Newfoundland Breed Guide
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Newfoundland Breed Info & Background
Named for their origin along the coast of Newfoundland, Canada, the Newfoundland breed started as a working dog helping fishers haul in nets from cold water and rescuing their fair share of drowning people. It is believed that the early origins of the breed came from a cross of the Pyrenees sheepdogs that were brought over from France with the earliest explorers of what is today Canada. When English colonized the same area they brought an unknown breed, but probably curly haired retrievers that were popular at the time, which were most likely bred with the offspring of the Pyrenees sheepdogs popular with French explorers.
Although the early history of the Newfoundland breed has been obscured by history and is disputed to this day, we do know that the Newfoundland was brought back to Europe in the 18th century. During this time legislation on the island of Newfoundland forbidding the ownership of more than one dog, combined with their increasing export overseas, had significantly reduced the population of the breed on the island. From that point forward, Newfoundlands were bred primarily in England, where they experienced a surge in popularity. The breed was destroyed almost again when the Second World War ravaged Europe. However, following World War II, American Newfoundlands were used to revitalize and spread the popularity of this beloved breed.
The tumultuous history of the Newfoundland breed speaks to both their hardiness and popularity over a long period of time. The Newfoundland is a massive breed, with males standing 28” tall and weighing 130-150lbs, and females standing 26” tall and weight 100-120lbs. They are strong and muscular work dogs that have toiled alongside their human companions for most of their existence. Newfoundlands are as comfortable in water as they are on land, and spent much of their early history working on boats alongside fisherman. On land, they have been used as draft dogs and pack animals as well. Newfoundlands are tireless workers, great swimmers, and natural water rescue dogs. They have a stiff, oily outer coat that naturally repels water and an undercoat that is reminiscent of fleece that keeps their body warm. While their coat’s characteristics allows them to survive in cold water for long periods of time, their naturally webbed feet and powerful bodies propel them through water with ease. It is no wonder they have served alongside humans on or in water for as long as they have been on land.
Newfoundland Temperament & Personality
Perhaps the most surprising feature of the Newfoundlands and one of the reasons they became and have remained so popular is their wonderful personality. Newfoundlands have a gentle, easygoing temperament. They are a sweet breed and are very calm and patient. They form a strong bond with their family and can be protective guardians when the need arises. Despite their protectiveness, they are friendly towards strangers and other animals alike. They have a loving and affectionate personality, and like nothing more than to work or play alongside their owners and curl up at the end of the day.
Training a Newfoundland
Newfoundlands are a very trainable breed. They are not the easiest breed to train, but nor are they the hardest by any stretch of the imagination. They are highly intelligent and can learn new commands quickly and retain commands they have learned over time. They do well in obedience training, and new owners are encouraged to begin training their Newfoundland as soon as they get them home. The difficulty in training a Newfoundland comes from their history as an independent work dog. They have been bred to think and act independently of their owner, and as such this behavior sometimes manifests during obedience training. Getting over this hurdle just requires time and patience. The best advice for Newfoundland owners is simply to incorporate training principles into all aspects of your daily life, providing constant reinforcement to your Newfoundland. They also love to please their owner, which makes this an enjoyable experience for all.
Newfoundland Exercise Requirements
Newfoundlands are not a high energy breed, but they do require daily exercise to be content. They have been bred as work dogs, so incorporating activities into their daily life will stave off boredom and keep them well-adjusted. At a minimum, you will want to walk your Newfoundland on a daily basis. They love swimming even more than a walk, so if you live in a place where they can safely swim you can consider this activity as an alternative. It is also recommended to have some playtime with your Newfoundland. Incorporating training into your playtime is a great way to satisfy their desire to work and complete tasks, while also reinforcing their training. With young Newfoundlands make sure to be wary of any excessive running or jumping, since these can lead to health problems in large dogs with developing bones.
Newfoundland Lifespan & Longevity
A healthy breed, a Newfoundland lifespan ranges from 8-10 years.
Newfoundland Breed Popularity
Newfoundlands are the 35th most popular AKC registered breed. This is quite impressive given their immense size. Their high ranking is a testament to their sunny disposition and affectionate attitude towards others.
Feeding Requirements for a Newfoundland
The Newfoundland is a large breed, so expect them to have a correspondingly large appetite. For a normal, dry food diet look for a good brand that uses high-quality proteins, vegetables, and fats that will provide balanced nutrition. Avoid dog foods that have fillers such as corn, wheat, and soy, as these will not only require your Newfoundland to eat more to achieve the same nutrition but are also difficult to digest. Some Newfoundland owners have experienced success transitioning to a raw diet, which requires more work but gives owners more control over their dog’s diet. For a dry food diet from a high-quality brand, expect to feed your Newfoundland somewhere between 5-6 ½ cups of food a day, depending on their weight and activity levels. This should be split into two meals to avoid gastric torsion and overeating.
