One of the few dog breeds considered to be indigenous to Canada, the multipurpose water dog, fishing aid and draft animal we know today as the Newfoundland Dog, is believed to have been created during the early part of the 17th century in the vicinity of St John's, Newfoundland. Outside of the aforementioned information nearly everything else in regards to the actual timeline and early development of the Newfoundland dog is and shall remain a matter of speculation.
As controversial as they are varied; over the years several popular theories have arisen to explain the appearance of the large black dog on the island of Newfoundland. The first and probably least likely theory is that the breed was developed from the black 'bear' dogs of the Vikings when they traveled to Newfoundland and the Americas around 1000 A.D. The entire basis of this Viking dog theory is the discovery by archeologists in the 1960’s of large dog skeletons at the failed Viking settlement of “L’Anse Aux Meadows”, or Jellyfish Cove on the Northern tip of the Island of Newfoundland. Other than the discovery of the bones there is no other evidence to support the fact that the early Viking dogs to whom these skeletons once belonged had anything to do with the Newfoundland dog. It is just as likely, if not more that these dogs, like their Viking masters died of starvation and exposure as a result of climatic change brought on by an ice age event.
Another popular theory surrounding the early development of the Newfoundland dog is that it was developed from or naturally evolved from the American Black Wolf and/or other native dogs. However, modern science and documented history have for the most debunked both parts of this theory. In 2008, Dr. Gregory S. Barsh, a professor of genetics and pediatrics at the Stanford University School of Medicine, studying wolf DNA sequences discovered that a gene mutation, known as the K locus, is responsible for the black coat color in both wolves and dogs. Dr. Barsh , along with his colleagues then concluded that this mutation arose in dogs some 12,779 to 121,182 years ago. Basing his own opinion on this, another scientist; Robert K. Wayne, a canine evolutionary biologist at the University of California, Los Angeles concluded that that dogs were the first to have the mutation. He further stated that even if it originally arose in the Eurasian wolves of Mongolia, China, Russia, Scandinavia, Western Europe and the Himalayan Mountains;, it would have been passed on to dogs prior to their arrival in the new world, who would have then passed it to the wolves and coyotes.
In regards to the Newfoundland dog naturally evolving from the native dogs of Newfoundland; most authorities agree upon the fact that no native or indigenous dogs existed on the island of Newfoundland prior to the arrival of the Europeans. They also note that even if an indigenous canine species did exist on the Island of Newfoundland they were so few in number that they failed to make recorded history and thus probably had no effect on any of the breeds that are known to have originated from here. This leaves us with one other possibility; that the Newfoundland dog most likely originated from a mix of dogs such as the black St. Hubert's hound or Great Pyrenees of France, working water dogs or mastiffs brought to the island from Portugal, or old European pointer breeds brought to the island by fisherman and explorers starting as early as the 15th and 16th century. It is certainly logical that the Newfoundland dog may have been created through some mixture of these or of other breeds, as the Island of Newfoundland was a frequent destination of fisherman, tradesmen and explorers from around the world several centuries before the development of the breed. This would have provided plenty of time for them to develop a working breed such as the Newfoundland dog with all of the desired physical abilities and working dog traits.
It is interesting to note that the initial history of the Newfoundland dog closely mirrors that of the now extinct Saint John’s Water dog (Lesser Newfoundland); a breed which recorded history shows existed around the same time on the Island of Newfoundland and a breed generally accepted as having been the product of the early 15th or 16th century fishermen, tradesmen and explorers that frequented the Island of Newfoundland. However like much of the Newfoundland dogs history the relationship between the two breeds is unclear; which leaves no definitive answer as to whether or not the Newfoundland dog developed independently from and alongside the Saint John’s Water dog or was the product of the selective crossing of the Saint John’s Water dog with other breeds.
Much of what we do know about the early history of the Newfoundland dog begins around the mid to late 18th century where the breed proved its usefulness by working as a draft animal pulling carts or carrying packs or alongside the fishing industry hauling nets, and delivering lines to shipwrecked vessels. This is also the time that we start to find first usages of the name “Newfoundland dog” appearing in documents, journals and literature of the time.
