It happens like something from a daydream or a fantasy tale. You’re drifting away along a treacherous shoal in a boat with no motor or paddle. Just when all seems lost, a hero arrives to pull you ashore—in the form of a massive dog with bulky jowls and a remarkable grace in the churning water below.
It sounds like a moment scripted by a famed Romantic poet or lost scene from Peter Pan, but no—it’s just another day’s work for a Newfoundland!
The Newfoundland is a large working dog breed that has a cultural presence as big as their massive webbed paws. A native of the northeast Canadian provinces, this sizable pooch comes equipped with a dedicated fan base that has included poets and painters, fishermen and first responders and the explorers Lewis and Clark. Even if you don’t have much need for water rescue, a Newfie is an outstanding companion for children.
But before you commit to this friendly and furry breed, make sure you’re on board with their size and their tendency to drool—a lot. After all, there’s a reason why those who love these dogs are rarely without a towel for clean-ups.
Did you know?The Newfoundland is one of three Canadian breeds named for Atlantic provinces. The other two are the Nova Scotia duck tolling retriever and the Labrador retriever.
Companion, hero and muse
The Newfie is more than your average big, water-loving dog. The breed makes appearances throughout history, from the stanzas of literary icons like Lord Byron—who eulogized his beloved Boatswain with one of the most famous canine poems of all time—to a beloved role as Nana in the childhood favorite Peter Pan. A real life Newfie also inspired Charlotte Bronte to make Rochester’s devoted pooch Pilot a black-and-white Newfoundland in Jane Eyre.
Newfoundlands are beloved among artists as well as writers. The striking black-and-white variety of Newfoundland is called a “Landseer” after Sir Edwin Landseer, the legendary painter of dogs and horses. His 1838 painting of this eye-catching dog is one of the best-known pieces of canine art in history.
Not content to just be a muse, the Newfoundland is a working dog that has been pulling nets, boats and people from the cold waters of the North Atlantic for generations. A strong dog with a willing and gentle disposition, the Newfie is happy to harness up and pull the daily catch to market once brought ashore. Even today, there are Newfies working in water rescue units worldwide.
Even small Newfies are big
Probably the first thing anyone notices about a Newfoundland is their size. Female Newfoundlands are generally 100 to 120 pounds, and males can easily reach 150 pounds or more. Despite their size, Newfies are a fairly athletic breed—even out of the water—and some even compete in canine agility events.
But with massive size come challenges. Newfoundlands eat more than the average dog, and their rate of growth can create health problems if diet and exercise aren’t managed carefully. A Newfie pup should be monitored by a veterinarian to ensure those big bones have a chance to develop correctly. Your veterinarian may also advise delaying spaying or neutering until after maturity to normalize bone growth.
Although Newfies are friendly and peaceful, they are fully capable of pulling adults off their feet and knocking children over if not trained to behave. Also, if you like snuggling with your pets—and, believe us, your Newfie will be ready—you may need a bigger bed and a longer couch.
Water, water everywhere
Newfoundlands are at home in the water. So much so they’re born with webbed feet, and some Newfie puppies have been known to fall asleep in their water dishes. The ideal home for a Newfie would likely have a pool or access to a safe body of water for regular swims—the more often, the better.
Even though Newfoundlands are at home in the water, it’s important to prioritize good swimming safety practices. A Newfie can still ingest too much water, get caught in a strong current, or swallow toxic algae blooms—always be aware of your surroundings and keep an eye out. Puppies and seniors are safer when fit for life vests, and even strong dogs should be watched for signs of exhaustion.
And yes, you’ll need towels—lots of towels.
Health and wellness
As with many giant breeds, Newfoundlands are prone to several serious health issues. Some breed-specific illnesses include cancers of the bone and lymphatic system. They’re also at an elevated risk for heart disease and endocrine conditions, such as adrenal diseases and hypothyroidism. Fortunately, many of these health issues can be managed with the help of your veterinarian.
Deep-chested dogs face an elevated risk for gastric dilation-volvulus (GDV)—and the Newfie is no exception. Commonly known as “bloat,” GDV poses a potentially life-threatening emergency situation.
To be safe, Newfoundland owners should watch out for the early signs of GDV and know the location of an emergency veterinary practice.
Load up on Newfie data
Did you know? Nationwide insures nearly 2,000 Newfoundland dogs as of October 2021.