Newfoundland Dog – Your Definitive Guide to the Lovable Gentle Giant

The Newfoundland dog is a large breed of working dog, originally bred for working for Newfoundland fishermen. This breed’s coat can be colored black, brown, gray, or black and white (can be referred to as Landseer). 


Characteristics of the Newfoundland

Coat & Grooming





Buying Your Newfoundland

Vaccination & Veterinary Costs

Life Stages of a Newfoundland


The brown coated Newfoundland.


In the late 19th century, travelers from England and Ireland described encountering two breeds of working dogs in Newfoundland. The heavily built, long-coated, large dog was the Newfoundland, the medium built sleek coated water dog was known as the St. John’s water dog. It is thought to be the founder of the retriever. Both breeds worked assisting the local fishermen, with the larger Newfoundland performing heavier work.

Characteristics of the Newfoundland

Newfoundlands are known for their immense size, brainpower, great strength, calm nature, love of children and faithfulness.

Newfoundlands love water and are great swimmers. They have webbed paws and a thick waterproof coat. They have a huge lung capacity which aids their swimming prowess. They have a particular swimming stroke: using their webbed paws in a downward and outward motion propels them with greater speed and power than the doggie paddle of other dogs.

Newfoundlands are great swimmers.

The Newfoundland needs at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise a day. A Newfoundland may be perfectly happy indoors, but they have a history as outdoor working dogs around water, and consequently, they love the chance for a swim. They will enjoy the chance of longer walks or long excursions in the country.

Males normally weigh between 65-80 kg, with females averaging between 55-65 kg. This large-boned and muscular breed is in the giant-size breed group. They may measure up to 56-86 cms at the shoulder. 

Coat & Grooming

The waterproof coat is double thickness and does provide some grooming challenges. Under normal circumstances a thorough weekly brushing is necessary. During twice-yearly shedding, daily brushing is needed.

Neutered/spayed animals will be shedding all year round and will need extensive brushing throughout the week. They are high shedders and drool heavily, especially in warm temperatures. Nails should be trimmed regularly. They enjoy cold temperatures and need to be cooled in hot temperatures.

The Newfoundland dog enjoys cold temperatures.

Apartment living is possible, but they are more suited to spacious housing with some private land where they can go outside. For more details on dogs best suited to apartment living see our article Best House Dogs.


They are trainable with early training and respond well to gentle guidance. They don’t respond well to harsh corrections. They need human contact and don’t enjoy being left alone.

Socialisation as puppies is a must and they will respond well to loving care and repay with faithful obedience. Early leash training is needed. Remember they will grow into a dog that weighs 60kg and above.

Early leash training is essential for such a big dog

Joining obedience classes in puppyhood provides structured training and the opportunity to socialize with other dogs in a controlled environment. They have moderate mental stimulation needs. Energy levels are moderate. Barking level is low and only to alert.


Food should be high quality, whether commercial or home-cooked. Consult your veterinarian if you are considering a home-cooked diet for your Newfoundland. Be careful of those calories as Newfoundlands can be prone to weight gain. Expect food costs for a full grown dog $100-$120 a month.

Between 4-5 cups of dry food is recommended daily divided into smaller meals. Puppies need a diet that aids slow and steady growth a quarter of which should consist of protein and up to 15% of fat. 

Each dog’s food needs will be different because of  size, age, digestion rate, and level of activity. If a dog becomes weighty, food and exercise may need to be re-balanced. Feed your dog quality dog food as high quality dog food contains the required nutrients and also reduces the quantity your dog requires. Your veterinarian can provide you with informed advice and specific food guidelines.

As with many breeds, bloat can be a potentially fatal health issue where the stomach swells and twists. Better to give a smaller regular intake of food than two big meals, as this can make food more easily digestible. Avoid vigorous exercise after eating.


Known as the ‘gentle giant’, Newfoundlands are calm and docile by nature. They are known to have a sweet temperament and are wonderful with children and patient, guiding companions for infants.

Both children and your Newfoundland do require supervision. Your dog is a big animal and may unintentionally knock over and injure a small child (especially in the puppy and more likely the adolescent stage). Children also need to know that rough play, such as tail pulling is a no-no. 


Hereditary health problems are hip dysplasia and elbow dysplasia. [1]

Newfoundlands can suffer from a bladder stone complaint (cystinuria).

A potentially fatal health issue could be sub-valvular aortic stenosis (SAS). It’s a common heart defect in the breed and affects and makes the heart valves defective. It is similar to a heart attack and can cause sudden death at an early age. [2]

Their long droopy ears also can be a problem with ear infections. Weekly ear checks and cleaning with a cotton bud are a good idea.

The Newfoundland Club of America recommends the following testing:

  • radiograph (X-ray) for hip and elbow dysplasia
  • cardiac investigation by auscultation or echo by a Board Certified Cardiologist
  • a blood or cheek swab and DNA testing for cystinuria. 

Additional tests recommended are:

  • eyes by a Board Certified Ophthalmologist
  • Patella palpation
  • Thyroid – blood test

Additionally, there are some other conditions associated with Newfoundlands that potential owners should be aware of:

  • Addison’s disease is a serious condition where the adrenal gland fails to produce adequate adrenal hormones. It may result in lethargy, vomiting, appetite loss and develop into severe shock.
  • Epilepsy can be an inherited condition, resulting in mild to severe seizures. 
  • Cataracts and Cherry eye are eye complaints that should be investigated by an ophthalmologist. [3]
Cherry eye is the red mass in the corner of the eyes

An idea would be to take out a health insurance policy for your Newfoundland as treatment can be expensive.

