Powerful, imposing, and with enough fur to resemble a bear, the Newfoundland is a breed which is heralded for both its size and its kind nature. Known for being caring and an all around family dog, the Newfoundland is also held in high regards as a working breed, its large stature being excellent for a variety of jobs on the shore and in the sea. With a coat that protects them from the harsh elements of the coastal climate and webbed toes to help them glide through the water, Newfoundland dogs, or “Newfies”, are fantastic swimmers and adapt to life near the sea quite well.
Because of their capabilities in the water, the Newfoundland is also a champion at water rescue. This job generally consists of the ability to leap from either the shore, a boat, or a low flying helicopter into choppy seas in order to pull the average person to safety. However, while the breed is built for power and speed, it is the training which really solidifies the Newfoundland’s capability when it comes to water rescue.
Beginning at about four months old, Newfoundland puppies undergo several phases of training, consisting of basic obedience, complex obedience, swimming, overcoming any hesitation around the water, and then complex rescue maneuvers. The entire process can take up to a year, though depending on the puppy and the trainer, it can take less time. Regardless, there is still a commitment that is required when it comes to training water rescue in any breed and though Newfies are always ready to learn, puppies can sometimes struggle to pick things up right away.
Water rescue can also be difficult and sometimes impossible to train without access to water. A dog will preferably learn in a larger body of water like a lake or the shallows of the ocean under close supervision, but a large pool can work just as well. An owner who wishes to train a Newfoundland at water rescue should always consider that training will take some time and plenty of patience once the dog is introduced to the water for the first time.
There are a number of things that you will need to begin training your Newfoundland at water rescue and there are tools that will come into use when he begins to progress to more advanced stages of training. These things include a list of verbal commands that you will use, a “record card” which can be used to track your dog’s progression, an area to train in the water that is large enough for your dog, and a small boat if you wish to train your Newfoundland to leap from a boat and into the water for rescue.
Other tools include ropes for pulling as well as your method of reinforcement, whether it be a toy or treats. This can depend on what your dog is more willing to work for. Once you’ve set up your area for training with your dog, you can begin on land and then progress to the water.