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Is there such a thing as a Newf with a dry mouth? Are there breeders who breed Newfs with dry mouths? These are questions that I hear over and over and I’m glad that people ask such questions. It means that they have a concern about the breed and are checking out their concern before adopting.

One of the most upsetting events in my life occurred when I was manning a booth at the Toronto Sportsmen’s Show. A man came to the booth and asked what I thought about the operation to remove the flews on a Newfoundland dog. My reply was that if such a characteristic and the resultant drool bothered him a lot, he should consider picking another breed. The response was that he already had a Newf and the option would be euthanasia. I was speechless but wondered to myself how he had conned someone into letting him have a Newfoundland.

Flews are hanging lips on a dog. All dogs drop saliva out of their mouths, but those with flews often collect the oral moisture before dropping it on the ground (or flinging it on the walls or ceiling).

Far from being concerned about drooling on the part of their Newfs, many fanciers believe that the flews are an essential physical characteristic of the breed. They either believe that the flews permit air flow while carrying objects, particularly important in water rescue, or that drooling is part of their perspiration. Neither of these beliefs seems justified in practice as other dogs, including the retriever breeds that also carry things, seem to manage just fine without flews.

For a theoretical viewpoint, I turned to the various breed standards. The standards of the UK and the US don’t mention the flews at all. The Canadian Kennel Club breed standard says “Pronounced flews are not desirable” but this wording does not seem to require them to be present. The FCI (International Canine Federation) is the only organization that implies the expectation of flews by stating what the Canadian standard does but in a positive rather than negative manner – it says “Flews: soft.”

Personally I believe that the whole debate about dry mouthed Newfs is much ado about nothing. The non-drooling Newfs that I have seen have all turned out to be head dunkers. This means that they plop their entire head into the water bucket that you so kindly put in the kitchen for them and then shake the water off in such a manner as to make the famous scene in the movie Turner and Hooch look like a dainty sprinkle.

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

March 2004