Newfoundland dogs are amazing at any age. A quarter century ago, I was fascinated to read how they would pull their carts in Newfoundland up to age 13. Typically they would deliver fish and other produce to the townsfolk and often did so without a human to help. With an envelope around their neck, payments could be received along with orders for the next delivery. Then when finally retired, it was not unusual for the old Newf to continue to walk their route sans cart probably because they enjoyed the people and having a function.
At the other end of the age scale, Newfs are no less amazing. The exercises for the water rescue dog tests are fascinating to watch at any age, but even more so when they are being done by a four month old Newfoundland puppy. This includes the exercise that involves towing a boat with two people in it. The first time that I saw a four month old pup do this, my eyes nearly popped out of their sockets – this wonderful breed had once again found a way to amaze me.
On land, most people do not allow hauling of any sort until their Newf is at least one year of age because they want to wait for the growth plates to close and not stress the skeletal system. Like most breeds, the growth plates of a Newf are thought to not close until 11 months of age and many believe that it might be even later since the breed is so slow maturing. However, in the water there is no such stress on the bones and a Newfie puppy can safely show his stuff.
Of course, by now, I figured that I had seen everything and there was nothing more that could further amaze me. Wrong again!
As I have often mentioned in this column, Newfoundlands, with their long, coarse and oily top coat combined with a very dense, soft woolly- like undercoat, can swim in ice cold water like a polar bear. Puppies, however, start out with only the undercoat, which gives them that soft cuddly feel. Around six months they start getting shiny hairs, usually over the rump and in the next few months, these guard hairs spread to cover most of the body.
It has always been my assumption that a Newf would not venture into the water in the winter months until he had his full coat which translates into no cold water swimming until about a year of age. However, this past winter, at least three incidents of Newfoundland pups without top coats dashing into freezing cold water have been reported to me. They were either following an older Newfoundland or just chasing after a thrown stick. Will wonders never cease?
Peter Maniate has been writing columns for the Newf News, the magazine of the Newfoundland Dog Club of Canada, since 1979. In 1996 he started writing a Newfoundland dog column in the Breedlines section of Dogs in Canada magazine on behalf of the Newfoundland Dog Club of Canada. When Dogs in Canada ceased publication at the end of 2011 he continued the Breedlines column in the Newf Newfs.
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