I get a fair number of questions about Belle, and Newfoundlands in general. They’re not a terribly common breed, especially down here, so, here’s a couple of fun facts about them…
Newfies are swimmers. Their main “jobs” included pulling boats and fishing nets to shore and rescuing drowning victims – it’s what they were bred to do. There are loads of stories of Newfoundlands rescuing people, including one that famously saved Napoleon when he fell overboard while escaping from exile. Their skeletal structure and musculature is designed for maximum buoyancy and power, they have tremendous lung capacity for swimming long distances, their oily double coat protects their skin from frigid waters, their lips and jowls are designed to allow them to breathe while swimming and carrying something in their mouths, their giant paws are webbed for maximum propulsion, and their big, thick tail acts as a rudder. They have a unique and powerful swimming style – not doggie paddling, but rather a sort of modified breaststroke, down and out. It’s so smooth and effortless.
Oh, and they LOVE to swim. Belle hasn’t had an opportunity to rescue any drowning victims (or pull any fishing nets to shore), but she does a great job rescuing sticks.
Newfoundland’s other job is as a nanny – most famously, Nana from Peter Pan was a Newf. The breed standard actually states that sweetness of temperament is the “most important single characteristic of the breed.” They are natural nursemaids — in fact, Dogs 101 called them the best dog for kids. Belle has had relatively limited exposure to kids though, so to give you an idea of their nature with little ones, here’s my favorite Newf video (the dog in the video is a Landseer, or black and white. They also come in black, brown and grey, with black being the most common). [If the video doesn’t appear, try refreshing your browser – I don’t know why, but it works for me.]
All that being said… they are not the dog for everyone. They shed. A lot. They blow their coat twice a year, and shed heavily the rest of the time. They drool. Belle’s actually the least drooly one I’ve ever been around (I don’t complain!), but a lot of them are big-time droolers. They’re big. Again, Belle’s not the norm – she’s very small for a Newf, and she’s around 90-95 pounds. They are prone to medical issues, and vet bills can be very expensive due to their size. They do get really hot in the summer and need to stay in the A/C and swim as much as possible. They’re messy – the entire yard sticks to their fur and they tend to play in their water bowls. They’re high maintenance when it comes to grooming. They are smart, but can be stubborn and require early training to ensure no bad habits develop. Did I mention they shed?
I love ’em. Excuse me while I go eat my peanut butter and newf fur sandwich.