St. John’s Water Dogs were originally developed on the coast of Newfoundland along with the larger Newfoundland breed dogs and were often referred to as Lesser Newfoundland dogs. While the last member of this breed passed away in the 1980s, the St. John's Water Dog has left an indelible mark on the canine community by being the common ancestor to most retrieving type dogs including the Chesapeake Bay Retriever, the Golden Retriever, and even the Labrador Retriever. They, like their ancestors, are hardy, athletic, and willing to please breeds that love the water.
The St. John's Water Dog developed in Newfoundland not as a gun dog or specifically as a retriever of birds, although they could handle that chore readily enough, but instead as an assistant to the fisherman who worked along the coast. Not only did these dogs guard the boats and keep the fishermen company, but they were tireless swimmers who swam long distances in order to retrieve fishing lines and nets of fish for their masters. They even had webbed feet to help them swim, a trait that they passed down to several of their descendants including the Chesapeake Bay Retriever and the Labrador Retriever.
Therapy dogs are dogs that visit hospitals, schools, nursing homes, and even the site of tragedies to provide comfort and unconditional love to people in need. Many of the breeds that are descended from the St. John’s Water dog are well suited to this type of work, and while it takes many years to train a service dog, a suitable therapy dog can be trained for their first therapy visits in just a few months, although earning the AKC therapy titles can take a little bit longer as a certain number of visits is required for each tier. If you feel your dog has the right personality for this work it can be a very fulfilling position for both you and your dog.
jumping is a fairly new sport for dogs that first appeared at the Incredible Dog
Challenge in 1997 and has since grown, with many differing Dock Dog groups as
well as several dock dog jumping competitions in the United States each year. This
competition, in which dogs run to the end of a thirty-five to forty foot dock
and jump off in pursuit of a target, is an attempt to spur the dog on to make
either the longest or highest jump in the competition. This high-flying
activity is perfect for the powerful, water-loving descendants of the St. John’s
Retrieving breeds love to retrieve and that is all a game of fetch is, endless retrieving. Although there are exceptions to the rule, most of the living descendants of the St.Johns Water dog will play fetch from dawn until dusk.
Most of the Retriever breeds are both highly athletic and eager to please. This, combined with natural showmanship and an optimistic outlook, make them well-suited to performance sports like freestyle canine dance. Remember though that retrieving breeds are often prone to hip dysplasia so it may be a good idea to limit the dance moves that could strain those particular joints.