The English born trader and explorer Captain George Cartwright (1739 –1819), known for his early life ventures in Newfoundland is frequently credited with being the first to apply the name Newfoundland dog to the breed in 1775. According to his journal, published in 1911 and titled “Captain Cartwright and his Labrador Journal” he makes the following references to what he refers to as a Newfoundland dog:
Sunday, April 2, 1775. At six o'clock this morning, I set off for port Marnham on a deer-shooting party, taking Indian Jack, with our provisions and necessaries, upon my Esquimau sled, drawn by a couple of blood-hounds and a Newfoundland dog.
Thursday, August 17, 1775. In the forenoon I went up the river in my kyack, and took two men, the greyhound and a Newfoundland dog in the punt, to hunt for the bear. We got the punt in to the lake without much difficulty, and found a yearling dog-bear fast by both hind legs, in that trap which captain Dykes saw last night; the other was not moved, but Dykes was near being caught in it himself. After baiting the bear for some time, to enter the dogs, I shot it through the head and brought it, and both the traps down with us. On our return we skinned the bear, which proved in good condition for this time of the year.
Further reading into his journal uncovers the following two additional references to a Newfoundland dog nearly four years earlier in 1771.
Monday, April 8, 1771. At ten o'clock Milmouth came from the Lodge to remain with me. Soon afterwards two of the sealers called to inform me that they had killed a wolf at the East end of this island, which had got into one of their traps upon White-Fox Island this morning. He travelled at such a rate with the trap upon one of his fore feet, that they had much difficulty to overtake him, though assisted by a couple of stout Newfoundland dogs; for the wolf so intimidated the dogs, by frequently snapping at them as he ran, that they were'afraid to attack him. I went with them to take a view of the beast, and a large old dog he was, but very poor; for he had been impelled by hunger to haunt about the sealers' house for some time past, to eat the seals' bones which had been left half picked by their dogs. Milmouth and I were employed all the rest of the day in cutting boughs to sewel the harbour, in order to cause the deer to come close to a point of Eyre Island, where I intend to watch for them.
Sunday, November 10, 1771. In the night, my Newfoundland dog, not having been put in the kennel, visited some of the traps, and brought one of them home on his foot.
Whether or not the above passages make reference to the Newfoundland dog as we know it today is impossible to tell. However, it does provide two specific references to the breed being used as a freighting animal. It was during this time that the big Newfoundland dog really began to be noticed for its many uses in a variety of tasks. Equally useful in the water as it was on land, Newfoundland dogs were used aboard ships to take lines to shore, retrieve objects from the sea, and to ferry objects between ships. They were even used to deliver the Royal Mail by use of specialized wooden carts in town. Farmers also made use of the breed to haul and deliver milk.
Their usefulness as a freighting animal was also documented by the Perth, Scotland born, British naturalist, Captain Thomas Brown (1785 –1862) in his work “Biographical Sketches and Authentic Anecdotes of Dogs” published in 1829. In it, he provides the following in regards to their usage in Newfoundland:
“Habitually inclined to industrious employment, such dogs are as useful to the settlers of the coast from which they are brought as our ponies and galloways are to us. It is easy to accustom them to daily labour. From three to five of them are harnessed to a sledge, or other vehicle, containing a load of wood, or lumber, amounting to twenty or thirty stones, which they steadily draw for miles with ease. This they do without the aid of a driver, when they are acquainted with the road; and having delivered their burden they return home to their master, and receive, as a reward for their labour, their accustomed food, which generally consists of dried fish, of which they are said to be extremely fond. “
However, in spite of its attributes and proven usefulness the Newfoundland soon found itself in trouble in its native homeland with the enactment of the 1780 Newfoundland Sheep Act by then Commodore-Governor of Newfoundland, Richard Edwards which limited legal ownership of dogs to one per household. The reason given for the 1780 Newfoundland Sheep Act was that limiting the number of dogs that a household could own would, in theory, prevent strays from becoming a menace to sheep. Today it is considered to have been a politically motivated decision as there was quite a bit of hostility between the colonist who raised sheep and the West-of-England fishing merchants who used dogs and did not welcome the competition of permanent settlers.
