The Newfoundland Club of America—responsible for the preservation, protection and welfare of the Newfoundland Dog in America since 1930.
It’s always exciting when I have the opportunity to introduce a young Newfoundland to the water for the very first time. It’s a time of great anticipation, as well as awesome responsibility, to lay the foundation for a working partnership that I hope will last a lifetime. I foresee fun-filled water-test weekends in the puppy’s future, made all the more likely by a positive first encounter with the water.
Thus, as a puppy and I begin our aquatic adventure together, my thoughts focus on having fun and developing confidence, which is where the buckle collar and a 6-foot nylon lead come in. I believe it is important to train on lead to provide gentle guidance and strengthen the bond of teamwork all along the way.
Because swimming does not stress growing bones and joints as land activities can, water training can begin at an early age. An advantage to early training is that young puppies are often less fearful of the “disappearing lake bottom” when they take their first swimming strokes than older dogs are.
I was once at the pond for a Newfoundland family's first swim. The pups followed their mama like a line of ducklings as she entered the pond, never hesitating for a second when they could no longer touch the bottom. That is, undoubtedly, the best way to introduce a puppy to the water, with the help of its mother, but few of us have that option.
Those of us who live in northern climates have only a short 4-month window for water work, so puppies born in the fall or winter are often 8 months old (or older) before the water is warm enough for us to take the plunge. As a rule of thumb, it’s best to introduce a Newfie to the water during its “puppy summer” however many months old that may be.
So, let’s pretend for a moment that summer has arrived, and with it, the long-awaited day to take your puppy for his first swim.
Come along with puppy and me for our first day of water training, as we enthusiastically approach the water’s edge, running together on lead, side-by-side. We pause to take in the smells and sights and sounds of the shoreline as we inch ever so closer to the water, all the while sharing the joys of the day.
I back a short distance into the water, and with the aid of the lead, if necessary, encourage the puppy to come to me in the water. It’s important to give lots of praise every step of the way. The goal is to encourage the puppy into chest-deep water where it is still touching bottom but where it will be swimming if I take one step forward. Once we reach that depth, we will stay there and not return to shore for the remainder of this first lesson. I try to “read” my puppy’s reaction and make sure it is comfortable beside me in the chest-deep water before proceeding with the big, first “swimming step”.
With the lead in my right hand and my left hand through the puppy’s collar, I give a gentle nudge as I say “swim”, and, with the puppy in tow beside me, I walk one step into deeper water. As the puppy’s feet leave the bottom for the first time, I circle it around me to the right and back toward shore where its feet touch bottom once again. The puppy will swim only a few strokes, but as soon as it is swimming and perhaps thinking about panicking, it is touching bottom once again. The puppy gains confidence as it learns that when the bottom drops out from under its feet, it comes back again quickly. Be sure to hold on to the lead and keep puppy in chest-deep water and do not allow him to return to shore.
Repeat this exercise about 6 times, with puppy swimming only a few strokes each time before touching bottom once again, with lots of praise in between. Then give puppy a break to ponder what he has learned. He has bravely stepped beyond wading depth and survived. He should be very proud of himself!
In subsequent training sessions, review what you did in the previous lesson and make sure your dog feels comfortable before progressing to the next step. Some dogs gain confidence more quickly than others. The next step is to gradually increase the distance you ask your dog to swim before turning back toward shore and touching bottom. As the dog becomes more comfortable swimming additional strokes, continue to increase the distance you ask him to swim until you can no longer touch bottom.
It is important for you to touch bottom so that you can maintain control of the dog. Each time you say “Swim”, give the dog a gentle nudge forward on his collar so he starts swimming immediately. From the very beginning of training, never permit the dog to hesitate at its drop-off point. This hint will prevent problems later on if you aspire to earn a water title. If you have ever attended a water test, you have probably seen one or more dogs fail because they waded into the water, then hesitated at the drop-off point and “messed around” instead of swimming out to complete the exercise. If you never allow a dog to hesitate in practice, chances are it won’t hesitate at a test!
