The large Newfoundland was originally a fisherman's dog named for the part of Canada it originates from. They are excellent swimmers, aided by webbed paws, and have a good record of lifesaving at sea.
Legend has it that the Newfoundland dog is actually descended from the Black Bear which roams this part of Canada. In fact, the Newfoundland shares many characteristics with other mastiff types, such as the St. Bernard and English Mastiff including the imposing head and a sturdy, well built body. The Newfoundland breed originated in Newfoundland, Canada, and is descended from a breed indigenous to the island known as the St. John's Dog. It is thought that the breed traits are a result of direct breeding with Mastiff type dogs bought to this area by Portuguese fishermen in the 16th century.
By 1610, the distinct physical characteristics and behavioural traits of this breed were established. Fast forward to the early 1880s, and fishermen and explorers from England, who had travelled to Newfoundland, found two main types of working dog. One was heavily built, large with a longish coat, and the other medium-sized in build but an active, smooth coated dog.
The heavier breed was known as the Greater Newfoundland. The smaller breed was known as the Lesser Newfoundland, or St. John's Dog. The St. John's Dog became the founding breed of most of the Retriever type dogs. Both breeds were used as working dogs to pull fish nets, with the Greater Newfoundland being stronger in size and larger in weight, also being used to pull carts and other equipment.
Average height to withers: 30 inches for male and 28 inches for females.
Average weight: Males generally between 65-80kg and females between 55-70kg.
Newfoundlands are famed for their thick, heavy water resistant coat and webbed feet, both of which aid swimming and survival in cold temperature sea water. The coat is also very oily and double making it perfect for these harsh environments.
Extremely large in the bone, this helps development the muscle mass needed by this breed to tackle rough seas and strong currents. This is coupled with the unusually large lungs which have a mighty capacity making it easier for the Newfoundland to swim long distances. The webbed feet are adapted for this and the Newfoundland has developed a 'breast stroke' like style of swimming as opposed to the normal 'doggy paddle' seen on other dogs to enable it to maximise the power behind each stroke and make it count.
The colours of this dog vary between different countries. Kennel club standards note however that it is usually seen in black and tan, solid black, brown or grey and an unusual colour named 'landseer' which is a white coat with black markings.
Strong, exceptionally well mannered, gentle and good natured, the Newfoundland makes a really good family pet. It seems to have an affinity with people and loves to spend time with them, especially its family. Their loyalty is legendary and they are excellent with children earning them the nickname 'nanny dogs', a well deserved title!
Due to their immense size, they can accidentally knock down smaller children but this will always be an accident. It is rare for a Newfoundland to show aggression in any form.
As with any breed of dog, early socialisation with children and other pets will only serve to increase the lovable nature of this dog. The Newfoundland is receptive to training but being quite docile, it can be quite lazy on occasion so a firm but kind routine is worth the effort with this dog.
As with many larger breeds of dog, the Newfoundland does not have the longest lifespan with an average of around 10 years.
It will suffer from Hip (and Elbow) Dysplasia due to its large frame and rapid growth rate as a youngster. Hip Dysplasia (HD) can affect all breeds of dog but is more prevalent in some breeds than others. It is caused by the abnormal formation of the hip ball and socket joint. Normally the ball would form a pivot point in the socket; however, some dogs are born with a genetic predisposition for HD. This means that at birth their hips are normal but as they grow, the hip joint does not grow correctly and as a result the ball no longer fits as it should. After the age of a year or so, the owner can opt to have their dog 'hip scored'. Hip scoring is a method used by vets to determine the degree of HD in dogs and involves the vet assessing a number of criteria during a diagnostic examination. If the dog is then found to have a high probability of HD, remedial action can be taken.
This breed can also suffer from SAS - Subvalvular Aortic Stenosis which is a congenital heart murmur. It is usually detected by the vet during routine checks as there are not always any symptoms presenting to the owner. Depending on the severity of the condition, once diagnosed, it can lead to death as it is a very difficult condition for vets to treat.
Newfoundlands have striking black and tan, brown, grey or solid black coats as well as a rather unusual colour called "landseer", which sees dogs with lovely white coats that boast black markings. Their thick double, water-resistant coats consist of a coarser and longer outer coat with the undercoat being dense yet soft. Shedding is moderate which typically happens in the spring and then again in the autumn.
Keeping a Newfoundland's coat looking good does require quite a bit of work because ideally they need to be brushed at least twice or three times a week. However, it's a good idea to have their coats professionally groomed at least three times a year, once in the spring, again in the summer and then finally in the autumn.
To prevent the dog becoming overweight and putting unnecessary stress on the bones, regular exercise is needed and it is likely that the dog will enjoy a swim given the chance!
As with all other dogs, especially ones with thick coats, it is essential that you do not let the dog overheat as this can lead to organ damage and even death if the body temperature is raised above 104-106 degrees. To avoid this the dog must be kept cool in warm weather and never left in hot cars (as with all dogs). If the dog becomes overheated it will pant excessively, look and act in a lethargic manner and possibly collapse. If this occurs you must cool the dog down as soon as possible, moving it into a shaded area, and applying wet, cool towels and rags to the body, paying attention to the feet. Even if the dog appears to have calmed down and recovered, is essential that emergency veterinary attention is sought.