DON'T BUY A NEWFOUNDLAND
This article has been adapted from:DON'T BUY A BOUVIER! Original article by
(1992), adapted by Marylou Zimmerman, (1997) (This article, written
many years ago, has become a notorious classic in Bouvier circles. It has been
reprinted many times by clubs to use for the education of prospective Bouvier
owners. She gives her permission freely to all who wish to reprint and
distribute it in hopes of saving innocent dogs from neglect and abandonment by
those who should never have acquired them in the first place.)
Interested in buying a Newf? You must be or you wouldn't be reading this.
You've already heard how marvelous Newfies are. Well, I think you should also
hear, before it's too late, that NEWFOUNDLANDS ARE NOT THE PERFECT BREED FOR
EVERYONE. As a breed, they have a few characteristics that some people find
charming, but that some people find mildly unpleasant, and some people find
There are different breeds for different needs. There are over 200 breeds of
dogs in the world. Maybe you'd be better off with some other breed. Maybe you'd
be better off with a cat. Maybe you'd be better off with goldfish, a parakeet, a
hamster, or some house-plants.
DON'T BUY A NEWFOUNDLAND IF YOU ARE ATTRACTED TO
THE BREED *CHIEFLY* BY ITS APPEARANCE.
The appearance of the Newfoundlands you have seen in the show ring is the
product of many hours of bathing and grooming. This carefully constructed beauty
is fleeting: a few minutes of freedom, romping through the fields or strolling
in the rain restores the natural look. The natural look of the Newfie is that of
a large, shaggy farm dog, usually with some dirt and weeds clinging to his
tousled coat. The true beauty of the Newf lies in his character, not in his
appearance. Some of the long-coated and most of the short-coated breeds'
appearances are less dependent on grooming than is that of the Newfie. (See also
the section on grooming below.)
DON'T BUY A NEWF IF YOU ARE UNWILLING TO SHARE YOUR
HOUSE AND YOUR LIFE WITH YOUR DOG.
Newfies were bred to share in the work of the family (fishing, pulling carts,
etc.) and to spend most of their waking hours working with the family. They
thrive on companionship and they want to be wherever you are. They are happiest
living with you in your house and going with you when you go out. While they
usually tolerate being left at home by themselves (preferably with a dog-door
giving access to the fenced yard), they should not be relegated to the backyard
or kennel. A puppy exiled from the house is likely to grow up to be unsociable,
unruly, and unhappy. He may well develop pastimes, such as digging or barking,
that will displease you and/or your neighbors. An adult so exiled will be
miserable too. If you don't strongly prefer to have your dog's companionship as
much as possible, enjoying having him sleep in your bedroom at night and sharing
many of your activities by day, you should choose a breed less oriented to human
companionship. Likewise if your job or other obligations prevent you from
spending much time with your dog. No dog is really happy without companionship,
but the pack hounds for example, are more tolerant of being kenneled or yarded
so long as it is in groups of 2 or more. A better choice would be a cat, as they
are solitary by nature.
DON'T BUY A NEWFOUNDLAND IF YOU DON'T INTEND TO
EDUCATE (TRAIN) YOUR DOG.
Basic obedience and household rules training is NOT optional for the Newf.
As an absolute minimum, you must teach him to reliably respond to commands to
come, to lie down, to stay, and to walk at your side, on or off leash and
regardless of temptations. You must also teach him to respect your household
rules: e.g. is he allowed to get on the furniture? is he allowed to beg at the
table? What you allow or forbid is unimportant, but it is *critical* that you,
not the dog, make these choices and that you enforce your rules consistently.
You must commit yourself to attending an 8 to 10 week series of weekly lessons
at a local obedience club or with a professional trainer, and to doing one or
two short (5 to 20 minutes) homework sessions per day. As commands are learned,
they must be integrated into your daily life by being used whenever appropriate,
and enforced consistently. Young Newfie puppies are relatively easy to train:
they are eager to please, intelligent, and calm-natured, with a relatively good
attention span. Once a Newfie has learned something, he tends to retain it well.
Your cute, sweet little Newf puppy will grow up to be a large, powerful dog. If
he has grown up respecting you and your rules, then all his physical and mental
strength will work for you. But if he has grown up without rules and guidance
from you, surely he will make his own rules, and his physical and mental powers
will often act in opposition to your needs and desires. For example: he may tow
you down the street as if competing in a sled-dog race; he may grab food off the
table; he may forbid your guests entry to "his" home.
This training cannot be delegated to someone else, e.g. by sending the dog away
to "boarding school," because the relationship of respect and obedience is
personal between the dog and the individual who does the training. While you
definitely many want the help of an experienced trainer to teach you how to
train your dog, you yourself must actually train your Newf. As each lesson is
well learned, then the rest of the household (except young children) must also
work with the dog, insisting he obey them as well.
