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All Newfies love the water? Not quite! It is very common to see a Newf at the water’s edge just getting his feet wet. He is enjoying the cool water but has no intention of getting completely wet. Other Newfs will swim but dog paddle to keep their heads high out of the water instead of finding their natural flotation point and doing the modified breast stroke that is unique to Newfoundlands.

Don’t worry, there is nothing seriously wrong with your Newf. Some Newfies take naturally to the water at any age; others need to be introduced to it gradually and preferably as very young pups. Just because your dog has all the equipment to be a super water dog such as webbed feet, flop ears, water resistant coat, recessed eyes, rudder-like tail and extra large lungs, does not mean that he is mentally prepared to swim. Of course he can swim; only humans and apes have to be taught this skill. However, if not introduced early in life in a positive manner, your Newf may have an aversion or even a fear of water deeper than knee high.

The answer is quite simple – take your Newfie pup to a shallow beach. Carry him out in the water to a depth where you can stand and he has to swim. Then point your Newf to the shore and gently place him in the water encouraging and praising him in a high voice. Repeat the swims to shore and then as he gets more comfortable in the water, introduce his favourite floating toy. For more advanced techniques, sign up for a water seminar with your regional Newf Club or, if your pup is too young to participate, go as a spectator to learn the various methods.

Fall is coming, you say, and it will be too cold to introduce your pup to the water until next summer. Nonsense, Newfies are, among other things, cold water dogs. A Newf pup of three or four months can handle the coldest of water. Even though a baby Newf does not have his guard hairs yet, the puppy coat (undercoat) is so dense and he carries enough fat that he can handle cold water, at least for short periods of time. However, don’t try this with any other breed; even the closest relative to the Newfoundland dog, the Labrador Retriever, is subject to a malady called cold tail.

What’s that? The water would be too cold for you to go in! Not if you use chest waders, either fully insulated or with an insulated boot portion (I prefer the latter).

A common and very real problem is that most beaches prohibit dogs. One option is to use a boat launch area instead. Another is to get a To Whom It May Concern letter that explains the importance and seriousness of water rescue training for Newfoundland dogs and requests the cooperation of the authorities. Such letters usually achieve their purpose even with government officials. You can ask your local Newf club for such a letter on their official letterhead or contact me for one.

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

September 2002