The Newfoundland is a strong, strikingly beautiful dog hailing from the Canadian island of the same name. This breed is huge, powerful, and can look intimidating to those inexperienced with them. However, most are pleasantly surprised to find out just how sweet and loving these gentle giants are! Often called the “Newfie” for short, these dogs are popular as both family companions and homestead protectors.
You’ll often find the Newfie engaged in some form of work, as they were bred to be an all-around helper in areas near the water. For this reason, they are very capable working dogs and fantastic swimmers. Beyond this, they’re a wonderful choice for families with children, given their patient and tender temperament.
In this article, we will cover everything you need to know about this majestic breed. We’ll talk about where they come from, how they look and act, their needs for daily life, and much more! Equipping yourself with knowledge about the Newfie will prepare you to give them the best life possible. Let’s jump right in!
The Newfoundland has enjoyed worldwide adoration over several centuries. You may have heard of Nana, the Newfoundland nurse dog in J.M. Barrie’s early 1900s classic, Peter Pan. She was said to have been based on the Barries’ Newfoundland, Luath. Another well-known Newfoundland is Seaman, who accompanied his owner, Meriwether Lewis, on the famous Lewis and Clark Expedition across newly-acquired territories in the US.
Seaman was the only animal to have survived the entire expedition, lasting from 1804 to 1806. Perhaps one of the best-known Newfies is Boatswain, beloved canine companion of the British poet, Lord Byron. The poem Epitaph to a Dog was written in Boatswain’s memory, inscribed upon his tomb at Byron’s ancestral estate, Newstead Abbey. It’s touching to note that Boatswain’s burial monument is larger than Byron’s own!
While Newfoundlands have been well loved in the few hundred years they’ve been on Earth, their history is steeped in mystery. From their name, we know they originated in the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador. They were used as working dogs along the coast of Newfoundland, and likely brought across the sea to England as early as the 1730s.
One of the first mentions of the Newfoundland by their breed name is in woodcarver Thomas Bewick’s A General History of Quadrupeds, written in 1790. Thomas Bewick himself had not voyaged beyond his home of northern England, and had only seen Newfoundland dogs from settlers who brought their dogs with them to the counties of Durham and Northumberland. From this, we can surmise the breed to have been established enough to be known in other countries, though it’s difficult to say when the modern standard for Newfoundlands came about.
Looking into genealogy, the mystery deepens. It’s unclear which breeds developed the Newfoundland, with many different theories as to their lineage. Some have purported that these dogs have Tibetan Mastiff ancestors, although there’s no record of Tibetan Mastiffs being brought to Newfoundland at that time. More accepted is the theory that Newfies came from native dogs who were then mixed with Great Pyrenees dogs.
While it’s hard to place the Newfoundland’s origin breeds, DNA analysis has allowed us to see similarities between them and other modern dogs. According to a study on the Newfoundland’s DNA, these dogs are close relatives of other Canadian retrievers. These include Golden Retrievers, Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retrievers, and Labrador Retrievers (who come from the same province!).
What isn’t disputed is the Newfoundland’s incredible devotion to their work. These dogs have had many different jobs over the last few hundred years. While they were known to help pull carts in port areas, they were also brought on fishing boats to help haul nets and cargo. Their physique and strength allowed them to retrieve objects that had fallen overboard, as well as rescue drowning people even in rough seas!
This awesome capability has made them muses for many artists who have depicted them at work, both in painting and sculpture, in the last two centuries. Sir Edwin Henry Landseer featured many Newfoundlands in his paintings, often in white-and-black coat color varieties. This coloration has since become known as “Landseer” patterning.
Coming Back From Extinction
The Newfoundland has once gone very close to the brink of extinction. In 1780, Richard Edwards, the Commodore-Governor of Newfoundland, decreed that each household was legally permitted to own only one Newfoundland dog. This was to promote efforts in sheep raising, though the law failed to accomplish this. Instead, for many years, the Newfoundland dog’s population diminished, either through exportation or death. Very soon, only few were left on the island.
Even though it was illegal, conservation efforts put forth by lovers of the breed helped bring Newfie population back up. This resulted in a resurgence of the breed many years later in Newfoundland itself. Exportation allowed the Newfoundland to achieve immense popularity in other parts of the world, particularly in England and other parts of Europe. In 1886, the AKC recognized the Newfie; Newfoundlands became the 32nd breed to join the club’s roster.
Today, the Newfoundland enjoys great popularity all over the world. While they’re not often used as a deckhand anymore, they still work extensively in water rescue. Still, most Newfies spend their time being beloved family companions, often serving as “nanny dogs” for families with children. They’re the 40th most popular dog according to the AKC’s 2019 ranking.
