Breed Group: Working

Temperament and Behavior

One of the gentle giants, the Newfoundland (lovingly called a “Newfie” or “Newf”) is best known for its sweet disposition and calm demeanor when inside. Nicknamed “Nanny Dog,” the Newfoundland is one of the most tolerant breeds with children, preferring them to adults. Their gentle nature extends to all family members making them an excellent family dog. But Newfs need companionship. They suffer when separated from family, and have difficulty adapting to new homes. Understanding the breed’s needs before getting one is extremely important. Strangers are usually accepted as family but may be viewed warily depending on the dog. They accept most other pets but males can be testy with other male dogs. With their deep, resounding barks they make good watchdogs but with their gentle nature, they are sub-standard guard dogs. However, many will act if he feels his family is threatened. Outside a Newfoundland becomes much more active than inside. They have a passion for the outdoors, are powerful swimmers, and are often used in water rescue. In fact, youngsters may be frustrated when swimming because they are consistently towed back to shore or the edge of the pool by their lifeguard dog. On land, they will pull a child’s wagon, preferably with their playmate in it, or carry a backpack. This helps provide the above average amount of exercise a Newfoundland needs. Without these activities, he needs at least two long daily walks to stay fit. Combining their size with their exercise needs results in a dog that needs plenty of room both inside and out. In addition to their need for space, there are several other traits a person should consider before getting a Newfoundland. They are calm and dignified when mature. But beware! The little bear-cub like, 10-week old puppy is cute when it jumps up to greet you. But that cuddly little puppy becomes a 12-month-old puppy weighing 120 pounds that can easily knock down a full-grown man when it jumps up… and it will be a “puppy” for up to three years. As their growth starts to accelerate, they eat not like a horse, but like an elephant becoming a hulking dog that drools and sheds with the best of them. This is not a dog for a clean-house focused owner.

Physical Characteristics

A giant, heavily boned, muscular dog, a male Newfoundland’s average height is 27-29 inches; with females being 25-27 inches tall. Males weigh an average of 130-150 pounds with females between 100 and 120 pounds. They have webbed feet and an oily, virtually waterproof coat which is usually black in color but may also be brown, gray, or Landseer (black head and white and black body). The more you brush them the less hair you will find inside, but you will always find a lot. Their coat provides them with exceptional cold-weather abilities. They can literally nap in a snow bank or swim in icy water for hours. However, they are highly intolerant of heat and must be protected from it.

Trainer's Notes

Early socialization is important for the Newfoundland to reduce any tendency for males to be aggressive with other males and prevent any shyness or the rare cases of dominant-aggressiveness toward people. In training, a Newf is no pushover. He has an independent streak and can be stubborn. But he responds better than most breeds to patient training and food rewards. Use only positive training methods and a light hand on the leash. His heart and mind are as sensitive as his body is large. Using harsh training methods will make him distrustful and skittish. Females tend to be easier to work with than males making them better pets. They make a good choice for novice owners, especially those with children, provided the drawbacks of the breed are understood and found to be acceptable.

Photo © by Peter Ludes available under the GNUFDL



Newfoundlands are prone to both Hip Dysplasia and Elbow Dysplasia with about 1 in 4 dogs suffering from each. Pulmonic Stenosis, Bloat (likely their leading cause of death), and SAS complete their most frequently seen health problems. Less commonly seen is Ectropion and Entropion, both easily solved issues involving their eyelids. Von Willebrand’s Disease and OCD complete the list of genetic issues most frequently seen in the breed; but they are also susceptible to cystinuria, an elevated level of cystine in the urine which can result in urinary tract stones. Newfoundlands should never be allowed to become overweight. As a puppy, this puts additional stress on and will possibly damage their growing bones. As an adult, being overweight will significantly reduce their already short lifespan of 9 to 15 years. Proper diet and regular exercise will help prevent obesity.


Newfoundlands rank 46th on the American Kennel Club’s list of most popular dogs with about 3,500 annual registrations.

Breed History

As the name suggests, this breed’s final development was completed along the coast of Newfoundland. However, there is significant debate as to the breed’s earlier development. One theory holds that the breed descended from either nomadic Indian dogs or Viking “bear dogs.” But there are others who believe the breed is a close relative of the Labrador Retriever. Still another viewpoint is that the Newfoundland originated from crosses between Tibetan Mastiffs brought to Canada by European fisherman and local dogs in the early 18th century even though there is no record of Tibetan Mastiffs in Newfoundland at that time. However, it is known that there were Great Pyrenees in Newfoundland as early as 1662 which could have contributed to the development of the Newfoundland. But there is no debate about the breed’s ability in water; they were commonly used for hauling in fishing nets, carrying boat lines to shore, and retrieving anything that fell overboard. They were also used to rescue both shipwrecked and drowning victims. An incredibly hard worker, the Newfoundland is well known for its outstanding instincts when in the water and a strong work ethic.

Additional Information

J. M. Barrie, the author of Peter Pan, owned a Newfoundland and Nana, the dog in Peter Pan’s home, is a Newfoundland modeled after Barrie’s own dog. U.S. Presidents who have owned a Newfoundland include Ulysses S. Grant and James Buchanan. Other notable owners of the breed include Burt Bacharach, Lord Byron, Robert Kennedy, and George McGovern. The National (US) Breed Club is the Newfoundland Club of America.

Is A Newfoundland THE BEST Dog For YOU?

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