Breed Profile: Newfoundland

This large dog has deep roots in water rescue and is one of the best dogs for children. Read more in our breed profile of the Newfoundland.

newfoundland breed profile
The Newfoundland is a large dog ideal for children.

Breed

Newfoundland, aka Newfie or Newf

Group

Working

Physical Description

Newfs are strong, large dogs with a water-resistant double coat. They are known for their deep history in water rescues and working in hazardous weather. Males weigh between 130 and 150 pounds and range from 26 to 29 inches tall. Females weigh between 100 and 120 pounds and range from 25 to 27 inches tall.

Their webbed paws aid in swimming, although not all Newfs take to water naturally. Coat colors include black, black with blue highlights or white marking, brown, gray or white. The average life expectancy of a Newf is 10 years, with some exceeding 15 years.

Origin

As with most breeds with a history dating back centuries, there are conflicting stories about the origin of the Newf:

  • The dog was a descendent of the Great Pyrenees brought to Newfoundland by fisherman.
  • A French hound rumored to be the boarhound was an ancestor.
  • Traits of the Newf indicate it was once crossed with huskies.
  • Newfs descended from Viking bear dogs.
  • Newfs were the result of crossing Tibetan mastiffs brought to Canada with local dogs in the 1700s.
  • The Newf was crossed with a Labrador for its excellent swimming abilities.
  • Labradors swam or walked to the Newfoundland area and began breeding with Newfs.

This sturdy, hard-working dog was a fixture in water rescue and helping fisherman. They hauled nets, retrieved items or people overboard and rescued victims from drowning in the water. Their land-based duties included hauling building materials, delivering supplies and food, and carrying loads by pulling carts.

Some notable dates for Newfs include:

  • The AKC recognized the breed in 1886.
  • In 1919, a Newfoundland was honored with a gold medal for pulling a lifeboat to safety containing 20 people after a shipwreck.
  • The military used the breed during World War II to haul supplies and ammunition in blizzard conditions.

Purpose

Newfoundlands were originally working dogs at sea and on land, but advancements in shipbuilding and technology reduced the necessity of Newfs for these jobs. Today these dogs participate in conformation, agility, carting, tracking, and draft and water tests. They also make great family pets and companions.

Newfs are also trained as rescue dogs. Some of their rescue missions involve pulling stranded people to safety in water emergencies.

This video shows the Newfs in action, a result of years of training:

Temperament

Newfoundlands are natural caretakers and are easily considered one of the best — if not the best — dog for children. They are very loyal and are among the easiest dogs to train.

They are calm and friendly with everyone, but they can be protective when they sense harm or danger to their family. Newfs are usually good with other animals and common nicknames include couch potato and half bear/half dog.

This Newf doesn’t seem the least bit bothered to be a toddler playground:

Exercise Needs

Newfoundlands are usually inactive indoors but should be taken for daily walks. They enjoy swimming and playing in water, but not all Newfs will take to the water easily.

Grooming Requirements

The Newf coat is a waterproof double coat that typically sheds twice a year. They can be brushed weekly, but daily is recommended to reduce shedding. Avoid bathing Newfs too often as this will strip the natural oils from their coats.

Common Health Problems

Newfs are prone to hip dysplasia and sub-aortic stenosis (SAS), an inherited heart defect. Weight should be monitored and maintained so that the dog does not become overweight. Overweight or obese dogs may experience further joint and orthopedic issues. Large dogs are susceptible to bloat. Learn how to recognize the signs of bloat and exercise prevention to avoid this condition.

Is the Newfoundland the Right Dog for You?

Newfs are loyal and friendly companions and love to be around people. They are considered to be one of the best dogs for families with children. They can live the apartment life with daily walks and prefer a colder climate.

They can handle city life but not extreme heat. Most Newfs are known for their love of water activities and swimming, but it is possible to come across one that avoids water. They are large dogs and will require regular grooming and a regulated diet.

If you have the time to provide daily walks, grooming and can protect the dog from extreme heat, a Newf could be a great addition to your household.

Adopt, Don’t Buy

If you consider getting a Newfoundland as your next pet, please check adoption resources first. Even purebred animals can end up in shelters. Try Petful’s dog adoption center.

Additional Resources

There are many organizations dedicated to the care and rescue of Newfoundlands around the globe:

Photo: BlackburnPhoto/Flickr

Kristine Lacoste

View posts by Kristine Lacoste
Kristine Lacoste, editor in chief of Petful, is an author, poet and pet lover from Louisiana. She is the author of the book One Unforgettable Journey, which was nominated for a Maxwell Award from the Dog Writers Association of America, and was host of a weekly pet news segment on the National K-9 Academy Radio Show. In addition, she was the New Orleans coordinator for Dogs on Deployment, a nonprofit that helps military members and their pets, for 3 years. Kristine has been researching and writing about pet behaviors and care for many years, with her articles appearing in various publications. She is the CEO of a large mental health practice in Louisiana and holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology, a bachelor’s degree in English and a Master of Business Administration degree.

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