When the dog becomes comfortable swimming short distances, I introduce a short piece of floating line, knotted to facilitate carrying, to our training. As soon as the dog has swum out and is turning toward shore, I splash the line in the water close in front of him. Even dogs that are not avid retrievers on land will often grab at an enticing line in the water and carry it while swimming. If they don’t grab it on their own, you can open their mouths and place it inside, and they will generally continue to hold it as long as they are swimming. This is a great beginning for the “Take-a-Line” exercise.
Another training variation, which can be introduced at an early stage, is having the dog swim to a second person. With you and the dog standing at wading depth, have the second person stand about 3 feet farther out, splash gently to attract attention, and call the dog’s name. When the person begins calling, say “Swim” as you nudge the dog forward toward your assistant. Guide the dog to make sure he goes directly to the person without hesitation.
As the dog approaches, the assistant will say “Around” and guide the dog around him and back toward shore. Praise the dog as he returns to wading depth and repeat the exercise several times. When the dog shows proficiency at a short distance, you can gradually extend the distance the dog goes out to another person. Next , you can add the short line for the dog to carry as it goes to the person, but when you do, be sure to begin at a short distance once again. I recommend never introducing more than one slight change at a time.
Here’s wishing you and your puppy many hours of enjoyment working together in the water!
Question: At what age should I take my Newfoundland puppy for swimming, he is just 35 days old?
Answer: Pups can start wading and swimming in shallow water by 7 weeks old, but you need to be cautious about where you choose to swim. If your only option for swimming is an area frequented by other dogs or wildlife then you should wait until the pup is vaccinated before hitting the beach.
© 2016 Newfoundland Club of America
Kelly on October 04, 2019:
I wish we had more opportunities here.
Cindi Kursner on May 29, 2019:
Great article Sandee. Thank you !
S.Pipes on June 26, 2018:
Wonderful article and very detailed account. Thanks!
The Newfoundland, a gentle giant among canines, is a striking dog bound to elicit admiring comments wherever he accompanies his owner. A sweet, devoted companion, the Newf will protect children, haul leaves and firewood, save drowning people, and compete successfully in obedience and tracking trials.
Born as a canine seaman, the Newf was a standard piece of equipment on every fishing boat in Canada's maritime province that gave the breed its name. Fishing has always been Newfoundland's chief industry the dogs hauled fishing nets out to sea and back to the boat and retrieved objects or people who fell into the sea. Equally at home in water or on land, the Newfoundland was large enough to pull in a drowning man or to break the ice as he dove into the frigid northern ocean. His lung capacity allowed him to swim great distances and fight ocean currents.
At the end of a day's fishing, the day's catch was loaded into a cart, and the dog was hitched up to haul the load into town. Other Newfoundlands pulled wagons to deliver milk and mail throughout the island.
The origin of this working breed is disputed. Vikings and Basque fishermen visited Newfoundland as early as 1000 AD and wrote accounts of the natives working side by side with these retrieving dogs. The breed as we know it today was developed in England, while the island of Newfoundland nearly legislated the native breed to extinction in 1780. Then, shortly after World War I, a magnificent dog named Siki became not only the most famous show Newf in history, but the most famous stud dog of the breed. Most Newfoundlands in the conformation ring today can trace their pedigrees to Siki.
There are many legends of Newfoundlands saving drowning victims by carrying lifelines to sinking ships. The dogs were kept in the "dog walk" on early sailing ships. If the sea was too choppy when land was sighted, the dog carried a line to land. A Newfoundland named Seaman accompanied the Lewis and Clark expedition, and Nana, the children's "nurse" in the original Peter Pan, was a Newfoundland.
A bumper sticker sold by the Newfoundland Club of America reads, "No, I'm not a black St. Bernard!"
Actually, it is the St. Bernard that looks like a Newfoundland. Around 1860, the St. Bernards at the hospice in Switzerland were almost wiped out by an epidemic of distemper. Since the breeds look similar, the Monks imported some Newfoundlands to regenerate their famous rescue dogs. These crosses led to the birth of the first long haired St. Bernards, a variety that proved unsuited to snow rescue when ice balls formed and clung to the hair, weighing the dog down. To this day, at the hospice, when a long haired St. Bernard is born, it is rejected as a throwback to the Newfoundland.