Grooming a Newfoundland
Newfoundland’s double coat requires a lot of care, especially when they are shedding. Their coat will also pick up debris when they are playing, so bath time will be essential if your dog comes home muddy. Expect to thoroughly brush your Newfoundland at least twice a week. Newfoundlands blow their coat in spring and fall, so they will have increased grooming requirements during these times. Regularly trim your Newfoundland’s nails, and check their ears for any signs of an ear infection. Although Newfoundland’s require some extra care when grooming, the good news is that they will thoroughly enjoy the experience, particularly if you start regularly grooming them when they are a puppy.
Are Newfoundlands Good with Children?
Newfoundlands are renowned as one of the best dog breeds for kids. It’s no accident that the dog from Peter Pan, Nana, was a Newfoundland. Newfoundlands have an innate drive to watch over and protect children and are gentle and mindful playmates. When very small children are playing with your Newfoundland be sure to supervise their play since they can be inadvertently knocked over by the Newfoundland’s large body.
Newfoundland Health Issues
Hip Dysplasia: Hip dysplasia is a common health problem that affects all dog breeds but occurs most often in large breeds. Hip dysplasia occurs when there is a malformation in the connection between the femur and the pelvis, resulting in a loose connection between the two. Over time this loose connection results in uneven wear of the cartilage, which creates scar tissue and sometimes bone spurs. The damage caused by hip dysplasia in younger dogs often contributes to painful, and sometimes debilitating, arthritis later in life. You can have your young Newfoundland tested for hip dysplasia through a physical examination by your veterinarian.
Elbow Dysplasia: This is similar to hip dysplasia in that it results from an improper connection in the elbow joint, between the radius and ulna. Like hip dysplasia, this condition causes the cartilage to wear between the two bones unevenly, resulting in the formation of scar tissue. Elbow dysplasia also results in arthritis as your dog ages and can be extremely painful. Typically elbow dysplasia forms during the puppy growth period, and predominantly affects larger breeds. Be mindful of signs of limping or lameness in the front limbs during or following exercise, as these can be indications of elbow dysplasia.
Gastric torsion: Gastric torsion, commonly referred to as “bloat,” is a life-threatening condition that results from a buildup of gas and food in the stomach of dogs. The gas and food are not secreted from the stomach fast enough, so pressure within the stomach builds and the stomach expands. As the stomach expands it places pressure on the surrounding blood vessels and lungs, reducing the flow of oxygen-rich blood to the tissue. In extreme cases, gastric torsion can lead to a condition known as volvulus, in which the stomach flips within the abdomen. Signs of gastric torsion are drooling, abdominal pain, vomiting or attempting to vomit, and obvious signs of distress. If you suspect your dog may be suffering from gastric torsion seek medical help immediately.
Cystinuria: Cystinuria is a hereditary condition that occurs when the Newfoundland’s body absorbs excessive amounts of the amino acid cystine. This causes crystals or stones to form in the urine. Cystinuria usually results in frequent urinary tract infections and painful urination, particularly in males. The stones caused by cystinuria can lead to a blockage of the urinary tract, which is a life-threatening condition. Cystinuria is a recessive hereditary condition, meaning both parents must carry the gene for it to present in their offspring. Be sure to inquire with your breeder to find out if both parents have been tested for a history of cystinuria.
Subaortic Stenosis: his is a serious heart condition that most frequently occurs in large dogs and has been known to affect Newfoundlands. With this condition, excess growth of tissue occurs beneath the aorta, which results in restricted blood flow. This causes the body to work harder to pump blood throughout the body and decreases blood flow. Signs of subaortic stenosis are difficulty breathing, fainting, and general weakness. Severe cases of subaortic stenosis can result in sudden death. The exact causes of subaortic stenosis are unknown, but it is believed to be a hereditary disease. In severe cases, it presents at birth, but in more mild cases it presents in adolescence. This condition can be diagnosed by a veterinarian through a physical examination by listening to the heart.
Dilated Cardiomyopathy: Dilated cardiomyopathy is a non-congenital heart disease that primarily affects larger dog breeds. With this condition a weakness in muscles within the heart forms, causing the heart to work harder to pump blood and decreasing overall blood flow. Muscle weakness in the heart also causes the heart to expand due to internal pressure, leading to an enlarged heart. Cardiomyopathy is most often accompanied by atrial fibrillation, or a rapid or uneven heart rate. Cardiomyopathy can eventually results in heart failure. The exact cause of cardiomyopathy is unknown, but some changes in diet have been known to slow or alleviate the progression of this condition.