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Alison Strang sent me a copy of a letter to the editor that she sent to the AKC Gazette with the suggestion that I should devote a Breedlines column or two to the Newfoundland coat. Below are the relevant excerpts from her letter which was published in the August, 2004 issue of the Gazette.

Dear Editor,

Living in Canada, I receive the Gazette several weeks after US readers. So I only recently have seen your cover article on The Noble Newfoundland, which was my first love in purebred dogs.

For some years I have been dismayed at the changes I have seen in the breed, particularly to the coat and amount of grooming done. It was thus a real treat to see a Newf au naturel on the cover…

The present AKC Standard for the Newfoundland reads: The adult Newfoundland has a flat, water-resistant, double coat that tends to fall back into place when rubbed against the nap. The outer coat is coarse, moderately long, and full, either straight or with a wave.” I cannot reconcile these requirements with the extensive scissoring and blow drying now taking place on show Newfs, and feel that a majority of such animals would have a hard time carrying out one of their original tasks, that of water rescue. The correct flat-lying, double, slightly oily coat provides ideal protection for a swimming dog in very cold water…

I sympathize with Alison’s concerns about coat. Unfortunately nothing, it seems, is as simple as it appears. Alison mentions “oily” but none of the breed standards (CKC, AKC, FCI & UK) even has the word oily in it except for that of the United Kingdom. The term “water resistant” is in all of the standards and implies oily but doesn’t explicitly say so. Worse yet is that no one to my knowledge has ever had the nerve to show a Newf “au natural”, me included. We all bath our Newfs before taking them to a show, even to a sanction match, never mind a championship show. This takes all the oil out of the coat and enables it to be fluffy.

For the last couple of decades I have heard complaints about the “sculpting” of Newfs for the show ring. With a very long coated Newf that has been fluffed, it is possible with skillful scissoring to carve out the perfect Newf. One would hope that the show judge would see past such shenanigans, but in fairness to the judges, they may never have seen up close or handled an “au natural” Newfoundland since all of us chickens have presented our Newfs bathed and fluffed.

In the 1970’s it was considered critical to trim off the whiskers of a Newf before showing them. My late wife, Maribeth, was one of the first, or possibly the first, who dared to show a Newfoundland with whiskers. I thought she was crazy, but the judges didn’t. It made no difference in the judging. Haven’t trimmed a whisker since. Sometimes we don’t give judges enough credit. Now if I could just get enough courage to show a Newfoundland dog as they really are, complete with the wet dog aroma!

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

October 2004