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Back in the 1970’s it was common to hear Newfie people talk about winter weight and summer weight, terms you rarely hear nowadays. While everyone expects their Newf to shed most of their undercoat for the warmer months, most Newf fanciers seem to be unaware that a Newfoundland dog my also shed some fat to prepare for the summer heat.

Newfoundland dogs are designed to carry more fat than other breeds of dogs and there are two reasons for this. First, as a cold water marine mammal, the extra fat supplements the wonderful oily double coat to provide warmth in the coldest of waters. Secondly, the extra fat provides additional buoyancy. This internal floatation aid is crucial for the special swimming ability of the Newfie dog. The extra buoyancy enables the swimming strokes to be used primarily for propulsion rather than wasting a major part of the effort on keeping the body up in the water.

A Newf with too little fat may have their rear end sink and they may also shiver. Such a dog would not be able to effect the trademark modified breast stroke of the breed; instead he would be forced to use the dog paddle which is incredibly inefficient. While many breeds can swim faster than a Newfoundland while dog paddling, their endurance and strength swimming is not comparable to a breast stroking dog at his natural floatation point. Strength swimming refers to the ability to swim in severe currents or hauling loads in the water such as a boat with people in it or both.

Some practical considerations from the above: Newfs that are kept mainly indoors in winter may not experience the seasonal weight change. This also means that care should be taken for these dogs if they want to go for a swim in January. For those Newfs that do spend a good part of the time outdoors in the colder seasons, allowance should be made for winter fat, in other words, they should be fed accordingly and the body condition charts found in vet offices should be interpreted with this in mind.

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 2007