Posted 2 months ago ago
by Caroline Abbott
Many of us would struggle to imagine what it’s like to live with one, let alone EIGHT Newfoundlands – so there’s no-one better to ask than dog lover, groomer and breeder Emma Bone, who has first-hand experience.
Emma, 33, lives in rural Northumberland with her husband, Mark, 40, and their three sons, Wade, 10, Tate, 4, and Zach, 1. The family recently appeared on the Channel 4 documentary Big Dog Britain – but their numbers have grown since filming as they now have eight Newfies: Granny Bay, 7, Moonie, 6, Dom, 4, Flute, 4, Roo, 4, Monroe, 3, Tuppence, 2, and Kit, 6 months. They also have two Chow Chows and two Sphynx cats.
“It’s hard to explain what it’s like from an outside perspective because it’s so normal for us,” said Emma, who has a YouTube channel called Living With Big Dogs. “People probably think we’re crazy. We probably are. But it’s the lifestyle we chose and we wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Some of the Bones family's dogs (Image: Emma Bone)
Emma fell in love with Newfies at the age of around 12, when she saw a couple behind an iron gate and thought they looked like “huge great teddy bears” – an image that always stuck with her.
It wasn’t until she got her first house and had her eldest son that she decided she wanted a dog of her own. She said: “I researched the breed and realised they’re absolutely amazing with children. I was keen on that, as I had a two-year-old.
“I love their wonderful, gentle temperament, their presence. They’re fun, they’re quirky. You can do stuff with them, like go swimming as they love the water.”
They got their first Newfoundland, Dexter, nine years ago. “He had been quite badly bred and suffered with multiple health issues,” said Emma. “That took me to where I am now, a breeder.”
Emma learned as much as she could about the breed, which led to her showing, exhibiting and handling her dogs at Championship show level and eventually breeding her own dogs.
Granny Bay, when she was Mummy Bay, and puppies (Image: Emma Bone)
Emma has been breeding Newfoundlands for nearly five years, under the name Newfangled Newfoundlands, and is one of just a few licensed Newfie breeders in the UK. They have between one and four litters a year.
“Newfoundlands are prone to joint issues and heart problems so we extensively test our breeding dogs. We only breed from dogs that pass the health tests,” said Emma. “We don’t sell to just anybody. We like to have a relationship. We really care about the dogs.”
An adorable Newfoundland puppy (Image: Emma Bone)
You might assume the dogs sleep in kennels, but they have the run of the ground floor of the house and usually sleep in the kitchen.
Emma said: “They like anywhere that’s cool. They’re a big, double-coated breed and they don’t do well in the heat.
“We don’t allow them upstairs because it’s not good on their joints to have access to stairs all the time.”
The family moved from Sunderland to their current home – around half an hour outside Hexham, within a national park – three years ago, so that there was more room for their dogs. They had three at the time.
Moonie was at the couple's wedding (Image: Emma Bone)
They have a couple of acres of land where they can exercise the dogs. There’s a stream running through the bottom of their garden and a paddock which has access to the River Tyne.
“The dogs absolutely love to swim,” said Emma. “We ran into a fisherman a couple of weeks ago – I think he got a shock!”
The dogs are walked together on their land. They sometimes go out in public to see family or visit the dog park – but usually no more than three at a time.
“Obviously it’s a lot of dog,” said Emma. “Every Newfoundland owner has a dog van. Our van is off-road at the minute so we’re folding the seats down in the car when we haven’t got the kids or shopping in the back. We could probably fit five dogs in the van but we wouldn’t be able to fit them all into it.”
The adult dogs are happy with an hour of exercise a day – and the puppies need less. “They’re quite a lazy breed so after their exercise they plonk themselves down and we navigate around them, wherever they’ve chosen to lie. If they lie in a doorway, you’re stepping over them, and you’re fighting your way into cupboards. They get in the way quite a lot.”
"It's a lot of dog." (Image: Emma Bone)
The family tries not to stick to a set routine because it would be chaos if the dogs knew it was their dinnertime. Emma guessed it costs around £500 a month to feed the dogs. They eat the appropriate kibble for their life stage, with the puppies and senior dogs having different diets to the rest.
“Newfoundlands are notorious for gaining weight quite easily, so you have to be really careful,” said Emma.
She said the dogs are “hard work” and she has to clean up after them “pretty much non-stop”.
Emma said: “They’re big dogs and they love water. It doesn’t mix well in a house environment, which is another reason they’re not allowed upstairs. We towel them off and blast them dry but they shake off in the house. The slobber even gets on the ceiling. They shake and the hair sticks to that; it’s like glue. The dust in their coats gets around the house. Washing down cupboards, mopping the walls, you name it – it’s a full-time job.”
She’s exaggerating slightly as she’s got a dog grooming business, Bellingham Dog Spa, which she says comes in handy when you’ve got 10 dogs.
“Newfies aren’t the kind of dog you can leave so our lifestyle revolves around the dogs,” said Emma. “There’s always someone here with them.”
Emma's son Wade having a cuddle (Image: Emma Bone)
Her oldest son prefers cats to dogs but he will spend time with them, kissing them and stroking them. “I’m holding out hope that one of the younger boys might be interested in the show world or dog breeding world,” said Emma. “They’re a bit too young to be overly involved [now] but they’ve never known life without the dogs.”
Emma said she wouldn’t recommend Newfies to everyone, but if they are the breed for you, “have several – they’re very addictive!”
She added: “People need to do their research. A lot of people will buy a car and put in tons of research, and then they’ll go online and buy the next available puppy. People need to put in the same level of research – in my eyes, a puppy is a hell of a lot more important than a car.”
Much as she loves the breed, Emma said they will stick with eight. “I think we’re at capacity now,” she said. “We haven’t got any more floor space.”