This sweet, patient, devoted, and downright adorable breed has been turning heads since the 1800s. In fact, it was a Newfoundland named Seaman that helped Lewis and Clark during their 8,000-mile journey across the American continent. Today, Seaman is depicted in 10 different Lewis and Clark monuments across the country for his bravery in guarding the adventurers from wolves and charging buffalo. The breed began its journey in Canada where fisherman utilized these working dogs to perform dramatic water rescues. Newfoundlands, also known as Newfs, are natural swimmers with partially webbed feet. They are strong enough to swim a grown man to safety. Today, Newfs are popular all over the world.
Characteristics of the Newfoundland
Let’s take a look at the defining characteristics of the Newfoundland breed.
Part of the working group of dog breeds, the Newfoundland is a strikingly large and powerful animal standing at 28 inches tall for the males and 26 inches tall for the females. The Newfoundland males weigh between 130 and 150 pounds and the females weigh between 100 and 120 pounds when fully grown. An ode to their use as water rescue dogs, the appearance of the Newfoundland breed is that of a swimmer- webbed feet and a water-resistant coat. The coat can be seen in the standard colors of black, brown, grey, and white-and-black (known as Landseer).
Despite their large size, Newfs are sweet-tempered and make for excellent companions. They are the optimal family dog and have even earned a reputation as patient and watchful “nannies” for kids. Sometimes referred to as the “Gentle Giant”, the Newfoundland is known for being calm and docile while also harboring immense strength. Because of their gentle nature, Newfoundlands are great for children, but very small children may get accidentally leaned on and knocked down. Newfoundlands are also used as calming therapy dogs. The breed is docile around other animals such as cats and dogs, but, like small children, smaller animals may get stepped on due to the large size of the Newfoundland. The Newfoundland often does not realize how large he is and will try to sit in his owner’s lap.
Despite his sweet nature, a Newfoundland can make a good guard dog due to his deep bark. He also tends to dig when bored, or when suffering from separation anxiety away from his family. He can be trained as a puppy not to bark or dig excessively.
Newfoundlands are highly loyal and make excellent working dogs, especially for lifeguarding and other swimming-related tasks. However, the Newfoundland is not the best breed for apartment dwellers. Although he can get along with neighboring people and animals, the Newfie is simply too large and loud to live in such a small, densely populated area.
Newfoundlands typically live between 9 and 10 years of age.
Caring for the Newfoundland
Let’s take a look at the proper way to care for such a large breed.
Your Newfie will need to be fed a high-quality dog food- wet or dry– that is appropriate for its age- puppy, adult, senior, etc. Treats can be a valuable tool to use during training but avoid feeding your pet too many treats as this can cause obesity, which this breed is particularly prone to. Table scraps should also be given sparingly. As with other large dogs, the Newfoundland can develop bloat, which is a sudden, life-threatening enlargement of the stomach that can sometimes involve twisting. Veterinarians recommend more frequent, smaller meals during the day rather than one larger meal to help prevent bloat.
Newfoundlands require at least half an hour of moderate-to-high exercise per day to maintain a healthy and happy life. While Newfoundlands tolerate the cold weather well due to their thick coats, they do not tolerate heat well and thus should be monitored during physical activity. They should also not be kept outside all the time, but your Newfie will enjoy the occasional outdoor activity with his owner. Newfies enjoy swimming, hiking, walking, and pulling carts. Make sure you always have clean, fresh water available for your pet to drink, especially following exercise.
Newfies are rather outgoing and eager to please their owner, so training is not too difficult for this breed. Early puppy obedience training and socialization classes are highly recommended. Newfies that will be used for water work should be introduced to water at no later than four months of age. The breed is affectionate and trusting and responds well to gentle guidance. However, Newfies do not respond well to harsh demeanors as they can be sensitive. Make sure you praise your Newfie when he does something correctly, rather than scolding him too harshly when he does something wrong.
The thick, heavy coat of the Newfoundland requires thorough brushing once per week at minimum during winter months, and once per day during the heavy shedding months, such as during the summer. Newfies shed all year-round. Using a slicker brush and a long-toothed comb is suggested to prevent matting and buildup of dead skin. The nails should also be trimmed regularly, and the teeth cleaned frequently.
Unfortunately, Newfoundlands are associated with quite a few health concerns. In addition to problems common in larger breeds such as bloat and hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, cystinuria (genetic disease that forms stones in the bladder), and subvalvular aortic stenosis (similar to a heart attack) are also potential problems for the Newfoundland. Obesity in Newfoundlands can make all of these problems more likely and more severe should they occur, so it is important to watch your dog’s weight very carefully. These problems are less likely to occur if you purchase your Newfoundland puppy from a responsible breeder who has performed genetic screenings on your puppy’s parents. Make sure to bring your pet to the vet for regular check-ups. Contact your veterinarian if you have any questions or concerns about your Newfie’s health.