In 1975 I got my first Newfoundland and as I look back over the past 39 years I see many changes involving our breed here in their country of origin. Six areas in particular stand out in my mind: appearance, health clearances, diet, life span, rescue, and working events.
When people look back at pictures of Newfoundlands from the 18th and 19th centuries they are often shocked by the differences in appearance from the modern day breed. However the appearance changes continued in the 20th century especially in the last couple of decades. While the more modern alterations are not nearly as drastic as in days of old and not universally accepted, there has been a definite move to broader heads and longer coats. There has been no significant change in the breed standard during this latter period so it allows for a range of preference by reputable breeders and such is indeed the case. Thus adopters of Newfoundlands can choose the look of the mid 20th century or the more recent trend.
Back in the seventies health clearances were just starting and only for hips. Many of the established breeders would have nothing to do with this new fad, reasoning that they had done well for decades without such. Of course others chose to go with the trend and now many Canadian breeders follow the recommended clearances for breeding stock of the Newfoundland Club of America. The four prominent ones are for hips, elbows, heart and cystinuria with optional ones of patellas, eyes and thyroid.
Four decades ago feeding a Newfoundland was quite simple – Purina Puppy Chow for the first year and then Purina Dog Chow. Supplementation with such things as corn oil and cottage cheese was only done with show dogs and brood bitches.
Nowadays there is a fantastic range of feeding protocols including raw diets, kibble free diets and ancestral based feeding. Supplements for kibble feeders are no longer restricted to show and breeding dogs and are much more sophisticated than in the past. These supplements range from fish oil to tripe and even fruits such as blueberries and raspberries.
If you had a seven year old Newf in the 1970’s he would have been considered elderly. In the second decade of the 21st century many don’t consider their Newfoundlands to be seniors until they reach 10 years of age.
The Newfoundland Club of America has an award for the oldest living Newfoundland and for the year 2002 the second and third oldest nominees were 13 years old. Now your Newf has to be at least 14 years to be nominated.
The largest of the internet forums for Newfoundlands is Newf Net Forums and at the end of 2013 an informal poll was held to see how many senior Newfs the forum members had. What struck me was that 10 years was set as the age for a senior. More and more on such internet lists, folks are celebrating birthdays from 10 to 14 years. Fifteen year olds are still rare and 16 year old Newfs are incredibly scarce but hopefully that is going to change over the next few years. Newf Net Forums has added a forum specifically for senior Newfoundlands and people are sharing their tips on keeping their fur babies living quality lives. Most recently sockeye salmon oil has been touted as the fountain of youth.
Back in the 1970’s the idea of having to rescue a Newfoundland dog from desperate conditions was not even on the radar. Puppy mills were something from the State of Missouri in the US and their produce was sold in pet stores and none were Newfoundlands. Boy has that changed! By the 1990’s legislation slowed the importation of puppy mill dogs from the United States. Unfortunately that gave rise to a surge in puppy mills in Quebec and Ontario and even worse a growth in back yard breeders (BYB’s).
For our breed the disaster really came around the turn of the century when the puppy mills and BYB’s realized that Newfoundland dogs commanded a much higher price than the traditional milled breeds like Siberian huskies. No consideration was paid to the fact that raising a quality Newfoundland might cost more; all they saw was the higher price that adopters were willing to pay. Now we need and have very active organizations in Ontario and Quebec to rescue Newfs in need. While there are rescues in the rest of Canada, fortunately the demand for their services still remains low.
Back in the 1970’s the idea of working events for Newfoundlands was in its infancy. At the National Specialty Show they introduced an informal carting class. There weren’t even rules initially and you had to enter not knowing what the judge might ask you and your Newf to do.
Then in the 1980’s the Newfoundland Dog Club of Canada started seriously dealing with the issue of working events and out of this resulted the Draft Dog Tests which have now been taken over by the Canadian Kennel Club and opened up to all appropriate breeds. The Club’s efforts also generated the Water Rescue Dog Tests which are still exclusively for Newfoundland dogs and wonderfully showcase the special talents of our breed.
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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