Saints and Newfs are similar since they were bred for similar jobs. Both breeds are large enough to pull a man to safety. Male Newfoundlands average 28 inches at the shoulder and weigh around 150 pounds. Females average 25-26 inches tall, and weigh around 115 pounds. Individuals vary in size, and symmetry takes precedence over size. The Newfoundland differs from the St. Bernard by many features adapted to the water. A Newf's eyes should be tight to keep out water and infection with no haw, the third eyelid seen in the St. Bernard.
A Newf's drop ears also keep out water, and very loose flews (droopy upper lips) allow him to breath while carrying something as he swims. While most Newfs are black, recessive colors brown or bronze (the color of an Irish Setter) are acceptable. Black and brown combine with a recessive dilution gene to produce gray and cream-colored dogs. Solid colors may have splashes of white on the chest, toes, and tail.
Another color combination is the Landseer, named for artist Sir Edwin Landseer, who featured this striking white and black dog in many of his paintings. The Landseer Newf is a white dog, with a black head, black on the rump extending onto the tail, and an evenly marked black saddle over the back. Solid-color dogs with markings other than white are disqualified in the conformation ring.
The Newfoundland has a stiff, oily outer coat of moderate length and afleecy undercoat to adapt to the harsh climate of its home island. The oil repels water. A Newfoundland can swim for hours, yet remain completely dry and warm at the skin. The breed has completely webbed feet and swims with a breast stroke instead of a dog paddle.
The hallmark of the breed is his sweet and gentle temperament. This combined with his devotion and eagerness to please his owner make the Newfoundland the best of the giant breeds in the obedience ring. In 2003, two Newfs one of them a breed champion earned the coveted American Kennel Club Versatile Companion Dog (VCD1) award by completing titles in obedience, agility, and tracking competitions. (Obedience and agility titles require that the dog achieve three qualifying scores in the novice level of competition the tracking title is awarded after a single successful completion of a tracking test.)
In 2004, a Newf named Josh defied the odds and won Best in Show at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. Josh beat many of the country's top dogs for the honor, including CoCo, the Norfolk Terrier who won the AKC/Eukanuba Invitational in December 2003.
Today, the Newfoundland Club of America encourages Newf owners to maintain the breed's working instincts by awarding working titles in both water and draft work.
The junior title, Water Dog (WD), and the senior title, Water Rescue Dog (WRD), put the Newfs through a difficult series of life saving water rescue exercises. Dogs earn the Draft Dog (DD) title by maneuvering and hauling various draft apparatus. A team of two or more Newfs performing the same set of exercises required for DD can earn the Team Draft Dog (TDD) title. The NCA draft test is being adopted by many other breed clubs.
Finally, to encourage well-rounded Newfoundlands, the NCA bestows the ultimate honorary certification of Versatile Newf (VN) on any Newf who earns the titles of AKC breed Champion, obedience Companion Dog, and the NCA WRD and DD.
A Newfoundland puppy should never be bought on impulse. Like pups of many breeds, they are irresistible. Unfortunately, however, too many Newfoundlands end up in dog pounds or abandoned when that "cute little teddy bear" grows into a 150 pound dog who won't stay out of the swimming pool. Newfs are heavy seasonal shedders, and, due to their loose lip flews, they drool *a lot* and can sling slobber up to 20 feet. While they can be kept out doors in the coldest weather, they prefer to be in the house, close to their family, so they are not the breed for someone who is house proud. If you really want to buy a Newfoundland puppy, try to visit a kennel or breeder first to meet one of these giant dogs in person. Spend some time with adult Newfs, then decide if this is still the right breed for you.
A responsible Newfoundland breeder will welcome your visit, and will guarantee, in writing, against hip dysplasia and other congenital defects, including a heart defect known as subaortic stenosis, a condition that is a problem for the breed. If a breeder does not offer information about health screenings and clearance certificates for these diseases, walk away.
A Newfoundland requires thorough combing once a week (more during shedding season), and requires a fair amount of brisk exercise with you otherwise he will probably be just as happy to lie around becoming unhealthy, fat, and lazy.
If you cannot deal with huge volumes of hair and are grossed out by dog drool, look for another breed.
