The Breed History
Named after the Canadian province of Newfoundland, these hardy dogs were descended from European breeds such as Great Pyrenees and others brought over with early settlers. Others place the origins of the breed in North America back to the time when the Vikings explored Newfoundland and brought their bear dogs with them, about 1000 AD. This may explain the presence of this type of dog skeletons in Indian burial sites dating to the 5th century AD. First written records in Newfoundland date to 1732. The breed actually underwent most modern development in Europe, where breeders imported the Newfoundland dogs back. AKC recognition occurred in 1886.
Breeding for Function
Newfies were selected for their natural instinct to retrieve those in need from water. The breed characteristics reflect adaptation to the harsh climate of Newfoundland. Thick coats, webbed feet for moving over snow and marsh and swimming, and stamina characterize the breed. They excelled at both water and dry land work, especially helpful for pulling nets and boats for fishermen, and were noted for their courage and loyalty in search and rescue type work. Because of their size and strength, they were also favored as draft dogs, pulling carts on farms and carrying heavy packs. The characteristics that are placed first in priority for breeding are a docile, sweet temperament and well-developed life saving instinct. These are considered a hallmark of the breed.
Height at Withers: female 26" (66 cm), male 28" (71 cm).
Weight: females 100-120 lb (45.5-54.5 kg), males 130-150 lb (59-68 kg).
Coat: White, gray, black and brown are recognized. A landseer coloring is white background with black markings, controlled by an autosomal recessive MIFT gene.1 The dense, double coat is oily and thus waterproof. Outer hairs are coarse and may be straight to wavy, and are moderately long. The undercoat is soft and dense. The face and muzzle are covered by a much shorter haircoat. Limbs are feathered.
Longevity: 8-10 years
Points of Conformation: Large, strong, muscular, and thick coated, the breed is heavily boned and muscled and possesses a gait that is smooth and covers a lot of ground with apparent ease. The skull is broad, the head is massive and the occipital protuberance is well developed. Eyes are generally dark brown in color, though some lighter colored dogs have lighter eye pigmentation. A gentle expression is emphasized. Palpebral rims are dark and the deep-set eyes are small and wide-set. Triangular ears sit close to the head and have rounded tips. A deep square muzzle and moderate stop characterize the profile. The neck is muscular and thick. The topline is level, thorax is deep and ribs well sprung. The tail is strong and distally it reaches the tarsus. Limbs are straight and heavily boned, feet are large and webbed with compact knuckled up toes. Front dewclaw removal is optional, but they are taken off in the rear.
Recognized Behavior Issues and Traits
Reported breed characteristics include: Very loyal, very intelligent, are able to work on their own but at the same time be obedient to commands. Possessing a gentle disposition and at the same time, having good guarding instincts for home and family. Newfoundland dogs are devoted to, and good with children. They possess a drooling tendency. Need daily brushing and shed year-round. Tolerates temperature extremes well, especially the cold. Moderate exercise requirements. Not an alarm barker.
Normal Physiologic Variations
Irregularities in bone remodeling in the distal radius and ulna can be observed between 6-24 months of age in growing Newfoundland dogs. These changes resolve and are not associated with clinical disease.
Echocardiographic Normal Values:
Parameter 90% Confidence Interval
AO (cm) - 2.6-3.3
AOexc (cm) - 0.5-1.3
LA (cm) - 2.4-3.3
LA/AO - 0.8-1.25
LVd (cm) - 4.4-6.0
LVs (cm) - 2.9-4.4
%FS - 22-37
%EF - 44-66
LVET (sec) - 0.14-0.20
Vcf (cir/sec) - 1.1-2.5
EPSS (cm) - 0.3-1.4
VSd (cm) - 0.7-1.5
VSs (cm) - 1.1-2.0
VS% - 0-45
VSexc (cm) - 0.4-1.0
LVWd (cm) - 0.8-1.3
LVWs (cm) - 1.1-1.6
LVW% - 11-40
LVWexc (cm) - 0.8-1.7
HR - 70-120
Kg - 47-70
N - 27
AO, aorta; LA, left atrium; LV, left ventricle; FS, fractional shortening; EF, ejection fraction; LVET, left ventricular ejection time; Vcf, velocity of circumferential; EPSS, E-point to septal separation; VS, ventricular septum; VS%О”, change in VS thickness between diastole and systole; LVW, left ventricular wall; HR, heart rate; N, number of animals.
