DON'T BUY A Newf
This article has been adapted from: DON'T BUY A Newf by Pam Green (c.1992)
article, written many years ago, has become a notorious classic in Newf 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 downright intolerable.
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
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) PERSONALITY.
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 gerbil 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 HOME.
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 REPELLANT
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 GROOMING.
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 little.
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 housebreaking.
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 THATDOGS SHOULD RUN FREE
whether you live in town or country, no dog can safely be left to run 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 chosen environments.
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
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 essentia
l 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 large, shaggy,
poorly mannered 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 have heard!
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
DON'T BUY A NEWFOUNDLAND IF YOU ARE NOT WILLING
TO COMMIT YOURSELF FOR THE DOG'S ENTIRE LIFETIME.