It may have also been in response to the popular practice of some fishermen to let their dogs roam free during the summer to fend for themselves when they were not being used on ships or to assist in hauling or hunting. This was also documented in the book by Captain Thomas Brown, when he provided the following information about this practice and the damage caused by free roaming marauding dogs:
“They are there, by selfish and inhuman custom, left, during the whole summer, to shift for themselves, and are not only troublesome and dangerous to the inhabitants, but also, from starvation and disease, public nuisances in the streets. Contrary to their natural disposition, when associated with and supported by man, and goaded by the imperious demands of hunger, they assemble in packs, prowl about like wolves for their prey, destroying sheep, poultry, and every thing eatable within their reach. On the return of the cold season their unfeeling masters relinquish the fishing, when they seek with the utmost eagerness for their lately abandoned dogs, without the assistance of which it would be absolutely impossible to get through the severe labours of a Newfoundland winter. In seeking and claiming this property, much confusion, and even litigation in the courts, ensue, the value of these periodically-deserted animals being estimated at from two to eight pounds each.”
Brown also wrote the following about the Newfoundland dog regressing to a wild and aggressive wolf-like state contrary to its nature in order to attack sheep when left alone and hungry:
“The Newfoundland Dog is a valuable and faithful friend to man, and an implacable enemy to sheep. When born or reared from an early age under the roof of man, this dog is the most useful domestic animal in the island of which he is a native. He answers some of the essential purposes of a horse; is docile, capable of strong attachment, and easily pleased in the quality of his food;—he will live upon scraps of boiled fish, whether salted or fresh, and on boiled potatoes and cabbage; but, if hungry, he will not scruple to steal a piece of salmon or raw salt pork from the tub in which it has been left to steep. He is likewise fond of poultry of the larger kind; but he seems to prefer the blood of sheep to every thing else.
Both the Greenland and Newfoundland dogs, however, in a wild state, agree in the dispositions and habits of the wolf. They hunt in packs the animals of the country for the sake of prey; and this circumstance has led to the supposition, which by others is deemed groundless, of there being wolves in the island of Newfoundland “
Although like many authors it appears as though Brown may have embellished some facts to add a bit of flair to his writing. In the following two passages from this same work, he applies blood thirsty vampire like attributes to the Newfoundland dog. Facts that a reader today would clearly know to be false, however, 200 years ago it was more than likely viewed as being a fairly accurate description of the dogs personality.
“It is a remarkable circumstance, that the Newfoundland Dog, when pursuing a flock of sheep, will single out one of them, and, if not prevented, which is a matter of considerable difficulty, will never leave off the pursuit until he has mastered his intended victim. He always aims at the throat; but, after having sucked the blood, he has never been known to touch the carcass.”
“The Newfoundland Dog resembles the Greenland dog in several respects; but the following facts establish some essential differences between them:—It will be seen by our anecdote of the Greenland dog left at Boomer, that he killed the sheep for the fat about the kidneys, upon which he fed with great avidity, while the Newfoundland Dog seems to kill the same animals merely for the sake of their blood.”
Not only did the 1780 Newfoundland Sheep Act make any further development of the breed in its native country nearly impossible by limiting ownership to one per household; it also resulted in many of the best specimens being exported in great numbers to Europe; primarily to England. It was here that the English picked up and carried on with the breeds development, especially in terms of the mastiff-like muzzle that separates the modern Newfoundland dog from its early ancestors. The English are were also responsible for increasing the overall size of the dog and helping to turn the Newfoundland into the breed we recognize today.
A Newfoundland Dog named ‘Boatswain’ is also credited with altering the course of human history by saving the life of Napoleon Bonaparte. While Napoleon was escaping from his island exile in 1814, unnoticed in the dark, the non swimming emperor fell overboard and began to drown. It was at this time that ‘Boatswain’ jumped in the water and dived down three times before retrieving Napoleon, allowing him to go on to be defeated at Waterloo.
