Bringing home a Newfoundland puppy is unlike raising any other puppy. Not only are they physically huge as puppies—which means giant-size fun and big messes—these large pups also take significantly longer to physically and mentally mature than smaller breeds.
This means particular training considerations, both when your puppy first comes home, and for the first couple of years of life. Keeping this in mind will help minimize your frustration with puppy antics and short attention spans, and give your dog a successful start to life.
10–12 weeks: Coming Home
Responsible Newfoundland breeders generally keep puppies a little longer than you might be used to with other breeds. As an extra precaution, Newf puppies receive a preliminary screening for heart conditions from a veterinary cardiologist before leaving their breeder and coming home to their new family. This cardiologist visit will occur when puppies are between 10–12 weeks. Because they tend to come home a little later, it’s also very important for Newfoundland puppies to get early safe socialization to sounds, textures, etc. while they are with their breeders as they go through their first fear period.
Hardwood or tile floors can be slippery, which can lead to joint strain for Newfs as they grow, so be prepared at home with area rugs out in your home to provide traction.
12–18 weeks: Sleepy Explorers
Once your Newfoundland puppy is home, it’s time to focus on building routines, potty training, introducing them to their crate, and teaching them simple obedience skills like “sit” and “down,” as well as polite leash walking. Use lots of small bits of treats and toys to reward the behavior you want. Newf puppies are exploring the world with their mouths at this time, so focus on teaching “give/drop” by “trading” for toys or other objects with treats. Grooming is a very important part of training for all dogs, but especially for heavy-coated dogs like Newfoundlands. Make sure your puppy begins to get comfortable with the experience of being groomed, including brushing, ear cleaning, and nail trims/sanding. Keep your grooming sessions short and fun, with lots of rewards.
If you haven’t already, enroll your Newfoundland in puppy class. Even if you have experience training dogs yourself, a good puppy class is an important opportunity for your Newf puppy to learn how to ignore distractions like other puppies. It’s also a chance for them to cement more of those good manners that will be important when they reach full size. Because Newf puppies at this age are still physically and mentally immature, they might spend part of each puppy class napping, but the experience is still valuable. Try to bring your Newf puppy to class well-rested.
Make it a priority to continue your pup’s socialization by safely exposing them to new people, sounds, places, and textures underfoot. But be thoughtful with how much exercise your Newf puppy is getting at home and on these socialization outings, as you’ll want to limit the amount of exercise they are getting to protect their growing joints. If your outing will involve lots of walking, plan to carry your Newf puppy (or invest in a large dog stroller).
4–8 months: Teddy Bear Phase
Even though your Newfoundland puppy is likely larger than other puppies their age (and many full-grown dogs), they’re still emotionally immature and can tire and get overwhelmed easily. They’ll also be growing rapidly and gaining coordination—some days it might feel like you blink and your puppy is suddenly a lot larger. Keep up with foundation training by safely and positively exposing your puppy to a variety of sounds, places, surfaces to walk on, and people of all ages. This is also a great age to (safely) begin to expose your Newfoundland to water. Slow and steady growth is important with these giants, and continue to limit the physical exercise your puppy is getting. Talk with your vet and breeder about how much exercise is safe as your puppy grows.
Stay positive and consistent with your training. Newfoundlands are extremely smart and biddable working dogs. It’s critical to maintain and build on their general manners and training. Remember behaviors like jumping up and mouthing won’t be as fun with a 100+ pound dog, so this is a time to really make sure you support your puppy with making good choices. A great way to do this is to reward behavior you like (like settling calmly as you eat, sitting when asked) and ignore undesired behavior.
8–12 months: Clumsy Clowns
Your Newfoundland has likely now grown from a small fuzzy puppy into a very large dog-shaped puppy. At this age, Newfoundlands don’t necessarily have a sense of their own size—a happy wagging tail can clear an entire coffee table. While most other breeds are starting to reach maturity, your Newfoundland puppy will just be getting started.
This is a great time to get involved with low-impact foundation training for different AKC sports like Rally, Tricks, and Obedience. Remember that your Newf is still a puppy, so short fun training sessions will keep them enthusiastic, engaged, and awake.
Also keep up the exposure to both new things and situations your puppy has previously experienced positively. Many dogs go through another fear period around this age, and, combined with changing body shapes and sizes, be prepared for your Newf to be a little spooked.
12–24 months: Teenagers
While most dogs are fully grown at this age, your Newfoundland will still be maturing physically and mentally. That cute little teddy bear puppy now has a mind of their own and some days it might feel like they’ve forgotten everything you taught them. Patience and consistency are key to training at this age.
Generally, after 18 months, Newfoundlands will finish growing physically. If you’re wanting to pursue high-impact sports like Agility, Dock Diving, or Draft, speak with your veterinarian to determine a safe age to slowly begin training. Your vet may want to take X-rays to ensure that growth plates are closed as well as to check for any signs of hip dysplasia or other physical conditions. Checking growth plates will also factor into decisions about spaying/neutering your Newfoundland if you (and your breeder) elect for you to do so.
2–3 years: Late Adolescence
You’ve made it! Your Newfoundland puppy is almost an adult. This is the sweet spot of late adolescence where the rest of the world will see your Newfoundland as an adult dog—and most days you’ll be able to see it too. There will still be moments of silly or mischievous teenage behavior with your Newf, but this is the time when all the consistency with training manners and life skills are paying off. That boisterous giant puppy is now acting more like a well-behaved and responsible adult.
Raising a puppy who can outweigh some adult humans comes with unique challenges and also big joys. Looking for more help? The Newfoundland Club of America has a wealth of information about the breed available for members and the public with hands-on support as you adjust to life with your Newfoundland puppy.