Newfoundland Dog Temperament & Personality
The Newfoundland breed is a huge and intelligent working dog often seen alongside fishermen. This breed is considered water dogs because of their distinctive partially webbed feet. Their huge size and superior swimming ability has been very useful in water rescues as they are strong enough to save a man from drowning.
They are an ideal breed to be trained for water rescue, drafting, carting and search and rescue activities. While their size can be intimidating, they are actually gentle giants and are often chosen to be trained as therapy and assistance dogs. Their eagerness to please and protective instincts also make them an excellent family dog.
The origin and prevalence of this dog is evident in its name – Newfoundland, a large island at the east coast of Canada. Fishermen in the island often bring along these dogs because their strength and intelligence allow them to be trained to help haul in fish nets or gather wood. They are also strong swimmers, so there’s no need to worry about bringing them along on boat trips.
When it comes to its environment, this is a breed that thrives in cold weather. Their thick double coat protects them from freezing even in icy waters.
This is a highly energetic breed. They will not do well in a small space like a house or an apartment. Their high energy level needs to be toned down with lots of physical activities.
Newfoundland dogs are highly sociable and cannot tolerate being alone. They socialize well with both humans and their fellow canines. They are also very friendly towards strangers as long as they do not smell any impending danger. They have strong protective instincts, especially when it comes to their human companions. This makes them an ideal family dog. Their gentle temperament allows them to tolerate the noise and playfulness of children.
Newfoundland size (male and female)
There’s a reason why this breed is called the “gentle giant”. Its size is as intimidating as a bear but its attitude is as sweet as honey. Newfoundlands are considered as one of the giant dog breeds in the lines of the St. Bernard, English Mastiff, Great Dane and Leonberger. Newfoundland dogs are considered the strongest of all the dog breeds.
According to Reader’s Digest, the largest Newfoundland dog ever recorded weighs about 200 pounds and has a length of about 6 feet. A fully grown male can weigh more than a human and grow as tall as 30 inches.
Newfoundland height (male and female)
The height of a full adult male Newfoundland can range from 69-76 cm. That is around 27 to 30 inches.
A female adult Newfoundland has a height range of 63-69 cm, which is about 24 to 27 inches.
A Newfoundland puppy will have a steady growth rate until 5-6 months old. Growth spurts happen in cycles, and this will be noticeable when the puppy seems to be hungrier than usual. A Newfoundland dog will cease to grow around the age of 3-4 years old. Their height will start to plateau followed by their weight. Beyond this age, they would have reached their maximum growth potential.
In 2009, a 3-year old Landseer Newfoundland dog named Boomer was recognized by the Guinness World Record as the world’s tallest dog with a height of 3 feet and length of 7 feet.
Newfoundland weight (male and female)
Male Newfoundland dogs can weigh 143-176 pounds or around 65-80 kilograms.
The female Newfoundland can weigh around 120-143 pounds or 55-65 kilograms.
A three month old puppy will weigh around 20 kg. By 6 months, it would be around 35 kg and by the time it reaches 1 year old, it would double this weight and be around 60 kg. Puppies will continue to grow in height and in weight for another year or two and reach their ideal weight at 3 years old.
There are some records of Newfoundland dogs weighing more than 200 pounds. Some breeders and owners however, believe that this is not the breed’s normal weight. The extra pounds may be due to being overweight. While some people take pride when their Newfounland dogs are massive and weigh more than the average, this is not ideal because the dog can incur serious health problems.
Newfoundland life span
The lifespan of a Newfoundland dog will be around 8-10 years old. This is quite short in dog years, compared to the Chihuahua that relatively has the longest life span of 17 years. It seems that the bigger the dog breed, the shorter its life span. Take for instance the Newfoundland’s fellow giant breed the Great Dane which only has a life span of 6-8 years, while the Mastiff and St. Bernard only have a life span of around 8-10 years. That is why proper veterinary care is very important to these larger breeds for longer life expectancy.