In the mid 19th century, the white and black Newfoundland came into vogue as a result of paintings by Sir Edwin Landseer. His paintings depicted Newfoundlands as noble animals devoted to humankind. Three of his paintings Off to the Rescue (1827), A Distinguished Member of the Humane Society (1838), and Saved (1856) featured the breed as water rescue dogs. ‘Off to the Rescue’ hints at the life saving abilities of the breed by showing a Newfoundland dog at the seashore, on the verge of leaping into action. His most famous painting ‘A Distinguished Member of the Humane Society’ depicts ‘Bob’; another black and white Newfoundland dog lying next to the water waiting to be of assistance to the unwary. According to legend, Bob, a stray dog as a result of being shipwrecked off the coast of New England became famously-known along the waterfront of London for saving people from drowning. During the course of his 14 year life he was credited with twenty-three rescues and declared a distinguished member of the Royal Humane Society which entitled him to a medal and food every day. The last Newfoundland dog painting of Landseer, ‘Saved’, depicts a small child nestled between the enormous paws of another black and white Newfoundland dog. This painting is based on a dog named ‘Milo’ who lived with the keeper of the Egg Rock Lighthouse in Nahant, Massachusetts. Over the course of his life Milo’s fame spread across the Atlantic as he was credited with the rescue of several children from drowning around the island. So popular and influential were Landseer's paintings of Newfoundland dogs in the service of humanity that the name Landseer came to be the official name for the Black and White variety of Newfoundland dog. Around the same time, Scottish author James Barrie also helped to elevate the popularity of the breed when he chose to use a Newfoundland dog to fulfill the role of ‘Nana’; the famed canine nurse when he created ‘Peter Pan’. All of the attention during this era helped the Newfoundland dog become iconic of the English Victorian family. The first recorded official showing of the breed happened in 1860, at a dog show in Birmingham, England, where six Newfoundlands were entered. In 1879, the first Newfoundland was registered with the American Kennel Club (AKC). In 1883, a Newfoundland named “Sam” became the first American champion of the breed; and in 1886, the Newfoundland dog was officially recognized by the AKC. The 19th century also marked the apex of the breeds popularity in America, where it was considered to be a premier family dog.
Their affinity and ability in the water is also the reason that the Newfoundland dog was used as part of the foundation stock for the Leonberger breed in the 1830's; another breed well known for excelling as a water rescue dog and a breed that was imported by the Canadian government for that purpose. The Newfoundland was also used by the State run kennel in Russia following World War II when they wanted to create a lifesaving dog; the now extinct ‘Moscow Water Dog’. The Russian plan revolved around out crossing the Newfoundland with the East European Shepherd and Caucasian Ovcharka to create a working rescue dog. Unfortunately instead of creating a lifesaving dog, they created a dog that was more interested in attacking drowning people than rescuing them.
By the early 1900’s there were quite a few kennels in England actively breeding the Newfoundland dog, while in its homeland it had become nearly extinct as a result of the Sheep Act of 1780 and the latter Sheep Protection Act of 1885; which imposed a heavy tax on all dogs in Newfoundland. The tax rate for females was considerably higher than it was for males, which led to many female pups being destroyed at birth. Additionally by the 1900’s, 135 districts within Newfoundland had decided to completely ban the keeping of all dogs. If not for the efforts of the Honourable Harold MacPherson, owner of the world famous Westerland Kennels, the breed would have probably disappeared from the North American Continent.
His love for the Newfoundland dog began early in his life. As a child in the 1880’s, young Harold’s number one boyhood companion was the Newfoundland dog owned by his parents. The two grew up together and Harold was as much raised by his parents as he was by this dog. Entering adulthood, long after the loss of his boyhood companion, he sought to purchase a Newfoundland dog of his own, only to find out that by this point they were in danger of extinction in their country of origin. Not only were its numbers rapidly diminishing on the Island of Newfoundland but World War I had nearly removed the breed from the planet entirely.
Prior to the first Great War, the Newfoundland dog had been flourishing in England, however, shortages and food rationing destroyed the vast majority of breeding programs. In 1919, following World War I, National Geographic even went as far as to declare that the breed was virtually extinct. So depleted were their numbers that by 1923 only 23 Newfoundland dogs were registered in Britain. Thanks to the efforts of a few dedicated fanciers and extremely dedicated breeders in England, Switzerland, Holland, the United States and Canada a restoration process began that used the few remaining quality specimens of the breed; mostly all from English stock. However, progress was slow and painstaking and by 1928 the number of Newfoundland dogs had only climbed to 75. Other species have been effectively declared to be extinct when their numbers dwindled to less than 300.