Many of the Newfs that are rescued from Pounds and Shelters show clearly that
they have received little or no basic training, neither in obedience nor in
household deportment; yet these same dogs respond well to such training by the
rescuer or the adopter. It seems likely that a failure to train the dog is a
significant cause of Newf abandonment.
If you don't intend to educate your dog, preferably during puppyhood, you would
be better off with a breed that is both small and socially submissive.
DON'T BUY A NEWFOUNDLAND IF YOU LACK LEADERSHIP (SELF-ASSERTIVE)
Dogs do not believe in social equality. They live in a social hierarchy led
by a pack-leader (Alpha). The alpha dog is generally benevolent, affectionate,
and non-bullying towards his subordinates; but there is never any doubt in his
mind or in theirs that the alpha is the boss and makes the rules. Whatever the
breed, if you do not assume the leadership, the dog will do so sooner or later
and with more or less unpleasant consequences for the abdicating owner. Like the
untrained dog, the pack-leader dog makes his own rules and enforces them against
other members of the household by means of a dominant physical posture and a
hard-eyed stare, followed by a snarl, then a knockdown blow or a bite. Breeds
differ in tendencies towards social dominance; and individuals within a breed
differ considerably. You do not have to have the personality or mannerisms of a
Marine boot camp Sergeant, but you do have to have the calm, quiet
self-assurance and self-assertion of the successful parent ("Because I'm your
mother, that's why.") or successful grade-school teacher. If you think you might
have difficulty asserting yourself calmly and confidently to exercise
leadership, then choose a breed known for its socially subordinate disposition,
such as a Golden Retriever or a Shetland Sheepdog, AND be sure to ask the
breeder to select one of the more submissive pups in the litter for you. If the
whole idea of "being the boss" frightens or repels you, don't get a dog at all.
Cats don't expect leadership. A caged bird or hamster, or fish doesn't need
leadership or household rules.
Leadership and training are inextricably intertwined: leadership personality
enables you to train your dog, and being trained by you reinforces your dog's
perception of you as the alpha.
DON'T BUY A NEWFIE IF YOU DON'T VALUE LAID-BACK
COMPANIONSHIP AND CALM AFFECTION.
A Newf becomes deeply attached and devoted to his own family, but he doesn't
"wear his heart on his sleeve." Some are noticeably reserved, others are more
outgoing, but few adults are usually exuberantly demonstrative of their
affections. They like to be near you, usually in the same room, preferably on a
comfortable pad or cushion in a corner or under a table, just "keeping you
company." They enjoy conversation, petting and cuddling when you offer it, but
they are moderate and not overbearing in coming to you to demand much attention.
They are emotionally sensitive to their favorite people: when you are joyful,
proud, angry, or grief-stricken, your Newf will immediately perceive it and will
believe himself to be the cause. The relationship can be one of great mellows,
depth and subtlety; it is a relation on an adult-to-adult level, although
certainly not one devoid of playfulness. As puppies, of course, they will be
more dependent, more playful, and more demonstrative. In summary, Newfs tend to
be sober and thoughtful, rather than giddy clowns or sychophants.
DON'T BUY A NEWFIE IF YOU ARE FASTIDIOUS ABOUT YOUR
The Newfoundland's thick shaggy coat and his love of playing in water and
mud combine to make him a highly efficient transporter of dirt into your home,
depositing same on your floors and rugs and possibly also on your furniture and
clothes. One Newf coming in from a few minutes outdoors on a rainy day can turn
an immaculate house into an instant hog wallow. His full chest soaks up water
every time he takes a drink, then releases same drippingly across your floor or
soppingly into your lap. Newfoundlands are seasonal shedders, and in spring can
easily fill a trash bag with balls of hair from a grooming session, or clog a
vacuum cleaner if left to shed in the house. I don't mean to imply that you must
be a slob or slattern to live happily with a Newf, but you do have to have the
attitude that your dog's company means more to you than does neatness, and you
do have to be comfortable with a less than immaculate house.
While all dogs, like all children, create a greater or lesser degree of
household mess, almost all other breeds of dog are less troublesome than the
Newfie in this respect. The Basenji is perhaps the cleanest, due to its cat-like
habits; but cats are cleaner yet, and goldfish hardly ever mess up the house.
DON'T BUY A NEWFOUNDLAND IF YOU FIND DROOL TOTALLY
Most Newfie owners begin with some degree of distaste for drool, but as this
is an integral part of the Newf, this dislike usually progresses to some level
of nonchalance. A sure sign of a Newf addict is that not only do they not
understand other people's squemishness for this substance, they spend many hours
trying to come up with useful purposes for the gallons of drool that can be
produced on a regular basis. Some say that the world record "drool toss" from an
adult Newf is over 20 feet! This makes your walls and ceilings well within reach
of even an average drooler. Newfie's drool because of their jaw and mouth
structure, which allows them to breath while performing water rescue, this is a
quality inherent in the breed.
