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Are Newfoundlands Aggressive? [Are They A Protective Breed?]

Newfoundlands are a strong, muscular dog breed; reaching up to 30 inches in height and weighing up to and over 70kg. Being so large, naturally you will want to know if they are aggressive in nature; and what their average temperament is like. Intrigued, I spent some time researching the Newfoundland breed. Below, I will share with you all that I managed to find.

So, are Newfoundlands aggressive? Newfoundlands are generally not aggressive. They are typically very gentle in temperament. However, they are more likely to become aggressive if they have not been socialized and trained properly from an early age. Other causes for aggression include being in an uncomfortable situation, a dog or a person triggers them or due to an illness or injury.

Newfoundlands were once used to haul wood from the woods and pull the nets for fisherman. It comes as no surprise considering their physique and power.

They are still used as working dogs, but they are predominantly kept as companions for many households. They have a number of preferable traits; being lovely with children and loving with their owners.

Like any dog, a Newfoundland needs socialization while still a puppy.

It’s essential to invite visitors over to regularly meet your dog, and you should also look to take them on walks in parks, when busy.

Take them with you wherever you can, introducing them to people in a variety of different settings. This will provide them with the social skills they need to be a well-adjusted, non-aggressive dog.

Let us now take a closer look at the average temperament of a Newfoundland, along with their tendencies to display acts of aggression.

We will also be taking a look at some of the potential triggers and proactive measures to ensure you have a more stable, well-behaved dog.

Newfoundland Temperament

Newfoundlands are generally known for being sweet-tempered, gentle and non-aggressive. They are for the most part, calm and generally quiet in nature.

They are a very sociable breed and tend to behave well around most people, but are especially good with and around children. Being so sociable, they are known to need more companionship than required with some other breeds.

The early ancestors of the Newfoundland were mostly working dogs and were excellent at their duties. Not only for their physical strength but because they are so loyal, and they take instruction well.

The Newfoundland of today is mainly kept as a family pet than for work, but many of these tendencies live on. They are no less loyal to their owners, but they do like to be kept busy.

Newfoundlands do need socialization from a young age. Their enormous size, coupled with no social skills is not a good combination. Otherwise, these dogs can misbehave and acquire bad traits that will be hard for any owner to reign in once they mature.

Thankfully, this breed is easily trainable and owners often find they take to appropriate strategies relatively quickly .

While Newfoundlands are not an aggressive breed by nature, any dog, even those considered to be the most gentle ones, can become aggressive. Given the right context or situation.

Once you bring a Newfoundland home, you must get them used to new situations, sounds, and people.

Nip hostile behaviors in the bud, correct immediately upon any barking, growling, snapping, or biting (even if playful).

Newfoundlands love their owners and want to please them, so you must make your Newfie aware of what pleases you.

Are Newfoundlands Protective?

Despite Newfoundland dogs being relatively docile and friendly, they can be very protective of their owners if they sense danger from a stranger or a given context.

So much so, that Newfoundlands are sometimes referred to as “nanny dogs”. This is hardly surprising as they are such great guardians of children.

Newfoundlands are not often recommended as watchdogs or guard dogs this does not mean they cannot, nor would not, play such a role for their family if they felt the need to. And due to being large and powerful, this is not such an undesirable trait.

Beyond this, Newfoundlands have been known to play a protecting savior role. They are proficient swimmers and have been used on rescue operations to save people from drowning.

There are many stories and reports of how these dogs have rescued sailors that were left stranded in the sea as their ships sank. Yes, these dogs are strong enough to pull human beings through rough seas and get them to safety.

All in all, this breed wants to protect and serve their owner, as much as they can. They will go great lengths to do so.

What Can Make A Newfoundland Aggressive?

Newfoundlands are not generally aggressive, but can be within particular circumstances or contexts. This is true for any breed.

Newfie puppies are most likely to display aggressive behaviors, but that is easily remedied with training and early socialization. With age a lot of these tendencies are also likely to naturally subside.

Nonetheless, let us explore in more detail what can make these normally gentle-natured dogs more prone to bouts of aggression:

Other Dogs

It’s common for dogs to meet and socialize with other dogs at the park. Sometimes, they will attack, bite and nip at each other and you’ll often see it across all breeds and ages.

These kind of interactions do not always go down so well, and can cause your Newfie to get on the defensive.

If your dog is a regular at the same park, they may even become territorial over certain areas – not taking kindly to other dogs trying to assert their dominance.

This is most likely to arise in male Newfies, whom act out aggressively towards other male dogs. But it can occur in females too.

Other dogs might also frighten your Newfie, and frightened dogs often respond to fear with aggressive behaviors.

The next time your dog is at the park, carefully observe your dog’s behavior and be prepared to leave quickly if your companion seems anxious or nervous.

Visits To The Vet

Vets are some of the most dedicated, animal lovers you will ever meet.

However, this job involves handling painful procedures.

Many pets, including Newfoundlands, can develop an early aversion of the vet, especially after their first vaccinations.

