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Almost all newfoundlands love swimming. The Newfoundland Dog is bred for water work, and they instinctively possess strong traits for water rescue. They are exceptionally well built for it as they have 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.

Waterwork is a very nice hobby you can start, as it is very good exercise and usually very enjoyable for you both. You can start waterwork as a puppy. Just remember that the puppy coat is not like the adult coat and you will have to be more careful with it. A puppy coat will usually sink and will not protect the dog from the cold water. You will have to dry the puppy always after swimming. An adult coat is a double coat, which you can leave it to dry after a swim. Do not use a towel to dry an adult Newfoundland (see Hotspot).

The water rescue instincts of the Newf are particularly evident when children or other family members are in the water. The Newf takes hers life guarding responsibilities very seriously, quite often circling around and herding hers "family" to shore. 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.

If your Newfoundland does not like water, do not force it in. You can try calling it, giving a treat or going in yourself, though usually Newfoundland don’t have this problem. You can start waterwork alongside any other hobbies. For fun training you only need a dummy and a rope. You can start with fetching ropes and dummies, saving people (pull them only as adults) and towing boats (pull them only as adults). You can start the saving and pulling with lighter equipment for a puppy. You can also start waterwork training on land during the winter months.

The water rescue test for Newfoundlands have been created to promote these rescue skills, and to encourage the continuation of this rescue instinct.

Waterwork as our hobby

As total stangers to the hobby, we started with the Belgian Newfoundland Club's trainings. We continued there because that was our only option: we didn't know much about anything. Eventually we found other clubs practicing waterwork in Belgium. They had different ways of training and we learned a lot.


Now we are a part of the International Water Rescue Dog Academy (IWRDA). We train every week for 2-2.5h from March untill November every Wednesday and every other Sunday. The IWRDA trainings differ from the usual way of trainings. Instead of just staying on land and commanding the dog from there, we guide the dogs from water and swim with them (when learning new things or when necessary). It's easier and much more rewarding to actually work with the dog, not just command it. Unlike in most training groups, there's usually more than one of the dogs in the water at the same time doing different things.


The goal of the academy is to restore and further develop the use of newfies and landseers in water. IWRDA is a part of the Belgian Rescue Federation. We have to participate in courses and pass tests and get diplomas in order to stay in the club and train.  The main idea for the club is not to participate in tests, but to be able to work in real life situations.

Land training is a part of the process of becoming a true rescue dog. It is very similar to normal obedience training, with the addition of a boat, a rope, and "drowning people". Using your own initiative you can find new ways of training and ways to correct mistakes made in water.

During our summer holidays in Finland, we have been to Teija Lakka's water work trainings in Valkeala. That is the only time of the year when we train specifically for tests. It is hard for the dogs to understand that we cannot swim with them and not use too many commands. Usually it takes a while for them to get used to it.
We prefer the IWRDA method.

We have been to watertests in Finland, Belgium, United Kingdom and Germany.



One Sunday afternoon (waterwork training story)

Waterwork training with friends (waterwork training story)

Waterwork camp Finland 2009 (recap)

International Waterwork Meeting 2010 - at Dienville (France) (recap of our weekend)

A weekend training with the S.I.C.S, Italy 2010

Summer holidays and International Water Rescue Camps in Estonia and Finland 2011

International Water Rescue Camp - New Zealand 2012 (recap)

International Water Rescue Camp - USA, Oregon and Michigan 2012  (recap)

(c) Salmelin