In Canada, it was the Honourable Harold Macpherson who resurrected the breed at his Westerland estate on the edge of the city of St. John’s. His Westerland Kennel was founded with a female dog named Guess and an imported English male named Bobs. Dogs from this kennel would go on to form the foundation for the breed on the North American Continent and also provide the vast majority of all the early champions. His kennel became so famous that one of his dogs Macpherson’s ‘Westerland Sieger’ was forever immortalized on a series of stamps beginning in 1931. In 1937, this dog even shared a 14 cent stamp with the newly crowned King George VI. Many today credit his kennels for the extraordinary revival of the breed started in the 1960’s when a dog named ‘Newton’ bred by Hon. Harold MacPherson and owned by Melvin Sokolsky went on to become the top winning Newfoundland Show dog to date. As he would come to be known, ‘International Champion Newton’ amassed an amazing 15 Best in Show wins, 55 Group firsts, 199 Best of Breed wins, and 8 Best in Specialty wins.
Another famous early breeder of Newfoundland dogs was Miss Elizabeth Loring, an American woman that blew away the competition in the show ring following World War I with her Ch. Seafarer, an imported English dog and the son of the great English champion Ch. Siki. The majority of modern day Newfoundland's can be traced back to “Siki” an English show dog from the 1920's. "Siki" was an outstanding example of the breed, but even more important than that he was very effective at transmitting his hereditary characteristics to his offspring; producing numerous high quality dogs. Loring’s Waseeka Kennel would become the first large scale Newfoundland dog kennel in the United States. She was soon joined in her ground-breaking Newfoundland dog breeding efforts by Maynard and Kitty Drury’s Dryad Kennels, and Major and Bea Godsol’s Coastwise Kennels; both of which were also established in the early 1930s. It is these three kennels that are considered to be the foundation kennels for the American Newfoundland dog.
The recognized parent club of the breed today; the Newfoundland Club of America (NCA) was officially founded on February 21, 1930, with officers Quentin Twachman, president; Vivian Moultan, vice president, Harold Ingham, treasurer; and Miss Elizabeth Loring, secretary. The AKC accepted it for inclusion as the parent club in May of 1930. By 1931, the NCA put forth the first proposed breed standard for the Newfoundland dog; an adapted version of the English standard of the time. During World War II things were put on hold, but following the war the clubs new president; the aforementioned Miss Elizabeth Loring, oversaw the revision of the constitution and bylaws of the club in 1950. In 1970 the NCA rewrote the Standard for the Newfoundland for the first time since its acceptance in 1931. The 1970’s also marked the birth of the clubs official newsletter, “Newf Tide,” which is still published to this day.
Thanks to dogs like Darbydale's All Rise Pouchcove “Josh”, the 2004 Best in Show winner at the Westminster Dog Show, Newfoundland dogs are once again experiencing a slight resurgence in popularity. Currently the breed ranks 44th on the AKC’s "2010 Most Popular Dogs in the U.S." list; an improvement of nine positions since 2000. Well established all over the world, the majority of modern day Newfoundland dogs live their lives as cherished family members though many do still work. In France and Italy the breed is officially employed as lifeguards, some of which have been trained to leap from a helicopter to help a hapless human. A Newfoundland dog name ‘Bilbo’ even managed to become the first fully qualified canine lifeguard in England; he can be seen on duty patrolling the beach at Sennen Cove in Cornwall. This large, intelligent and versatile breed can also be found working as search and rescue dogs, avalanche dogs, cadavers dogs and as mobility assistance dogs. Known for their gentle disposition Newfoundlands even find themselves regularly being used as a therapy dogs and crisis response dogs, that provide emotional and therapeutic support to both the victims and rescuers at major disasters. Newfoundlands are also still actively used as draft animals, pulling carts full of kids at fairs ,participating in parades with specially decorated cars and wagons, and pulling sleds in the remote and snowy areas of the north. Newfoundlands are also a popular participant in recreational dog sports like weight pulls and water rescue competitions.
