Affectionally known as “Newfies,” the giant Newfoundland dogs are not only immense (weighing between 100-150 pounds), they’re also one of the most docile and friendly breeds. Unsurprisingly, the Newfie originated in Newfoundland, Canada, where they became popular. This powerful breed was once used as a ship dog or for cart-pulling, and they are still used for cold-water rescues today.
Caring for a Newfoundland
Newfoundlands are best characterized by their sweet temperament and large size. They are friendly with their families and patient with young children.
Their coarse outer coat comes in black and white, brown, black, or gray, and it requires frequent brushing to prevent matting and knots. Brushing will also keep their shedding, which can be overwhelming, under control.
Newfoundland Health Issues
The Newfoundland is a generally healthy breed, but pet parents should be vigilant about a few specific health conditions.
Gastric dilatation-volvulus, a severe form of bloat in dogs, is a condition that occurs suddenly and requires immediate life-saving action. This happens when the stomach fills up with food or gas, causing expansion and increased pressure.
The stomach can then rotate, which causes inadequate blood supply to the spleen and stomach. Symptoms include non-productive retching, swollen abdomen, drooling, and collapse. If not treated quickly, a dog can experience shock, tissue damage, and even death.
Increased risk is seen in older dogs that have a deep chest (like the Newfoundland), in dogs that are fed from elevated bowls, and in dogs that are fed only once per day.
Immediate veterinary intervention is needed to stabilize and treat GDV. The longer a dog has this condition without intervention, the greater the risk of death.
To prevent GDV, a prophylactic gastropexy can be performed to secure the stomach to prevent it from twisting. This is often done at the same time as the dog’s spay or neuter surgery.
Bone Cancer (Osteosarcoma)
Osteosarcoma is an aggressive, malignant bone cancer Newfoundlands are predisposed to. This is the most common type of bone tumor found in dogs, especially larger breeds like Newfies. The first symptom that is noted is usually lameness or limping, and a vet will take x-rays to diagnose osteosarcoma. Treatment often includes pain control, amputation, and chemotherapy.
Hip dysplasia is a condition where the hip joint doesn’t develop properly, causing a loose joint. This can be influenced by growth rate, hormones, or diet, and it can lead to degenerative joint disease and osteoarthritis. This arthritis leads to pain, limping, and difficulty standing.
Maintaining a lean body condition is important for preventing arthritis. Many vets recommend low-intensity exercise, omega-3 fatty acids, glucosamine, and chondroitin supplementation for dogs diagnosed with hip dysplasia. In severe cases, surgery may be needed.
Elbow dysplasia is a condition where the elbow joint develops abnormally. This is usually influenced by genetics, abnormal/rapid growth, diet, or trauma. The condition can cause pain, limping, lameness, and, like hip dysplasia, arthritis. Treatment of elbow dysplasia varies based on the severity, but surgery is required in most cases.
Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM)
Dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) is degeneration of the heart that causes the muscle of the left ventricle to become very thin and pump weakly. The symptoms of the disease may occur suddenly or progress gradually as the disease worsens over time, and it can eventually lead to congestive heart failure.
DCM is a very serious condition that requires intensive treatment, and not all dogs will return to normal.
What To Feed a Newfoundland
Feeding commercial kibble or wet food that's compliant with the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) standards is a good way to make sure your Newfie receives a complete and balanced diet.
To maintain a healthy growth rate in Newfoundland puppies, they need to get the proper amounts of fat, protein, and carbohydrates. Newfie puppies can get all of their nutrition through AAFCO-compliant foods that are designed for giant and large-breed dogs. But as always, discuss with your veterinarian which diet is best for your individual pup.
You can also talk with your veterinarian about whether your Newfie’s dog food should contain grains. There is a correlation between grain-free diets and dilated cardiomyopathy, to which the Newfoundland is already predisposed.
How To Feed a Newfoundland
Adult Newfies do best if fed about every 12 hours. Raised bowls may increase the risk of bloat, so they should be avoided.
