Breed Profile – Newfoundland


It’s Winter and it seemed like the perfect time to take a look at the Newfoundland dog breed, or Newfie to its friends. The majesty and bulk of the Newfoundland belies its playful and fun nature. Our latest breed profile focuses on this working dog with an interesting history.

History of Breed: The origins of the Newfoundland breed are unclear. It is thought that it has nothing to do with the Canadian province it takes its name from. However there may be associations with the area since the dog could have accompanied tribes that crossed the Polar regions. Historically, Newfoundlands retrieved nets for fishermen. More recently, they work as rescue dogs thanks to their loyal nature and life-saving instincts.

Life Expectancy: As with most larger breeds, the Newfoundland has a lower life expectancy of approximately 10 years. This also unfortunately means that the breed enters its senior years earlier. They can display signs of arthritis and stiffness from as early as 6 -7 years of age. A good nutritional joint protection and support aid should be fed from adulthood upwards. Feeding to condition to prevent unnecessary strain on joints and bones or the cardiovascular system is a good idea. A light, easily digestible senior diet, such as Gilpa Kennel, is ideal as they age.

Size: Very large breed, with a weight range of 50-69kg and a height range of 66-71cm.

Features: The Newfoundland gives an impression of being powerful and majestic without seeming heavy and inactive. Its beautiful coat, which is double-layered, coarse and water-resistant, is a characteristic feature. Their love of water and slow drying time, due to the layering and density of the coat, can be problematic. Having a designated space to work the worst out of their coats, such as a ventilated, tiled utility room, is essential. A blaster, a special hairdryer for long-haired dogs, aids in drying and clearing out the debris from their coats and skin. Newfoundlands also have bushy tails, feathered forelegs and large webbed feet. Coat colours, according to breed standards, are black or brown. A bronze tint and the occasional small white marking on the chest, toes and tip of tail is permissible. The Landseer Newfoundland, named after Sir Edwin Landseer, who included them in his paintings, is white with black markings.

Energy Levels/Exercise Required: Despite their size, Newfoundlands actually have quite a lot of energy. They require about an hour of exercise a day and have an instinctive love for exercise in the water. In fact, many people’s first exposure to Newfies is at country fairs where they can sometimes be seen racing with small carts attached – exciting and hilarious! It is recommended to start them swimming from an early age (6 months – 1 year old), preferably at a Newfoundland club where they will teach the dogs in a safe, controlled environment. Joint protection is a good idea for any large breed. Furthermore sporting or working dogs may also need higher levels of nutrients and energy from the diet for endurance and stamina.

Potential Health Problems: Newfoundlands have a long growth period. Even at 5 months of age, they will only be 50% of their final weight. They may not fill out into their final adult shape until between 18-24 months of age. Giant breeds need lower nutrient and mineral levels in their diet for growth than smaller dogs. This prevents excessively rapid weight gain which could lead to skeletal problems. Therefore it is important to find the correct growth diet, such as Dr John Puppy. If a Newfoundland puppy’s coat turns a reddish colour, it may be an indication of an increased requirement for tyrosine and phenylalanine. In this case, a spirulina seaweed supplement, which is high in these amino acids, may prevent this becoming a deficiency.

A Newfoundland’s diet needs to be suitable for their larger mouth size and their increased physiological requirements. A large dog biscuit will encourage them to bite properly rather than gulping food too quickly. This will help with abrading and cleaning the teeth and also encourage early satiety signals to the brain. It could also help prevent gastric dilation volvulus (GDV or bloat), another health problem common to Newfoundlands. Feeding little and often to avoid ingestion of large quantities of water or food and steering clear of high fat diets will help prevent this.

The breed is also prone to pyrotraumatic dermatitis (hot spots). A popular theory as to the cause of hot spots is that Newfoundlands are hypersensitive to the initial cause (flea bites, ticks, allergies, ear problems, foreign bodies in the coat, muscular-skeletal problems), which irritates them and starts the scratching process. The condition is exacerbated by hot and humid environmental conditions. Therefore the best way to prevent it is to keep a Newfoundland well ventilated, cool at night, well groomed and dry them quickly once they are wet.

Newfoundlands have a nutritional anomaly that requires them to consume more taurine than other dogs. Taurine is necessary for the cardiovascular system and an insufficient level can cause heart disease to develop. A deficiency can also affect vision, reproduction, growth and immunity. Dogs can synthesise taurine from other amino acids, in particular methionine and cysteine, so the ideal diet for a Newfoundland would be rich in either of these sources. Some animal proteins are a poor source of these amino acids, in particular lamb and soya. Therefore a diet based on chicken or beef will be beneficial to the Newfoundland.

Temperament: Newfoundlands are loving, laid back dogs, but they also have a sense of fun and are highly intelligent. They respond well to training and have many natural abilities in scenting, obedience, agility and tracking.

Family Dog/Child Friendly: Newfoundlands are protective and gentle with children by nature. Combined with their energy levels, they make great family pets and are happiest in large houses with plenty of outdoor space. They don’t like to be too warm and their winter coat and condition will benefit from a cooler environment. In the summer it is particularly important to prevent them from overheating by keeping them out of the sun and restricting exercise to the coolest part of the evening. Tin baths, paddling pool, sprinklers and other water features in the garden are a great way to amuse a Newfoundland and keep them cool in the summer months.

Likes: Children, fun and games, water.

Dislikes: Hot weather, lack of attention, lack of opportunity to exercise and have fresh air.