If you cannot get used to the idea of drool in your house, then try one of the
many breeds of dogs that do not drool. Newfs are definitely not in this category.
Although I have heard of cats who drool, the quantity is not remotely
comparable, and hamsters don't drool at all.
DON'T BUY A NEWFIE IF YOU DISLIKE DOING REGULAR
The thick shaggy Newfoundland coat demands regular grooming, not merely to look
tolerably nice, but also to preserve the health of skin underneath and to detect
and remove foxtails, ticks, and other dangerous invaders. For "pet" grooming,
you should expect to spend 10-15 minutes a day (e.g. while listening to music or
watching television) on alternate days or half an hour twice a week. Of course
any time your Newf gets into cockleburs, filigree, or other coat-adhering
vegetation, you are likely to be in for an hour or more of remedial work. During
oxtail season, (western US), you must inspect feet and other vulnerable areas
daily. In Lyme disease areas during tick season, you will need to inspect for
ticks daily. "Pet" grooming does not require a great deal of skill, but does
require time and regularity. "Show" grooming requires a great deal of skill and
considerably more time and effort or expensive professional grooming.
Almost every Newfie that is rescued out of a Pound or Shelter shows the effects
of many months of no grooming, resulting in massive matting and horrendous
filthiness, sometimes with urine and feces cemented into the rear portions of
the coat. It appears that unwillingness to keep up with coat care is a primary
cause of abandonment.
Many other breeds of dog require less grooming; short coated breeds require very
DON'T BUY A NEWFIE IF YOU DISLIKE DAILY EXERCISE.
Newfs need exercise to maintain the health of heart and lungs, and to
maintain muscle tone. Because of his mellow, laid-back, often lazy, disposition,
your Newfie will not give himself enough exercise unless you accompany him or
play with him. An adult Newf should have a morning outing of a mile or more, as
you walk briskly beside him, and a similar evening outing. For puppies, shorter
and slower walks, several times a day are preferred for exercise and
All dogs need daily exercise of greater or lesser length and vigor. If providing
this exercise is beyond you, physically or temperamentally, then choose one of
the many small and energetic breeds that can exercise itself within your fenced
yard. Most of the Toys and Terriers fit this description, but don't be surprised
if a Terrier is inclined to dig in the earth since digging out critters is the
job that they were bred to do. Cats can be exercised indoors with
mouse-on-a-string toys. Hamsters will exercise themselves on a wire wheel. House
plants don't need exercise.
DON'T BUY A NEWFIE IF YOU BELIEVE THAT DOGS SHOULD
Whether you live in town or country, no dog can safely be left to run "free"
outside your fenced property and without your direct supervision and control.
The price of such "freedom" is inevitably injury or death: from dogfights, from
automobiles, from the Pound or from justifiably irate neighbors. Even though
Newfs are home-loving and less inclined to roam than most breeds, an unfenced
Newf is destined for disaster. A thoroughly obedience-trained Newfie can enjoy
the limited and supervised freedom of off-leash walks with you in appropriately
If you don't want the responsibility of confining and supervising your pet, then
no breed of dog is suitable for you. A neutered cat will survive such
irresponsibly given "freedom" somewhat longer than a dog, but will eventually
come to grief. A better answer for those who crave a "free" pet is to set out
feeding stations for some of the indigenous wildlife, such as raccoons, which
will visit for handouts and which may eventually tolerate your close
DON'T BUY A NEWFOUNDLAND IF YOU CAN'T AFFORD TO BUY,
FEED, AND PROVIDE HEALTHCARE FOR ONE.
Newfoundlands are not a cheap breed to buy, as running a careful breeding
program with due regard for temperament, trainability, and physical soundness (hips
especially) cannot be done cheaply. The time the breeder should put
into each puppy's "pre-school" and socialization is also costly. The "bargain"
puppy from a "back-yard breeder" who unselectively mates any two Newfs who
happen to be of opposite sex may well prove to be extremely costly in terms of
bad temperament, bad health, and lack of essential socialization. In contrast,
the occasional adult or older pup is available at modest price from a
disenchanted owner or from a breeder, shelter, or rescuer to whom the dog was
abandoned; most of these "used" Newfs are capable of becoming a marvelous dog
for you if you can provide training, leadership, and understanding. Whatever the
initial cost of your Newfoundland, the upkeep will not be cheap. Being large
dogs, Newfs eat relatively large meals. (Need I add that what goes in one end
must eventually come out the other?) Large dogs tend to have larger veterinary
bills, as the amount of anesthesia and of most medications is proportional to
body weight. Spaying or neutering, which costs more for larger dogs, is an
essential expense for virtually all pet Newfs, as it "takes the worry out of
being close," prevents serious health problems in later life, and makes the dog
a more pleasant companion. Newfoundlands are subject to two conditions which can
be costly to treat: hip dysplasia and bloat. (Your best
insurance against dysplasia is to buy only from a litter bred from OFA certified
parents and [if possible], grandparents. Yes, this generally means paying more.
