Landseer

Catharine Hennessy
Dr Catharine Hennessy (DVM, North Carolina State University)
 
Photo of adult Landseer

The Landseer, a member of the mastiff family, is a working dog that originated in the Newfoundland region of Canada. These giant dogs are closely related to the Newfoundland, and are often recognised only as a colour pattern and not a distinct breed. However, selective breeding has occurred in the Netherlands, Germany and Switzerland that sets these dogs apart from their Canadian forebears.

Landseers excel in swimming and have been used primarily to haul in fishing nets. But, they are also known for water rescue. These dogs are a delightful addition to the family, due to their calm nature, affable personality, trainability, and gentleness and love for children of all ages. They shed copiously twice yearly and drool moderately, which may be a problem for families that prefer a spotless house. Their average life span is 10 years.

About & History

The exact origin of the Landseer dogs is unknown, but their beginnings are attributed to the Newfoundland region in Canada. Likely related to the St. Bernard, English Mastiff and Great Pyrenees, this breed was developed in Canada to assist fisherman. Breeding of working dogs continued, giving rise to the St. Johns water dog (lesser Newfoundland now extinct) that is the ancestor of current retrievers. Newfoundlands remained a distinct working breed in Canada for centuries. Conflicting evidence exists regarding the initial appearance of these dogs in England. Importation from Canada occurred in large numbers in the 1800s, but there is evidence in literature that suggests earlier introduction. The black and white coat colour of the Newfoundland breed was made famous in a painting by Sir Edwin Landseer in 1838. The unnamed subject was a large black and white dog celebrated for saving at least 20 lives. The specific coat pattern was noted thereafter as Landseer.

Black and white (or Landseer) Newfoundlands were bred specifically in the Netherlands, Germany and Switzerland beginning in the late 1800s and became known regionally as Landseers – a distinct breed. The breed was maintained during the World Wars and were referred to as Landseer European Continental Type (ECT). These dogs are recognised as a distinct breed by the Federation Cynologique Internationale (FCI) and several kennel clubs (but not the Kennel Club or the American Kennel Club). For the purposes of this article, Landseer dogs will be considered distinctly from black and white Newfoundlands.

Appearance

Landseer Large Photo

The Landseer is a giant breed with a noble appearance. The head is massive and broad but with a short, square muzzle. The forehead has a defined stop. The eyes are somewhat deep set, almond shaped and are dark brown colour. The haw should not show. The ears are triangular and pendant, set high on the head. The head and ears are covered with fine fur, and lips should be clean and black, with slight overlap of upper lips.

The neck of the Landseer is muscular, broad and thick, but relatively short. The chest is also broad and deep, leading to a slight abdominal tuck. The back is straight and broad, from muscular shoulders to a strong, well-developed croup. The tail is long with a slight curl at the end. It is carried low with a sweeping motion. The legs are long and well-boned, with dense muscling, leading to large, webbed feet.

Male Landseers are larger than females, averaging 59 to 68 kg and 72 to 80 cm in height. Female Landseers average 45 to 54 kg and 67 to 72 cm in height. Coat colour is always white with black patches on the body. The head is black with a white blaze and muzzle, leading to a black nose. The forechest, legs, ventrum and tail should be white. The thick, double coat contains oils for waterproofing, and despite its thickness, lays flat. The stride is long and ground covering, with a freedom of movement due to the long legs. Landseers are strong and fast swimmers with incredible drive and stamina in the water.

Character & Temperament

Landseers are intelligent working dogs, but are always even-tempered and gentle. If drool and shedding are not a concern (both of which are copiously produced), this breed is the perfect family dog, due to their peaceful and loving nature. They are tolerant of and loving to children, other pets, and visitors. They prefer to be inside with the family, and love to spend the day lounging on the couch. While not aggressive, they will protect their family by standing between strangers and owner if danger is perceived, making them excellent guardians.

While this breed is not prone to separation anxiety, they resent being left in a kennel or outside alone all day. Despite their massive size, Landseers are comfortable in a small apartment as long as they have a daily walk of at least 30 minutes.

Trainability

Photo of Landseer puppy

Landseers are easy to train, especially in a confident family that uses positive training techniques. They are intelligent, learn tasks quickly, and have excellent recall. They love to please and respond well to calm, clear commands. They are generally not stubborn, but due to their size, tend to move slowly and should not be punished for being slow to respond.