Hip Dysplasia: Polygenically inherited trait causing degenerative joint disease and hip arthritis. Dorn reports a 2.46x odds ratio versus other breeds. Another study reports a 7.7x odds ratio versus other breeds. OFA reports 25.2% affected.
Elbow Dysplasia: Polygenically inherited trait causing elbow arthritis. OFA reports 24.2% affected. Reported 10.9x odds ratio for fragmented coronoid process, and 13.8x odds ratio for ununited anconeal process forms of elbow dysplasia versus other breeds.
Cystinuria: Autosomal recessive disease of cystine metabolism causing dysuria, stranguria, or obstruction due to cystine calculi, primarily in affected males. Affected females can have cystine crystals and calculi without clinical signs. PennGen testing finds 2.3% affected, and 28% carrier. A genetic test is available.
Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM): An autosomal dominant disease with late onset and reduced penetrance in this breed. Affected dogs have reduced shortening fraction (FS) in the presence of clinical and radiographic signs of left-sided or biventricular heart failure. Atrial fibrillation is the most common arrhythmia. Studies show 1.3-2.5% of Newfoundland dogs are affected. Some affected Newfoundlands have low plasma taurine levels, and improve on taurine supplementation, suggesting an abnormality in taurine metabolism.
Patella Luxation: Polygenically inherited laxity of patellar ligaments, causing luxation, lameness, and later degenerative joint disease. Treat surgically if causing clinical signs. OFA reports 0.5% affected.
Allergic Dermatitis: Inhalant or food allergy. Presents with pruritis and pyotraumatic dermatitis. Padgett reports a frequency of 12.6% in the breed.
Entropion: Rolling in of eyelids, often causing corneal irritation or ulceration. Reported in 8.04% of Newfoundlands CERF-examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005.
Ectropion: Rolling out of eyelids, often with a medial canthal pocket. Can cause secondary conjunctivitis. Can be secondary to macroblepharon; an abnormally large eyelid opening. Ectropion is reported in 7.21% of Newfoundlands CERF-examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005.
Hypothyroidism: Inherited autoimmune thyroiditis. 4.0% positive for thyroid auto-antibodies based on testing at Michigan State University. (Ave. for all breeds is 7.5%)
Cataracts: Anterior or posterior intermediate and punctate cataracts occur in the breed. Identified in 3.90% of Newfoundlands CERF-examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005.
Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus (Bloat, GDV): Polygenically inherited, life-threatening twisting of the stomach within the abdomen. Requires immediate veterinary attention. Reported at a frequency of 3.4% in the breed.
Cranial Cruciate Ligament (ACL) Rupture: Traumatic tearing of the ACL in the stifle, causing lameness and secondary arthritis. Treat with surgery. Dorn reports a 1.38x odds ratio versus other breeds. One study found a heritability of 0.27 in the breed. A genome scan identified 4 chromosomal locations associated with the disorder, indicating a complex mode of inheritance.
Osteochondritis Dessicans (OCD): Defect in cartilage maturation in young dogs, causing joint lesions and lameness. Treatment with rest, or surgery in severe cases. Severe cases can result in later arthritis and degenerative joint disease. Padgett reports a frequency of 2.0% in the breed. Odds ratios for elbow OCD is 261x, and shoulder OCD 18.7x versus other breeds.
Retinal Dysplasia: Retinal folds, geographic, and generalized retinal dysplasia with detachment are recognized in the breed. Reported in 1.77% of Newfoundlands CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005.
Iris Cysts: Fluid filled sacs originating from the iris. They can remain attached or break free and float in the anterior chamber. Usually seen in mature dogs. Reported in 1.06% of Newfoundlands CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005.
Persistent Pupillary Membranes: Strands of fetal remnant connecting; iris to iris, cornea, lens, or involving sheets of tissue. The later three forms can impair vision, and dogs affected with these forms should not be bred. Identified in 1.06% of Newfoundlands CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005.
