The Dog for Gentle People

By Joan Fenwick for Exceptional Canine

The Dog for Gentle People

Newfoundlands, or "Newfs" and "Newfies," as they are often nicknamed, were originally bred as working dogs. They performed all sorts of heavy labor tasks in their native Newfoundland, from hauling wood and pulling in fishnets to helping fishermen take their catch to market. This giant bear of a dog will work his heart out for you, but he's also big-hearted. In fact, this sweet-natured, cuddly canine likes nothing better than being adored by his human family.

Newfoundlands: Four-footed Lifeguards

Newfs are web-footed, natural swimmers who will, even without training, dive right in the water and rescue a person in trouble. This lifesaving instinct is simply in their genes. In fact, they're so good at it that the Newfoundland Club of America has water tests that involve several levels of proficiency for News to demonstrate when saving a "victim." They're masters at swimming long-distances, too. Many dog breeds would get chilled to the bone if they spent as much time in cold water as the Newfoundland, but the oily nature of the Newfoundland's double coat provides him with very effective thermal insulation.

Newfs: Regular Grooming Required

Everyone wants a Newfoundland when seeing one of these magnificent dogs in the show ring. However, that handsome look takes a lot of hard work to create and maintain. Keeping the Newf's coat looking handsome and odor-free takes dedicated, routine grooming including:

  • Regular baths
  • Frequent brushing and combing to keep the coat free of mats
  • Ear cleaning and trimming to prevent infections
  • Toenail trimming.

This is the minimum routine owners should commit to for their Newfs to be happy and healthy.

The Family Newf

It's easy to fall in love with the Newf's sweet disposition and fuzzy wuzzy look. And although Newfies are large, they don't need the space of a large home. People unfamiliar with the breed often neglect to train their Newf: The cute 20-pound puppy will, by his first birthday, grow to be a big 100-pound dog who wants to jump on people and little children. This is why training is essential, as is a fenced yard.

Health-wise, as with many large-breed dogs, the Newfoundland might face hip, knee and elbow problems, and heart issues are not uncommon. Newfs are not outdoor dogs and in the summer should be kept in air conditioning, as heat and humidity can easily cause heat stroke. But they do like cold weather, especially playing in the snow!

Before adopting a Newf into your family, I encourage you to visit your regional and national Newfoundland clubs' websites to find valuable information about the breed and breeder referral information. Also, attend a Newfoundland event and talk with other Newf owners.

Joan Fenwick is an officer in the regional New Pen Del Newfoundland Club and is active on two committees with the national Newfoundland Club of America. She has owned Newfoundlands for 17 years. Some of her Newfies have been registered pet therapy dogs, while others have excelled in obedience training.