If you like large, lovable, good-natured dogs, look no further than the Newfoundland. This gentle giant originated in North America, but gained fame and popularity when exported to Europe in the late 18th century. Newfies, as their fans call them, are renowned for bravery.
A breed's history often explains a lot of behaviors. Dogs originally were bred for specific traits and to perform certain tasks. Even if they don't need those traits in the modern world, it's part of their genetic makeup. The Newfoundland started out aiding fishermen in frigid Canadian waters, swimming long distances. They also were used as human lifesavers, rescuing people from drowning. In addition, Newfies worked as draft animals, pulling logs and small carts.
This big dog boasts an easygoing, friendly temperament, making him a good choice for people with older kids. He's fine with youngsters, but so large that he could hurt a toddler accidentally just by hitting her with his wagging tail. As big as he is, your Newfie fancies himself a lap dog, so teach him early on he's more than your lap can handle. Newfies always want to touch their people in some way, so get used to a large dog laying on your feet.
Perhaps, somewhere in the Newfie's heritage, there was a trans-species introduction of duck blood -- he actually has webbed toes. How else can one explain this breed's predilection for water and/or mud? That's also a downside for some people. If you live near water, expect to be cleaning up regularly after a large, hairy, wet dog. If you've got a swimming pool in the backyard, you'll have to Newfie-proof it if you don't want canine company while taking a dip. On the plus side, he actually could help save someone from drowning in your pool.
As smart dogs, Newfies quickly pick up training lessons. He needs good training from the beginning, because of his size. If you want to go further than basic obedience, your Newfie can fill the bill. The breed does well in canine activities as varied as agility, tracking and carting. Newfies also make good therapy dogs, bringing gentle big dog cheer to hospital and nursing home patients.
While he's a big dog who might deter intruders by his sheer size, Newfies aren't really guard dogs. However, that doesn't mean he won't come to your aid if he thinks you or any your family members are threatened.
Newfies require lots of exercise, so this isn't the breed for a sedentary person or someone living in a small apartment. If you like to hike, you've got a fine canine companion. Be careful in hot weather, though, as the Newfie's heavy coat limits his activity when temperatures are high. Like many large breeds, Newfies become geriatric by the age of 7 or 8. Keep a close eye on your dog as he ages, making sure he doesn't overexert himself in his desire to accompany you.
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.