I showed my Chesapeakes without coat…..

I showed my Chesapeakes without any coat!! I put my hand up and am guilty as charged.


Even though it is written in the New Complete Chesapeake Bay Retriever ( 1994), Chapter 5 by Dr Daniel Horn :

“Coat has been the most important type feature in the description of the Chesapeake Bay Retriever” and furthermore he goes onto say :

“if exhibitors would keep their dogs out of the show ring when dogs are out of coat, it would be easier for judges to become familiar with these important Chesapeake type features.”

Soon whispers trickled down to me from those higher echelons that the doyens within our breed that sit ringside were not happy. That they were shaking their heads in despair that a Chesapeake shown out of coat would bring a disservice to the breed.


So is it worth taking the chance that perhaps a Chesapeake possibly can be defined by more than just coat? Is there a possibility that this breed, primarily still seen as a working gundog might be evaluated equally on soundness and movement? Perhaps the overall outline and profile too separates this breed from any other? and what of attitude and expression? I had hoped that the Chesapeake could be seen more as a combination of unique breed traits rather than simply seen as a specimen with or without coat?


I had thought long and hard about this as I pored over the show schedules earlier in the year. The window of opportunity to show Chesapeakes at Championship Shows where CC’s are on offer in the UK is very small. There is just over 6 months between the first set at Crufts in March and the final single CC available at Driffield in September.


Time and timing are of the essence and preparing these dogs for the show season goes way beyond a quick dip in the sea the day before a show, (that’s not to say I don’t do it.. 😉 ). Diet, condition and level of  fitness are assessed on a daily basis… long before we set foot inside the show ring I will have walked and run many kilometres, doing road work and swimming, to maintain the hard core fitness that was laid down during the shooting season and build back up any condition lost. These are the things I can control to some degree but the one thing I have very little control over is the seasonal variations in coat.


Ironically their coats were at their best this year when they needed them most but also when they weren’t been judged by them. All through the shooting season both Mossy and Uisce retained the thick impenetrable coats that this breed is known for. Their coats offered protection throughout the weeks as they worked the river duck on the Avoca and also as an extra barrier when hunting for birds beneath the gorse and brambles.


During this period I never needed to treat for broken skin, bleeding tails, or damp, cold dogs sitting for long periods as their coats fulfilled every aspect of what their were designed for just fine.


Then Spring came, shooting season ended and as we turned our attention towards preparing for a long season of dog shows nature decided their coats had served their purpose and it was time for them to go…

Three weeks before Crufts Mossy left all of his undercoat in a neat pile on the floor of the National Show Centre in Cloghran. I had expected it to happen but still I watched in dismay as the small brown tufts of candyfloss blew gently across the floor. There was nothing to lose at this point by giving him a bath and stripping what remained of his coat out completely in the hope that some new coat may have filled in by the time we headed for Crufts.

The next morning after a bath he was down to a very thin layer of guard hairs and skin!!! The next few weeks were a cycle of sea swimming and rubbing with a chamois. By the time we hit the green carpet on the first week in March his coat had filled in well, not at it’s full depth but enough to be rewarded with a 1st in the BASC Gamekeepers classes  under judge Ms Di Stevens and winner of the Shooting Gazette Trophy for Best AV Working Retriever Dog.


Uisce at this stage was still holding coat nicely. She was in a post season bloom and it showed in her results. Still not 2 years old when she competed in Crufts this year, she held her own in the Open bitch class among bitches 4- 6 years her senior finishing a very credible 3rd. Then entering BASC Gamekeepers and winning  the Marsh Trophy for Best AV Working Retriever Bitch  under judge Mr Terry Bailey.


Our dogs made breed history that day never before has a Chesapeake won either of these trophies let alone be won on the same day by half siblings.

Back in Ireland a week later Uisce won Green Star bitch, graded excellent and Mossy won Best of Breed under Gundog Specialist Ms S Taggart and Mossy followed up with a Group 4 under Mr A Mc Kiernan at the Celtic winners Championship show on St. Patricks day..


The show season was now in full swing juggling shows in Ireland and campaigning in the UK is difficult but balancing this alongside competing and training in working tests, certainly keeps things interesting. So far, we have been over and back the Irish sea on average every fortnight since March. The weekends in between have been filled with shows and working tests on home ground, oh and a family wedding!

Along with the mileage clocked up we have brought home 2 reserve CC’s for Mossy. At home in Ireland from 2 shows he has 2 Best of  Breeds, a Group 4 and a Group 1.

Bertie, as part of the UK Chesapeake team competing in the Minor breeds in April finished with a team 2nd and he was awarded top scoring individual dog. At his first AV working test of the year he won Open class and has spent 3 days training along with Uisce at the the Bettinsons in Wales.


As Mossy’s coat returned to full bloom Uisce’s disappeared. She is due in season in the next few weeks and her seasonal blow came just as we prepared to travel for Birmingham National in the second week of May. It was a much more difficult decision as to whether to show her without coat. Loss of coat showed her immaturity of body in comparison to her more mature competitors in the open bitch class. However, because of breeding plans her opportunity to compete could be shortened later in the summer. So a year would be lost before she could compete in the UK again.

