There is a movement afront, particularly in western Europe, to make the head of the Newfoundland dog into a more Mastiff like head, referred to by some as "Mastino." There are even breeders who claim that their life's work will be complete once the "Mastino" head has become the breed standard.
Is this what is best for the breed?
As stated by Karin Butenhoff in the book,"The World of Newfoundlands" (BB Press 2009):
"There is an ongoing debate in the Newfoundland world about the change which happened during the last decade. Breeders and judges have the choice – no, the obligation – to keep as close to the standard as possible when breeding and judging. That is a common truth, so common that it seems a statement too simple to open this article.
But in daily practice a few other things have happened in our breed over the last few years.
We see Newfoundlands in the ring who show a type that seems to have drifted far away from what was the basic intention of the standards.
And these dogs are not disqualified for not complying to the standards, or punished with lower qualification. On the contrary: they win. This gives a very bad example to the breeders.
In their main points (except colours)the American, Canadian, English and FCI - standards are nearly all the same. As often as they have been changed, they always asked for a square muzzle and have done since the beginning of records in the 1850's.
A standard is a blue print, but of a living animal, so developments over time happen. That is normal.
That is what the FCI standard says about head.
Head: Massive. The head of the bitch follows the same general conformation as the male's one, but less massive.
Skull: Broad, with slightly arched crown and strongly developed occipital bone.
Stop: Evident, but never abrupt.
Nose: Large, well pigmented, nostrils well developed.
Color: Black on black and white and black dogs, brown on brown dogs.
Muzzle: Definitely square, deep and moderately short, covered with short, fine hair and free from wrinkles. The corners of the mouth are evident, but not excessively pronounced.
Jaws/teeth: Scissors of level bite.
Eyes: Relatively small, moderately deep set; they are wide apart and show no haw. Colour: Dark brown in black and white and black dogs, lighter shades permitted in brown dogs.
Ears: Relatively small, triangular with rounded tips, well set back on the side of the head and close lying. When the ears of the adult dog is brought forward, it reaches to the inner corner of the eye on the same side.
The head is massive, with a broad skull, slightly arched crown, and strongly developed occipital bone. Cheeks are well developed. Eyes are dark brown. (Browns and Grays may have lighter eyes and should be penalized only to the extent that color affects expression.) They are relatively small, deep-set, and spaced wide apart. Eyelids fit closely with no inversion. Ears are relatively small and triangular with rounded tips. They are set on the skull level with, or slightly above, the brow and lie close to the head. When the ear is brought forward, it reaches to the inner corner of the eye on the same side. Expression is soft and reflects the characteristics of the breed: benevolence, intelligence, and dignity. Forehead and face are smooth and free of wrinkles. Slope of the stop is moderate but, because of the well developed brow, it may appear abrupt in profile. The muzzle is clean-cut, broad throughout its length, and deep. Depth and length are approximately equal, the length from tip of nose to stop being less than that from stop to occiput. The top of the muzzle is rounded, and the bridge, in profile, is straight or only slightly arched. Teeth meet in a scissors or level bite. Dropped lower incisors, in an otherwise normal bite,are not indicative of skeletal malocclusion and should be considered only a minor deviation.
Head: The head is massive with a broad skull, slightly arched crown and strongly developed occipital bone. The forehead and face are smooth and free from wrinkles. The stop is not abrupt. The muzzle is clean-cut and covered with short fine hair. It is rather square, deep and moderately short. The nostrils are well developed. The bitch's head follows the same general conformation, but is feminine and less massive. A narrow head, snipey or long muzzle is to be faulted. Pronounced flews are not desirable. The eyes are dark brown, relatively small and deep set. They are spaced wide apart and show no haw. Round, protruding or yellow eyes are objectionable. The ears are relatively small and triangular with rounded tips. They are set well back on the side of the head and lie close. When the ear of the adult dog is brought forward, it reaches to the inner corner of the eye on the same side. The teeth meet in a scissor or level bite.
Head and skull: Head broad and relatively large, occipital bone well developed, no decided stop, muzzle short, clean cut and rather square, covered with short fine hair.
Eyes: Relatively small, dark brown, not showing haw, set rather wide apart. Free from obvious eye problems.
Ears: Small, set well back, square with skull, lying close to head, covered without fringe.
Mouth: Soft and well covered by lips. Scissor bite preferred, i.e. upper teeth closely overlapping lower teeth and set square to the jaws, but pincer tolerated.
There have always been different views on how to interpret a standard. This is not bad.
But the developments and the differences in interpretation may reach a point where the Newfoundland no longer looks like a Newfoundland.
To my mind we have reached that stage now and this worries many Newfoundland fanciers.
Two drawings are added which were done by Sibylle Welzbacher.
The first shows a head that highly conforms to the standards and follows its description point for point.
Compared to the other drawing, the other seems to be a caricature and I wish it was. But it is not: it shows the traits of modern show winners. Clearly they are overtyped. Also clearly this overtype causes health risks.
The head type tends to brachycephaly, something which does not belong to several of the breeds in FCI group and the working group in US/UK/Canada, but surely not the Newfoundland. If you look carefully, you see traits of the Mastino Napoletano, the Dogue de Bordeaux or the Mastiff in this head.
Tendency to brachycephaly in itself in our breed is a fault. But it is also a very unwanted trait as this may be accompanied by constricted nostrils, a long and thick palatum,and a modification of the larynx. Dogs which show this broader,deeper and shorter head type are prone to respiratory problems; they snore and pant, something we often hear in the Newfoundland nowadays. It simply does not belong in the breed.
The demand of the standards to have a square muzzle is not fulfilled in this type of head.
Also there is too much of skin in such dogs. There is no request for lots of skin on the head in the standards. This skin is wrinkling like in the Shar Pei and inconsequence the well known breed problem in the Shar Pei is no longer rare in the Newfoundland either (entropion).
With these deep and open lips, the Newfoundland cannot help it: he drools excessively. As a result, people do not want to be close to this ”monster” that is distributing his slobber all over and onto the ceiling. The love he tries to get from his humans often remains unanswered. Back into the cage and do not touch me.
And where are the triangular relatively small ears gone? Most of today's Newfoundlands have much too big and too deep set ears, which make them ”houndy”.
To my way of thinking it is an offence to let the breed develop traits which threaten its health. It should be penalized. And this happens in our breed in a time period where the main trend in cynology is aiming to combine beauty with health and to avoid traits which harm that aim.
In the name of our wonder full, noble,majestic, vigorous and proud Newfoundland my plea to the judges is: Please stop rewarding these overdone dogs. A Newfoundland should not look dull and lazy. Keep the Newfoundland as a working dog as it is meant to be, able to use all his senses at all times and bless with heroic attributes that make him into such a unique being.
The group offers many wonderful breeds who should have the head type some people are trying to lay down now in our breed. My request to these breeders is: when that type is your dream, please look elsewhere and do not destroy the uniqueness of our breed.
May I close with a citation of Ronald Pemberton (1998): 'Many breed standards suggest that quality known as 'Breed Character' – all those characteristics that blend together to create the ideal. Those characteristics in total should separate the Newfoundland from all the other working breeds. Any blends that remind a judge of other breeds are not correct for the Newfoundland. When any breed begins to look like another breed, it is wrong for its breed.'”
We certainly do not need the Thick-heads further ruining our beloved breed. Too many brilliant and well intentioned breeders of great merit have left the breed because of the Thick-head breeders. This is a sad state of affairs, but not beyond reclamation.