A multipurpose working breed; the Newfoundland is as at home on the land as it is in the water. A large, strong, heavily boned and well balanced dog with webbed feet and a water-resistant coat; the Newfoundland is a reliable draft animal on land that also possesses natural lifesaving abilities in the water. Considered to be a “Giant’ breed; Newfoundland males should have an approximate weight of 130–150 lbs (60–70 kg) while standing around 28 inches tall at the withers; females are slightly smaller at 100-120 lbs and 26 inches. Male Newfoundland dogs are also noted for being more massive in appearance throughout than that of a female. However, larger Newfoundland dogs are not an uncommon occurrence, with some dogs exceeding 200 lbs. The largest recorded Newfie measured over 6 feet from nose to tail with a weight in excess of 260 lbs. Although large size is a desirable trait in the breed, bigger is not necessarily better as it is expressly written within the breed standard that size should not be favored over or at the expense of symmetry, balance, structure, and correct gait.
When measured from point of shoulder to point of buttocks and from the withers to the ground, the Newfoundland dog should be slightly longer than it is tall. As you would expect the head of the Newfoundland dog is massive. The skull is broad with a slightly arched crown and a well developed prominent occipital bone. The forehead and face should be smooth and free of wrinkles. The slope of the stop is moderate; however, because the brow is so well developed, when viewed from the side it may appear abrupt. The relatively small, deep-set and widely spaced eyes should be dark brown in color. Although brown and gray Newfoundlands may have lighter eyes and should only be penalized to the extent that color affects the overall expression of the dog. The expression should be soft and reflect the well known characteristics of the breed which are benevolence, intelligence, and dignity. This is why oddly colored eyes or eyes that would give the dog a menacing appearance are undesirable. The smallish, triangular ears with rounded tips set well spaced upon the skull and should lie close to the head while setting level with or slightly above the brow line. Overall length of the ear should be so that when the ear is brought forward, the tip reaches to the inner corner of the eye on the same side.The muzzle of the Newfoundland is another feature important to the overall appearance and expression of the dog. Of nearly equal depth and length, the muzzle is clean cut with a rounded top and should be broad throughout its entire length. The muzzle should be less than half the total length of the skull and when measured from the tip of the nose to stop it would be less than the length from the stop to occiput. When viewed in profile, the bridge of the muzzle should appear straight or only slightly arched. The teeth should meet in either a scissors or level bite.
As a freighting or draft animal, the neck of the Newfoundland is thick and strong and well set on the shoulders with sufficient length to allow the dog to carry its head in a proud manner. The strong and muscular shoulders are tightly attached and well laid back. The chest should be full, robust and deep with a brisket that at the very least extends down to the elbows. These dogs are known for possessing great lung capacity that allows them to swim extremely long distances in the rough ocean while fighting waves and powerful currents. The ribs are well sprung from the body, with the the anterior third of the rib cage slightly tapered to allow clearance for the dogs elbows. The elbows should lie directly beneath the highest point of the withers and point directly to the rear. The length from the elbow to the ground should be approximately half the total height of the dog. The heavily boned and durable forelegs are muscular, straight and parallel to each other. The pasterns are strong and slightly sloping. The large webbed catlike feet should be in proportion to the overall size the body with thick, durable and heavily cushioned pads.
The strong, broad, and exceptionally muscular back of the Newfoundland is to be level from just behind the withers to croup. Flanks are deep, with a broad slightly sloping croup. The set of the tail should follow the natural contour of the sloping croup and be a natural extension of the spine. When relaxed the tail should hang to the hock; either straight or with a slight upward curve at the end. When alert, in motion or excited, the tail may be carried out or in a semi erect state but should never curl over the back. The powerful, muscular, and heavily boned hindquarters and legs provide power both on the land for hauling and propulsion in the water for swimming. The swimming stroke of the Newfoundland is not the ordinary dog paddle common to most breeds. Unlike the majority of other dogs, the limbs of the Newfoundland move in a down-and-out motion which is closer in appearance to a modified breaststroke. This unique style of propulsion give the dog more thrust and power with every stroke.
