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Newfoundland dogs are famous for three types of work: draft work such as hauling carts, water rescues and looking after children.

With respect to the first two there can be no doubt as formal tests and titles have been developed for them. The Canadian Kennel Club, based on test rules developed by the Newfoundland Dog Club of Canada, awards the following titles: Draft Dog (DD), Brace Draft Dog (BDD), Draft Dog Excellent (DDX), Brace Draft Dog Excellent (BDDX), Water Rescue Dog (WRD) and Water Rescue Dog Excellent (WRDX).

Unfortunately when it comes to “Nanny Work” tests, its all talk as far as us humans go; the Newfs, however, have been quietly doing it for real for hundreds of years and, I hope, forever more. Many of us Newfoundland fanciers consider this type of work as important and as impressive as draft and water rescue work; the problem we face is how to acknowledge and demonstrate it.

Ever since I got my first Newf in 1975, I’ve heard people talk about setting up tests for Nanny Work. Trouble is none of these people had the foggiest notion of how to do this.

Back in the Victorian era, looking after children was a real job assigned to Newfoundlands. This was obviously the inspiration for the nursemaid in the story of Peter Pan, a Newfoundland dog named Nana.

Like everyone else who has become addicted to Newfs, I have read the amazing stories of Newfs and children, but they only seemed like fairy tales. Then I experienced it first hand and it became so real. Let me give you some examples.

My son, Allan, never learned to crawl. By the time he was approaching two years of age, my wife and I were starting to worry. According to my mother, I was standing at seven months and running at nine months; my son got from place to place at 22 months by rolling on the floor. Then a miracle happened. One day Allan caught hold of the ear of an 11 month old puppy bitch named Lady. Lady quietly stood still while the kid hauled himself to his feet hanging on to her ear. Then she remained standing while he walked over to the centre of her back, now supporting himself with two arms resting on her back. Then, she took slow short steps and Allan went with her. He could now walk – never did learn how to crawl – guess you don’t need to go through the crawling stage if you have a Newfoundland to guide and support you.

Another time we were trying to find a good home for a five year old male Newf. His owners moved to an apartment and found they couldn’t keep Kyle. A young couple were in our basement rec room and were trying to decide if they wanted this “cast off”. While they were pondering, their 18 month old toddler went to the bottom of the staircase and before he could climb the stairs, his mother went over and blocked his path. The little tyke then turned and went back into the room. A few minutes later it happened again, only this time it was Kyle who went over and blocked the little guy’s path. He just stood sideways in front of the steps and the baby seeing his way blocked again, turned back into the room. After that, every time he tried to go to the stairs, there was Kyle, instinctively protecting a child he had never even met before. Of course the parents then had to have Kyle.

The strangest example also involved a displaced male Newf. After a marriage break up, we had Freeman returned to us at three years of age. At six years of age, he went to a new home as a therapy dog, assisting a social worker who worked with young boys. One day a child was injured while playing with a skate board. The lad was taken to hospital and treated, but the offending skate board was no where to be found. Eventually it was discovered when a patch of loose dirt was investigated. You guessed it! Freeman had buried this threat to one of his young charges.

These three examples probably have given you an idea of why it is so hard to devise a test for Nanny work. Each situation is unique and a test requires some sort of standardization. If you have any ideas, however, for a working test to evaluate the Newfoundland as a nanny, please share your ideas. Should you know of another example of a Newf protecting a child, please send me a note so I can share the experience with our readers.

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

January 1997