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The Newfoundland is a working breed. They excel at traditional activities such as water rescue, draft and carting and have adapted to fill many useful roles in modern society, from therapy dogs, to assistance dogs, to search and rescue. The Newfoundland is an intelligent dog with a strong desire to please and work.
Each year NEWFFLA hosts draft and water seminars to prepare dogs and their handlers to test for a title. NEWFFLA has hosted Draft testing for over ten years, welcoming participants from across the South. NEWFFLA is extremely proud that several of our members were the first in the nation to get DDX titles. Heidi Peterson, with Rush, was the first in the nation and they were also the first requalifier. Taylor Vinge, with her team, were the first team DDX, and she was also the first to do a 3 dog DDX team.
The basic definition of drafting (also referred to as "carting") is the act of pulling a cart or wagon. Though the Newfoundland dog has a long history of pulling logs for firewood or fisherman's nets to shore, the modern day Newfie pulls carts in the backyard to assist in yard work or maybe pulls a decorated cart in a holiday parade. Draft work is strenuous and requires both training and conditioning. Training may begin with young dogs to teach basic commands and control. As they become confident and consistent, when walking both on and off leash, they can be introduced to the specialized harness, followed by training shafts and then finally to pull objects. Lighter ones to begin with and then ultimately a lightweight cart or wagon. Keep in mind that growth plates are still forming until the dog is about two years old, and hard exercise can damage them so be careful when working with your dog. The youngest a newf can enter a draft test is 18 months old.
The Newfoundland dog is built exceptionally well for water rescue. Newfs have a thick water-resistant double coat, webbed feet, ears that cling close to the head, and a strong muscled tail that acts as a rudder. They have a swimming style that resembles the breast stroke.
The Newfoundland dates back hundreds of years and they were constant companions for fishermen, and therefore, boats would often not head out to sea without a Newfoundland on board. Because they are natural swimmers, they have a long history of grabbing onto the ropes of sinking ships and hauling them back to shore. Due to their innate water rescue instincts, they are likely to dive in to the water if they believe someone is in distress, either waiting for the person to grab onto them or grabbing the person's arm to pull them to safety. The Newfoundland Club of America has three Water Test titles that can be awarded: WD (Water Dog); WRD (Water Rescue Dog), and WRDX (Water Rescue Dog Excellent). Each contains six exercises, all of which must be passed to earn a title.
This is a sport in which a handler directs a dog through an obstacle course in a race for both time and accuracy. During the obstacle course, the handler cannot touch the dog or obstacles, so the handler must possess an exceptional bond with the dog. This is a great way for your dog (and you) to get both physical and mental exercise. It is the ultimate game for you and your Newf, and it is also exciting to watch! There are many different agility titles and several organizations that offer agility trials including AKC, USDAA, and CPE.
Nose work (aka Scent Work) provides an opportunity for dogs to learn how to search for a specific odor or odors and find the source. Dogs have a sense of smell that's between 10,000 and 100,000 times more acute than humans! The dog starts by searching for their favorite toy or food hidden in a variety of places, and then the difficulty level is increased. Dogs easily burn a lot of mental and physical energy during these searches, so if you need an activity for your dog, this may be worth looking into!
A therapy dog is one that is trained to provide comfort and companionship to people in hospitals, schools, libraries, retirement and nursing homes, airports or disaster areas. The dog and owner work as a team and it is highly recommended that you and your Newfoundland be certified. (Most facilities you visit will require this certification.) Most national therapy dog organizations will offer liability insurance coverage, as well as the temperament/situation testing for your dog. Depending on where a pet will visit, local certifications may be required as well. Many hospitals have their own requirements for pet therapy teams to complete prior to volunteering. Individuals should research the types of certification, training, or other requirements needed to determine where their pets would best be utilized. Because the Newfoundland is known as the Gentle Giant, they make excellent therapy dog candidates. They bring a calming influence to children who may be struggling with reading, a patient in a hospital or to senior citizens who just need to pet the dog, no talking needed. Involvement with any aspect of therapy work can be extremely rewarding for you and your dog. Please keep in mind therapy dogs are not service dogs. They do not have access to all the public places, such as planes or restaurants that a service dog does.
The American Kennel Club (AKC) awards five titles to Therapy dogs:
AKC approved Therapy Dog certification organizations in FL: (this may not be a complete list):
Obedience Developed in the 1930's, Obedience is one of the AKC's oldest sporting events. Obedience trials feature dogs that are well-behaved both at home and in public places and they also must conduct themselves suitably around other dogs. Whether or not you want to compete, every dog owner should consider some level of obedience training. It's a great way to establish good communication skill between you and your dog.
AKC Obedience Titles
Rally is a relatively new AKC event, started in 2005. It is a fun family sport where you and your dog navigate a course, side-by-side. Communication between the handler and dog is encouraged during the course which is comprised of 10-20 signs made up of obedience-style tasks. You and your dog move continuously throughout the course (without touching the dog) and the team that scores the highest in the shortest amount of time takes top prize.