How Much Should You Feed a Newfoundland
As with humans, the recommended caloric intake required varies between dogs depending on their size, metabolism, and activity level. The best way to determine how much to feed your Newfoundland is to talk with your veterinarian and consult the feeding guide labels on your chosen dog food.
Nutritional Tips for Newfoundlands
Newfoundlands benefit from adding omega-3 fatty acids (DHA/EPA) into their diets. Omega-3 fatty acids can be found in skin and joint supplements, fish oil, and some specially formulated dog foods. These fatty acids will act as natural anti-inflammatories that help to support the skin, coat, kidneys, joints, and heart.
Behavior and Training Tips for Newfoundlands
Newfoundland Personality and Temperament
A Newfoundland makes an outstanding family pet due to his sweet disposition and gentle nature around children and small pets. As with any dog, children should always be supervised when playing with pets, including Newfies. They’re gentle, but they’re big and might accidentally knock over a small child. Socializing your Newfoundland puppy around people and other pets encourages his sweet temperament.
Newfoundlands don’t need an excessive amount of exercise or play, but they do well when given an active, entertaining job—like cart pulling or even maneuvering through an agility course.
The Newfoundland is confident, mild-mannered, intelligent, and outgoing. Due to their history as cart pullers, some Newfies pull on their leash; early leash training will help to prevent this. Additionally, some Newfoundlands develop separation anxiety. One way to prevent this is to offer extra physical and mental stimulation.
Newfoundland puppies grow rapidly, to the point where they can overpower their human parents with pulling or jumping. Considering the breed’s large size, early obedience training is a must. But Newfies are extremely intelligent, which allows for successful training. Some individuals can be stubborn and strong-willed, but training will be successful when based on positive reinforcement with lots of treats for good behavior.
Fun Activities for Newfoundlands
Newfoundland Grooming Guide
The Newfoundland has a double coat: coarse and water-resistant on top with a soft, dense undercoat. They shed year-round but usually “blow their coat” twice a year, when the shedding is extra heavy. Care is needed to maintain a healthy coat, but extensive grooming is not necessary.
Newfoundland dogs do best if bathed roughly once a month—never more than once every two weeks. Omega-3 supplementation by mouth also helps to maintain a healthy skin barrier.
The Newfie’s long, coarse coat requires thorough brushing at least once a week. A dog comb will help remove dead hair and a slicker brush will encourage shine. Brushing will also help limit the amount of fur that ends up on your furniture.
There are no special eye care needs for the Newfie. If a small amount of debris collects around the eyes, it can be cleaned with a soft, moist cloth. Excess eye discharge, squinting, and/or redness can be signs of more serious eye conditions that warrant an examination from the veterinarian.
The Newfoundland’s floppy ears and long ear canals mean they can experience ear infections. Weekly cleaning with a pet-specific ear cleaner can help to prevent them. If you notice any redness or heavy amounts of debris, call your vet.
Considerations for Pet Parents
The Newfie’s sweet temperament makes them an excellent dog for families. Early positive reinforcement training and socialization are necessary due to their large size. They have a moderate energy level and do well when given a fun activity to stimulate their minds and bodies.
But take note: The Newfie sheds a lot and drools even more, so having a strong vacuum and a towel on hand is encouraged.
How big are Newfoundland dogs?
Newfoundlands are a giant breed that range from 25-28 inches in height. They weigh between 100-150 pounds.
How long do Newfoundlands live?
The average Newfoundland lifespan is 8-10 years.
How much does a Newfoundland cost?
Purchasing a Newfoundland puppy from a breeder costs between $1,500-$2,500. Dogs of certain lineage may also cost substantially more, but Newfoundlands can also be found in rescues and shelters.
Is a Newfoundland a good family dog?
When well-socialized and trained at a young age, the Newfie makes an excellent family pet—if you don’t mind some slobber. They have a gentle temperament and intelligent nature.
Do Newfoundlands bark a lot?
While almost any dog has the ability to be an excessive barker, the Newfoundland is not a breed that is known for barking to excess.
Featured Image: iStock/SvetaElfimova
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