There is no difference in the lifespan of a male or a female Newfoundland dog. Both genders are at risk of the same types of health issues that are usually the cause of their shorter life span.
The oldest Newfoundland dog who ever lived on record at the Newfoundland Club of America was a female named Katie Lou Bugum. It is said that she lived for a good 15 years.
The Newfoundland dog is a highly sociable, sweet and affectionate breed, especially towards family. They do very well with kids and have high tolerance with running and screaming small kids. This breed is not aggressive and even greets strangers.
However, this dog is highly sensitive and will not do well with a loud owner. They are also high maintenance because of their double coat, size and health issues. They are not the right option for first time dog owners.
The Newfoundland is a massive and strong dog that requires a lot of physical activity. It is a high-energy dog that’s always ready to do some action. Not only do they need a lot of physical activity, they also need mental stimulation as they are an intelligent breed. Thus, it helps them mentally and physically if they are trained and assigned to do a certain job. This dog is very eager to please and even shows a sense of pride and accomplishment when praised after doing a task.
Swimming is the best exercise for this dog breed, especially before the age of two years old, as their joints and not yet fully developed around this age. Swimming is the preferred exercise rather than running because it won’t strain and harm the joints.
20-40 minutes of vigorous exercise per day will keep them in good shape. A good exercise for this breed would be swimming, hiking, running and doing an obstacle course.
If you start their training at an early age, you will find that a Newfoundland dog is very quick to learn. They love pleasing their humans, so training gives them something to be proud about.
Potty training can start at 8 weeks. Training them to be at ease in the water can start as early as 4 weeks. This age is the best time to slowly start introducing them to the water, provided that they have already been vaccinated.
They are natural swimmers in the water, but there may some who will have trouble in the beginning. This all depends on their upbringing, and how they were first introduced to the activity of swimming. Their huge lung capacity enables them to be trained for long distance swimming.
Training a Newfoundland dog is just like training any other dog. You need to be consistent and specific when it comes to giving directions. Newfoundlands also have different personalities. Some may be goofy, serious or stubborn. Your training will have to adjust, depending on the dog’s personality.
A Newfoundland dog can be trained to rescue and retrieve, pull on heavy things, and give warmth and comfort as a therapy dog.
This breed is generally well-tempered and easy to train but of course, there will be a few to the exception. Training will be especially hard if the dog was adopted, rehomed or had an abused past. In these cases wherein training will be difficult, it is best to put it in the hands of a professional trainer, or consider enrolling in an obedience school.
This breed is a descendant of the now extinct dog breed St. John’s Dog. It is closely related to the Labradors and Golden Retrievers. It is native to Newfoundland in Canada, where it was bred to be working dogs alongside fishermen since the early 1600s.
It was theorized that the Newfoundland was bred with a Portuguese Mastiff, thus having the Molasser look that it has today.
During the 1780s this breed was almost wiped out because the Canadian government imposed a regulation that families were only allowed to keep one dog with accompanying taxes.
But gone are the days when this breed was used as working dogs to haul fish nets and carts. Today, this breed is well known around the world for its heroism as rescue dogs in search and retrieval operations. They are also trained as assistance dogs and therapy dogs because of their good demeanour. They have been depicted in several books and movies highlighting their amazing swimming skills and ability to save lives.
Newfoundland health problems
Newfoundland dogs have an increased risk of having hip dysplasia and cardiac disease possibly due to poor breeding practices. They are also prone to cystynuria, a genetic disease of having too much cysteine in the urine, and causes stones to form in the kidneys.
Their droopy ears are prone to infection. That’s why it’s very important to always keep them dry and clean to prevent bacteria from forming that can cause infection.
Subvacular aortic stenosis (SAS) is also a very common heart defect in Newfoundlands. It is a defect in the heart valve that causes them to have a sudden heart attack, even at an early age.
Because they are a large dog with a hearty appetite, they are also prone to being overweight, which can be very bad for their joints. Exercise and proper food intake is very important for them to maintain their agility and good health.
