Does your dog love to cool off from the summer heat by jumping into a pond, lake, or the ocean? Or your backyard pool? Most dogs like the water but for some breeds, it’s an environment they love as much as dry land. Newfoundland dogs, or Newfies as they are often called, are instinctually drawn to the water; with training, they have been used as rescue dogs in the cold waters off of Newfoundland for generations. And now, they are also working as lifeguards in many parts of the world. As a BBC television report noted, these dogs “have an innate desire to save people.” They are “obsessed with swimming, saving people.”
A little over 30 years ago, Ferruccio Pilenga founded a school in Milan, Italy, to train dogs to work as lifeguards in conjunction with human lifeguards. His inspiration came in 1988 when the family pet, a female Newfoundland, instinctively leapt to the rescue and saved his daughter from drowning. The Italian Dog Rescue School is today world-famous; in Italy alone these dogs are credited with saving thousands of lives every year.
Once they have reached the victim, water-rescue dogs assist their human counterparts by intuitively finding the current that is flowing to shore. Their incredible strength helps, too: a certified rescue dog can tow six people to safety. As a report from Original Watermen notes, human lifeguards working with these dogs say their furry partners help keep them from getting exhausted, allowing them to sustain their energy and stamina.
When the mission is complete, what do these brave companions want as a reward? Evidently, licking the face of the rescued person is high on the list!