There are two terms used to describe the Newfoundland that seem to be a double edged sword with this breed. These terms are gentle giant and nanny dog. It’s true that Newfoundlands can be gentle giants and it’s true that Newfoundlands can be great with children. However, many Newfoundlands just don’t come out that way, they evolve into those traits over time. Before they get there they need to go through the different stages of life.
I’ve been blessed enough to experience the full life of a Newfoundland more than once. Some of my Newfies went through the 4 stages easier than others. (Ahem….not Leroy). These 4 stages are puppyhood, adolecence, adulthood and the senior years.
The Puppy Stage. Usually from 0-9 months. What could be better than a bouncy pile of fluff hopping through your house?! The ginormous paws, the puppy fuzz, the puppy breath I can picture them all in my mind! This is a fun stage where you get carry, snuggle and get to know your new fluffball. There’s naps, there’s playtime, teething and growing! In this stage you get to literally watch your puppy grow overnight and you’re overcome with excitement that you finally have the dog that you’ve always dreamed. And there’s potty training and more potty training and more potty training.
The Adolescent Stage. 9 months – 3 years. Perhaps the stage that you hear the least about because it is the most trying stage of a Newfoundland. It’s the terrible 2’s combined with the teenage years. Your cute adorable pile of fluff now looks like an awkward, fifty shades of brown/black dork. The dog is mouthy, clumsy, and suffers from an acute onset of selective hearing. You might think that your breeder forgot to add in the gentle giant gene as you watch a 100 pound bear knock over everything that stands its way. THERE IS NOTHING GENTLE ABOUT THIS STAGE. Your Newfie is now finding himself/herself. They are becoming more independent. They are full of energy. The only difference between them and any other breed of dog at this stage is that they are MUCH bigger. They are extremely impressionable at this time and learning their boundaries. While this may be a trying time it’s also the stage where you’re introducing your Newfie to new things which can be quite fun. You’re socializing them. you’re teaching them basic commands. You are teaching them how YOU want them to behave. This is the stage where you introduce them to water and let them do their thing. Towards the latter part of this stage you might even be introducing them to draft work, therapy work…etc. They are a lot of work at this stage and they need to be challenged and stimulated but the work that you put in will be very rewarding in the next stage.
The Adult Stage. 4 years-6 years. While some adolescent remnants may remain, you now have an adult dog. Most likely your Newfie has found themself by now and is settling in. All your hard work is paying off and for the most part, you know what to expect and they know what to expect. Sure there’s going to be a few more trying times but now it’s time to enjoy the Newfie life. You can see that gentle giant finally shining through and the angels above start to sing, Hallelujah. They are finally done growing and their very smart brain emerges once again. You’re use to going out in public and not getting far because even wants to steal a glimpse of your bear dog. You begin to understand that a Newfoundland is more than a dog, it’s a lifestyle. Welcome.
The Senior Stage. 6-? years. Perhaps one of the best stages because there’s nothing better than the love of an old dog. The grey on their muzzle starts to appear and you’re reminded how short life is. You swear to cherish every single moment. I forget about the broken nose you gave me, the time you ran away, the lamps that you broke, now I just want you to be here forever. They start to slow down, maybe limp a little because their big joints are getting tired. Instead of long walks, it’s long sits out in the driveway or a drive to get ice cream. It’s sweet sugar lip kisses every morning and every night. It’s belly rubs, massages and naps. You begin to transform your house to make life easier for them and you’re always close by in case they need an extra boost. I think this is the stage when your heart actually swells with love. Cherish it.
When getting a Newfoundland it’s so important to remember that they go through different life stages. Very few Newfoundlands start off as a gentle giant or nanny dog. Newfies evolve into these traits and every dog is different. The most trying stage of a Newfoundland is going to be the adolescent stage. Most Newfies mature slower than other dogs and this can feel like a very long and tiring stage. This is the stage when a lot of Newfies will end up in rescue because their owners weren’t prepared for a giant adolescent dog. This is also the stage where I receive a lot of emails from people who are struggling with their Newfie. You need to put in a good amount of effort in this stage or you’re going to end up with a Newfie gone wild. I can give you as many tools and suggestions that I have but you have to be able to put in the work like the rest of us have done. There is no easy way out. If you want the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, you’ve got to go through the stages to get there.
Sorry about that little rant but I have 2 senior Newfs that I have invested a lot of time and energy on and it wasn’t always easy but I would do it over and over again in a heartbeat. I’m not putting blame on anyone who is experiencing a tough time with their Newfoundland. Perhaps the blame lies in all the articles out there about Newfoundlands that fail to mention the adolescent years. This blog has been around for over 7 years. 7 years ago Leroy was an adolescent and most of his stories are documented somewhere here. I believe there’s even a post titled the “Not So Gentle Giant.” I wrote about the broken nose, fat lips, fights between male dogs, Leroy jumping on children and the concussion I got when both the boys pushed me down the steps. I haven’t forgotten those posts, they’re still fresh in mind but we’re in a different stage now and I’m enjoying that. You’ll get there too.
p.s. The ranges in the above stages are based on my personal experience. Individual Newfs may vary.
Want more? Check out So You Think You Want a Newfoundland? Here’s 9 Things You Should Know.