Newfoundlands are gentle giants known for their loyalty and strength, making them popular working dogs, especially for families with children.
Illustration courtesy of the Swedish Kennel Club
Newfoundlands at a glance
Newfoundlands (sometimes called Newfies) are a large, active, and strong dog breed. These visually striking dogs are recognizable by their substantial size and thick coat. These giant dogs weigh over a hundred pounds and are defined by their large size and good-temperedness.
Like other giant breeds, Newfoundlands are slow to physically and mentally mature. These dogs often do not reach physical maturity until they are nearly two years of age and don’t reach mental maturity until after three. Be prepared for drool and shedding with this breed. This is a breed that requires a lot of grooming and attention. The Newfoundland dog is deeply devoted to their families and responds well to training and physical enrichment.
Have you recently welcomed a Newfoundlands into your home? Is a Newfie already a member of the family? Either way, you’ve come to the right place; we have the information you need to properly train and care for your dog. You’ll also find information about the genetic health risks Embark tests for that are most relevant to this breed.
As the name implies, Newfoundland dogs originated in the Newfoundland area of Canada where they were bred to work with fishermen pulling nets out of the water.
These dogs are capable of incredible feats of strength — often used for tasks ranging from pulling carts to maritime rescues. In fact, these loveable lifesavers actually have foot webbing on their giant paws and a special fur coat that, coupled with their strength and size, make them ideally suited for rescue missions at sea.
Recognized by the AKC as long ago as 1886, their complex history takes their ancestors from a home on the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador over to England, where they then spread out. Smaller versions of this breed’s earlier ancestors from the late 19th century, known as the lesser Newfoundland (or St. John’s dogs), are actually considered the founding breed for modern retrievers.
Size: One of the most distinctive aspects of the Newfoundland dog is their size. The Newfoundland is a large and strong dog that can even be mistaken as bears at a distance. These dogs, especially as puppies and adolescents, don’t always know their own size or strength which can lead to them knocking things and people over.
Coat: Another distinguishing aspect of this breed is its thick coat. Newfoundlands have a luxurious but practical double coat. The waterproof outer layer developed to help the Newfoundland to regulate temperature. The other coat or guard hairs are waterproof. Newfoundlands also have a thick undercoat that serves as an insulator keeping them warm in cold weather and cool during the summer. They come in black, brown, grey, and Landseer (black/white).
Tail and ears: Like all dogs, Newfoundlands need to have their ears cleaned on a regular basis. They can be prone to ear infections, particularly if water or moisture gets trapped in the ear. Ask your vet to recommend a good ear cleaner to help keep your dog’s ears clean and healthy and to prevent infections from forming. Newfoundlands have a strong tail that hangs straight. When they are excited their tail is often carried out but should not curl over the back. Their tail functions as a rudder helping them to maneuver in the water when swimming.
Newfoundland dogs are defined by having a sweet disposition. Their American Kennel Club breed standard even states that a sweet and kind temperament is the “most important single characteristic of the breed.” They are generally very devoted to their families. Although sometimes called “nanny dogs” it’s important to remember that children should always be supervised around any dogs including the Newfoundland. Newfoundlands are playful boisterous dogs that don’t always know their own size when playing.
Newfoundlands require high-quality food. Talk with your breeder and your vet about what food is right for your dog at different stages in life. Proper feeding is important for puppies to ensure they do not grow too large, too quickly which can lead to life-long health impacts on their joints. Newfoundlands, like other large and deep-chested dogs, are prone to the life-threatening condition known as bloat.
The Newfoundland is a grooming-intensive breed. With a thick double coat that requires brushing multiple times per week and even daily in heavy shedding season. Regular grooming is essential to keep your Newfoundland’s coat healthy and to prevent mats. In addition, Newfoundlands will need to have their ears regularly cleaned, their nails trimmed, and to have fur between their toe pads trimmed to prevent slipping or mats from developing between their webbed toes.
Playtime and training
Although sometimes people have the misconception that Newfoundlands are lazy, this working breed is highly intelligent and needs structured daily engagement and exercise. This breed needs daily physical and mental exercise. Despite their large size, Newfoundlands can excel in sports including Obedience, Rally, Tricks, and of course the Newfoundland dog-specific sport of Water Work. It’s important to be very careful with physical exercise and Newfoundland puppies to ensure their growing bones and joints are not strained.
Life-long training is extremely important for this breed and should begin when Newfoundlands are puppies. This working breed is a quick learner, biddable, and easy to please. They excel at a variety of sports and activities. Like with any other dog, only positive reinforcement training approaches should be used and corrections or harsh training tools or methods should always be avoided.
Newfoundlands are extremely devoted companions. They are not a dog happy to be left alone for long periods of time. They thrive with training and activity — especially swimming. Their thick, water-resistant double coat helps them to be especially comfortable in cold temperatures.
Health and aging in Newfoundlands
This large dog breed typically has a lifespan of 9 to 10 years of age.
An Embark Dog DNA Test looks at the following health conditions in Newfoundlands:
Do you own a Newfoundland or do you think your dog might be part Newfie? Learn more about your dog with Embark’s Dog DNA Tests, the most accurate on the market.
Newfoundlands on Embark
Explore some Embark dogs that share Newfoundland ancestry.