Once your puppy is old enough to receive his rabies shot, it is time to enroll him in a basic obedience class. He will love learning to please you. Within months, he will grow into a large draft animal, capable of moving 2000 pounds, but through obedience training, he'll learn to adjust his great strength and to be careful not to injure his human companions. Even though he'll grow quickly and can weigh 100 pounds or more in less than a year, he'll still be a puppy, with puppy bones, muscles, and brain that need time to mature. Like most large breeds, he'll not be truly grown up until he's at least two or three years old.
If you don't have the time or inclination to take your dog to obedience classes, opt for a breed that doesn't weigh more than many adult women when full grown. Newfie rescue groups are inundated with dogs, some with poor temperament and ill-health because unscrupulous breeders failed to screen for genetic diseases, assess the temperament of their breeding dogs, and socialize their puppies and some because owners weren't prepared for a very big dog that shed, drooled, and took up too much space.
The Newfoundland is a wonderful addition to a family that can deal with hair, slobber, and hugeness and is willing and able to teach the dog good manners before it weighs 100or more pounds.
The best description of the character of the Newfoundland dog is the epitaph written by Lord Byron inscribed on the grave of his Newfoundland:
Near this spot
are deposited the remains of one
who possessed beauty without vanity
strength without insolence
courage without ferocity
and all the virtues of man without his vices.
This praise which would be
if inscribed over human ashes
is but a just tribute to the memory of
Boatswain, a dog
who was born at Newfoundland, May 1803,
and died at Newstead Abbey,
November 18, 1808.
For more information about the Newf, visit the Newfoundland Club of America and check out the books below.
(Be sure and also see Ozzie Foreman's article "Newfoundlands can go home: The great Newfoundland Dog trek of 1997," her account of an exciting and rewarding trip across Canada to participate in the 500th anniversary celebration of the voyage of John Cabot from Britain to Newfoundland. The Foremans took Redi and Spirit, their two Newfs, and Kitty, their American Staffordshire Terrier, and headed for the wilds of Canada to join the trek that began in British Columbia on June 1, 1997. The trek reached Newfoundland in plenty of time for the June 24, 1997, ceremonies 130 Newfs strong!)
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Newfoundlands ('Newfs' or 'Newfies') have webbed paws and a water-resistant coat.  Males normally weigh 65–80 kg (143–176 lb), and females 55–65 kg (121–143 lb), placing them in the "Giant" weight range but some Newfoundlands have been known to weigh over 90 kg (200 lb) – and the largest on record weighed 120 kg (260 lb) and measured over 1.8 m (6 ft) from nose to tail, ranking it among the largest of dog breeds. They may grow up to 56–76 cm (22–30 in) tall at the shoulder. 
The American Kennel Club (AKC) standard colours of the Newfoundland are black, brown, grey, and white-and-black (sometimes referred to as a Landseer). Other colours are possible but are not considered rare or more valuable. The Kennel Club (KC) permits only black, brown, and white/black the Canadian Kennel Club (CKC) permits only black and white/black. The "Landseer" pattern is named after the artist, Sir Edwin Henry Landseer, who featured them in many of his paintings. Fédération Cynologique Internationale (FCI) consider the ECT Landseer ("European Continental Type") to be a separate breed. It is a taller, more narrow white dog with black markings not bred with a Newfoundland. 
The Newfoundland's extremely large bones give it mass, while its large musculature gives it the power it needs to take on rough ocean waves and powerful tides. These dogs have huge lung capacity for swimming extremely long distances and a thick, oily, and waterproof double coat which protects them from the chill of icy waters.  The double coat makes the dog hard to groom, and also causes a lot of shedding to occur. The droopy lips and jowls make the dog drool, especially in high heat.
In the water, the Newfoundland's massive webbed paws give it maximum propulsion. The swimming stroke is not an ordinary dog paddle: Unlike other dogs, the Newfoundland moves its limbs in a down-and-out motion giving more power to every stroke.