Third Eyelid Eversion/Cartilage Anomaly: Developmental anomaly of the cartilage of the nictitating membrane. Eversion causes conjunctival drying and inflammation. Identified in 1.06% of Newfoundlands CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005.
Subaortic Stenosis (SAS): Congenital narrowing of the aortic outflow tract from the heart, causing a murmur, endocarditis, left heart failure, or sudden death. Diagnosis is by doppler ultrasound. Newfoundland dogs have a 88.0x odds ratio for the disorder versus other breeds. Padgett reports a frequency of 0.8% affected. Unknown mode of inheritance.
Osteosarcoma (OSA): Malignant bone cancer, most often seen in the humerus or femur. Occurs at an increased frequency in the breed.
Laryngeal Paralysis: Newfoundlands are a breed at increased risk to develop geriatric laryngeal paralysis secondary to axonal degeneration of the recurrent laryngeal nerve. Clinical signs are exercise intolerance, inspiratory stridor, inspiratory dyspnea, gagging, coughing and dysphonia.
Pemphigus Foliaceus: An increased risk of developing immune mediated pemphigus foliaceus was noted in the breed. Typical lesions include dorsal muzzle and head symmetric scaling, crusting, and alopecia with peripheral collarettes, characteristic footpad lesions, with erythematous swelling at the pad margins, cracking, and villous hypertrophy. Average age of onset is 50 months. Treatment with corticosteroid and cytotoxic medications. Unknown mode of inheritance.
Glaucoma: Primary, narrow angle glaucoma (goniodysgenesis) occurs in the breed. Can cause secondary lens luxation. Screen with gonioscopy and tonometry. Frequency and mode of inheritance in the breed has not been determined. CERF does not recommend breeding Newfoundlands with goniodysgenesis.
Ectopic Ureters: Newfoundland dogs are an over-represented breed for ectopic ureters that do not enter the bladder normally. Clinical signs are urinary incontinence and dribbling. The anomaly can be unilateral or bilateral. Unknown mode of inheritance.
Myasthenia Gravis: Acquired myasthenia gravis is identified in multiple relatives of different breeding lines, suggesting an inherited disorder. This is an autoimmune disease characterized by exercise induced muscle weakness and/or megaesophagus.
Inflammatory Myopathy: Newfoundland dogs are a breed with increased incidence of inflammatory muscle disease. Many affected dogs have high circulating autoantibodies to sarcolemma antigens.
Osteochondritis Dissecans of the Stifle, Prognathism, Tricuspid Valve Dysplasia, and Ventricular Septal Defect are reported.
Isolated Case Studies
Primary Ciliary Dyskinesia: Three Newfoundland dogs with histories of chronic rhinitis and bronchopneumonia from an early age were diagnosed with the disorder. Pedigree analysis indicated an autosomal recessive mode of inheritance.
Glomerulosclerosis with Proteinuria: Three littermates were euthanized due to progressive kidney disease characterized by growth retardation, anorexia, proteinuria, hypoalbuminemia, and uremia. Histopathology revealed glomerulosclerosis and glomerulofibrosis.
Tests of Genotype: Direct test for cystinuria is available from HealthGene, Optigen, PennGen, and VetGen. Direct tests for black, gray and brown coat colors, and black and brown nose are available from HealthGene and VetGen.
Tests of Phenotype: CHIC Certification: Required tests are; hip and elbow radiographs, cardiac examination by a cardiologist, and genetic test for cystinuria. (See CHIC website: caninehealthinfo.org) Recommended tests include CERF eye examination, patella evaluation, and thyroid profile including autoantibodies.
- Breed name synonyms: Newfie, Landseer.
- Registries: AKC, UKC, CKC, KCGB (Kennel Club of Great Britain), ANKC (Australian National Kennel Club), NKC (National Kennel Club).
- AKC rank (year 2008): 46 (2,938 dogs registered)
- Internet resources: Newfoundland Dog Club of America Inc.: newfdogclub.org
Newfoundland Dog Club of Canada: newfoundlanddogclub.ca
The Newfoundland Club UK: thenewfoundlandclub.co.uk/
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