Breed of the Week: The Newfoundland (Video) - Simply For Dogs
Newfoundland

Breed of the Week: The Newfoundland (Video)

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Welcome back to another breed of the week. In addition to talking about two new breeds that the AKC recently recognized this week, we’re sticking to our usual schedule of introducing you to a beloved breed that you may never have considered before. Personally, researching the breed of the week is one of my favorite parts of writing for this blog. Janice and Leroy, and the entire Boxer breed, may always be my first loves in the dog world, but it’s always fun to learn more about other breeds.

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Today’s breed is a gentle giant known as the Newfoundland. These are working dogs with very docile temperaments, perfect for families with small children that want a great companion and don’t mind some slobber. Let’s dive into what makes this dog so special.

History

The Newfoundland is famous for being the nurse dog in the cartoon version of Peter Pan, and that’s a great example of what this breed has historically always done. Though they were bred to work on fishing boats in Canada, the fishermen quickly realized that the dog was very adept at keeping an eye on kids when they went home at night.

The breed’s exact origin is something of a mystery, which is unique for a registered breed. There’s a theory that the Newfoundland is a descendant of the Great Pyrenees, and the two breeds do have similar facial structure and size; but there’s another theory that they come from French Boarhounds or a few Nordic dog breeds. What we do know is that the breed appeared in eastern Canada as a great help to fishers. The dogs even have webbed feet that help them swim expertly, with water-resistant coats as well. They were used to help rescue shipwreck victims and to haul in nets that were loaded down with heavy fish catches from the water.

Later the dog went to England and the U.S. and became very popular in both places. The poet Lord Byron had a Newfoundland named Boatswain; the explorers Lewis and Clark had a Newfoundland with them named Seaman for their entire trip across the nation. There was a Newfoundland named Rigel who famously tried to rescue his owner who died in the sinking of the Titanic. As you can see, this dog has a history of being brave, stalwart, and extraordinarily helpful.

Appearance

Newfoundland adults grow to a maximum of 28 inches and weigh up to 150 pounds. These are definitely big dogs, with powerful, muscular bodies. They have broad heads with small, triangle ears, and they tend to have rather dignified expressions. Their coat is a double coat with a coarse outer layer of medium length, and a softer, denser undercoat. This gives them a very plush, soft feel, but also keeps them water-resistant.

They have long tails that are usually carried in a relaxed, downward position, and the legs tend to have feathered hair all the way down. These dogs don’t grow a lot of fluff on the face, though, which makes it easier to keep up with grooming.Newfoundlands come in black, brown, grey, or white and black, and any of those colors could also include some white freckling here and there.

Personality

The Newfoundland has a very distinct personality that sets it apart from other dog breeds. While it may sound like I’m praising them as perfect dogs so far, there are some pros and cons to the Newfoundland personality. Here’s what you need to know:

  • The AKC registry states that the single most important characteristic of this breed’s personality is sweetness. Above all else, a Newfie is sweet and even-tempered.

 

  • They have a great affinity for children, and while they should never be left as the sole caretaker of a child, they are great for watching over kids that are playing outdoors.
  • They respond well to training. They are very trusting, so start with positive training that uses gentle correction and rewards good behavior with treats.
  • They do need plenty of affection and attention. They think of themselves as lap dogs and won’t do well with being left alone a lot.
  • They have very brave, heroic dispositions, so expect them to jump right into the fray if there’s a problem. This can translate to being overly protective if they don’t know a stranger, so be sure to socialize a Newfie well to prevent problems with a mailman, for example.
  • They aren’t known for being super vocal, but they are known for drooling. A lot. Be aware that a Newfie is probably going to be a bit messy.
  • They are higher energy dogs that need exercise and play. They have a long “teen years” stage from about six months to about three years of age, so expect them to stay in that adolescent stage for a good amount of time. Newfoundlands live to about 10 years on average.
  • Newfoundlands, especially puppies, tend to chew. Be sure you invest in some chew toys and teach your dog not to chew anything that you wouldn’t want to be destroyed!

As you can see, they are overall fantastic dog companions, but they may not work for every type of owner.

Health

Newfoundlands are not always the healthiest of dogs due to their size. Most giant breed dogs suffer from joint issues and structural problems like hip dysplasia. The Newfoundland is not exempt from this. Severe arthritis is not uncommon in this breed either. In fact, the breed club recommends that every Newfie have her hips and elbows X-rayed at the age of two, regardless of whether or not she shows signs of issues. At this age, the bones, ligaments, and joints can still be easily mended, but have developed enough to really spot concerning issues.

