Every breed of dog is unique. By definition, each one has a set of characteristics that sets them apart. In other words, having a set of attributes that is unequalled is the norm. What is rare is having a particular trait that cannot be found in any of the other 800 or so breeds. I have long believed that the Newfoundland dog is one of these rarities and further, has more such individually unique characteristics than any other breed of domestic canine. Now after 10 years of writing about Newfs in this space it seems appropriate to catalogue what is really out of the ordinary about the breed.
While Newfoundlands are famous as children’s companions and protectors, I could not find anything truly unequalled in this area. In fact, until I got my first Newf in 1975, when I thought of a kid’s dog it was Golden Retrievers that came to mind.
Draft work, especially pulling carts, is another thing that Newfs are known for. They are darn good at it but so are a host of other breeds. In my thirty years as a draft dog handler and trainer I have worked with many breeds that can equal the Newfoundland in hauling skills and found one breed, the Bernese Mountain Dog, that is even better. Again, nothing unrivalled to be claimed.
That only leaves water. As a water dog I found seven distinctions for our Newfs. They are the only “giant” water dog which gives them unique power for rescue operations. Only Newfs can swim comfortably and safely in the dead of winter. No other breed is designed to swim under water. All other breeds “dog paddle”; Newfies do a modified breast stroke. The Newfoundland tail is used as a rudder. If you have white walls in your house that are grey near the bottom, you appreciate that Newfs have the only oily coat that is also long. Finally, while many breeds have webbed feet, only in the Newfoundland dog is this so prevalent that the webbing is present as soon as the fetal foot is formed.
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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