Newfoundlands are expected to live from 8-10 years. The normal is 10 years. Some live up to 15 years.

Buying Your Newfoundland

Puppies from a reputable breeder are in the region of $1,200 to $3,000 in 2023. Expect to pay higher for show dogs.

It is essential for you to go to a recognized, reputable breeder to obtain your pup. Find a breeder who has expert knowledge of Newfoundlands and genuinely cares about the dog’s health and welfare.

It is unusual to get a puppy straight away from a reputable breeder and you will most likely be put on a waiting list.

It is good to have personal contact with a breeder before buying. If you can, visit, meet the breeder, see the mother of the pups and see the condition of the kennel.

Regular contact by phone or email will give you an idea of the quality of the breeder if a visit is impossible.

A good breeder will often ask you questions about your plans for the puppy and the facilities you have, such as a fenced in yard. Reputable breeders should keep their puppies until 8-10 weeks.

It’s good to have a list of questions of your own to ask the breeder. Apart from asking about the cost of a puppy, think about including the questions listed below.

  • Have the parents been checked for the hereditary health issues associated with the breed?
  • What kind of hereditary problems have you encountered when breeding Newfoundlands?
  • Will the puppies be checked by a veterinarian before they leave you?
  • How old are the puppies when they leave you?
  • How often do your bitches have litters?
  • How long have you been breeding Newfoundlands?

Look for a recognized Newfoundland breeding organization. The Newfoundland Club of America is a great place.

Here is a link to a list of breeders recommended by the Newfoundland Club of America. [4]

Here’s also a contact and text number where you can find information on pups. [5]

Vaccination & Veterinary Costs

Initial Vet Appointments to check for major health issues – $100-$300

Initial vaccines for hepatitis, parvovirus, and rabies – $75-$200

Sterilisation – $50-$500

Microchip – if your dog gets out without their collar you can identify them – $40-$50

Life Stages of a Newfoundland

Bear in mind the life stages of your Newfoundland. The breed matures slowly into that gentle giant dog you have heard so much about.

Puppy-hood – 0 to 6 month

A black and white or ‘Landseer’ coated puppy

Patient training here is essential in order to get your pup to develop into the grown dog you want. Be persistent with the potty training! They experience rapid growth from 4 – 6 months and at this stage their bones are soft and can suffer damage and bone disorders can happen. Avoid walking excessively on pavements and other hard surfaces until two years old, when you can. Exercise on the grass or softer surfaces like the beach is recommended. Swimming is also a great way to develop muscle and avoid strain on the joints.

Adolescence – 6 months to 3 years

The big, independent, adolescent Newfoundland can be a challenge!

This is the stage where the training is at a premium. They are now a BIG independent dog that is finding its feet. Feet that are not so coordinated, bumping over your prize possessions and finding out where the boundaries are by trial and error.

They’re full of boundless energy that needs to be exercised! Training with commands and mental stimulation tasks (they can be chewers when bored) should be incorporated. This is the most trying stage and you’ll find out if the Newfoundland dog is really for you and whether you are prepared to change too!

Adulthood – 4 to 6 years

The black and white mature adult

Your hard work training has now produced a fully grown dog who has matured both mentally and physically into the gentle giant they are known to be. You’ve evolved too, into a new Newfoundland lifestyle!

Senior – 6 years +

Your senior Newfoundland enjoys short walks and a good lounge.

Now your dog is an old dog and you value every moment spent together. He’s slower and maybe those joints are starting to creak a little. He has less energy and enjoys only the short walks and likes to lounge around.

What to do now?

Some Closing Thoughts…

The Newfoundland dog is a great companion for you and responds to loving care and gentle training. Be sure to fully check out your breeder and never buy a pup from a pet store.

Reputed breeders are where to find puppies that have been bred with the best breeding practices (not over-breeding) and where you can check for the hereditary health issues associated with this breed.

For more information on dog health see our article What Breed of Dog has the Least Health Problems.


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Is the Newfoundland a good family dog?

Yes, Newfoundland dogs are excellent family companions. They are known for their gentle nature and loyalty. They are great with children and can be protective, making them ideal for families.

What is special about a Newfoundland dog?

Newfoundlands are special due to their large size, strength, and remarkable swimming abilities. They have a calm and gentle temperament, making them perfect for water rescue and therapy work.

Are Newfoundlands the biggest dog in the world?

While Newfoundlands are among the largest dog breeds, they are not the absolute biggest. Breeds like the Great Dane and Irish Wolfhound can be taller, but Newfoundlands are still impressive in size and strength. The Great Pyrenees and the Tibetan Mastiff are also contenders.

How big is a Newfoundland dog compared to a human?

Newfoundland dogs can weigh between 120 to 170 pounds (55 to 80 kilograms) and stand 22 to 33 inches (56 to 86 centimeters) tall at the shoulder. They are much larger than the average human, both in height and weight.

Who should get a Newfoundland dog?

Newfoundland dogs are best suited for families or individuals who have enough space for their size, appreciate their gentle and affectionate nature, and are willing to invest time in their care and grooming. If you already have a dog, they are happy to be around other dogs and enjoy their company.

What is the rarest color of a Newfoundland dog?

The rarest color for a Newfoundland dog is typically considered to be “gray.” This color is less common than the more standard black or brown variations, making gray Newfoundlands relatively rare and sought after by some enthusiasts.

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