While Newfoundland dogs are renown as working dogs for their water rescue skills, draft abilities and as companions and guardians of children, this breed has had other jobs and even when doing traditional work, often do it in an unusual or unexpected manner.
Of all the jobs that were given to Newfoundlands, only one was a bust. In the olden days on the Island of Newfoundland it was hoped that the colony could become a sheep country like New Zealand and they even tried to make sheep herders out of Newfoundland dogs. Well the Newfs were as remarkable at this task as the Island was at becoming a world class sheep centre.
Our breed fared much better as gundogs and retrievers in Britain in the 1800’s. However, they usually wanted the smaller and black Newfs for this purpose. They wanted smaller apparently because when a Newf jumped out the boat, the remaining passengers often got soaked. Black was preferred because the game could spot a white and black Newf too easily. Eventually the small retrieving Newfs became separate breeds such as the Flat-coated, Curly-coated and Labrador Retrievers. An unusual offshoot of this retriever skill was by an English lady farmer in modern times who not only trains her Newfs to retrieve but also to catch live chickens for her.
The British also used Newfs to help in beaching shallow-draught coastal ships in sea-ports in the South-West of England and in Wales. The dogs would take the tow lines out to the ship and then a team of horses would pull the boat in.
Then there is Jaro, a therapy dog in Utah. Besides doing the traditional therapy work, this Newfoundland also gives rides to the kids in the pediatrics ward at the Utah Valley Regional Medical Center; he does this by pulling them around in their wheelchairs.
Back in Britain, a group known as Newfound Friends, raises money for charity by promising to let you be rescued from the lake by a Newfoundland dog if you can gather the necessary sponsorship.
Possibly the most unusual task for a Newf that I have heard of is barge work in Holland. An owner of Newfies has her team pull a neighbour’s barge along the canal.
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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