Newfoundlands are gentle giants with a sweet and amiable disposition, who love to play with children, and are strong, calm and loyal. They have a natural affinity to water and are great at swimming and rescuing people from drowning. They can pull sleds and carts and be a good guard dog while you’re camping. However they drool a lot, shed a lot, and take up a large amount of space.
Male adults reach a height of 27 to 29 inches, and females a height of 25 to 27 inches. Males weigh 130 to 150 pounds at maturity, and females 100 to 120 pounds.
As you might guess, this breed was born in Newfoundland, Canada. They were popular with fisherman, as they have webbed feet and an innate ability to swim well. They could rescue people from drowning, bring fishing nets to shore, and pull the cart of fish to market to sell. When Lewis and Clark undertook their famous expedition across America, they took a Newfoundland with the, who helped hunt and guard their camp.
Many Europeans were so impressed by them that they imported them back to England, where they first began to take part in dog shows. One famous Newfoundland called Napoleon performed many tricks in circuses and theatres in the UK, to the extent that his death was announced in the newspapers. Another famous but fictional Newfoundland was Nana in ‘Peter Pan’, who watched the children. But many owners agree that the role of nanny is perfect for the breed.
Newfoundlands love to be around people, and with their family. They are very patient with children and let them climb all over them. They aren’t aggressive generally, but will guard their family and do what it takes to protect them. They are good natured, and make great rescuers – there are many stories of them rescuing children and adults from drowning.
Looking almost more like a bear than a dog, the Newfoundland is a giant and hairy breed. He has webbed feet which helps him swim very well, and a water-resistant coat. In Canada the breed is only supposed to be black or white and black, but in other countries more colors are allowed, such as brown and grey. Their double coat keeps them warm in chilly waters, and they have a large lung capacity and a lot of muscle.
Because of his double water-resistant coat, the Newfoundland tolerates cold weather and water very well. However as you can imagine with all that long hair, he doesn’t do so well in hot weather, and shouldn’t be kept outdoors in summer. During hot weather they should be kept in air conditioning or fans, and provided with water and shade if they have to be outside, as they are prone to getting heatstroke. This breed isn’t too active indoors so they can do OK in an apartment if they’re given enough exercise – but bear in mind that they are very large, so will need some space to move around! They can develop separation anxiety if they are left by themselves for too long, as they are definitely people dogs.
Newfoundlands are great with children, to the extent that some people even say they are good babysitters. However they could easily knock over a toddler so you will still need to supervise them with small children, and also teach your children how to act towards them. They are friendly towards strangers, unless they feel their family is being threatened. They are good with other pets, but socialization is important to make sure they become well rounded and able to get on well with other animals and humans.
Their big fluffy coat means that these dogs can get quite messy, and track a lot of the mess into your house as well! Daily brushing is recommended to keep them clean and prevent mats from appearing. They shed heavily during Spring and Fall, and moderately the rest of the year. So long as they are getting regular brushing, they should only need a bath once every month or two months. Their ears should be checked and cleaned regularly, and the nails trimmed unless they are worn down naturally. You should brush their teeth every week to help their gums and teeth stay healthy. They do drool a lot, so you might not want to choose a Newfoundland if you like your house to stay super clean.
Newfoundlands are very smart, but individual dogs vary in how stubborn they are or eager to please. It is best to start them off young, before they get too huge. Positive reinforcement is recommended, with treats and praise. Their water rescue ability is a natural instinct and doesn’t need to be trained into them. However if you are going to have them work in the water as a main occupation, the AKC recommend that you introduce them to water by 4 months old.
Relatively lazy around the house, these dogs aren’t too demanding, but should be taken for a walk every day. They enjoy and are good at swimming, so going to the ocean or a river is a great activity for them. They are also good at pulling carts, with their strong muscles and can be entered into many different kinds of canine competitions, such as carting, dock jumping, agility, herding and tracking. You can also hook up your Newfoundland to a sled and let him pull the kids in the snow, as he enjoys a sense of purpose. They are also excellent companions for a camping trip or a jog. When they are still puppies they shouldn’t be taken on walks or given strenuous exercise – just letting them play in the yard is good at this age.
Multiple small meals a day and avoiding exercise around mealtimes will help to prevent bloat, which Newfoundlands are prone to. They should be fed from raised feeding dishes, or you can place them on a step so they are a big higher. This will help your dog avoid damaging his neck from continually reaching downward to eat. You should also not leave the food out after about 15 minutes, to avoid the risk of mixing exercise and food.
You should start off by feeding your puppy whatever he was being fed by his breeder. Then you can gradually transition him over if you want to change his diet, to avoid him getting an upset stomach. At 6 months old they should be eating 3 meals a day, and then 2 meals a day once they’re an adult. Having said that, some breeders recommend feeding puppies 8 times a day, and adults 5 times a day.
Watch out for cheap biscuits and ‘fillers’ that might cause skin and digestive issues. Also avoid foods that contain corn, soy and artificial preservatives, as these can lead to food allergies or sensitivities. Look for a food that is formulated especially for large and giant breeds, and make sure protein is the first ingredient on the list.
Recommended daily feeding amount: 4 to 5 cups of high quality dry food a day, divided into two meals.
Watch out for giving too many treats, as they can lead to your dog becoming overweight. The amount that he needs will also depend on how much activity he is getting, his age, and his metabolism.
Common Health Concerns
With their large chest and build, Newfoundlands are prone to bloat (gastric torsion), so should not be exercised too soon after eating, and should be fed more than one meal a day so that they don’t gulp too much air when eating. You will also need to be aware of the symptoms, such as disorientation, lethargy and excessive drooling, and get him immediate medical attention if you suspect it.
They are also prone to hip and elbow dysplasia, where problems in their joints can lead to lameness. These are both hereditary conditions, so if you’re buying your puppy from a breeder you will want to make sure that the parents have been screened for these before breeding.
Cystinuria can lead to kidney or bladder stones, which lead to inflammation and death, if untreated. Medication can be given to prevent the stones from forming. Epilepsy and cancer can also be problematic in this breed.
Newfoundlands are often purchased without any clear understanding of what goes into owning one. There are many Newfoundlands in need of adoption and or fostering. There are a number of rescues that we have not listed. If you don’t see a rescue listed for your area, contact the national breed club or a local breed club and they can point you toward a Newfoundland rescue.