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Chesapeake Bay Retriever vs. Labrador Retriever: Differences & Similarities

Emma Braby

Last Updated: March 30, 2020 | 7 min read

Chesapeake Bay Retriever vs Labrador

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 (if the Chesapeake doesn’t have lots of wavy hair that is!) The Chesapeake is slightly taller by one inch, and he has a thicker and more oily coat.

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.

The Chesapeake Bay Retriever is also known as the Chessie, and the Labrador Retriever is really just known as the Labrador.

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.

Breed Comparison Chart

Chesapeake Bay Retriever
23 – 26 inches (M)
21.5 – 24 inches (F)
22.5 – 24.5 inches (M)
21.5 – 23.5 inches (F)
65 – 80 pounds (M)
55 – 70 pounds (F)
65 – 80 pounds (M)
55 – 70 pounds (F)
Affectionate, Bright, Sensitive
Energetic, Intelligent, Friendly
Daily Brushing
Weekly Brushing
10-13 years
10-12 years

Breed Histories

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 9 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 drugs detection dog as well as a therapy dog. The American Kennel Club (AKC) have currently ranked him as the 45th most popular dog in America.

Labrador Retriever

The Labrador Retriever is also a 19th Century doggo from Newfoundland in Canada. He was primarily a hunting dog, who also worked on 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 a family pet. According to the AKC he is currently the most popular dog breed in America.  While there are differences in field vs. bench labradors, the Chessie and the Labrador are two completely different breeds (although they come from similar lineage).


To the uneducated eye these guys could be twins, but there are a few slight differences that identify the Chessie from the Labrador!

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 then 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 both 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 number 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. For this reason, 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 snacking.

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 the 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 overtime, 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, then 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 his 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. Because of this, 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 $800 and $1,200, whereas the average price of a Chesapeake is $800 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.

Final Thoughts

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.

Leave a Comment


Fran Scholl

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!

Kelly Wilson

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!


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).

Kelly Wilson

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!