Tuesday, April 7, 2009
The Newfoundland -- Water Rescue Dog
(Courtesy of The Colonial Newfoundland Club)
"The Newfoundland is exceptionally well built for water work. He has a water resistant double coat, a strong muscled tail which is used as a rudder, webbed feet, ears that cling close to the head, and a strong swimming style resembling a breast stroke.
"Newfoundlands are used to help patrol the beaches in Britain, France, and Italy. During their annual water training demonstration at the Molveno Dog Show, the Italian School of Dog Training showcases circumstances in which Newfs and their handlers jump out of helicopters hovering 15 feet above the water's surface. The French Coast Guard has determined that a well-conditioned Newf can tow an inflatable life raft with 20 people aboard two miles to shore with out being unduly stressed.
"The water rescue instincts of the Newf are particularly evident when children or other family members are in the water. The Newf takes his life guarding responsibilities very seriously, quite often circling around and herding his "family" to shore. They have an uncanny ability to sense when someone in the water needs help, whether a family member or stranger, an will immediately swim out to assist. Some dogs circle around the "victim" until they feel the person grab onto them, then head to shore; others will take the person's arm in their mouth and proceed to tow them to safety that way.
"The Newfoundland is primarily a dog of the sea. Long ago they were the constant companions of fishermen, and boats would often not leave the shore without a Newfoundland on board. History is full of old tales recording heroic rescues made by these courageous animals. Today, the breed standard stresses that the dog should be "at home in the water and on land." The Newf is exceptionally well built for water work. He has a water resistant double coat, a muscled tail which is used as a rudder, webbed feet, ears that cling close to the head, and a strong swimming style resembling a breast stroke.
"Great Britain first sponsored formal water tests for Newfoundlands in the late 1800's. The Newfoundland Club of American began its water tests in 1973, with the first test in this country being held by the Great Lakes Newfoundland Club in Michigan.
"The Water Test offers the Newfoundland an opportunity to perform a series of exercises designed to show their natural life-saving instincts. The test is composed of Junior and Senior Divisions. Each contains six exercises with suggested time limits. A dog successfully completing the Junior exercises is awarded the NCA title of Water Dog (WD). Successful completion of the Senior exercises earns a Water Rescue Dog (WRD) title.
"The Newfoundland Club of America encourages its members to foster and maintain the working dog abilities that are such an important part of the history of the breed. To this end, the NCA sponsors Water Tests across the country. The Newfoundland Club of America Water Tests are a series of exercises designed to develop and demonstrate the water work abilities of purebred Newfoundland dogs. The Newfoundland has historically functioned as a working companion to its owner, and members of the breed have participated in many heroic rescues. Performance of these exercises is intended as a demonstration of skill developed through both natural ability and training. The emphasis in the Water Test is on teamwork between dog and handler in realistic work and rescue situations."
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Of course, there are exceptions -- the Hangashore being the most prominent.