Imagine a toddler brain with teenage hormones, covered in fluff and weighing in at 71kg. That’s Jay, a 19 month old Newfoundland boy. He shares his house with Tanya, a 2 year old 61kg Saint Bernard and Tasha (8 years old) a 69kg Newfoundland. Somewhere in that mix of fluff is Rachel mopping slobber off the walls.
Jay’s favourite things to do are, attempting to eat his body weight in Primula cheese, being super friendly to every dog he sees, and rolling around at the end of his lead like a very big fish on a hook.
On a quiet village walk he’s known to suddenly throw himself on the floor for absolutely no reasons whatsoever, roll around and get in a taffle. This has earned him the affectionate title of ‘Clumsy Oaf’!
Having completed his bronze Good Citizen Award Jay is working towards silver and already has some of the Gold award mastered. He can do a ‘stop the dog’ perfectly and stay and wait are a piece of cake to him.
But the big issue comes when you need him to get his backside up off the floor and do something. A class full of other dogs can have done the recall exercise by the time his brain finally computes that calling him means he actually has to get off the floor and move, and even then he plods along at his own s-l-o-w pace. He’s not lazy, he can chase with the best of them, his brain is just very slow processing commands. That’s newfie brain for you!
Tasha’s latest exploit of ‘brain not in gear’ shows that despite being nearly 8 she’s still not really aware of her size. Around her head in the picture is the top of a cat litter tray, recently bought by relatives who have cats and she visits frequently. She appeared with it as a necklace, not at all bothered that it was stuck around her head. She hasn’t learned anything from this experience, doing it again recently!
Jay loves physio and one of his favourite training activities is step work. Building on his strength is a really important aspect of his training. Newfoundland’s were originally used to swim nets between fishing boats and would then haul the catch back to the village in carts, so all their water training is based on their original work use. When it’s too cold for the water, they practice pulling carts. It’s a beautiful example of giving your job to do something that harnesses their natural skills.
Newfies have a unique swimming pattern, a modified breaststroke, and webbed feet, making them a natural water dog. When Jay first started swimming his paws were high, almost out of the water, so he had to learn to swim with paws in the water and took to practising at the Ocean Walker Academy. Part of his training is playing with a rope in the water, this is the start of being able to pull along a human or boat.
When you find that one thing your dog excels at, all the other training niggles often fall into place too. Jay seems to have no trouble at all with motivation to swim, despite his sometimes slow to process nature in class.
Although with all the training we still haven’t figured out why, one one occasion, Jay decided it was ‘howling day.’ He had met two Labradors on the field during his walk and on having to leave them walked away quietly for about 200m, sat, refused to move and began howling. The howling continued even after he got home. Then for as little reason as the day of the howling began, it stopped. If only we could ask them what it was all about!
So anyone thinking of adding a Newfie to their family should know that they are fabulous and adorable. At on-lead training the big guys are usually the ones the worried dogs cling to for comfort.
Added to the ‘newfie brain’ warnings, you will find a lot of hair lying around, slobbering on ceilings in rooms the dogs don’t even go in, and mud splatters everywhere. Extra costs are something to be aware of too. Not so much in food, surprisingly, but anything you buy for a giant dog from toys to insurance and vet bills multiplies significantly.
Newfies are people’s dogs so they don’t cope well with being left for long periods of time and if you’re house-proud then they maybe aren’t the dog for you. They will bring all the love, affection and loyalty and they haven’t an aggressive bone in their body either. Serious warning though, one Newfie is never enough! You get the love bug and are addicted, there is just no stopping you…..one soon becomes two…..and onwards.