I’m a lab person, from a lab family. We had labs growing up, and as adults, my brother, sister, and I all have labs. But lately I’ve been thinking a lot about Newfoundlands. I’m not sure if it’s their incredibly sweet disposition and endearing ways, or their lovable, huggable, big-teddy-bear-like appearance. Maybe I’m under the spell of my lovely Newfie friends. Whatever it is, I am smitten.
Behavior and Temperament
Newfoundlands are known for their calm, sweet dispositions. According to the Newfoundland Club of America and the AKC Breed Standard for Newfoundlands, “sweetness of temperament is the hallmark of the Newfoundland; this is the most important single characteristic of the breed.” I’ve certainly found this to be true with the Newfoundlands I’ve met — many of our Newfoundland friends are therapy dogs. Newfoundlands are loyal, intelligent, and eager to please, and are easy to train. Called the “nanny dog” (think Nana in Peter Pan), Newfoundlands are excellent with children.
Although there are many examples of much larger Newfoundlands, the breed standard for males is 130 to 150 pounds, and females 100 to 120 pounds. Their average height is 26 to 28 inches. They can be black, brown, gray or white with black markings (“Landseer”). Landseers are truly striking, with their Holstein cow-like coloring. Newfoundlands have long, flat, water-resistant double-coats.
There are conflicting stories about the origin of the breed. Some say the Newfoundland breed originated in Newfoundland, where they were used by fishermen to haul in fishing nets, retrieve things (and people) that fell overboard, and pull heavy carts. They are very strong swimmers, but they don’t swim like most other dogs. Rather than a dog paddle, the Newfoundland’s swimming style resembles a breast stroke.
Skills, Training, and Care
Due to their strength, stamina, and instinctive desire to assist people needing rescue, Newfoundlands excel at water rescue. Newfoundlands with no water rescue training have jumped into the water to save drowning strangers. As Italian Coast Guard K9 Lifeguards, Newfoundlands with special training jump out of helicopters to assist struggling swimmers.
Obedience training is necessary for any dog, but particularly for large, strong dogs. Training should begin early and should include socialization with other dogs and people and exposure to different types of situations. Regular exercise is also very important for the Newfoundland.
No breed is perfect. Even my beloved Newfoundlands have some less desirable qualities. Newfoundlands are known for producing copious amounts of drool and hair. Some wear bibs to soak up the drool; most Newf parents keep a towel handy to wipe up drool deposits. Newfoundlands shed year-round and blow their undercoat twice a year. They should be brushed and combed at least once a week to prevent matting of their thick coats. Some adult Newfoundlands cannot fit into a standard-sized bathtub, so must either be taken to a groomer for bathing or washed outside with a hose.
Because of its size, a Newfoundland needs a big car. My friends with Newfs have large sport utility vehicles and RVs for travel. For the Newfoundland’s comfort, a well-functioning air conditioning system is necessary in warmer climates.
As with most giant breeds, the life span of a Newfoundland is shorter than that of smaller dogs. The average life span is 10 years. Newfoundlands are prone to orthopedic conditions such as hip and elbow dysplasia and certain heart conditions. Some of these conditions are hereditary, so health clearances should be obtained prior to breeding.
I continue to fantasize about one day being a Newfoundland parent. Of course, I first must get approval from my lab and my husband and then purchase a larger car.
Rebecca Randolph is a writer and artist, who works a day job as an attorney. You can read about her lab Garth and their adventures at The World According to Garth Riley.