We’ve covered the Newfoundland’s history as a working dog; with all the many jobs they’ve had to do, it’s no wonder that they’ve developed a great work ethic. Newfoundlands are capable, strong dogs with a good capacity for learning new things. They are obedient and intelligent; new commands come easily to a well-adjusted Newfie.
Despite this, Newfies are often happiest when they are simply family pets. More than their work ethic, Newfoundland dogs are known to be extremely gentle and loving. Their sweet disposition is considered by the AKC as “the most important single characteristic of the breed.” The Newfoundland will have great patience even for easily excitable children and pets. Socialization comes easy to the Newfie, as their amiable personality allows them to befriend most anyone, be they human or animal. However, pet parents must take care to introduce their male Newfies slowly to other male dogs, in order to reduce wariness.
Newfoundlands are capable of protecting their family and home out of their loyalty, though they are generally non-threatening dogs. In fact, Newfies should never be aggressive; any dogs who show aggression should never be used to breed. This is very rare in Newfies, especially in those who are properly trained. More often than not, you’ll find that your Newfie will be very clingy and will enjoy following you around wherever you go.
Newfies have an incredible sense of duty, gentle temperament, keen senses, and strong protective instincts. This makes them a great therapy or service dog for anyone who needs a huge furry friend to brighten up their life. All they require is that you give them a lot of affection and attention; with their lovable personalities, it’s difficult not to!
Size and Appearance
The Newfoundland is known as a giant breed; you’ll know this simply by looking at them! They have truly massive, powerful frames, regardless of sex. You can expect male Newfies to stand at an average of 28 inches at the withers, while females average at around 26 inches. Males weigh anywhere from 130 to 150 pounds; female Newfies weigh 100 to 120 pounds. It’s quite common to see Newfoundlands get much larger than this, though, with some weighing around 200 pounds! In fact, the heaviest Newfie on record weighed a whopping 260 pounds!
The AKC breed standard for the Newfoundland states that they are a “well balanced dog that is deep-bodied, heavily boned, muscular, and strong.” They’re generally longer than they are tall. Newfies have large heads, broad muzzles, and strong cheekbones. They have small, deep-set eyes spaced wide apart. Newfoundlands have a dignified and gentle expression that is telling of their sweet personality. Their ears are triangular, ending in rounded tips that hang by their cheeks. You’ll most often see black noses and brown eyes in this breed, though lighter-colored Newfies may have brown noses and lighter eyes.
Similar to other giant breeds, the Newfoundland is a sturdy dog, thanks to their large bones and strong muscles. Their legs are often straight and parallel, allowing a graceful, regal stance. You can measure the Newfie’s elbow to the ground, and find that it is half their height. Webbed feet allow the Newfie to be a talented swimmer. Their tails are wide at the base; when relaxed, they usually hang straight, or with a slight curve. When this breed is excited, their tails wag powerfully, though it does not curl up on their back.
Coat and Colors
Newfoundlands have a special double coat that allows them to be safe and warm even in harsh Canadian winters. Since they spend a lot of time in the water, Newfoundlands have oily outer coats that allow their fur to be water-resistant. Their furry coat is medium-length and extremely thick; it’s often coarse in texture, and either straight or wavy.
You’ll often see black Newfoundlands, though the AKC also recognizes grey, brown, and white and black. The white and black coloring is known as Landseer, as previously discussed. Solid-colored Newfies are permitted to have a bit of white anywhere among the chin, chest, tip of tail, and toes.
It’s also common to see a bronze sheen in black or grey Newfoundlands, and lighter colors on a lighter coat. Landseer Newfoundlands typically have all-black heads, though they’re sometimes seen with white muzzles. They’ll often have a black saddle marking on an all-white coat, with black on their rump, ending in a white tail.
Exercise & Living Requirements
Despite their intimidating physique and natural swimming ability, Newfoundlands aren’t very active dogs. Newfie puppies will of course be energetic, but they will quickly mellow down as they age. They will still need exercise to stay fit, though they will be far more inclined to do something less strenuous. It’s always a good idea to take them out swimming, so if you have a pool, or live near water, this is a great way to give them the activity they need. Otherwise, leisurely daily walks will be just fine.
Given their sheer size, Newfies are best kept in larger homes; apartment life for this dog is very difficult. This is not to say that they cannot live in a smaller dwelling, only that they’re better suited elsewhere. Newfies are very laid-back dogs, provided they’re given enough exercise. Usually, 30 minutes a day is more than enough activity.
