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'Do you realize how much these dogs shed and drool?'
Newfie 'best in show'may be worst at home
Lyla Miller
The Ottawa Citizen
Tom Lewinson, an Ottawa hobby breeder, was swamped with e-mails from people responding to his Internet ad selling six Newfoundland puppies, the new Best in Show breed.
CREDIT: Bruno Schlumberger, The Ottawa Citizen

When a 70-kilogram Newfoundland named Josh won "Best in Show" at the influential Westminster Kennel Club dog show in New York, Tom Lewinson's puppies became the dogs of the hour.

Literally overnight, the giant Newfoundland breed, ranked the 45th most popular in the United States, became the dog to have. Mr. Lewinson, an Ottawa hobby breeder, says hundreds of hopeful buyers were suddenly vying for his six Newfoundland puppies.

"I just can't believe it," he says of the surge in response to his Internet ad, selling the dogs for $1,500 apiece. "I'd say the couple of days after it happened, I was absolutely swamped with e-mails. We had maybe 30 to 40 e-mails a day."

Bainsville breeder Nina McNamara Cote is one of many greeting the Newfoundland's new trendiness with trepidation.

"I'm happy that the dog won. I just wish it wasn't a Newfoundland," she sighs.

"People don't know what they're getting into with a giant breed dog," she says. Newfoundlands can weigh up to 80 kilograms.

When an interested buyer calls, Mrs. Cote starts the conversation by trying to talk them out of buying a Newfoundland.

"We breeders, the first thing we ask is, do you realize how much these dogs shed and drool?" she says.

Then she ticks off the other deterrents. "They're expensive (up to $2,000). You're going to be spending a lot of money on vacuum cleaners. And when they're sick, you may as well bring your bank book to the vet."

Lynda McFadden, a breeder in Creemore, Ont., also had mixed feelings when she heard Josh took the Westminster prize. "The fear is, this is now going to be the dog of the day," she explains, "but a Newfie is not a dog for all people."

Think of the drool, she says. Huge gobs of slimy drool hanging out of the dog's mouth at all times. "If that would make them sick to their stomach, that's not a good Newfie family."

Then there's the fur. Newfoundlands have two coats of fur, an inner coat and an outer coat, which allows them to stay warm when they are wet. And that fur will shed, she stresses, all over the house.

Pat Coffey, who breeds Newfoundlands in Codrington, Ont., says the dogs also need daily grooming and years of obedience training.

"They need to learn their manners while they're young," she says, explaining that any frisky behaviour becomes a big problem when the dog weighs more than its owner.

Mrs. Coffey also worries that the surge in demand will be met by unreputable breeders motivated purely by profit. If breeding is not done correctly, she says, the dogs could inherit serious health problems.

All these warnings serve to safeguard the Newfoundland Dog-lover community against interlopers -- the people who would never have considered buying, or rather adopting, a Newfoundland if Josh hadn't won Westminster.

But even without the big win, it's a seller's market for Newfoundland breeders. This allows Mrs. Coffey to interview potential owners as if she were giving them a newborn baby. "We spend hours with them. We want to really get to know them," she says.

"We caused these puppies to be born and we are responsible for them from the day they are born to the day they die."

Mr. Lewinson knew exactly what he was getting into when he brought home Daisy, the mother of his six puppies, five years ago.

"We spent two years researching dog breeds, looking for the most human-friendly dog there is. It's like a big nanny," says Mr. Lewinson, who has four children.

Mr. Lewinson's puppies are all headed south of the border. He selected the six best applicants for Newfoundland puppy ownership from among the 150 candidates who e-mailed him, and invited them to come to his Ottawa home to pick up their new puppies. He says one couple is driving all the way from Oklahoma for Canadian-born stock.

While some breeders are willing to ship dogs, Mr. Lewinson insists on sending his off into the world face-to-face.

"I just hate the idea of putting a puppy on an airplane," he says.

 The Ottawa Citizen 2004

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