 

Newfies are also at a higher risk for problems with the heart, as well as kidney defects and bladder stones. Additionally, any dog with a deep chest like the Newfie has the tendency to be more prone to bloat, which is a condition where the stomach can become twisted upon itself, and can cause death. Newfies should be fed in smaller portions throughout the day if possible, or fed from a bowl designed to slow them down to help prevent bloat. Joint supplements may become an important part of a Newfoundland’s health care as they get older.When choosing a puppy food for a Newfie, you’ll want to go with something specifically designed for large breeds, as it will contain ingredients meant to help aid in the growth of cartilage. Large-breed puppies often grow at a rate that is too fast for their joints to keep up with, which is what causes damage later down the line.

Care and Grooming

The Newfoundland does need some regular attention to keep their coat from matting up – but it’s not as much as many other breeds. Weekly brushing will keep the coat in good shape, along with a bath only as needed. However, Newfies do have very fast-growing nails that should be kept trimmed to avoid injury. Invest in a good pair of nail clipper, or plan to go to the groomers often to keep them in check. You’ll also want to check their ears for wax build up regularly, and also brush their teeth about once a week. These steps help prevent some of the most common health issues that all dogs face.

Newfoundlands do require an average amount of exercise, but because they are large, powerfully-bodied dogs, what is average may still wear you out. A daily walk isn’t likely to be enough for a Newfie. They’ll also need some dedicated play time. It’s a good idea to teach them to fetch or play other games, to help wear them out. Because they were bred to drag heavy nets out of the water, they’ll do well with things like pulling a sled around for the kids or fetching a ball out of a pond. Get creative with your games and your Newfoundland will be even happier! But don’t sweat it if all you can do is take a nice long walk and do a bit of general horsing around. The Newfie is mostly just happy to be moving with you.

It’s also important to note that Newfoundlands are sensitive to heat, and don’t make great outdoor pets. They need to be able to access the indoors to stay comfortable – and they prefer to be close to the family anyway. If you live in a very warm area, be sure to give your Newfie plenty of shade and water should you be outdoors in the sun. Keep an eye on their paws and breathing to make sure they aren’t too affected by the heat.

Kids and Other Pets

Obviously, Newfoundlands are known for their good behavior around kids. They are gentle, don’t startle easily, and are prone to nanny behaviors that make them ideal companions for children of all ages. Young Newfies may not know their own strength, so be sure to supervise playtime with small children until your dog is fully matured. However, once they reach the adult age, Newfies generally have a very gentle touch. Newfoundlands also do well with other pets, including small pets like cats. They weren’t bred to hunt,so they don’t have much of a prey drive, making them a good dog to introduce to a household that already has cats or other small pets. They can get a little protective when it comes to dogs they don’t know, so it’s a good idea to socialize them well. Take the Newfie for play dates at the dog park when they are very young and you’ll have an easier time preventing protective behaviors in the future.

Would a Newfie Be a Good Fit For You?

At first glance, it seems like the Newfoundland might be a good dog for just about any family, but there are some things to keep in mind before you adopt this breed. The ideal owner for a Newfoundland would be:

  • Experienced with positive training techniques
  • Willing and able to offer plenty of exercise and play time every day
  • Not forced to leave the dog alone for long periods of time
  • Someone with an active, happy family or a single person that is active and willing to have a dog underfoot a lot
  • Willing and able to keep a close eye on the dog’s health and do preventative screenings
  • Okay with drool and other messy behaviors
  • Someone who loves the idea of a big lapdog
  • Someone who is physically able to handle a large dog
  • Willing to offer care into the dog’s senior years for inevitable orthopedic issues
  • Able to keep the dog indoors, especially in the summer

If that sounds like you, then you would likely be a great owner for a Newfoundland! These gentle giants are wonderful dogs for the right type of owner and are likely to steal your heart for good once you’ve had one.

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The Final Word

Janice, Leroy, and I have never had the chance to play with a Newfoundland. They aren’t as popular in the area where I live, and I’ve never bumped into one at a dog event. However, just like you, I’ve watched them on television shows and in movies (remember the Newfie in “Must Love Dogs”?), and they look like fantastic dogs to own.

I’ve also watched them in AKC competitions on the TV, where they do everything from obedience trials to water competitions. They are also known for making great therapy dogs for elderly or disabled people, because they are just the right height to assist in getting in and out of bed. Finally, I’ve also heard of Newfoundlands acting as great companions for hikers and backpackers thanks to their stamina and loyalty.

Overall, I think this breed has a lot to offer, but it’s important to start their training early to prevent them from becoming stranger-averse and suspicious of other dogs. If you can achieve that, you’ll have an amazing, gentle, loyal dog on your hands that will be a great addition to your family.

About the Author Ash

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