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Minority Gundog Breed Series

When someone says to you ‘Gundog’ what breeds spring to mind? Probably a #LabradorRetriever, #SpringerSpaniel, #CockerSpaniel, maybe a #GoldenRetriever! But what else is about? What other breeds are there? Why are they not as common or popular?

Other breeds that fall into the retriever category are:

Chesapeake Bay Retrievers (CBR)

Flatcoated Retievers

Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retrievers

Curly Coat Retrievers

Irish Water Spaniels

Franeo Golden Shot owned by Jordan Bull

We’re going to start of the series talking about the #ChesapeakeBayRetriever. A breed that I’m becoming increasing fond of and shows me great potential and development each time I see them work!

We spoke with Chrissie Mayhew, of #Arnac Chesapeakes, who has judged her breed not only at #Crufts, but at other major breed shows in Europe.

Arnac Bay Invincible for Dunakitts owned by Katy Duncanson, bred by Chrissie Mayhew. Photo credit to Craig Palmer of Pawgraphy UK.

How long have you been involved with Chesapeake Bay Retrievers?


I had my first one in 1975 and have not been without one (or should I say many) since that time.


How have you seen the breed change over the years?


I don’t consider that the breed has changed in conformation at all since that time although the coats have improved in thickness. Most these days have a temperament that is more suitable to modern day life in as much as the dogs are more friendly and less guarding than they used to be (but don’t be fooled – they will guard). The males, too are more agreeable to other male dogs although, as with other breeds, in the wrong hands they can go down the wrong path.


Arnac Bay Esk, owned by Sue Worrall. Photo credit to Maxine Furnandiz.

What’s the most common ‘is it a…/what’s it crossed with’?


They are often mistaken for labradoodles. Before the advent of the labradoodles then the most common misconception was that they were chocolate Labradors.


What would your advice be to a fist time CBR owner?


Give them a job to do and be consistent, firm but fair with your training. Like all dogs, they don’t need a conversation, just commands, training, and understanding. If they think that no one is the boss, then as a breed, they are quite happy to take up that role  - which is where things can go wrong.


Chesepi Parsippany for Migwell owned by Caroline Griffin-Woods. Photo credit to Caro Dell

What are your breeds strengths and weaknesses?


The breed is very strong physically and yet can be really sensitive which can confuse some owners. They excel as wild fowling dogs and have no equal in that respect as that is precisely what they were designed for. Weaknesses, they are not the ideal first dog for anyone as they need to respect their owner in order to have a harmonious relationship. If they do not respect you as their leader then they will take advantage of this, become your equal, and the results do not produce a well trained dog.

I remember one trainer telling a group of us that if he fed our dogs for a week, they would happily follow him – this is so NOT a Chessie – they are totally faithful. That trainer worked Labradors and had no idea of a Chesapeake character which is so different to the other retriever breeds. They are more like German Shepherds in character.


If you didn’t have CBR what breed would be your next choice and why?


I had flatcoats before I had this breed but I have had Border terriers for many years. They are full of character and guts and I adore them as much as the Chessies. I have also had (and still have) a working cocker and as a working gun dog and lap dog, they are perfect. All of my dogs have an enthusiasm for work that switches into ‘sleep’ mode when they are not working or exercising. I don’t want a dog that is ‘on the go’ the whole time.

Photo credit to Sue Worrall of WaterSplash Photography.


In regards to breeding, assuming that your gene pool is limited, what do you prioritise when looking for a stud dog?


Obviously temperament and conformation is a major factor, but every stud dog should be chosen according to the bitch that he is to be mated to, and there is no such thing as a stud dog that suits all bitches. Therefore my priorities would be temperament, conformation, working and training ability, health results and suitability to the bitch. I see so many stud dogs in other breeds chosen because they are a FT Champion or winner with no thought to conformation or suitability to the bitch and so we have many weedy or short legged Labradors and spaniels who work despite their physical failings but who will not have the stamina or longevity of a well conformed dog,


The CBR is currently classes as a ‘Dual Purpose’ dog.

As the breed develops, are you seeing a difference between the dogs in the show ring and those in the field?


At present NO. With very few exceptions, the dogs being shown today are all worked. We are lucky in that our breed standard is a blueprint for an ideal wild fowling dog and it is this standard that the breed is judged by in the show ring.

Sadly more puppies are finding their way into pet homes which is OK if the people take part in gun dog training, agility, obedience etc. but it breaks my heart to see some that are overweight and have no mental stimuli in the way of a job of work or training. I just hope that these pet homes will be a dead end (not bred from) and that in years to come it will not ruin the dual purpose status of the breed that most breeders have worked so hard to preserve.

Migwell Solomons Puzzle, owned by Caroline Griffin-Woods. Photo credit to Joy Middleton.

Chesapeake Bay Retrieves prove that although they’re big, powerful dogs, they are also agile and work well with their handler, when trained in the right manner.

I’d like to say a massive thank you to Chrissie for sharing her knowledge of the breed, and giving up her time to answer questions. And I’d like to thank my clients for sharing their lovely pictures of their CBRs working and showing.

In the next coming weeks, we will be talking with other #MinorBreed experts, to continue the series!!

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