My decision to show her and give her the chance came because as a bitch on the move she is one of the best I have had. With or without coat she is foot perfect on the move whether coming, going or side on she never breaks stride or misses a beat..Her worst result in  Birmingham, when she really had no coat she finished 3rd of 3 in Open bitch and at Bath two weeks later with coat on the return out of a class of 6  she  finished 3rd behind the CC and RCC winners.


Now two weeks on and just in from our latest Championship show yesterday Uisce took Green Star Bitch and beating her litter brother, Ceann Comhairle, for Best of Breed at Cork and District Championship show under gundog specialist Ms K Savage.

So was I right to take the chance to show a Chesapeake without coat? Did I do a disservice to the breed? Is the Chesapeake to be seen as just a clothes horse on which to hang a beautiful coat? Or is it a breed that can be recognised as much for it’s profile, strong confident movement, head expression, strong tail and character?

Next week Uisce and Bertie are set to compete in a retriever working test…this time they will be judged on many other things but it is unlikely they will lose or gain any marks for the appearance of their coat.


14 thoughts on “I showed my Chesapeakes without coat…..

  1. Ah, come on, Mary, this is getting crazy. Of course you were right to show Everyone who has ever clapped eyes on a Chesapeake knows that the thick, oily coat is a breed characteristic but dogs’ coats come and go and after a wet, cold winter, they go. I would be amazed if a show judge could not see the dog behind the lack of characteristic winter coat. There are few enough Chesapeakes around to start limiting their appeareances on the basis of coat.

    • I agree Colum and as my dog’s results show judges 99.9% of the time do a really good, honest job. It is the judging that takes place outside the show ring, however, that does most damage to a dog’s reputation.

  2. I have been told by long time breeders that most experienced judges can tell the difference between Chessies out of coat and those who never have coat. I agree with you that while proper coat is important, there should be more to a working dog than coat, (or color of that coat, but that is another topic). Yes we have shown our dogs out of coat. Especially if it would break a major. The thing I hate more than no coat in the show ring is the tendency to show overweight Chessies which seems to be growing over here. I worry more about that.

  3. Spot on!!! It seems that every breed has individuals and groups, that attempt to load the dice in their favor.. Rather than compete ‘the dog’, they ‘game the rules’, or ‘weight the standards. We have them here, and generally tend to cluster around the output of a few kennels, and their followers.

    Chessies are WORKING DOGS, not the poor primped and fluffed and blow-dried zoot-suited excuses of canines that have totally corrupted the idea of ‘show’. One of the saddest examples here in the U.S. is the fate of the Golden Retreiver. Thank Goodness the Brit & Erro people still seem to have hunting stock saved from the ‘show genetic debacle’ here.

    Sooooooo……take ye heed…for ye breed……..coat is but a function. The ring is not a Paris Fashion runway, and those who wish to wax on the coat, may eventually find them selves with just that — the “Coat Breeds” of outlandish hirsute configurations, that currently pollute the ‘Roman Arena Spectacle’ that used to be about dogs.

    BTW, we took a Best of Opposite (30+ dogs) last summer, with fine structure, and a swimmers physique, Macha, who came out of Veterans, is also blessed with clipped, precise side-gait. Her coat, was. ‘OK’, but there were some plush brown barges that didn’t even make the cut.

  4. Not quiet sure why I got this post. I am a field person and not conformation. I am fine with what you did and congratulations. I also love your chessie pictures.

  5. Mary the standard describes the IDEAL dog to work. The ideal dog as a proper thick double coat. While you KNOW. what your dogs coat is really like, showing a dog out of coat puts the judge in a position to peg down a dog out of coat. How does he know that this is not the typical coat for this dog ? I understand your issue, go ahead and show but remember the judge can only judge by the written standard. I try NOT to show dogs out of coat. It is important to breed type.

    • Absolutely agree Dyane and if the show season in the UK was wider then it would have given me that option. I knew I was taking a risk showing out of coat and was prepared for results which would reflect that. So the results were better than I would ever have anticipated. I feel the judges that I showed under in that time frame did a fair and honest assessment of my dogs and judged them on not just coat.

      • Like Dyane Mary we here at Devonshot only ever showed ONCE a bitch at Crufts who literally lost her coat the day prior to Crufts. We showed her and like your bitch it was her worse placement in her show career. Hence we never showed our chessies before this suituation nor after out of coat because of this reason we found the judges just never liked placing the dogs out of coat. We also never showed our girls in season, so our window of showing our girls was a lot smaller again.
        We would say Mary only you at Riverrun can assess your Chesapeakes and if you are happy to show them out of coat then this is has to be down to you. We wish you well for the future and we know Riverrun have a long running future both in the field and ring.

  6. I have the same thing here in Argentina. Our temperature now is around 65F (20C) degrees and we are in June already, it’s supposed to be colder. The show season started late march and it supposed to be autumn going to winter.

    We decide to show Grettel out of coat because we like to be at the ranking this year. I know she will be with great coat at August but it will be late to start. The season ends on November.

    Grettel went to US until last November and she came back home full of coat so she loosed her coat late February.

    I been showing with Grettel, Zenyatta and Carlotta (Both full of coat) Anyway Grettel won over them most of the time.

    Of course she’s having a hard time to do the best performance at the shows. But if you have an experienced judge they can see more than eighteen points coat at the standard, you can try.

    If you have a soundness dog out of coat, he will be the one over all.
    By the way.. beautiful pictures!!!

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