The Newfoundland dog (known as Newf or Newfie) may be massive, but their gentle nature has earned a reputation as a “nanny dog” for children. However in the past, Newfs were known as ship dogs, because Canadian fishermen relied on them as shipboard dogs specializing in water rescues.

With partially webbed feet, Newfs are born swimmers. In fact, they are large enough to bring a drowning adult ashore, and their lung capacity enables long-distance swimming. Now, they are known simply as gentle giants from Newfoundland, Canada.

(Photo by Jeffrey C. Lim/Animal Scene magazine)

Gods of the Household

Animal Scene interviews Dexter Leguiab, the human companion of Newfs Hades and Persephone.

“Mga gods, mythology, doon galing ‘yung kanilang mga pangalan kasi mahilig ako doon (Their names came from gods in Greek mythology, because I’m fond of them),” Dexter explains.

He shares with us what it’s like to live with one of the largest yet gentlest dogs, and how to take care of them to ensure they are given the long, happy life they deserve – with their furry bodies remaining comfortable despite the country’s hot weather.

“Related sila sa Great Pyrenees saka sa St. Bernard and Mastiff. (Theyare related to Great Pyrenees and St. Bernard and Mastiff.)”

Gentle giants

“First of all, they’re sweet and pwede sa mga bata talaga… [Itong] mga Newfoundland, maski [sa] baby o ano, pwede sila. Talagang nakikipaglaro pa sila sa mga baby. Sweet talaga sila.(First of all, they are sweet, and they get along with children… These Newfoundland dogs, whether with babies or whomeever, they get along with them. They even play with babies. They are really sweet),” Dexter explains.

“As [puppies]… ‘di ba mabakulit saka nagngangatngat kasi yung teeth nila tumutubo palang, so makati yon. Pero alam mo ying kahit na makulit sila, gentle pa rin sila. Kaya nga natatawag rin silang ‘gentle giants.’ (As [puppies]… they are playful and need to bite something, because their teeth are still growing. But even though they are playful, they are still gentle. That is why they are called ‘gentle giants.’)”

Mister and Miss Concegniality

Newfs get along with not only humans but also other animals, which was why it was easy for Deter to raise his Newfs along with his other companion animals. As nanny dogs, they can take care of both human children and furbabies.

“Wala talaga silang history na nangangagat. From puppy to adulthood,walang nagbabago rin sa attitude nila. Consistent talaga yung hanggang paglaki nila. Nakahiga lang. (They do not have a history of biting others. From puppy to adulthood, their attitude does not change. They are consistently gentle not lazy. They are just lying around.)”

“Pwede na silang dalhing kahit saan. Pwede silang puntahan, hawakan. Kasi, [for] most of the other breeds, ‘di ba tatanungin mo muna, ‘Nangangagat ba ‘yan?’ Pero sila, hindi na. You just go straight to them. (You can take them anywhere. Anyone can go near them or touch them. For most breeds, you need to ask first if the dog is vicious. But for them, there’s no need. You just go straight to them.)”

How to take care of Gentle Giants

(Photo by Jeffrey C. Lim/Animal Scene magazine)

1. Health

Born to swim, Dexter’s Newfs exercise by swimming in the pool four times a week. They also walk every afternoon for added cardio.

The American Kennel Club adds, “Newfoundlands need at least a half–hour of moderate exercise daily to stay healthy and happy. While they are definitely meant to live indoors with their human family, Newfs enjoy outdoor activities, especially swimming, and make great companions on long walks or hikes.”

2. Food

Dexter says Newfs do not have a preferred diet. However, you should avoid overfeeding them.

“Pero ako, [mas gusto ko ng] raw diet. Yung beef giniling, two kilos per day. Kino-control ko na eh. Mahirap kasi kapag bumigat sila kasi yung feet nila, andon yung problem. (But for me, [I prefer] raw diet. Ground beef, two kilos per day. I control their diet now. It is difficult if they get heavier because they might have problems with their feet.)”

3. Grooming

Because Newfs have a heavy coat, they need thorough brushing at least once a week to keep their fur healthy and shiny.

“A thorough going-over with a slicker brush and a long-toothed comb will remove dead hair and prevent mats from forming. These will become daily sessions during shedding season which generally occurs twice a year, however, spayed or neutered Newfs shed year-round, so they will most likely need to be brushed out a few times a week,” says the American Kennel Club.

You should also trim their nails regularly as overly long nails can cause discomfort and even structural problems.

New dog parent? No problem!

Dexter says Newfs are beginner-friendly because they are couch potatoes. However, they still need a lot of maintenance.

“Expect mo lang talaga ‘yung heavy maintenance. Kasi kunwari, ang pag-blower niyan, two to three hours dahil parang waterproof yung kanilang fur dahil nga water dogs sila… [Perp] pwede mong pabayaan lang sila. Ang siang tip lang talaga kapag [may alaga kang] Newfie: Pakawalan lang sa bahay. Pero siyempre ‘pag bata pa, wag muna dahil ngangatngatin nila lahat. (Expect heavy maintenance. For example, blow-drying them takes two to three hours because their fur is kind of waterproof as they are water dogs. But you can just leave them be. One tip if you care for a Newfie: Just let them move freely at home, except for puppies, because they will bite everything.)”

Size issues

“Ang common problems lang naman talaga ng big dogs is yung hip dysplasia, ‘di ba, at ite-therapy mo yun. [Kung] bata pa lang, i-calcium and vitamins na siya. [Ang] exercise, the best talaga. (The only common problem among big dogs is hip dysplasia, and that requires therapy. They need to take calcium and vitamins when they are young. Exercise is really the best.)”

This appeared in Animal Scene magazine’s January-February 2021 issue.

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