Taking them outside for daily activity will tire them out enough to be calm indoors. Newfoundlands will benefit from a large, fenced-in yard where they can stretch their legs on days when the weather is good. Speaking of weather, given the Newfie’s double coat, they have a preference for colder climates. They can tolerate warmer weather, but owners must be vigilant! Newfoundlands are prone to overheating, so they must always be given access to water and a comfortable place to cool down.
Fortunately, training the Newfoundland comes easily. They are intelligent dogs with a huge desire to please their trainers. However, their training should begin as soon as you bring them home. As puppies, Newfies are easily distracted. You will need to be patient and consistent in their training. However, you should not be harsh with them. Positive reinforcement is important when training this breed, as they can become resentful of an owner who is not kind to them.
Leash training is imperative and must be done as early as possible. Newfies grow up to be absolute giants, so you will need to teach them to behave while on a leash unless you want to be the one being walked! Training them not to jump up on people is also a necessity. Their size can easily topple over even the strongest humans when they get too excited!
Socialization for the Newfie is usually pleasant. They get along well with many other animals, and are very loving and sweet towards people their family trusts. If done early enough in their lives, socialization can prevent them from becoming excessively suspicious, shy, or anxious. It’s important to do this slowly to help your Newfie get used to their surroundings and the family that shares them. If you can, you should enroll your Newfoundland puppy in kindergarten classes; this is a good way to get them to play nicely with other dogs.
Newfoundlands are undoubtedly full of vigor and strength. They have very strong lungs that help them when they swim long distances, even when moving against strong currents. However, being a giant dog means Newfies have a shorter life expectancy. They live only around 8 to 10 years, though being in good health can help them live up to 15 years.
While the Newfie is a powerful dog, they are still prone to a few different health conditions, often due to their size. It’s worth noting that not every Newfoundland is going to experience these conditions, but you should still take them into consideration if you are planning to adopt a Newfie.
It’s common for Newfoundlands to develop hip dysplasia. This condition occurs when the thigh bone does not fit properly in the hip socket. This can result in irregular posture, a strange gait, or a limp in one or both hind legs. Hip dysplasia is very painful for Newfies, as they have to carry a lot of weight on their weakened hips and legs. This condition is often hereditary; responsible breeders will have their puppies screened for hip dysplasia. Be sure to ask your breeder if your Newfie pup has been screened for this condition.
More commonly known as bloat, gastric torsion affects deep-chested dogs, just like the Newfoundland. Gastric torsion occurs when the stomach is distended. This means it’s filled by air or gas, and then twists. The dog’s blood pressure drops as they cannot expel the contents of their stomach; they often go into shock. The condition is dangerous and potentially fatal. Signs to look out for are distended belly, retching without being able to vomit, restlessness, increased heart rate, and excessive drooling.
While the Newfoundland is predisposed to bloat, it’s easily avoided. Bloat is triggered if a dog eats too quickly or too much, drinks water rapidly and in excess, or if they exercise too soon after they’ve eaten. Giving your Newfie the correct amount of food and water will help prevent gastric torsion. For safety, only let your Newfoundland engage in strenuous activity after an hour or so has passed since their last meal.
Newfoundlands are prone to developing eye conditions such as cataracts or cherry eye. Cataracts occur when the eyes develop cloudy spots. These can impair vision if not addressed; surgery is often prescribed.
Cherry eye is a condition where the third eyelid swells. This red, swollen mass will look like a cherry at the inner corner of the Newfie’s eye. This can also be corrected with surgery. Responsible breeders will ensure that your Newfoundland’s parents are examined by a veterinary ophthalmologist to guarantee no hereditary eye diseases affect their offspring.
A dog’s health rides heavily on the quality of their nutrition. Being a giant dog, Newfies will benefit most from a dry kibble meant for their breed size. Feeding them food appropriate for their life stage will ensure proper development as puppies, and sufficient health maintenance in their adult and senior years.
As puppies, Newfies have a lot of growing to do. It’s important that this growth does not happen too fast; this can cause developmental problems and other conditions, like hip dysplasia. Giant breed puppy food for the Newfie’s aggressive development will give them the balanced nutrients needed for proper growth.
Older Newfies will need an average of 5-6 cups of dry kibble a day, split into two meals. It’s imperative not to feed your Newfoundland only one meal a day, as they may gobble it all up from hunger. This could lead to gastric torsion. Several meals spread across the day are recommended.
The exact amount of food your Newfoundland needs will depend on many different factors. Their calorie and nutrient needs change based on their age, size, and activity levels. More active dogs will need more food; less active or older dogs typically need less. When in doubt, consult your veterinarian for the appropriate feeding portions. Feeding your dog too much often leads to obesity, which could greatly decrease their lifespan.
