, his humans.
So, whether you are here to find out more information to help you to decide between the two Retrievers, or if you are here simply to enhance your doggy knowledge, read on to find out how to tell the difference between these two, almost identical looking, breeds.
Chesapeake Bay Retriever
- Height 21-26 Inches
- Weight 55-80 Pounds
- Temperament Affectionate, Bright, Sensitive
- Energy Very High
- Health Average
- Lifespan 10-13 Years
- Price $1,000 and Up
- Height 21-25 Inches
- Weight 55-80 Pounds
- Temperament Energetic, Intelligent, Friendly
- Energy Very High
- Health Average
- Lifespan 10-12 Years
- Price $1,000-$2,000
Despite their similarity in appearance, neither breed are directly related to each other, and they have differing histories. The only link between the two is that some believe that the Chesapeake is an ancestor of the Silver Labrador due to the Silver Labradors’ inheritance of the diluted color gene, however, this is only a theory rather than evidential proof.
Chesapeake Bay Retriever
During the 19th Century hunters from the Chesapeake Bay area sought to breed a dog that was capable of hunting the 200-mile long estuary for a full day without tiring easily. His genetic makeup consists of Irish Water Spaniels, Newfoundlands, and other unknown canines. The Chesapeake was one of the original nine canines that were registered in America in 1878.
Today he is still mainly used as a working dog, not only in hunting but he is also used as a drug detection dog as well as a therapy dog. The American Kennel Club (AKC) has currently ranked him as the 45th most popular dog in America.
The Labrador Retriever is also a 19th Century doggo from Newfoundland in Canada. He was primarily a hunting dog, who also worked on the water collecting small water mammals and fish. British visitors were super impressed by their water hunting skills and so they took them back to Britain where they refined and renamed him the Labrador Retriever.
They are now more known for their affectionate traits and for being family pets. According to the AKC, he is currently the most popular dog breed in America. While there are differences in the field vs. bench labradors, the Chessie and the Labrador are two completely different breeds (although they come from similar lineage).
Their coat is the biggest tell between the breeds. The Chesapeake looks like a Labrador that has been to the hairdressers and had a perm! He has a short but thick outer coat that is very wavey and oily; this acts as a waterproof barrier from the freezing ice and water on the Chesapeake Bay, similar to how duck’s feathers work. The waves can be sporadic across his body, or they can cover the top of his head all the way down to the tip of his tail.
Under that excellent fur coat, he has a short and wooly undercoat, which keeps his body heat in. The Labrador coat is similar, except that he does not have the thick lustrous waves. Additionally, the Labrador’s coat comes in three colors, yellow, black, and brown, whereas the Chessie just comes in various shades of brown.
The Chessie and the Labrador are identical in their weight, with the males weighing between 65 and 80 pounds, and the females weighing 55 to 70 pounds.
The Chessie is slightly taller than the Labrador, with both males and females measuring between 21 to 26 inches from paw to shoulder, whereas the Labrador measures 21.5 to 24.5 inches. Although there is not much of a difference between the two, he is generally bigger than the Labrador.
The Chesapeake also has a deeper chest than the Labrador, which almost acts like a plow against the snow and thick icebergs whilst chasing his prey. The Chessie is a more defined and streamlined version of the Labrador. They are both sturdy and thick in their appearance, they have a thick neck and a strong muzzle.
They also have large drop-down ears that fall to the level of their muzzle. They also both have the thick, otter-like tail which they use to steer themselves in the water. Despite their sturdy working appearance, they both have cute and friendly faces with the ability to deploy their big ‘puppy dog eyes’ at any given moment.
This is where the Chesapeake Bay and the Labrador differ! The Labrador is the #1 choice of dog in America, mainly because his temperament is so kind, gentle, and loving, everything that suits a family! He is sociable and playful and just loves to muck around with his pack. The Chesapeake, whilst also affectionate with his family, is either indifferent or suspicious of strangers and other animals, and as such he is not as easy going as the Labrador.
The Labrador would make for a terrible guard dog, he sees everyone as his playmate and invites anyone and everyone to rub his belly, whereas the Chesapeake, being aloof with strangers, will let you know if someone he doesn’t like makes an appearance.
If you are after a non-traditional guard dog, then the Chessie would be a better choice. You must be aware that he needs a firm master who will commit to intense training sessions, and who will not let him be unruly in the house. The Chessie does not respond well to a ‘happy-go-lucky’ life philosophy, and as such the Labrador makes for a better family pet in an easy-going household.
Although they are both working dogs, the Chessie is the more serious pup and would thrive in a working or hunting environment all day long. He has a strong personality that requires an even stronger master. The Labrador, whilst he is also great at hunting, is not as determined, and would rather mix his day up with work, affection, playtime, and snacks.