Another breed trait of the Newfoundland dog is it’s flat, water-resistant, double coat that tends to return to its natural point of rest even when brushed or rubbed in the wrong direction. The coarse outer coat, is of moderate length, full and either straight or with a slight wave. The soft, dense and tight undercoat provides the dog with insulation and protection from the elements. The shortest hairs are to be found on the face and muzzle. The entire length of the legs should be feathered. The hair of the tail is long, thick and dense.
Like size, coat color comes secondary to type, structure, and soundness. The officially recognized Newfoundland colors are black, brown, gray, and white and black. Blacks, browns, and grays may appear as solid colors or solid colors with white at any, some, or all, of the following locations: chin, chest, toes, and tip of tail. Any amount of white found at these locations, a tinge of bronze on a black or gray coat and lighter furnishings on a brown or gray coat should be considered typical of the breed. The Landseer type; is best described as a white base coat with black markings. The head is most often solid black, or black with white on the muzzle, with or without a blaze. There is also a separate black saddle and black on the rump that extends to the tail.
As per the breed standard:
“Sweetness of temperament is the hallmark of the Newfoundland; this is the most important single characteristic of the breed.”
That being said the Newfoundland is best described as a kind, patient dog that is extremely loyal to his master and his master’s family. Known for being patient and understanding with children, Newfoundland dogs typically make an excellent nanny figure or playmate for children. For this reason Newfs in the family are often referred to by the moniker "the nanny dog". However as with all large dogs, play between smaller children and larger dogs should be closely supervised to ensure that the dog is not put in a position where it feels it needs to act out aggressively. Also, the sheer size of the Newfoundland means that even a very even tempered dog may inadvertently topple children that get in its path during play. Their even, docile and sweet temperaments have also led to this breed being known as “the gentle giant”.
An alert and intelligent breed of dog the Newfoundland dogs are also noted for being fine guardians of the home. Although Newfoundlands are not considered to be barkers, they will use their deep loud bark to sound the alarm if they feel the situation warrants it. This breed also seems to possess a natural understanding of things that allows them to gauge the situation and be protective and brave if they need to be. Protective but not overtly aggressive, when facing an intruder, a Newfoundland dog is more likely to trap them, or hold them at bay by placing himself between the burglar and the family rather than initiate an all out attack.
Not only good with children, Newfoundland dogs that have been socialized are noted for being good with other animals as well. Socialization should start at a young age, with the goal of exposing the young dog to those things that you want it to coexist with in its adult life such as livestock, strange sounds, other dogs, cats, geese, ducks etc. It is important to remember that although Newfies are big, powerful and intimidating dogs; they are water dogs, not livestock dogs. They are bred for retrieving and water rescues and even have the webbed feet to prove it. So while it is possible that a Newfoundland dog may do well protecting livestock, it's not in their nature to do so. With other dogs the Newfoundland typically does well, however, there can be dominance issues on the part of the Newfie when faced with other dogs of the same sex. Although, not known for fighting other dogs, a Newfie will stand his ground and/or fight back if they feel the other dog is trying to be dominant or challenge them. This poses a risk for the other dog, as even though the Newfoundland will not try and kill the other dog and will cease the attack when the other dog submits, their sheer size and strength could be a fatal combination for a smaller dog even in a relatively minor altercation.
Some Newfoundlands are noted for being a bit headstrong and difficult to train. It is important that training be consistent, fun and entertaining for the dog. Newfs are typically noted for being rather food motivated, as such many trainers have achieved excellent results by using treats as a reward for the correct behavior. It is important that training start from an early age and that part of that training be dedicated to establishing the proper human dog hierarchy by placing the human in the Alpha position. It is much easier to correct and guide a stubborn or dominant puppy than it is a 150lb full grown stubborn dog. This breed is also noted for being rather sensitive to the owners tone, inflection and body language. This should be taken into account when training as acting harsh or overbearing during training may cause the dog to shut down and actively refuse further instruction. Training a Newfoundland exemplifies the expression that “you get more bees with honey than vinegar”.