Some of the other diseases that this breed is prone to include:
- Elbow dysplasia
- Von Willebrand’s disease
- Addison’s disease
- Canine cataracts
- Ruptured anterior cruciate ligament
- Cherry eye
- Stomach bloat
- Gastric torsion
A Newfoundland puppy needs proper care because of their growth spurts at around 4 to 7 months, making them more prone to bone disorders. The dog’s joints will not be fully formed until two years old so it’s very important not to allow the pup to do strenuous activities such as jumping, no matter how big and strong they seem at an early age.
How to care for Newfoundland
This is a high maintenance dog, so owners need to be well informed and prepared before deciding to add this breed to the family. They shed a lot throughout the year, so proper grooming tools like scissors and dog brushes are very important to maintain the coat.
The Newfounland dog drools and slobbers a lot. If you are icky about these things, then this dog might not be for you. Tying a cloth around the neck and drying the mouth often after a tiring walk or eating can help keep the drool at bay.
Their big, droopy ears need to be cleaned frequently to prevent any infection. Ask the veterinarian for ear cleaning solutions that will keep the dog’s ears free from infection.
Daily exercise and a good diet are very important to keep them healthy throughout their short life span.
Nutrition and feeding for Newfoundland
Just because they are huge, it doesn’t mean that they eat 10 cups of food a day as what others might believe. On average, they are fed 4-5 cups a day, spread throughout the day. They can be fed twice or thrice, depending on the dog’s needs. The frequency will all depend on the dog’s age, metabolism, health, and activity level. Newfoundland dogs are prone to obesity. That is why regulated food intake should be strictly followed.
The dog’s diet may change several times during its life because of certain nutritional needs. Newfoundland puppies should be fed high quality food that ideally consists of 24 percent protein and 15 percent good fats. A steady food serving of twice a day is best for this breed. Older dogs should have a limited calorie consumption to prevent obesity. Treats can be given but ideally only during training. Giving them too much treats can be added calories.
When it comes to giving them human food, this can be done with veterinary recommendation. There are certain foods that are bad for dogs. Those with digestive issues will need to stay away from specific human foods as well.
There’s no specific answer to the best food a Newfoundland could eat. It all depends on the dog’s current nutritional requirements. For instance, Newfoundland dogs are known to have skin problems and allergies that can be triggered by certain foods. They may also have digestive problems and recurrent ear infections. All these things will be factored in when deciding on a perfect mix of diet for the dog.
But generally, this dog has specific nutritional requirements that need to be met. Here are some of them:
- Taurine – Since Newfoundlands are prone to heart disease, taurine serves as a good preventive supplement against congestive heart failure.
- Omega 3 and 6 – Newfoundland dogs need sufficient amounts of these in their system because its benefits fill the weakest areas of this breed. Proper balance of Omega 3 and omega 6 is ideal in preventing cardiovascular diseases, as well as improving a dog’s skin health.
- Phosphorous and calcium – These are essential nutrients for large breeds to help maintain strong bones and muscles. It is also essential in preventing arthritis as they grow older.
- Iodine – This is essential in regulating the dog’s weight and managing behavioral issues. Aggression, for instance, can be a very big issue in this breed because of its strength and large size.
- Arginine – an essential amino acid that prevents heart disease and cancer in dogs.
Newfoundland dogs’ ancestral diet is composed of seafood. Many have theorized that the rising number of heart disease and cancer in the breed is largely caused by the failure to give them their core diet.
To do a quick spot test on whether the dog is eating right and not overweight, here’s what to do. Stand over the dog and look down. You should be able to see the curve of the waist. Next is to put your hands on the dog’s back. You should be able to feel the ribs on the side but not visibly see it.
Checking in with a veterinarian for proper nutritional needs would be the best first step to knowing what’s best for the dog.
Coat Color and Grooming
The Newfoundland dog colors have four major shades: brown, black, black and white, and gray. The brown variety can either be a light golden shade or dark chocolate brown. Among the four, the gray is the rarest color and is said to be caused by blue dog syndrome or a kind of alopecia in dogs. Dogs in this color will usually have various skin and coat issues throughout its life.