Additionally, the Chessie is quite a dominant dog, and as such he is unsuitable for the first-time owner. He is also known to be protective of his family especially his master, and as such he can be an intense dog if he isn’t living with a suitable family or environment. However, if this is something that you think would suit your lifestyle, then the relationship you will have with your Chessie will be a very rewarding one indeed.
The Chesapeake and the Labrador are considered to be high-energy dogs, and they both need at least 60 minutes of intense exercise a day at the very least. Don’t think that you can fob them off with a quick romp around the yard, for they will return the favor in the form of destruction and chewed household items.
They both require activity that is going to get their heart pumping, and as they are both water pups, they would love it if you took them to the local lake and let them run and swim after sticks or balls.
The Chesapeake and the Labrador’s training needs differ. Whilst they both need early socialization and general training, as with any dog, the Chesapeake needs a higher and more intense level of obedience training. Obedience training is imperative to ensure that your pup grows into a well-mannered pet who respects pack members and the boundaries that are set.
In addition to this, the Chesapeake also needs continuous obedience training so that he also knows that he is not, and never will be, the pack leader. As he is a dominant dog he may try to challenge his master, and this is why he is not for a first-time dog owner, and definitely not a meek and mild one!
Establish the rules immediately, be firm, and don’t be afraid to seek professional help if you feel that you need it, for he is a challenging pup. However, once you have cracked them both, they are a pleasure to have around.
The Chesapeake and the Labrador are generally healthy pups, with the Chesapeake living for one more year on average than the Labrador. They are both prone to Elbow and Hip Dysplasia, which is an abnormal formation of their joints; this is a common health issue found in many dog breeds. They should both obtain an Ophthalmologist evaluation, which is an evaluation of the eyes, and an Exercise-Induced Collapse DNA test.
Additionally, the Chessie’s parents should also be tested for Progressive Retinal Atrophy, which is the degeneration of the retina over time, and Degenerative Myelopathy, which is a breakdown of the spinal cord which can eventually cause paraplegia.
For more in-depth information on the recommended tests and other potential health issues please see the national breed club websites of the Chesapeake and the Labrador.
Generally, both the Chesapeake and the Labrador will consume around 2 ½ cups of food every day. Of course, if they are a working dog, they will probably need slightly more than this to sustain them and their activities.
The Labrador is more food orientated than the Chesapeake, so be sure to monitor his treat intake, especially if he is sedentary throughout the day, for he can easily and quickly transform into a chunky canine.
Due to the Chessie’s super repellent coat, dirt tends to sit on it and as such he’ll carry it straight into your house. Many owners say that you need to value their company more than having a clean home, and if this is something that you cannot compromise on, then you should either consider the Labrador or another breed altogether.
Daily brushing is suggested to keep his coat manageable and dirt-free, which in turn will save you getting the vacuum cleaner out on a daily basis! The Labrador will require brushing 2 or 3 times a week to keep him looking healthy.
Because the Chesapeake’s coat is much thicker and denser, he will not require as much bathing compared to the Labrador. The Labrador will need a bath once every six weeks or so, whereas the Chesapeake will only require a bath 4 times a year. It is important not to wash the Chessie anymore than this, even though he does have a stronger dog odor, as his coat is naturally oily and this is how it should be kept, otherwise you’ll damage his natural coat.
The average price of a Labrador is $1,000 and $1,200, whereas the average price of a Chesapeake is $1,000 and $1,400. As the Labrador is the top dog in the popularity contest right now, there are plenty of breeders around, which is one of the reasons why he is ever so slightly cheaper than the Chesapeake, who is a bit rarer to find.
Overall, the Chessie is the calm affectionate type, who will quietly observe his estate and protect them no matter what. The Labrador is the clingy affectionate type, who just wants to be friends with everyone no matter what their intentions.
As long as they are in the correct environment and receive the correct training and exercise, they are both amazing dogs to have around who will thrive in the right environment.
So, whichever duck-hunting dog makes your heart go quackers, know that you will have a fun and loving canine companion to join you in your family adventures.
January 25, 2022 at 12:01 pm
I’m an owner of a CKC reg’d Chessie and she’s a fantastic pup. I’ve always owned working breeds(rotties& dobes) so I’m used to dominant breeds. She’s highly intelligent and eager to please but stubborn and slow to mature. I love my pup!
