It’s amazing that two breeds originating from the same area can turn out so different, although their first use was quite similar. The Newfoundland dog and the Labrador Retriever both originate from the Newfoundland island, where both breeds were used by fishermen as aid in fishing. Both breeds spent time in water catching fishnets, but where the Newfoundland turned out to excel in saving people in distress, the Lab turned out to be amazing at catching fish and retrieving it in his mouth, bringing it back to his master.
But that was a long time ago. If you want to know more details about the history of these dogs, please check out our videos on their specific backgrounds.
These days, Newfoundlands are more of a pet dog rather than a working dog, but they do love to work. In many countries, there are trials for waterwork, but the Newf also enjoys tasks like pulling a cart with kids.
The Labrador Retriever, on the other hand, is a gun or a sporting dog. With their soft mouths, they are amazing at retrieving dead game back to the hunter without causing damage to it. They also excel at other tasks, like nose work for the military or police, they work as service or assistant dogs for physically impaired or blind people, and they are amazing at search-and-rescue and drug and bomb detection.
The Newfoundland is the bigger of these two breeds, but this is by no means an inclination that the Lab is a small dog. On the contrary, the Lab is considered a large dog, while the Newf is among the giant breeds. A fully grown Newf is big enough for toddlers to ride on their back (although that may not be the best of ideas, but it COULD be done). The Newf reaches up to 28 inches, while the Lab reaches about 24,5 inches. A Newf can weigh up to 150 pounds (males), while the Lab can come up to 80 pounds – so there is quite the difference between the two. What you may want to take extra care of with the Lab, though, is his weight. They tend to enjoy their food a bit too much, so make sure your Lab doesn’t get obese, since this effects their general health, and in particular, their joints.
Where the Newf wins in size, the Lab excels in energy levels. He’s the kind of dog who likes to stay busy and entertained most part of the day. He needs his physical exercise, and playing ball in the backyard just doesn’t cut it. He needs long walks with structure, preferably several times a day. On top of that, he also loves to play, especially retrieving games if he doesn’t have the chance to retrieve during hunts. To spend his need for mental challenges, you might want to engage in canine sports like agility, rally obedience, dock diving, or similar.
The Newf, on the other hand, is a much more laid back dog. Due to their size, they shouldn’t be put through heavy exercise, but they are quite happy with long walks in the forest or, given their background, swimming.
Both of these amazing breeds are friendly, sweet and loving. None of them are the typical guard dog, but due to the size of them – especially if they are barking, should be quite enough to keep most unwanted visitors at bay.
Both of these breeds are considered good with children. The Newf is lovingly called the Nanny, and with their calmness, they are amazing with children of any size and age. The Lab might be better with older children, as their energy and wagging tail can fill the air with toddlers not at all wanting to fly. In general, there’s no limits to their love of children, though.
What needs to be remembered, no matter of breed or age of children, is that any time spent between dog and child should be supervised to avoid accidents or the dog getting tired of relentless children and thus feel the need to correct them in a doglike manner with growling or even nipping. Supervision and strict rules for both parts is the key for a healthy time together.
Both these breeds are intelligent and easy to train. They are loving and eager to please their people, but perhaps the Lab beats the Newf in this matter. He is considered to be one of the most intelligent breeds on the planet, after all. That being said, the Newf is far from stupid. But he may be just a tad more independent than the Lab who, due to his hunting ability, needs to work very closely with his person.
So, let’s dive into one area that’s always good to have some knowledge of before making the decision to get one breed or the other. Health.
Given that both these breeds are large and giant dogs, hip and elbow dysplasia should always be considered as a possible outcome, especially in their later years. Both breeds can suffer from various heart diseases, but due to their deep chests, they can also be taken with bloat which is a life-threatening condition. Labradors can also develop a condition called hereditary myopathy which means muscle weakness, they can get various eye conditions, and young adults can get exercise induced collapse – so make sure to not over-exercise your Lab while he’s young.
If taken care of properly with good, nutritious food, exercise that meets the dogs needs, a life with structure and frame, a loving but firm leadership, a Newf can stay with you for 9 – 10 years, while the smaller Lab can live up to 10 – 12 years.
No matter which breed is perfect for you, I wish you the best of luck in finding the perfect canine companion for you.