Newfoundlands (affectionately called Newfies) were originally bred in Canada as a working dog for fisherman, and excel at lifesaving water rescue due to their muscular build, double coat, and webbed feet. Their innate swimming abilities don't hurt either! The breed shares many traits with Mastiffs and St Bernards, and were descended from an indigenous dog in Newfoundland called the St. John's dog. Although some believe the vikings played a role in growing the breed combining them with black bear dogs, this is based primarily on legend rather than fact.
The breed was first recognized by the AKC in 1886, and comes in four different colors (but Canada has a set of requirements all their own!) Newfies are generally a very patient lot, and do well with children. Due to their large size and double coat, frequent groomings are a must. They generally do well with training, and take to water quickly. Newfies can adapt to warmer climates, but prefer something slightly cooler as their large size can coutneract the cooling work of their double coats.
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