While bloat may have a genetic predisposition, there are no predictive tests
allowing selective breeding against it. Your best prevention is not to feed your
dog too soon before or after strenuous exercise.) Professional
grooming, if you use it, is expensive. An adequate set of grooming tools for use
at home adds up to a tidy sum, but once purchased will last many dog-lifetimes.
Finally, the modest fee for participation in a series of basic obedience
training classes is an essential investment in harmonious living with your dog;
such fees are the same for all breeds. The modest annual outlays for
immunizations and for local licensing are generally the same for all breeds,
though some counties have a lower license fee for spayed/neutered dogs.
All dogs, of whatever breed and however cheaply acquired, require significant
upkeep costs, and all are subject to highly expensive veterinary emergencies.
Likewise all cats.
DON'T BUY A NEWFIE IF YOU WANT THE "LATEST,
GREATEST FEROCIOUS KILLER ATTACK DOG."
The Newfoundland's famous disposition as the "Gentle Giant" is not a fable,
a Newf with the typical disposition of the breed would prefer to slobber a
criminal than attack one. Also because of selective breeding for water rescue,
Newfies are "soft-mouthed" dogs.
In contrast to the protection-trained dog, trained to bite on direct command or
in reaction to direct physical assault on his master, the "deterrent dog"
dissuades the vast majority of aspiring burglars, rapists, and assailants by his
presence, his appearance, and his demeanor. Seeing such dog, the potential
wrong-doer simply decides to look for a safer victim elsewhere. For this job,
all that is needed is a dog that is large and that appears to be well-trained
and unafraid. The Newfoundland can serve this role admirably, with the added
assets of generally dark color and shaggy "bestial" appearance adding to the
impression of formidability and fearsomeness. If the dog has been taught to bark
a few times on command, such as "Fang, watch him!" rather than "Fifi, speak for
a cookie," this skill can be useful to augment the deterrent effect.
DON'T BUY A NEWFOUNDLAND IF YOU ARE NOT WILLING TO
COMMIT YOURSELF FOR THE DOG'S ENTIRE LIFETIME.
No dog deserves to be cast out because his owners want to move to a no-pet
apartment, or because he is no longer a cute puppy, or didn't grow up to be a
beauty contest winner, or because his owners through lack of leadership and
training have allowed him to become an unruly juvenile delinquent with a
repertoire of undesirable behaviors. The prospects of a responsible and
affectionate second home for a "used" dog are never very bright, but they are
especially dim for a large, shaggy, poorly mannered dog. A Newf dumped into a
Pound or Shelter has almost no chance of survival -- unless he has the great
good fortune to be spotted by someone dedicated to Newf Rescue. The prospects
for adoption for a youngish, well-trained, and well-groomed Newfie whose owner
seeks the assistance of the nearest Newf Club or Rescue group are fairly good,
but an older Newf has diminishing prospects. Be sure to contact your local Newf
club or Rescue group if you are diagnosed as terminally ill or have other
equally valid reasons for seeking an adoptive home. Be sure to contact your
local Newf club if you are beginning to have difficulties in training your
Newfie, so these can be resolved. Be sure to make arrangements in your will or
with your family to ensure continued care or an adoptive home for your
Newfoundland if you should pre-decease him.
The life span of a Newfoundland is about 10 years.
If that seems too long a time for you to give an unequivocal loyalty to your
Newfoundland, then please do not get one! Indeed, as most dogs have a life
expectancy that is as long or longer, please do not get any dog.
If all the preceding "bad news" about Newfies hasn't turned you away from the
breed, then by all means DO GET A NEWF! They are every bit as wonderful as you
If buying a puppy, be sure to shop carefully for a *responsible* and *knowledgeable*
breeder who places high priority on breeding for sound temperament and
trainability, and good health in all matings. Such a breeder will interrogate
and educate potential buyers carefully. Such a breeder will continue to be
available for advice and consultation for the rest of the dog's life and will
insist on receiving the dog back if ever you are unable to keep it.
However as an alternative to buying a Newfie puppy, you may want to give some
serious consideration to adopting a rescued Newf. Despite the responsibility of
their previous owner, almost all rescued Newfs have proven to be readily
rehabilitated so as to become superb family companions for responsible and
affectionate adopters. Many rescuers are skilled trainers who evaluate
temperament and provide remedial training before offering dogs for placement,
and who offer continued advisory support afterwards. Contact local Newf breeders
or Newf club members to learn who is doing Rescue work.
So You've Decided You're Ready for A Newf...
Now what do you do next?
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