The Newfoundland dog is a large working dog. They can be either black, brown, grey or white-and-black (called Landseer). They were originally bred and used as a working dog for fishermen in the Dominion of Newfoundland (which is now part of Canada). They are known for their giant size, intelligence, tremendous strength, calm dispositions, and loyalty. Newfoundland dogs excel at water rescue/lifesaving because of their muscular build, thick double coat, webbed feet, and innate swimming abilities.
I spent this past weekend at the North Central Newfoundland Club’s water test. I have been so curious about water work and training and I was able to watch dogs and their handlers (owners) perform exercises for two different levels of Newfoundland Dog water titles.
The junior level title is Water Dog. The senior level title is Water Rescue Dog. I took loads of pictures and met and talked to so many people about their training. While it is very challenging to pass all of the requirements, all of them were there with big smiles on their faces as they worked through the course with their dogs. It was clear that the main objective of the day was to have fun with their dogs and if they got the title, that was a bonus.
I was a steward (volunteer) assigned to one of the senior level (WRD) exercises, so I had the morning off to observe and learn about the junior level (WD) test. My friend Ashley was there with her dog Cass and allowed me to photograph them so that I could have pictures for the blog.
The Water Dog test is composed of 6 different exercises that rely on their basic instincts of retrieve, carry and pull. They are: Basic Control, Single Retrieve, Drop Retrieve, Take A Line, Tow A Boat and Swim With Handler.
- Basic control is a non-water exercise that is the starting point. The dog must show that he can stay by his owner’s side, listen and respond to commands, and be trusted to be off leash for the duration of the test. It starts with controlled walking, staying close to their handler’s side, doing an about turn and a halt and sit. They also must do a sit-stay, come when called and finish with a sit in front of their handler.
A lot can go wrong, they need to stay close, listen to commands, not bolt out of the area or charge the water (which of course they all love). That temptation was too much for Cass and he broke free and tried to go for a swim. Ashley was able to get him under control so they didn’t pass this section, but were allowed to continue on with the test. Another dog ran away from the area, demonstrating that he wasn’t under control and wasn’t allowed to continue on with the rest of the test.
2. Single Retrieve: The handler throws a bumper into the water and the dog fetches and delivers it. All items must be delivered to the handler’s hand, not dropped on the ground before they return. This exercise is an easy and fun one for them and all of the dogs passed.
3. Drop Retrieve: A steward rows out and quietly places a life jacket or boat cushion in the water so that the dog doesn’t immediately see it. The dog is sent to fetch it and returns the article to shore and into their handler’s hand.
What can go wrong? Sometimes the dog just doesn’t find it or chooses not to swim out and get it. On the first day, Cass swam half way and then returned without it. The stewards went back out and picked up the cushion. On day 2, he nailed it with no hesitation!
4. Take A Line: The dog carries one end of a long line from land to a calling steward who is treading water. They go around the steward and then return to shore. Since this is the Junior level, the steward is allowed to greet the dog before they enter the water so that they can create a friendly bond before the dog is sent to take the line.
Cass struggled with this all season, but he nailed it! This proved to be very difficult for many dogs and they did not pass this exercise.
5. Tow A Boat: A steward in a boat waves a bumper with a rope attached and calls the dog. The dog leaves shore and swims out, grabs the bumper and tows the boat back to shore and beaches the boat.
Cass executed this beautifully! He’s such a strong and powerful dog, it was fun to watch. This exercise seems to be a favorite for many dogs, even the smaller dogs showed no problems or hesitation bringing in the boat.
6. Swim With Handler: The dog and handler wade into the water together and then swim together until the judge signals that they’ve gone the required distance, then they turn around and the dog tows the handler into shore.
Many handlers have said this is one of their favorite exercises. Look how closely these two swam together!
At the end of the weekend, out of 10 dogs entered, 2 dogs got their WD title (unfortunately not Cass), but everyone had a wonderful time. Tomorrow I’ll post about the Senior level, WRD.