Given the Newfie’s double coat, owners should take care to give them a good brushing every other day, at the very least. Newfoundlands shed like nobody’s business; it’s common for them to shed an entire other dog’s worth of fur during shedding seasons in the spring and fall! During these times, brushing should be done every day to help them lose their extra fur more easily. Newfies can also benefit from a good bi-annual deshedding with a proper tool, like the Furminator Deshedder.
Bathing the Newfoundland is generally not recommended unless they become very dirty; they need the protective oils on their coat to stay waterproof and frequent bathing can dry their coats out. Dry shampoo is better to use. Make it a habit to check your Newfie’s ears at least once a week for signs of redness or infection, especially if they spend a lot of time in the water.
Grooming your Newfie should be done as a bonding experience between both of you. Give them plenty of positive reinforcement during the grooming process to allow them to enjoy what they might normally perceive as unpleasant.
Breeders and Puppy Costs
If you choose to adopt a Newfoundland from a breeder, it’s important that the breeder you choose be responsible in their practices. Sadly, there are many puppy mills in operation where the objective is to make as much money as possible. Both the parents and the offspring are maltreated for the sake of profit. You’ll often see these unscrupulous breeders advertising rare colors for coats or eyes, or some similar gimmick to get themselves the most money.
Do your best to seek out a Newfoundland breeder who is passionate about the breed. Enthusiastic breeders will talk at length about their love for Newfies and will be able to answer any questions you may have. A responsible breeder will be able to give you guarantees of the puppy’s health, with certificates from the vet proving there are no hereditary problems. Puppies who are treated like family are almost always the most well-adjusted; look for breeders who have a cozy spot in the home for their pups, as well as encourage interaction with people.
Finding a good breeder is made easier by asking your vet, enthusiasts at local dog shows, or via the AKC’s breed referral resources. Newfies are expensive dogs from the get-go, at around $1000 to $3000 USD for a puppy from a responsible breeder. Good breeders, beyond providing good dogs, will also include other important factors in that price. These often include health certificates, deworming and vaccination, and possibly microchipping, all done with their veterinarian. We recommend pet insurance for your Newfoundland to help offset future medical costs.
Rescues and Shelters
While finding a responsible breeder for a new puppy is a good option, we always recommend that you check your local rescues and shelters first. You’re certain to find a wonderful dog in need of a loving home for a fraction of the cost of what you’d pay a breeder. In the US, 3.3 million dogs are put in shelters each year, with many of them euthanized. By adopting, you’re giving a dog a new lease on life.
There are Newfoundland Rescues you can check in with to find available pups. Most responsible breeders will take back dogs from their own litters, but rescues do happen, even with an easy going breed like the Newfie. When doing your research, look into the standards each shelter holds for their residents; no-kill shelters will treat their dogs better, resulting in better-adjusted dogs.
Good shelters will tell you all about the dogs in their care. They can tell you about the dog’s history, health, temperament, and any training they’ve received. Getting a clear picture of your new dog’s background is essential in providing them with a better life. Newfies from shelters will often still have a gentle demeanor, though they will likely be much more guarded. Senior dogs are also commonly found in shelters.
Older Newfies will have special needs you must tend to, with the upside of a very mellowed out personality. These dogs are more than happy to finally have a home, though some need time to come out of their proverbial shells. Doing your research on the needs of the specific Newfoundland you want to adopt is crucial to a happy, healthy, harmonious life together.
As Family Pets
- Newfoundlands are among the largest dogs in the world.
- This means they will need a home that can accommodate them.
- Newfoundlands have incredibly sweet dispositions.
- They can do well in different households and in diverse living situations.
- Newfoundlands adore children and will get along well with them if socialized early.
- Newfoundlands have oily coats that can mark walls, and will track dirt into the house.
- Be prepared to follow your Newfie around with a drool towel.
- Newfoundlands enjoy time outdoors, especially swimming.
- Considered “velcro dogs,” Newfies like to be near people at all times.
- Newfies can be excitable and knock over people when they are excited.
- They can be a little independent, so expect to spend some time training them.
We hope that this article has shed light on the incredible Newfoundland. If you are considering welcoming a Newfie into your life, getting a good grasp on how best to take care of them is the first step to giving them a wonderful home. When you are equipped with the knowledge necessary to your Newfie’s care, then you are sowing a bright and happy future for them.
Newfoundlands require a high level of commitment to keep them happy and healthy. However, the payoff is always worth it. Newfies have no shortage of affection to give; perhaps more gigantic than their bodies is their incredible ability to love! These dogs make fantastic family companions, and their loyalty knows no bounds. They are an excellent choice for anyone whose home needs the extra cheer and warmth. If you have the resources to care for this fantastic furry friend, then you’re in for an amazing adventure you’ll both cherish all your lives!