On the average, this dog breed will have heavy shedding twice a year. They will likely shed after winter season as their bodies prepare for the summer heat. But expect a lot of dog hair the whole year round because they are equipped with a double coat. The top layer consists of the guard hair and on the bottom is a dense undercoat. Some grooming tools will be necessary to keep the hair shedding under control.
Line combing is very important for double coated dogs like the Newfoundland. Line combing is a brushing technique that removes the loose undercoat with a comb in order to reduce the matting. If neglected, these mats can be painful for the dog. Removing loose undercoat also helps air flow through the dog’s skin and reduces hot spots. Line combing should be done at a minimum of once a week to keep the dog’s coat and skin healthy. Line combing also allows the checking of the dog’s skin condition and see if there are ticks hidden.
Furry animals are where ticks love to hide. Newfoundlands should be checked for ticks regularly and initially in these areas: ears, muzzle, back of the neck, armpits, chest, groin, and in between toes. If ticks are found, there is a proper way to remove it safely without getting your dog infected with the tick’s blood. For infestations, seek veterinary help as soon as possible for proper tick removal.
Children and other pets
The mild temperament of Newfoundland dogs allows them to be friendly with both children and other pets. If they are socialized properly as a puppy and the pets are introduced slowly, this dog can easily get along with other dogs, cats, and small mammals.
Despite its good nature, being friendly with humans and being friendly with another dog are completely different things when it comes to canines. Some humans cannot tolerate another human and the same goes with dogs. Slow and proper introduction is needed when introducing a Newfoundland to another dog to prevent any untoward incident.
Children love to pet a Newfoundland because they are big like a bear and fluffy like a toy. However, no matter how tolerant this breed is of children, accidents can still happen. Children should be taught how to properly approach and touch a dog, especially if it’s their first time meeting. Children family members are usually not a problem, but children should still not be left alone with such a large dog breed to prevent any accidents.
Many Newfoundland dogs are victims of physical abuse, overbreeding, inbreeding and neglect. Because of their massive size and maintenance requirements, many owners tend to give them up. Despite its mild temperament, some will also develop aggressive behaviour, especially from the hands of abusive or novice dog owners. Thus, several rescue groups for this breed have been put up in order to foster them and send them to proper loving homes. Here are some of them:
- Newf Friends Newfoundland Dog Rescue
- Newf Rescue Canada
- Newfoundland Club of America Rescue Network
For the love of the breed, organizations have been put up to promote proper care, breeding and activities for this breed. Here are some organizations that take pride in the strong and majestic beauty of this breed:
- Newfoundland Club of America
- Newfoundland Dog Club of Canada
- Central Ontario Region Newfoundland Club of Canada
More about this breed
The Newfoundland breed is very protective of its owner, so it is a very loyal and ideal companion. This breed cannot tolerate being alone. It would be best for it to always have a companion in the house or another dog at least to keep it entertained while the owner is away.
This breed is mostly found in certain parts of the world with a cold climate such as Canada, Europe, and certain parts of the United States. Although it can adapt to warmer climate, it needs to be constantly placed in cool areas preferably with air conditioning.
There are many irresponsible breeders out there, and this dog can be prone to many health problems when born from improper breeding. It is best to get in touch with a local Newfoundland dog group to get more information about the breed.
Because of their loyalty, heroic rescue ability and sweet disposition, this is one of the most well-loved breeds in the world. In 1802 a Newfoundland named Seaman was taken to an expedition as a hunter and guard dog. He was able to save lives by chasing a rogue buffalo away from the camp. Seaman has been included in several monuments at the Lewis and Clark National Historical Park.
Napoleon the Wonder Dog is a famous black Newfoundland that starred in the 1892 traveling circus Van Hare’s Magic Circus. He was trained to jump over horses and dance to the music. He was the star attraction in the circus, but a training accident resulted in his untimely death at 11 years old. He was a popular and well-loved dog all across Europe.