Complete Guide To The Newfoundland: Health, Grooming, Exercise and More

The Newfoundland is a mountainous, multi-talented dog. A hundred and fifty pounds of fur and affection, Newfies are heavy but they rarely outweigh their noble character.

I’ve had the privilege of meeting quite a few Newfies in my 20+ years as a veterinarian. They are wonderful dogs but, with their size and grooming requirements, they’re not for everyone. Let’s see if this breed is for you!

How Big Do Newfoundlands Get?

Male28″ at the shoulder130-150 lbs
Female26″ at the shoulder100-120 lbs

What Do Newfoundlands Look Like?

Their dense double coats are flat or wavy. Colors include:

• Black
• Brown
• Gray
• Black and White

The Newfoundland’s eyes are small, dark, and wide-set. Ears are mid-length, triangular and lay close to the head. Tails are long and strong.

Similar in conformation to other giant breeds but larger and uniquely colored, the Newfie bears a resemblance to the St. Bernard and Bernese Mountain Dog.

What Is The Personality Of A Newfoundland?

Newfoundlands have a gentle demeanor that belies their intimidating size. Affectionate, trusting and eager to please, they’re excellent dogs for active families with children. Serene but never shy, they thrive on human companionship.

Athletic, Newfoundlands need at least 30 minutes of daily exercise. They’re surprisingly agile despite their lumbering gait. Long walks and swimming are favorite activities, but they also excel at canine sports including agility, herding, dock jumping and flyball.

Newfies are a breeze to train. Intelligent and curious, they respond well to guidance. Despite their good manners, however, they can’t control their size and should be supervised around small children.

How Much Grooming Does A Newfoundland Need?

Newfoundlands have heavy double coats that shed year-round and seasonally. Grooming is straightforward, but the sheer volume of hair is a commitment to care for. It’s simple but time-consuming.

Twice weekly brushing with a slicker removes dead hair and thins the wooly undercoat. Hair on the legs, neck and hindquarters are prone to matting and should be combed weekly with a stiff, long-tined comb. Mats are almost impossible to remove without clipping, so an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Bathing needs vary based on activity. Dogs that swim or drool — most do — will have more odor issues than couch potatoes, requiring more tub time. In general, consistent brushing removes dirt and debris and lengthens the necessary interval between shampoos.

If the Newfoundland’s personality is a good fit for your family, but you worry about the time it takes to keep their coats clean, talk to a professional groomer. A trim and bath every six months is affordable and makes everyday maintenance easier.

How Much Exercise Does A Newfoundland Need?

Contrary to what you might think because of its size, the Newfoundland is a very active dog that should get as much exercise as it needs to be happy in your home. For some Newfies, that might just entail a daily 30-minute walk. For others, you may need to challenge them with swimming or hiking.

Newfies are also great in advanced activities such as agility, cart pulling, advanced obedience, and hunting trials. This is a highly versatile dog that would suit many different types of homes.

Keep them active as they get older. Typically the end of a Newfie’s life comes when they can no longer get up and walk comfortably. While arthritis is common, weakness in the muscles of the back and the back legs is the main culprit.

Too many owners believe it’s alright to let their large breed senior dog lay around all the time, but this dog will live longer and more comfortably if it continues to get pushed physically with swimming or long walks as they age.

What Kind Of Dog Food Is Best For Newfoundlands?

For Newfoundland puppies you will need to make sure you don’t feed them too much too fast. It’s easy because they are usually chow hounds, but you want to control their growth. Growing too fast can cause some early bone and joint problems that are easily avoided.

Best Puppy Food For Newfoundlands:

Best Adult Food For Newfoundlands:

Please don’t listen to the folks at the pet store trying to convince you to buy a grain-free diet for your dog. There’s zero science behind that and vets are actually seeing diseases now related to feeding grain-free foods.

It’s very important they remain at their optimal weight throughout their life. As large as they are, any extra weight will put that much more stress on their joints and potentially shorten their life even further.

It can be difficult to sometimes ascertain if your Newfie is overweight. Their coat is so thick that trying to tell if they’re too thin or too big can be hard. You should be able to feel the chest wall/ribs. The abdomen should be smaller in diameter than the chest. Use a tape measure and measure those areas individually if you’re not sure.

How Long Do Newfoundlands Live?

9-10 years

What Health Problems Do Newfoundlands Have?

Because of their size, Newfies can have some health concerns that prospective owners need to be aware of. In my experience, the most common health conditions seen in this breed include:

  • Elbow Dysplasia/Arthritis
  • Hip Dysplasia/Arthritis
  • Knee Arthritis
  • Obesity
  • Bloat

For male Newfoundlands, I recommend in my practice that the dog is at least a year old before they are neutered. For female Newfies, I recommend at least 8 months of age before they are spayed. Emerging evidence is that there are some health benefits to waiting to alter dogs later in life. That has to be balanced against the difficulties of keeping an in-heat female Newfie and the increased risks for surgery when a dog is 100 lbs vs 50 lbs.

Some will tell you that Newfies are prone to ear infections. In my experience, there are two predisposing situations in which Newfies get the vast majority of their ear problems:

  • They have underlying allergies
  • They didn’t get their ears cleaned properly after a swim/bath

Where Can I Learn More About Newfoundlands?

Newfoundland Club of America (NCA)

Check out one of the many Regional Clubs of the NCA

AKC Breed Page

Where Can I Find A Newfoundland?

Breeder Resources With The NCA

AKC Puppy Page

Looking for a Rescue? Start with the NCA Rescue Network

Interesting Facts About Newfoundlands

Newfoundlands have a captivating history. Here are a few fascinating facts about this valiant, adventurous breed.

• They’re As British as They Are Canadian

Newfies originated on the island of Newfoundland off the eastern coast of Canada. Part of the British Commonwealth, they were exported to England, and that’s where they were extensively bred. Most pedigreed dogs are direct descendants of their British forbearers.

• They’ve Been Registered in America for More Than 140 Years

Newfoundlands have a long history in America, dating as far back as the Lewis and Clark expedition. They were recognized by the AKC in 1886 as its 32nd breed and are the 40th most popular dog in the US today.

• Newfoundlands Love Water

Watching Newfoundlands swim feels awkward. For humans, it’s like taking a dip in a full-length fur coat. But Newfoundlands not only like the water, they’re made for it with webbed feet and a huge lung capacity that enables long-distance swimming — they’ve pulled more than one drowning victim ashore.

No one knows why, but they have an instinctive grasp of water rescue. If a swimmer isn’t responsive, they instinctively grab them in a way that keeps their head afloat. Legend has it that a Newfie saved Napoleon from rough seas when he was tossed overboard.

• They’re Bona Fide Heroes

St. Bernards are credited with finding stranded skiers, but no breed beats the Newfoundland for harrowing rescues. Hailed as heroes, they were instrumental in saving the passengers and crew of the steamship, SS Ethie. Grounded by a blizzard, Newfies saved 92 souls by carrying ropes from the ship to shore.

Later in World War II, they served with both the Canadian and American militaries. Regimental Mascot Sergeant Gander, a Newfie with the Quebec City Royal Rifles of Canada, was killed by a grenade in defense of his comrades — an act for which he received the Dickins Medal for “acts of conspicuous gallantry.”

They Were Regulars in Washington

Top politicians were fans of the Newfoundland. President James Buchanan’s Newfie, Lara, was lauded for always sleeping with one eye open to protect her family. Presidents Ulysses Grant and Rutherford Hayes also kept Newfoundlands. Brumus, belonging to Senator Robert Kennedy and his wife, spent long days nannying their 11 children.

• Substance Over Style

Kennel clubs have breed standards for all dogs — qualities they look for in the show ring. For some, physical characteristics, such as color and coat length, are priorities. But according to the AKC, “Sweetness of temperament is the hallmark of the Newfoundland; this is the most important single characteristic of the breed.”

• A Poet’s Muse?

Lord George Gordon Byron of England is among the world’s most influential poets. So highly did he think of his Newfoundland, Botswain, that he wrote these inspiring words and more upon his death from rabies — “Who possessed Beauty without Vanity, Strength without Insolence and Courage without Ferocity, and all the virtues of Man without his Vices.”

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