The Newfoundland is known for its calm and docile nature and its strength. They are highly loyal and make ideal working dogs. It is for this reason that this breed is known as "the gentle giant". International kennel clubs generally describe the breed as having a sweet temper.    It typically has a deep bark and is easy to train if started young. They are wonderfully good with children, but small children can get accidentally leaned on and knocked down. Newfoundlands are ideal companions in the world of therapy and are often referred to as the nanny dog. The breed was memorialized in "Nana", the beloved guardian dog in J. M. Barrie's Peter Pan. [A] The Newfoundland, in general, is good with other animals, but its size can cause problems if it is not properly trained.
A Newfoundland's good, sweet nature is so important, it is listed in the Breed Standards of many countries dogs exhibiting poor temperament or aggression are disqualified from showing and should never be used to breed. The breed standard in the United States reads that "Sweetness of temperament is the hallmark of the Newfoundland this is the most important single characteristic of the breed." 
There are several health problems associated with Newfoundlands. Newfoundlands are prone to hip dysplasia (a malformed ball and socket in the hip joint). They also get elbow dysplasia, and cystinuria (a hereditary defect that forms calculi stones in the bladder). Another genetic problem is subvalvular aortic stenosis (SAS). This is a common heart defect in Newfoundlands involving defective heart valves. SAS can cause sudden death at an early age. It is similar to having a heart attack. It is common that "Newfs" live to be 8 to 10 years of age 10 years is a commonly cited life expectancy.  But, Newfoundlands can live up to 15 years old. 
The Newfoundland was originally bred and used as working dogs for fishermen in Newfoundland.  
In the early 1880s, fishermen and explorers from Ireland and England traveled to the Grand Banks of Newfoundland, where they described two main types of working dog. One was heavily built, large with a longish coat, and the other medium-sized in build – an active, smooth-coated water dog. The heavier breed was known as the Greater Newfoundland, or Newfoundland. The smaller breed was known as the Lesser Newfoundland, or St. John's water dog. The St. John's water dog became the founding breed of the modern retrievers. Both breeds were used as working dogs to pull fishnets, with the Greater Newfoundland also being used to haul carts and other equipment. [ citation needed ]
It has also been proposed that the original Newfoundland that lived on the island was smaller   in theory, the smaller landrace was bred with mastiffs when sold to the English, and the English version was popularized to become what we think of as a Newfoundland today. 
The breed's working role was varied. Many tales have been told of the courage displayed by Newfoundlands in adventuring and lifesaving exploits. Over the last two centuries, this has inspired a number of artists, who have portrayed the dogs in paint, stone, bronze, and porcelain. One famous Newfoundland was a dog named Seaman, who accompanied American explorers Lewis and Clark on their expedition.
The breed prospered in the United Kingdom, until 1914 and again in 1939, when its numbers were almost fatally depleted by wartime restrictions. Since the 1950s there has been a steady increase in numbers and popularity, despite the fact that the Newfoundland's great size and fondness for mud and water makes it unsuitable as a pet for many households. 
During the Discovery Channel's second day of coverage of the AKC Eukanuba National Championship on December 3, 2006, anchor Bob Goen reported that Newfoundlands exhibit a very strong propensity to rescue people from water. Goen stated that one Newfoundland alone once aided the rescue of 63 shipwrecked sailors. Today, kennel clubs across the United States host Newfoundland Rescue Demonstrations, as well as offering classes in the field. Many harbour boat tours in St. John's have a dog on board for local charm as well as for passenger safety.
Further evidence of Newfoundlands' ability to rescue or support life-saving activities was cited in a 2007 article by the BBC. 
The Newfoundland shares many physical traits with mastiffs and Molosser-type dogs, such as the St. Bernard and English Mastiff, including stout legs, massive heads with very broad snouts, a thick bull-like neck, and a very sturdy bone structure.  Many St. Bernards have Newfoundlands in their ancestry. [ citation needed ] Newfoundlands were brought and introduced to the St. Bernard breed in the 18th century when the population was threatened by an epidemic of canine distemper. They share many characteristics of many livestock guardian dog breeds, such as the Great Pyrenees.
Because of their strength, Newfoundlands were part of the foundation stock of the Leonberger (which excelled at water rescue and was imported by the Canadian government for that purpose) and the now-extinct Moscow Water Dog, a failed attempt at creating a lifesaving dog by the Russian state kennel—the unfortunate outcross with the Caucasian Shepherd Dog begat a dog more adept at biting than rescuing.
