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Newfoundland Dog Water Rescue Training

Updated on October 30, 2017

Newfoundland dogs have been rescuing and saving peoples lives for centuries. Napoleon Bonaparte in 1815, was on a ship during his famous escape attempt, and during a bad storm was knocked overboard. A Newfoundland dog was aboard and immediately jumped into the sea to rescue Napoleon. The dog managed to keep this man afloat until reaching safety.

Not Every Dog is Cut Out to Be in Water Rescue

Dogs that are used for water rescue go through extensive training and testing before they are sent out to work. To become certified these dogs have to show that they have the ability, endurance and intelligence to carry out all different aspects of water rescue.

The Italian Dog Rescue School was founded in 1989 when Ferruccio Pilenga wanted to train his female Newfoundland and others to not only work in the water but also to save people.

Why The Newfoundland Dog

Double water resilient coats are great in cold water.

Large muscled tails work as a rudder.

Webbed feet work well for swimming.

Large lung capacity works well for long distance swimming.

They have the strength to tow boats while swimming through water.

Training And Testing For Water Rescue and Operative Water Rescue

The dog and his or her handler must be able to run 200-400 meters along a beach to show that they can work on land. The dogs must be able to run around people and other dogs without becoming distracted and dive into water to save the person that is drowning.

Other Breeds Trained For Water Rescue

The Leonberger, Labrador Retriever and the Golden Retriever are also among the dogs that are trained and work as water rescue dogs.

There are many tests that these dogs have to go through before they become certified as a Water Rescue Dog. Different scenarios are used which include saving a drowning person using a boat where the handler and dog paddle out to get close to the drowning person and then the dog has to jump into the water to save the person, bringing him back to the boat or the shore. The dogs are trained to tow boats that have lost engine power bringing them back to shore. Dogs must be able to swim beside their handlers, while not swimming ahead of the handler.


An endurance test is done to make sure that the dog and the handler can swim for 2 kilometers together. Diving from heights of two meters must be done quickly and efficiently. Dogs must be able to dive into the water and go and rescue someone that is 600 meters out from shore. Diving from a helicopter that is 1–2 meters above the water is the final test.

Please note that both handler and dog must pass all of these tests and more, and if anyone one of the tests are not completed a certificate will not be issued. After receiving the certificate a yearly renewal with testing must be done. Training usually takes three years for these dogs to attain expert level.

People Rescued

During the summer months in Italy 3,000 people are rescued every year according to the Italian Coast Guard and canine helpers rescue many of these people.


Training your Newfoundland dog or other breeds for water rescue does not mean that you have to go to Italy as there are many places this can be done across Canada the USA as well other countries.


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    • epigramman profile image


      9 years ago

      ....this is a really great, heartwarming and inspiring story Susan and it says as much about you as the writer, the person that you are - as it does about the story itself - bravo to you my esteemed fellow Canadian and thank you so much for your birthday wishes ....

    • Sharyn's Slant profile image

      Sharon Smith 

      9 years ago from Northeast Ohio USA

      Hi Susan,

      This is great info. I'm not familiar with the Newfoundland Dog but my partner's family breeds Golden Retrievers and I have seen first hand how smart they can be including becoming certified as Service Dogs. And the rescue dogs are simply amazing. Thanks for sharing this info.


    • Mrs. Menagerie profile image

      Mrs. Menagerie 

      9 years ago from The Zoo

      Great, interesting and informative hub. Voted Up!

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Richert 

      9 years ago from Southern Illinois

      Really a great story. Dogs are so smart and useful. Thank you.

    • Radioguy profile image


      9 years ago from Maine

      Great hub! I love dogs--all dogs!

    • dearabbysmom profile image


      9 years ago from Indiana

      We as the human race think we are "all that" but it seems to me on many levels dogs are the ones who have it all together. How interesting it is what the different breeds are capable of and comfortable with. My border collies are very bright, but the noise of a helicopter would send them to the moon. It's amazing that these dogs will not only ride in one, but will JUMP from one!

    • RealHousewife profile image

      Kelly Umphenour 

      9 years ago from St. Louis, MO

      You know I am a dog lover:) isnt it amazing what animals will do for humans? They are the most loyal of all friends. My Pomeranian will sleep at the foot of the stairs every night waiting and watching for intruders. Amazing as well, how a dog will risk it's life for it's owner. Fascinating animals:) up and awesome Susan!

    • Just Ask Susan profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Zutautas 

      9 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Pamela and barbergirl thanks so much for reading and for your comments.

      nightbear I have 2 newfs myself a male and a female but I don't breed them. They are wonderful dogs:)

    • nightbear profile image

      Susan Kaul 

      9 years ago from Michiagn, USA

      I love it!!!! how wonderful. My sister in law breeds and raises Newfies. they are incredible dogs. Great job!

    • barbergirl28 profile image

      Stacy Harris 

      9 years ago from Hemet, Ca

      Wow - absolutely amazing the things people can train dogs to do! They are wonderful creatures!

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 

      9 years ago from Sunny Florida

      Those dogs are just awesome. I really enjoyed this article. Voted/ rated awesome.

    • Just Ask Susan profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Zutautas 

      9 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      dahoglund Dogs sure make the world a nicer place.

      Sue glad you liked it. I agree they are all heart.

    • SueShepard profile image


      9 years ago from USA

      Great article! Dogs are amazing creatures. Whether they are by your side as a pet or out saving a life, they are all heart.

    • dahoglund profile image

      Don A. Hoglund 

      9 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      All the things that dogs can be used for is extraordinarily Interesting, Interesting information about hese rescue dogs.


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