Another hallmark of the breed is heroism and there are hundreds upon hundreds of stories to verify this naturally occurring trait. Their natural inclination as a benevolent guardian of human life has inspired a number of artists who have portrayed Newfies in literature, paint, stone, bronze and porcelain. At times, Newfoundland dogs can be a bit overzealous with idea of being a hero and may attempt to rescue a swimmer whether they need it or not. Although it sounds harmless, a swimmer may panick and hurt themselves or the dog when a large animal such as a Newfie swims out and clamps its mouth around an appendage in an unneeded attempt to drag them to shore. Thus it is recommended that they be supervised around water so they don’t inadvertently create a situation in which they or an unsuspecting swimmer could be hurt.
Newfs also possess a superb love of the water, so individuals that have ponds, live on lakes, own pools, or have other standing bodies of water easily assessable to the dog should expect that the dog will make use of it at every available opportunity. Their love of water and long water-repellent coat makes them into a highly efficient transporter of dirt into the home. Most of which will be deposited onto the floors, rugs and furniture of the home. This breed is also considered to be a drooler; although not as bad as some giant breeds, that drinks a lot of water and is very messy while doing it.
Although naturally powerful and athletic, Newfoundland dogs tend to move in a rather slow lumbering fashion. They also enjoy snoozing the day away and will typically be fine in the smaller home so long as they are sufficiently exercised. Indoors Newfs will generally opt for the more sedentary lifestyle. This breed prefers a colder climate and is known for being particularly susceptible to heat related stresses.
The thick double coat of the Newfoundland is prone to matting and can pose a problem for individuals that are not accustomed to regularly grooming their own dog. The coat comprises an outer coat of long, oily/shiny guard hairs, and an inner coat of short, downy fluff. When swimming, it is this fluff that insulates the dog, while the outer coat protects the inner coat and helps to repel water. Like many northern breeds, Newfies shed or blow their coat twice a year; spontaneously losing the majority of their undercoat, this in turn allows a new undercoat to grow in. This makes the Newfoundland dog an EXTREME shedder and one for which there is really no comparison unless of course you have owned a Newfie before. If you plan on owning a Newfoundland dog, you should also plan on near daily brushing sessions to keep the amount of hair left around the house, on furniture, floating through the air, on your clothes, clogging the A/C, and intertwined into the vacuum cleaner to a minimum. During the spring and fall when Newfies typically blow their coat; a process that may last 3 weeks or more it may be necessary to seek the help of a professional groomer to remove the garbage bags full of hair that will likely come off the dog. Bundles or clumps of dog hair lying about or Newfie foilage as it is affectionately known is just a part owning this breed that you will have to be willing to accept.
Bathing should be kept to a minimum so as not to strip the coat of its naturally protective oils. When you do bath your Newfie it is important that you rinse the dog exceptionally well to remove all soap residue from the coat and that you use a leave on coat conditioner or detangler to prevent matting as they dry. It is also important that you try not to brush out a completely dry newfie. This will not only cause coat breakage but it will also create a ton of static electricity and give the dog an Einstein type appearance. It is best to use a grooming spray to dampen the coat prior to brushing.
When brushing your Newfie it is important to work around the coat in sections. Choose your start point and hold the fur to the top away from the area you are brushing and brush from the base/root of the hair outwards. If you encounter a matt, spray on some detangler or coat conditioner and try to work it out with your fingers. Matting is generally caused by one of two things, first a lack of grooming or proper coat maintenance and/or using the wrong tools. The thick double coat of the Newfoundland prevents most brushes from actually penetrating the entire depth of the coat which can lead to matts forming deeper in closer to the skin. This is also why it is important to work in sections so you do not miss an area on this massive dogs thick coat. If you can’t work the matt out by hand then you are going to have to carefully scissor it out.
Although the Newfoundland is an amazing animal and by most accounts one of the few natural hero breeds, it is unfortunately prone to a number of congenital or genetically inherited health issues. It is important to only purchase a purebred dog from a breeder that provides among other things, a warrantee, genetic testing of the parents and verifiable documentation concerning the health of past litters.
The following list of genetically transmitted conditions been documented as affecting Newfoundland Dogs. Some of these conditions may be quite are while other may be a relatively common occurrence. These diseases also range in severity from what may be considered as cosmetic in nature, to conditions that are crippling or life-threatening in nature. They are presented in no specific order and are not prioritized in any way.