Ruth is the human interest reporter and a photographer for the Bay of Plenty Times.

Newfoundlands shape up as lifesavers

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IN ACTION: Thomas Yule taking Ted for a run.
IN ACTION: Thomas Yule taking Ted for a run.

Ted the "newfie", who is being trained to be a surf lifesaving dog, has been joined by two other newfoundlands.

The Bay of Plenty Times reported last year that Ted was being trained by Thomas Yule to become a dog that could preform rescues in the surf - a New Zealand first.

Since then, the training has continued and two other dogs, Maisy from Hamilton and Digby from Papamoa, have joined the surf lifesaving party.

Mr Yule said 3-year-old Ted, who weighed in at 64kg, could swim with him for about 40 minutes in the water.

Every two weeks the three dogs, which were in K9 Surf Rescue Dogs New Zealand, would train together in Tauranga Harbour.

Mr Yule said he was seeing progress with the dogs and getting them used to working in the unpredictable conditions of the surf.

"It is new to the world. We've dreamt up what we want to do and how we want to get to it.

Now we are having to translate that into teaching a dog."

The dogs were able to swim out in the surf and bring those they rescue back into the shore but they wanted to get the dogs' confidence up.

"If a big wall of water heads towards them and cops them in the face they back away and shy out of it for a bit. But like us, they're ready to get back in the next day.

"They can do it and they want to do it," Mr Yule said.

Training sessions included general swims to warm up, retrieving, and swimming across flat water.

Once a month they would also do an "exciting session" where Ted would jump out the back of the IRB, pick up a person and then swim back to shore through the surf break, which did not have the initial shock of having to swim out through the surf, he said.

Mr Yule said the dogs wore a special surf lifesaving lifejacket.

Their double coat also acted like a wetsuit and they had massive paws and a large tail which also helped them in the water.

Mr Yule hoped to have the dogs certified by the International Life Saving Federation by the end of 2017, with more dogs to follow. Like any larger breed of dog, their life span was only about 10 years but the newfoundlands were perfect for the role because of their strength.

"We are pushing the workable life now but this hasn't been done so we have to start somewhere."

As the organisation grew they would consider using other breeds too, he said.

To donate to K9 Surf Rescue Dogs New Zealand please head to their Givealittle page.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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