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Often I get a call from a panicky first time owner of a Newfoundland puppy telling me that while out on a walk with their beloved puppy someone noticed that their pup’s gait seemed strange. Depending on the details they give me, I usually recommend that they consult their breeder rather than a vet. I explain that a Newf has a gait that is unique among canines, but one that is commonly found in bears. While most people concede that our Newfoundlands look like bears, they give a doubtful frown at the suggestion that they may move like a bear.

Most veterinarians are unaware that a Newfoundland dog has a different gait from other dogs and therefore will accept the client’s word that the dog’s gait is off. They are almost sure to X-ray for hip dysplasia and since estimates for some degree of dysplasia in Newfs go as high as 86%, there is a high probability they will find same. This could lead to unnecessary untold grief for both dog and human, but that’s another story.

The special gait that I am talking about is a “slight rolling gait”. This gait is so fundamental to the Newf that the show standards in the United States, Britain and Canada use essentially the same phrase to describe it. In the standard of the American Kennel Club, under the heading, Gait, it reads: “When moving, a slight roll of the skin is characteristic of the breed.” The British Kennel Club standard, under the heading, Gait/Movement, with characteristic brevity, says “Free, slight rolling gait.” In the country of origin, Canada, the standard mentions this unique gait twice. First under the heading of General Appearance, it reads: “The Newfoundland is free moving with a slight roll perceptible.” This fact is further reinforced under the heading Gait: “A slight roll is present.”

What we have here is a classic case of the breed standard serving the whole of the breed fancy, not just breeders and show exhibitors. As a breeder, I let each of my puppy adopters know of this special characteristic of the Newf so that they do not panic when someone notices that their dog moves funny. Telling them in advance and pointing out the references in the breed standard usually convinces them that they really are getting a pet that must be related to bears.

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.

Permission is granted for re-publication of the preceding article or excerpts from it as long as the author is credited and the name of the original publication and date of first publication is included.

Dogs in Canada

October 2000