Whatever the reason, it allows us to witness the unique traits of a special breed. The Newfoundland’s large stature and powerful muscles, its waterproof coat and webbed toes all enable it to stroke through the water with the speed and endurance to rescue a drowning man.
There are many instances on record of Newfies saving lives in water disasters. To encourage these lifesaving instincts, in 1971, a group of enthusiasts developed plans for a water trial consisting of 12 exercises, six each in two divisions, junior and senior. Two years later, the Newfoundland Club of America sanctioned its first official rescue test in Michigan. Over time, the rules have changed, mostly from observing the dog’s natural instincts, but the original concept remains intact.
Junior division exercises are fundamental. The first one, basic control, takes place on dry land. The dog’s willingness and ability to perform its owner’s bidding are tested with heeling, a recall, and a down stay. The five remaining exercises are performed in the water and consist of retrieving a bumper, retrieving a life jacket or cushion, delivering a rope to a swimming steward, towing a boat, and swimming calmly with a handler. Accomplishing all six tasks results in a Water Dog title, issued by the NCA.
In the senior division, the dog must retrieve two articles in the proper order, leap from a boat to fetch a paddle, discriminate between three swimmers and then carry a life ring to the one in distress, retrieve underwater, carry a line from shore to a steward in a boat and then tow that boat to shore, and leap from a boat to save its handler, who has “fallen” overboard. A dog that passes these six exercises adds the title of Water Rescue Dog to its name.
Created over the past 3 years by the Working Dog Committee of the NCA, the newest division is Water Rescue Dog Excellent, or WRDX. This test is for the elite working dog, who shows a drive and stamina and instinctive working ability beyond most Newfoundlands. The six exercises consist of searching for an abandoned boat, and returning it to land; rescuing multiple victims from the side of a boat; rescue of an unconscious victim; a rescue of a victim under a capsized boat; delivering a line to shore from a stranded boat; and taking a line to mulitple drowning victims. Dogs who complete all 6 exercises earn the title of WRDX.
The WDC and NCA Board approved the final revisions to the WRDX test in February 2012.
The WRDX regulations are now part of the regular water test regulations. Due to adding WRDX into the regulations the WDC had to make some changes and updates to the general water test regulations. Also, the NCA Board had recently directed the WDC to update and clarify some sections of the water test regulations. Therefore, since so many changes had to be made to the general water test regulations all of the changes, updates and clarifications to WRDX and the general water test regulations have been left in red so that the changes are more obvious. They will remain in red for one year.
The WDC thanks the membership for their input and patience on this long project and hopes that they will be pleased with the changes and updates that have been made to clarify the water tests.