Aggression in canines is often rooted in fear, and it can cause your sweet dog to show their teeth.

You may observe when taking your Newfie to the vet they become anxious. At the vets, once they recognize where they are and remember what happened there before, could then respond more aggressively.

Loud Noises

Any situation that causes fear in your dog can make them aggressive.

Sudden noises can trigger a hostile response; noises include thunder, fireworks, or a balloon popping.

Uncomfortable Situations

There are many uncomfortable situations for a dog; especially the first time they encounter them.

If there are any sudden movements, suspicious people or if there is just too much going on around your dog, they can become frightened and act out aggressively. This is more likely to occur if they feel penned in without anywhere to go.

Illness or Injury

If you have had your Newfoundland for some time and they begin to act aggressively all of a sudden, chances are they are sick or injured.

This is most commonly observed in growling, biting, or snapping behaviors.Essentially they are trying to protect, or cover up, an injury or sickness that is causing them stress and discomfort.

Possible causes of pain include bone fractures, arthritis, internal injuries, and lacerations.

Equally, certain illnesses can affect your dog’s brain, making them act out of character and lash out.

Brain diseases, tumors, and conditions like cognitive dysfunction can elicit the onset of aggressive behavior. These problems can occur in older dogs but can also happen at any age.

You must avoid trying to treat any of these problems yourself; if your dog is sick, you need to know what exactly is wrong with them before you proceed with treatment.

Only a vet can advise what medications are suitable for your beloved Newfie.

How To Prevent Aggression In Newfoundlands

Before taking the necessary steps to prevent aggression in your Newfoundland, you must discard the notion that a dog who shows any sign of aggression is a lost cause that needs to be re-homed, put in a local shelter, or put down.

Even a sweet-natured dog breed can growl, snap, or even bite if they feel the situation calls for it. Its experienced by most dogs at some stage in their lifetime.

Situations that trigger aggression include feeling anxious, overstimulated, or annoyed. So, there is a twofold approach to take to prevent aggression.

First is identifying when these responses tend to occur for your dog and secondly, you can help them overcome these reactions.

Studies have shown that dogs’ brains are similar to human toddlers’ brains in the way they learn, feel, and develop attachments. The emotional centers of dogs and toddlers help them get through daily life by ritualizing their routines.

Newfoundlands are thankfully not an aggressive breed, so it should be easier to stop hostile reactions before they escalate.


Training your Newfoundland a range of commands will not only help you to limit acts of aggression, but can help alleviate tension and prevent situations from escalating to begin with.

It’s advised to teach the stop command, as this is a very useful and handy command suitable for a range of contexts.

For example, at the slightest of aggression, you can command your dog to stop. For example, if they bark at a passing dog while walking with you.

Once they learn to no longer bark at passing dogs, you must give them plenty of praise. Never be harsh with your Newfie, but be firm. They must know what is and isn’t tolerated.

Positive Reinforcement

You must reward good behaviors and encourage positive emotions in your Newfie.

Encourage your dog’s curious nature; it’s always a good idea to take your dog to a busy location like a park and let them sniff around.

They will see all kinds of people and other dogs. They will be exposed to new sights and sounds, which should make him less afraid when new situations arise. It’s okay to look around and be nosy, but aggression should not be tolerated.

Encourage Playtime

Encourage playtime with your Newfie, engage with them during playtime. This will keep their mind stimulated, and it will make them happy, and confident, and a happy dog is less likely to act aggressively.

Professional Dog Trainer

If your dog isn’t learning from positive reinforcement and doesn’t stop acting aggressively when you correct him, you must call on the help of a professional dog trainer.

They will be able to adopt techniques and strategies that should do the trick.

Consider Neutering/Spaying

The importance of neutering and spaying cannot be overstated; there are so many benefits to this procedure.

Getting your Newfie fixed should be high on your list of priorities.

Neutering eliminates the risks of certain types of cancer; it reduces the risk of other diseases too.

This procedure isn’t a solution to aggression in canines per se; however, male neutered dogs display less aggressive behavior than non-neutered dogs.

Neutered male canines tend to not fight with other male dogs as they have a lower drive to compete for females. This lower drive is as a result of a lack of testosterone surge that goes along with male dog development.

Visit The Vet

If a Newfoundland ever suddenly begins to act aggressively and out of character; it is recommended to consult a vet. They may even become more reserved during this time and less willing to play.

A vet will be able to inspect and examine your dog and with the right treatment, your dog should recover back to their normal, more balanced self.


The Newfoundland has a reputation for being a sweet dog with a wonderful temperament. They really are gentle giants. If you have children, these dogs take the role of the nanny, and do so with grace.

While Newfoundlands rarely act out aggressively, it can and does happen. This is true for all dog breeds given certain contexts.

As a responsible owner, with appropriate socialization and training of your dog from a young age, the chances of these displays reduce considerably.

So long as you take care of your dog, never punish them, and seek out the support of an animal behavioral specialist or dog trainer, you should have no problem when it comes to aggression.

And if you are looking to learn more about the Newfoundland breed, check out my other guides below: