The Newfoundland breed is a native of North America which developed from its namesake, the province of Newfoundland in Canada. There are quite a few versions as to its origin. One version states that the breed is a mixture of native island dogs and the black "bear" dogs brought by the Vikings in the 11th century.
On the other hand, historians agree that the Asiatic Tibetan mastiff contributed to the development of the Newfoundland but no documented evidence is available to backup this claim. There is also the speculation that the Labrador Retriever and the Newfoundland are related breeds because of their similarities and the close proximity of their origins. Whatever the exact origins maybe, the resulting breed had webbed feet, rudder-like tail, and water-resistant coat making an excellent swimmer but is equally adept on land. It was used to pull fishnets and heavy equipments including carrying boat lines to shore. It has saved many lives by saving drowning people which earned its nickname "lifeguard dog." Its excellent swimming abilities and intelligence earned the Newfoundland a job on sailing vessels and it is said that the Newfoundland exhibits a very strong propensity to rescue people from water.
In fact, when the ship Ethie ran aground off the Canadian coast in 1919, a Newfoundland named Tang was credited for saving the entire crew. It is said that the dog jumped into the turbulent sea and swam to shore with the boat's rope in his mouth. Tang was given a gold medal for bravery by Lloyds of London which the dog wore for its entire life. In 1995, a Newfoundland named Boo while strolling along the Yuba River with its owner, rescued a man in the water who was desperately holding onto a red gas can trying to stay afloat in the swollen current. Boo grabbed the man's arm and pulled him safely to shore. It was found out later on that the man was deaf-mute and couldn't actually call for help. Boo, had no formal training in water rescue. Today, this chunky breed is more popular as a pet and companion, although there are still quite a few who serve as lifeguards.
The Newfoundland is a majestic breed, very fond of water with natural life-saving instinct. It is a devoted and loyal companion, gentle and naturally docile; a true "gentle giant." In comparison to other breeds, older Newfoundland puppies tend to be calm. This is a slow-maturing dog which takes up to thirty six months before reaching full maturity. The Newfoundland has a very deep bark but its natural sweetness and friendliness makes it a poor guard dog. Naturally sweet and calm, laid-back and generous, the Newfoundland is an extremely intelligent breed with humanlike emotions. Although it is a calm and affectionate breed, the Newfoundland may be difficult to train and is rather sensitive to the tone of voice, which must be considered when training this breed. It also has a tendency to drool though not as much as compared to other large breeds.
Training should be given in a calm manner and not with a high tone as the Newfoundland is very sensitive to the tone of voice. It is also quite slow to move its body so this should also be taken into consideration.
Grooming the thick coat calls for daily brushing with a hard bristle brush. It sheds its coat two times a year; usually the heaviest is in the spring and another in fall. Extra time and attention is needed during shedding season.
In general, the Newfoundland is a healthy and robust breed. Given the proper care and attention, it can live between 8 to 10 years on average. There are a few health problems to consider when choosing the Newfoundland for a pet. It is prone to hip dysplasia (a disease of the hip joint which can cause severe arthritis or crippling lameness), elbow dysplasia, sub-aortic stenosis (a heart disease), and cystinuria (a congenital defect that forms bladder stones.)
The best diet for this breed should contain a blend of fish, pork, poultry and lamb. It should also have a high fat content. For the food to be properly assimilated, avoid feeding this breed with a diet that has very high protein content or high fibre content.
The Newfoundland will enjoy every bit of time it can have snoozing but it should be given proper exercise. Moderate exercise should include swimming whenever possible. It will enjoy pulling heavy objects just like a sled dog, and it does better in cold weathers. In fact, this breed can not tolerate extreme heat. This breed drinks a lot of water, especially in warmer days so it should have access to clean, safe drinking water all the time and a shade to rest. The Newfoundland will do okay in an apartment if it is given sufficient exercise. It is relatively inactive indoors and will do best in a home with at least a small yard.
This dog is extremely devoted to its human family but is quite suspicious of strangers. It loves children and is very patient with them. It is also great with other pets but males tend to display aggressive behaviour towards the same sex.