December 9, 2021 at 3:44 pm
Having owned 4 Labs, all raised from 7 weeks of age, I just can't break the chain, & I'm looking to find another Lab pup. 1 was male, black, 1 yellow female, & 2 black females, all were AKC papered dogs except the yellow, but her mother was pure-bred , and she turned out to be an excellent dog - in fact, when we traveled by air for an extended vacation & didn't take her with us, people offered to 'baby-sit' her and 2 twin sisters would fight over who was going to take care of her while we were gone. We're partial to the blacks, & I can attest to the wonderful trait these dogs have of flat out wanting to please their owners & wanting to go wherever you go. No 'Alpha' of the pack issues, they know YOU are the pack leader. They are so easy to train, & really respond to treat rewarding and a tone of voice that expresses approval, as well as a tone reflecting disapproval. They don't need to be struck with anything, never with your hand, when being disciplined. A loosely rolled-up newspaper struck on the ground near them & your tone of voice while grabbing the scruff of the back of the neck & giving a little shake will suffice. I love Black Labs!
July 1, 2021 at 10:02 pm
I was blessed with a superb hunting partner for 12 yrs. My Candy Girl was a Chessie. She lived to almost 15. After 18 months of nursing the void she left. I got a puppy I didn’t feel right about another Chessie because of the comparisons I may make or that the pup wouldn’t be able to live up to Candy's standards.
So Bailey came home a chocolate Lab. Although not the intense hunter that Candy was she filled the spot in my heart perfectly, and did her share in the field. 8 years later I brought home Boo a Chessie. If you want the best of both breeds in my opinion have an older motherly sister help raise a Chessie!
Boo has it all except for independence she is independent enough but still looks to big sis for approval or direction!
July 2, 2021 at 8:11 pm
Thanks for stopping by to share your experience with both breeds, Chad!
March 14, 2021 at 1:35 am
I have a chocolate lab and I Have Had him now for 15 years. Got him when he was just a pup. Mostly for my sons but they grow up and leave, my dog still by my side. I sometimes wondered if he was another breed after reading the first of this article but now I know he for sure he is a full chocolate lab. He sure is full of love for everyone but more for me. I don't know what I will do when he is gone. It is just the two of us and I don't know what I will do when he is gone. I know it will be soon when he dies and I think he is only still alive because of his love for me. I WILL NOT know what to do when I lose him.
March 15, 2021 at 4:21 pm
Hey Sam! We actually had a chocolate lab with a slightly longer coat for 13 years. We often thought she was a Chessy until we did the research. Like you, we knew she was all Lab. Sounds like you have a great pup! Thanks for commenting!
December 5, 2020 at 4:07 am
We lost our 13 yr old lab this past spring, but in July brought home a Chessie pup. They definitely have different personalities! While both were/are very loving and playful with family, our chess will walk away after a few to do his own thing while our lab would never leave our side.
Both wonderful dogs!! Our chess is definitely more wary of certain strangers too, it’s interesting that he picks and chooses who he doesn’t want around. I wonder if he’s read or feeling something from us that changes his response to the person?
December 6, 2020 at 5:48 pm
Hi Rachel! Chessies are definitely more independent. Sometimes it's also just the dog. We recently adopted a 6-month-old puppy, and her personality is drastically different than others of the same breed. Sometimes it can just come down to the individual dog. In general, though, it sounds like your Chessie is spot on. Glad you love your pup! We had a Lab ourselves, also for 13 years. Such amazing dogs!
February 20, 2020 at 6:16 am
A friend of mine asked today if my pup has Chesapeake in him. He has a natural braid weave down his back and is a rich silver/choco/red. Hes AKC registered but I havent registered him yet. As told by breeders hes English and American mix.
I'm new to this dog pedigree stuff all I know is I have a giant lab puppy who's bigger than most and he's gorgeous (Its like I have 3 different colored dogs depending on lighting) Hah Diamond in the ruff :) . Not sure how to figure out what exactly I have on my hands and what I should use use /train him for. Hes so handsome I almost want to show him but he didnt get his toes cut off (which seems cruel and unusual - dont circumsize my paws please).
February 22, 2020 at 1:46 pm
Hi Carissa! Have you gotten a test done for the DNA on your pup? We did that for our long-haired mastiff and it came back 100% purebred, just with the fluffy gene. We used Embark and I highly recommend it if you can afford it. If you want to see our pup, check out our "fluffy mastiff" page on the site, there's some details in there about our pup. Our 13-year-old chocolate lab always looked like she had some Chessie in her too, but we never had her tested. Thanks for stopping by to comment!
January 5, 2020 at 5:21 pm
You say here a Chess needs to be brushed daily. I disagree! The less you brush them the better and I'm ore beautiful their coat is! Mine is a Champion in the confirmation ring and the best part about showing him was the less you did with his coat the better! A minimum of two shampoos a year with rinses after swimming in lakes and or oceans sometimes is enough!
January 8, 2020 at 2:08 am
Thanks for pointing this out Fran - we know all dogs can be different! Glad to hear your Chess is low maintenance and we appreciate your comment!