A famous all-black Newfoundland performed as the star attraction in Van Hare's Magic Circus from 1862 and for many years thereafter in one of England's founding circus acts, traveling throughout Europe. The circus dog was known as the "Thousand Guinea Dog Napoleon" or "Napoleon the Wonder Dog." The circus owner, G. Van Hare, trained other Newfoundland dogs to perform a steeplechase routine with baboons dressed up as jockeys to ride them. Nonetheless, his "wizard dog" Napoleon was his favourite and held a special position in the Magic Circus. Napoleon would compete at jumping against human rivals, leaping over horses from a springboard, and dancing to music.  
Napoleon the Wonder Dog became a wildly popular act in London from his debut at the Pavilion Theatre on April 4, 1862, and onward until his untimely death many years later when he slipped and fell during a circus practice session. At the peak of his fame, his performance was described in London's Illustrated Sporting News and Theatrical and Musical Review as follows: "Synopsis of his entertainment:-- He spells his own name with letters' also that of the Prince of Wales and when he is asked what he would say of her Most Gracious Majesty, he puts down letters to form "God save the Queen." He plays any gentleman a game of cards and performs the celebrated three-card trick upon which his master backs him at 100 to 1. Also "The Disappearance," a la Robin. He performs in a circus the same as a trick horse, en liberté, giving the Spanish trot to music, also leaping over bars, through balloons, with numerous other tricks of a most interesting character." 
When Napoleon the Wonder Dog died, as a result of a circus accident at the age of 11 years old, his passing was announced in a number of British newspapers, including the Sheffield Daily Telegraph, which mentioned the loss on May 5, 1868, as follows: "DEATH OF A CELEBRATED FOUR-FOOTED ARTISTE. -- Mr. Van Hare's renowned dog, Napoleon, designated 'The Wizard Dog,' died on 24th ult., aged twelve years. He was a noble specimen of the Newfoundland breed (weighing near 200 lbs.) for which he took the prize at the first Agricultural Hall Dog Show. Besides his magnificent appearance and symmetry, he was the most extraordinary sagacious and highly-trained animal ever known. He is now being preserved and beautifully mounted by the celebrated naturalist, Mr. Edwin Ward. -- Era." 
Last Updated: July 16, 2020 References Approved
This article was co-authored by Pippa Elliott, MRCVS. Dr. Elliott, BVMS, MRCVS is a veterinarian with over 30 years of experience in veterinary surgery and companion animal practice. She graduated from the University of Glasgow in 1987 with a degree in veterinary medicine and surgery. She has worked at the same animal clinic in her hometown for over 20 years.
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Having a brand new puppy at home can be a ton of fun, but it also requires a lot of work. It is important to know what and how much food to feed your puppy in order to keep him happy and healthy. Puppies, just like human babies, need proper nutrition for normal healthy growth and development. Making the right choices about your new puppy's nutrition will help you to get him off to a good start.
This article was co-authored by Brian Bourquin, DVM. Brian Bourquin, better known as “Dr. B” to his clients, is a Veterinarian and the Owner of Boston Veterinary Clinic, a pet health care and veterinary clinic with two locations, South End/Bay Village and Brookline, Massachusetts. Boston Veterinary Clinic specializes in primary veterinary care, including wellness and preventative care, sick and emergency care, soft-tissue surgery, dentistry. The clinic also provides specialty services in behavior, nutrition, and alternative pain management therapies using acupuncture, and therapeutic laser treatments. Boston Veterinary Clinic is an AAHA (American Animal Hospital Association) accredited hospital and Boston’s first and only Fear Free Certified Clinic. Brian has over 19 years of veterinary experience and earned his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from Cornell University.
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Raising any type of dog from a puppy is a big responsibility, but Newfoundlands are also very big dogs. They require a greater quantity of food to grow to their full size, so feeding them is a little different from feeding other types of puppies. Keep your Newfoundland healthy as it grows with regular veterinary care and using other protective measures. And don’t forget to teach your dog good behaviors! This holistic approach will help you to raise your Newfoundland puppy into a healthy, happy adult dog and an outstanding canine citizen.