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When people think of a protection dog they seldom mention Newfies. Nevertheless, despite their unique gentleness with people, the Newfoundland dog is one of the best protection dogs. The emphasis here is on protection; a Newf normally makes a poor attack dog and most of the fancy prefer to keep it that way.

In my favourite book on Newfs, The New Complete Newfoundland by Margaret Booth Chern, there is a section entitled The Benevolent Guard. Mrs. Chern starts the section with: “More than a watch dog, the Newfoundland is a natural, instinctive guard, able to perceive the difference between a potential friend or enemy. No training is necessary for this protection.” Then she goes on to cite example after example of Newfs protecting their humans from such threats as an out of control vehicle, a panther, underground operatives in WW II, muggers and burglars.

The story that most people remember is the one about pianist Carlos Cortez who was assaulted at four in the morning in downtown Detroit by a gang of youths with knives. His Newf, Boatswain, was in a parked car blocks away. Hearing his master in trouble, Boatswain ripped through the convertible top and came to the rescue of Mr. Cortez by dispersing the attackers.

Fortunately I have never needed the services of a Newf as a protector but my brother, John, has. He had a Newfoundland named Aristotle (his Master’s thesis was on the original Aristotle) and Ari only growled once in his 12+ years.

John was holding a party at the family cottage in the Gatineau Hills. The cottage was in a secluded area with no phone. A motorcycle gang happened upon the party. My brother met them at the edge of the property and told them they were not welcome. The response was that they were joining the party anyway and the gang members started to get off of their bikes. John said, “One moment please gentlemen” and then went back to cottage and returned with Aristotle hoping the very size of this large male would be a deterrent. However, sensing that his master was terrified of these uninvited guests, Ari growled and lunged with John barely able to hold on to his collar. The men in leather then decided to get back on their bikes and crash someone else’s party.

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

April 2003