Newfoundland dogs are a large, iconic breed with an incredibly sweet disposition. Despite their heavy and relatively huge stature, this breed actually has the reputation of a wonderful family companion and nanny dog for kids! In some of the official Peter Pan texts, the Darling’s dog Nana was actually a Newfoundland! (In other iterations, Nana was a St. Bernard.)
The exact history of this breed isn’t known. Some believe that they are a descendant of the Viking ‘Bear Dogs’ while others believe they are a close relative of the Labrador, in part because of how close the Canadian provinces are and the similarities between the breeds. Similarly, Newfies are believed to be related to the now extinct St. John’s Water Dog.
- Teasing apart the history of the Newfoundland dog, the St. John’s water dog, and the retrievers by Scottie Westfall
There is a lot of speculation around the exact breed origins of Newfoundlands but the fact that these dogs are loyal, working companions remains the same. These dogs are great companions for fisherman, as Newfies have helped haul fishing nets back to the shore, cart fish to the market, and have helped save any person that might have gone overboard! Their large, webbed feet, muscular frame, and thick coat makes them great swimmers.
Many historical folks have had Newfoundland dogs: John James Audubon, the famed naturalist, had one to help retrieve birds; Aaron Burr and Samuel Adams are both said to have had their own Newfie. And Lewis and Clark even brought a Newfoundland named Seaman on their exploration across North America.
These dogs are quite big, often weighing 100-150 pounds and standing 26-28 inches at the shoulder. A Newfie’s head is broad with a slightly arched crown and soft, happy expression. They have a double coat that can be a variety of colors: gray, brown, black, and black-and-white (which is named for artist Sir Edwin Landseer after he popularized the coloring in his paintings). Some consider Landseer Newfoundlands a separate breed, especially in Europe.
Regular grooming/brushing will be important for any Newfie, as they shed their thick coats year-round. During the spring and summer, many Newfies will need to be brushed almost daily. These dogs drink quite a lot of water and can be quite messy about it! Between that and their drool, you might be dealing with a lot of slobber! In addition to grooming, they’ll need regular exercise. These dogs are meant to live inside with their families, as they get quite attached to their people, but are excellent exercise companions and excel at activities like agility, swimming, carting, hiking, walking, herding, dock jumping, and so much more.
Additionally, Newfoundlands will need training and socialization like any other dog. The good news is that many Newfoundlands are eager to please, which means they’re generally easy to train! Their affectionate and trusting demeanor works in any owner’s favor when it comes to training exercises, especially if positive reinforcement and rewards are used. If you want to use a Newfie in a water capacity (like helping with water rescues or on a fishing boat), introduction to the water should happen early in a Newfie’s life (around 4 months or so).
As far as living conditions go, Newfoundlands do not generally do well in the heat (as you might imagine). Having a shady spot in any yard and constant cool water is always a must during any hot weather! Otherwise, Newfies would do well in an apartment or house, so long as they are properly trained and exercised. And given the proper socialization, Newfies are generally pretty great with other dogs, pets, and children!