The dog world's true gentle giant, the Newfoundland has been living up to the label of man's best friend for centuries.
The Newfoundland is named for its homeland of coastal Newfoundland, Canada. It probably descended from the St. John's dog (ancestor of the Labrador Retriever) and a mastiff-like dog, maybe the Great Pyrenees, among other dogs. By the 1700s, they were established as all-purpose helpers that that could haul fishing nets through frigid water, save people from rough seas, pull heavy carts and carry packs on land. Most Newfoundlands were solid black, or even brown or gray, but even early on, black and white Newfs (called Landseers, after the artist who painted them) were around.
Newfoundland celebrities include Seaman, who walked across America with Lewis and Clark; and Gander, who was decorated for saving his troop during World War II by grabbing a grenade thrown in their midst and rushing back with it to the enemy.
A Newfoundland was the inspiration for the dog in Peter Pan. Like Peter Pan, they are forever young at heart, and are surprisingly playful. But they do need tough toys!
The Newfoundland's great size brings some special concerns, including joint problems such as hip and elbow dysplasia. Feeding a diet formulated for large breed puppies during the first year of life will help decrease the possibility of hip dysplasia, and probably elbow dysplasia. These diets allow the puppy to grow more slowly, while still achieving the same adult size---just a little later. Joint supplements, such as glucosamine chondroitin supplements, are also vital for protecting joint health throughout life.
As an adult, you must be careful to keep your Newfoundland at a lean weight. Too much weight stresses the joints, and can worsen arthritic changes. You may need to feed a low-calorie food. When dieting a dog, you must make sure he gets enough vitamins. We suggest supplementing with a good multi-vitamin, probiotics and, if the coat is dry, a fatty-acid supplement.
One of the Newfoundland's biggest problems is bloat or gastric torsion, a condition in which the gases accumulate in the stomach and can't escape. The stomach may then twist, totally cutting off any ability for anything to leave the stomach. The dog's stomach enlarges as gases continue to accumulate, and the dog is restless and tries unsuccessfully to vomit. This is an extreme emergency that needs immediate veterinary attention to save the dog. Nobody knows exactly how to prevent it, but many veterinarians advocate feeding an anti-gas pill with every meal.
Drool can make your Newfoundland have a stronger doggy odor than you'd prefer. A deodorizing shampoo, applied especially in the throat area, can help fix this. A color enhancing shampoo for black dogs can help deepen the color of a sunburned black coat. Whitening shampoos can help the white parts of Landseer coats that have stained.
Occasionally, Newfoundlands have ear problems. Apply an ear cleanser any time the ears start to accumulate dark secretions. Some ear wax is healthy; a lot is not. If you must apply ear medication, use the ear cleanser first to remove thick secretions that would block the medication from reaching the surface of the canal. If your dog's ears are painful, don't put any cleansers or medications in the ear until first seeing your veterinarian, as the ear drum could be ruptured.
Newfies have a tendency to form calluses and even bursas on their elbows. Encourage your dog to rest on soft surfaces (even carpeting can be abrasive, but is still better than hard tile). Using a cooling blanket or simply placing a fan so it blows over a soft cushion can help steer him to the better surface. Moisturizers applied to the calloused area can also help, as can wrapping the elbows with padding.
Brush the teeth daily.
Clip the nails every two weeks or so using a heavy-duty dog nail clipper.
Newfoundlands tend to be affected by age-related physical changes, such as arthritis, at an early age. Besides any intervention recommended by your veterinarian, a soft cushion to lie on and glucosamine chondroitin supplements added to the diet can help soothe aching joints, and keep him going strong!