Newfoundland dog
John Walton
Written by John Walton

The Newfoundland is not a dog to be taken lightly; they are quite large and quite strong, so don’t let their saggy, sad faces fool you. They were developed to be working dogs, pulling in the nets for fishermen and carrying wood from the forest. He is hardworking and very capable to work on both land and in the water, especially with his strong swimming skills. He does make a good family companion as well, with his sweet nature.

Breed Characteristics

AdaptabilityAbove Average
TrainabilityAbove Average
Health and GroomingBelow Average
All Around FriendlinessAbove Average
Exercise NeedsAbove Average

Dog Breed Group:Working dogs
Height:Twenty-five to twenty-nine inches at the shoulder
Weight:100 to 150 pounds
Life Span:8 to 10 years

There’s a reason that the Newfoundland was chosen as the dog breed in Peter Pan, is that they are very sweet dogs when it comes to children. They are friendly and gentle by nature, and very protective over them. Many owners would regard them as natural babysitters. They originated in Newfoundland, Canada (the same place as the Labrador Retriever), and have the desire to please their human, a strong work ethic, high intelligence and friendliness, and adaptability to any given situation. His placid nature may lead you to believe that he’s content with laying about the house, but this couldn’t be farther from the truth. He does need a daily amount of exercise to keep fit, or else he may be prone to obesity.

If you’re a neat freak by nature, then the Newfoundland isn’t really the best dog for you. His long and heavy coat is a magnet for dirt and burrs, and will track all of that mess through your house. Grooming is required on a regular basis in order to eliminate this debris. The breed is also known for being a copious drooler, so your floors won’t be safe when he catches the scent of food.

When it comes to training, however, you couldn’t find a smarter and more obedient dog breed. He learns quite quickly, and there’s practically no lesson he won’t take to. Training should be done early, as they do quite large quite quickly, and dealing with a misbehaving dog that weighs over 100 pounds will definitely be more than you bargained for.

Due to his strong swimming skills, he has the strong potential for heroics. There are many stories of this breed leaping into cold waters in order to rescue those who have fallen in. His long coat does manage to keep him warm even in frigid waters, so he’s a good companion to bring with you on boat trips.

Main Highlights
  • Due to the size of the Newfoundland when it is fully grown, an apartment is not the best place for him to live. He may be quite mellow, but cramped spaces will only make him miserable.
  • The Newfoundland has an extremely strong work ethic, and does need some exercise as well as mental stimulation. Giving him jobs to do around the home can be an easy enough task, given how easy it is to train him.
  • The Newfoundland does best in cooler climates. He can handle warmer climates, but he should be monitored in order to prevent heat stroke. Always keep cool fresh water around when the temperatures become too high, and don’t leave him outside for extended periods of time.
Breed History

There are three main theories as to how the Newfoundland came about, since the accounts are difficult to validate. One account states that he is a cross between the Tibetan Mastiff and the American black wolf. Another state that they were brought over by the Vikings over to the New World and were left behind to breed with the native wolves. The last is that he is the result of the breeding of European dogs such as the Pyrenees, mastiffs, and Portugese water dogs.

Regardless of the breed’s origins, it is known that n in the 18th Century, an English botanist by the name of Joseph Banks acquired several of these dogs. The name of the breed didn’t come around until 1775 when George Carwright named them. Even back then, the breed was in jeopardy, as they were almost wiped out by tax restrictions imposed by the government in 1780s. The mandate stated that Canadian families had to pay taxes on the single dog that they were allowed to keep.

The Newfoundland gained resurgence when Edwin Landseer started including the breed in his paintings. This was further solidified through the actions of Harold MacPherson, who made the dog his breed of choice. The breed was then first registered with the American Kennel Club in 1879.


There are some differences between the male and female dogs within the breed. The female stands at around twenty-six inches tall and can weigh between 100 and 120 pounds, while the male tends to stand at around twenty-eight inches tall at the shoulder and weigh between 130 to 150 pounds.

Personality and Character

When it comes to personality, the Newfoundland is known for having a very sweet disposition. He is likened to a giant teddy bear, and has the gentleness to prove it. He works extremely well with children, is highly intelligent, and aims to please his humans at all times. He is happiest when the company of his family, and should not be left alone for long periods of time. Outdoor living in a kennel or fenced yard is also not recommended.

Early socialization is definitely recommended, as the exposure to different people and animals can acclimate him to new sounds and sensations. Puppy kindergarten and obedience classes are also a good start to ensure that he plays well with others, especially if you are considering having more than one dog in the home. Encounters in busy parks and taking him on strolls down the street to meet other dogs will help him to work on his social skills.