Health

Similar to other giant breed dogs, Landseers generally have a shorter life span of 10 years. However, they can live for up to 14 years, and accommodations may need to occur later in life to address mobility issues. Following are breed-associated health problems that can occur in these gentle dogs.

  • Hip and Elbow Dysplasia – These are developmental diseases that can be minimised with careful breeding (not breeding affected individuals). Large breed dogs, including Landseers, are prone to developing one or both of these conditions, which can lead to osteoarthritis later in life. Hip dysplasia is characterised by abnormal development of the hip joint causing excessive wear leading to inflammation and arthritis. Elbow dysplasia occurs when the cartilage becomes separated from the bone, or fails to develop normally, leading to arthritic changes, sometimes earlier in life. The development of elbow dysplasia is likely multifactorial, including genetics, nutrition, and trauma.
  • Gastric Dilatation and Volvulus (Bloat) – As with all deep chested dogs, Landseers are prone to developing this condition. When dogs eat or drink too fast, gas can build up in the stomach, enlarging it and pinching off the esophagus, preventing escape of the gas. As the stomach expands, it can rotate, which cuts off blood supply, rapidly leading to shock. This is an emergency, which often requires surgical intervention. Prevention by slowing down eating and drinking is crucial.
  • Cystine Uroliths – Cystine bladder stones are a rare type of stone that forms in dogs with impaired renal absorption of cystine. All bladder stones can lead to frequent infections, pain, bladder inflammation, and urinary obstruction. Cystine stones are difficult to diagnose because they cannot be seen on a radiograph. Surgical intervention is usually necessary, followed by a low protein, alkalinising diet that is high in water, and sometimes daily medication. There is a genetic test for Newfoundlands that can identify the carriers of this mutation.
  • Ear Infections – Since Landseers love to swim and have moderately-sized hanging ears, they are prone to developing otitis externa due to the trapping of moisture and debris in the external ear canal. Weekly cleaning and thorough drying following a swim will help minimise recurrence.
  • Subaortic Stenosis – This heart defect is common in large breed dogs, including Landseers. It is a genetic condition characterised by a narrowing of the aorta just beyond the valve. The narrowing, if severe, can cause increased workload on the heart, which leads to damage and potentially failure over time. Symptoms can be mild (murmur only), moderate (exercise intolerance and weakness), or severe (breathing difficulty, syncope and sudden death). If the stenosis is severe, a catheter can be passed with a balloon that dilates the narrowing. This can help minimise the symptoms, but daily medication to reduce blood pressure and cardiac workload are usually still necessary.

Exercise and Activity Levels

Landseers are largely sedentary dogs, preferring to laze on the couch with the family instead of participating in vigorous activity. However, they are bred for endurance and swimming, so daily exercise is critical to keep them healthy, prevent obesity and keep their minds stimulated. Thirty minutes to one hour of walking is usually needed every day, regardless of the weather. Since these dogs have such a thick coat, walking during the cooler times of the day is critical to prevent heat stroke.

While swimming is not necessary, Landseers are happiest when provided with the opportunity to swim. When presented with water, their enthusiasm will generally be difficult to contain.

Grooming

The grooming needs of the Landseer are extensive and should be carefully considered prior to obtaining the breed. Since they have a double coat, these dogs need to be brushed at least once a week, and generally more often to keep the oils distributed and the coat from matting. Bathing is not usually necessary unless they are dirty, as this will strip the coat of healthy oils. Shedding occurs twice a year, and extra brushing will be required during those times. The nails are large and thick, and regular nail trimmers may not be strong enough. Regular grinding (at least monthly) can help keep the nails short.

Famous Landseers

While Landseers are not recognised as a breed by all kennel clubs, there are a few famous examples of these magnificent creatures in show business and popular culture.

  • Roxie from the film, A Dog’s Purpose
  • Nana from the original script for Peter Pan who was tasked with babysitting the kids
  • Pilot, Mr. Rochester’s dog from the novel, Jane Eyre

Cross-Breeds

Cross-breeding of the more common Newfoundland dogs is beginning to occur (with poodles, retrievers, and Bernese Mountain dogs), but there are no common cross-breeds with Landseers at this time.

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