Health and Potential Problems

Newfoundlands can be extremely healthy dogs, but there are some conditions and diseases that they are prone to. Despite the listing of the conditions below, not all dogs will succumb to them, based on their genetic heritage. However, knowing of them beforehand can prepare you for what to expect if you notice any of the symptoms of these listed conditions. Always be sure to do some research into the breeder you are getting your puppy from to ensure that they are not breeding dogs who are passing on these genetic traits to their future litters.

  • Addison’s Disease: also known as hypoadrenocorticism, this extremely serious condition is caused by an insufficient production of hormones by the adrenal gland. Most dogs with Addison’s disease tend to vomit, have a poor appetite, and show signs of lethargy. Because these signs are vague and can be mistaken for other conditions, it’s easy to miss this disease as a diagnosis until it reaches the advanced stages. More severe signs occur when a dog is stressed or when potassium levels get high enough to interfere with heart function, causing severe shock and death. If Addison’s is suspected, your vet may perform a series of tests to confirm the diagnosis.
  • Cataracts: as in humans, canine cataracts are characterized by cloudy spots on the eye lens that can grow over time. They may develop at any age, and often don’t impair vision, although some cases cause severe vision loss. Cataracts can usually be surgically removed with good results.
  • Cherry eye: cherry eye occurs when the gland known as the third eyelid swells. It looks like a red mass at the inner corner of the dog’s eye. The treatment for cherry eye is usually surgery, either attaching the gland in place with stitches or removing the tissue, which results in a tightening that pushes the gland back in place once it has healed.
  • Subvalvular Aortic Stenosis: this heart problem is caused by a narrow connection between the left ventricle and the aorta. It can cause fainting and even sudden death.
  • Epilepsy: epilepsy is often inherited and can cause mild or severe seizures. Seizures may be exhibited by unusual behavior, such as running frantically as if being chased, staggering, or hiding. Seizures are frightening to watch, but the long-term prognosis for dogs with idiopathic epilepsy is generally very good. It’s important to remember that seizures can be caused by many other things than idiopathic epilepsy, such as metabolic disorders, infectious diseases that affect the brain, tumors, exposure to poisons, severe head injuries, and more.
  • Hip Dysplasia: hip dysplasia is a heritable condition in which the thighbone doesn’t fit snugly into the hip joint. Some dogs show pain and lameness on one or both rear legs, but you may not notice any signs of discomfort in a dog with hip dysplasia. As the dog ages, arthritis can develop. Dogs with hip dysplasia should not be bred. If you’re buying a puppy, ask the breeder for proof that the parents have been tested for hip dysplasia and are free of problems.
  • Elbow Dysplasia: this is a heritable condition common to large-breed dogs. It’s thought to be caused by different growth rates of the three bones that make up the dog’s elbow, causing joint laxity. This can lead to painful lameness. Your vet may recommend surgery to correct the problem or medication to control the pain.
  • Hypothyroidism: this is a disorder of the thyroid gland that’s thought to cause conditions such as epilepsy, hair loss, obesity, lethargy, dark patches on the skin, and other skin conditions. It’s treated with medication and diet.
  • Cystinuria: cystinuria is an inherited disorder caused by an inability to reabsorb cystine, which is an amino acid, in the kidneys. This results in kidney or bladder stones that cause blockage and urinary tract inflammation. If left untreated, it can lead to death. Treatment includes medication that prevents the formation of stones. Genetic testing is available.
  • Cancer: symptoms that may indicate canine cancer include abnormal swelling of a sore or bump, sores that do not heal, bleeding from body openings, and difficulty with breathing or elimination. Treatments for cancer include chemotherapy, surgery, and medications.
  • Gastric Torsion: also known as bloat, this is a life-threatening condition that affects large, deep-chested dogs like Newfoundlands, especially if they’re fed one large meal a day, eat rapidly, or drink large amounts of water or exercise vigorously after eating. Bloat occurs when the stomach is distended with gas or air and then twists. The dog is unable to belch or vomit to rid himself of the excess air in his stomach, and blood flow to the heart is impeded. Blood pressure drops and the dog goes into shock. Without immediate medical attention, the dog can die. Suspect bloat if your dog has a distended abdomen, is drooling excessively, and retching without throwing up. He also may be restless, depressed, lethargic, and weak with a rapid heart rate. If you notice these symptoms, get your dog to the vet as soon as possible.
  • Ruptured Anterior Cruciate Ligament: this is a common knee injury and tends to occur in young, large dogs during play or older overweight dogs; the anterior cruciate ligament tears or ruptures resulting in a sudden lameness. Treatment varies according to severity, but includes rest, limited activity, medication, and surgery.
Care Features

The Newfoundland may seem rather mellow, but he does require exercise on a regular basis. Extremely long walks aren’t really his thing, but he is known for being an excellent swimmer. Care should be exercised when engaging your Newfoundland puppy in activities, due to the size of his breed. They can grow quite quickly, which makes them susceptible to born disorders. High impact exercises on hard surfaces are not recommended, as this can cause joint pain. Normal play on the grass and puppy agility are sufficient until the puppy is two years old; this is when his bones have fully formed. Swimming works well to provide him with the exercise he needs, as it engages his muscles without the risk of causing damage to his bones.

When it comes to training, you’ll find that a Newfoundland puppy takes to his lessons quite quickly as he is eager to please. Leash training is definitely a must, especially with the large size he can become when he is fully grown.

Feeding Schedule

The Newfoundland needs a decent amount of food for his size and to accommodate his energy levels. About four to five cups of food each day, divided between two meals, should be sufficient. This can be altered in accordance with his age, size, metabolism and specific energy levels throughout the day, as not every dog is the same.

Newfoundland puppies require steady growth in order to avoid his bones from succumbing to damage. Providing too much protein can make this worse, so it is recommended that they be provided with a good quality diet that consists of 22 to 24 percent protein and 12 to 15 percent fat. It is not recommended that his food be left out all day, and this can sometimes lead to overeating.

Coat, Color and Grooming

The Newfoundland has a very water-resistant double coat that is very flat. The outer coat consists of long hair that is quite coarse, while the undercoat is soft and dense to keep him warm in cooler climates. The amount of shedding is quite moderate, and takes place primarily in the spring and the fall. This means that his coat requires brushing, at least two to three times a week, in order to reduce the amount of shedding, and eliminate any tangles or matting that may occur. Bathing should only be as needed, though you will notice that his fur does attract a lot of mud and dirt. If your dog loves to romp outside in the dirt, then you will be bathing him quite often on a regular basis, possibly every one or two months.

The Newfoundland comes in a variety of colors, such as solid black, brown, grey, or what is called Landseer; this is a dog that is white with black markings present in the fur. In order to maintain his looks, many owners choose to hire a professional groomer to take care of the grooming tasks. Even so this needs to be done on a regular basis, every few weeks or so.

His teeth should be brushed on a regular basis, or dental chews can be provided for those who can’t maintain a regular schedule. Removing the tartar and buildup prevents gum disease and tooth decay, which can be quite painful for dogs. The nails should be trimmed once or twice a month if they’re not being worn down themselves on walks. Keeping them short will prevent tearing in the future. Be wary of cutting the nails too short, as they have blood vessels within them. If you’re wary of how short to cut them, it may be a better idea to bring them to a professional groomer to have them done for you.

The ears should be checked on a weekly basis to ensure that there is no build-up or infection occurring. If the ears feel hot or smell bad, or if you’ve noticed that he’s been scratching at them more often, then you should take him to the vet to assess the situation. It’s likely that you’ll be provided with special ear cleaning solution to take care of the problem for you. Using a cotton ball, only the outer ear should be cleaned; do not insert it into the ear canal.

Children And Other Pets Compatibility

You won’t find a more patient dog breed than the Newfoundland when it comes to children. He is highly tolerant of their antics, and will rarely ever retaliate. He’s a kid magnet by nature, given his large size and soft fur. However, it’s his size that makes him more of a danger to children than anything else, as he can knock them over without even trying. He can also appear intimidating to children who don’t know him very well. Children should still be taught how to interact with him and not to treat him roughly.

When it comes to other pets in the home, the Newfoundland is very friendly towards them, especially cats and other small mammals. Proper socialization and training is always recommended in these situations so that all pets within the home feel comfortable.

The Newfoundland can be considered the giant teddy bear of the dog breeds, and is quite content to be treated as such. Human contact helps him to thrive, as well as a good amount of exercise and any job that can challenge his brain. Though his large size can be somewhat intimidating, his playful nature will make just about anyone fall in love with him.

About the author
John Walton
John Walton

John Walton lives in Somerville, MA, with his two dogs, two sons, and very understanding mate. He is a Certified Pet Dog Trainer, a member of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants, a mentor trainer for the Animal Behavior College, an AKC Certified CGC Evaluator, and the Training Director for the New England Dog Training Club.