Newfoundlands are known as the “lifeguard dog” for their ability to save people from water-related catastrophes, and the Italian coast guard relies on them to save countless lives.
Sweet, loyal, and intelligent, the Newfoundland’s defining characteristics don’t stop there. Initially bred to assist fishermen with all types of tasks water-related, their duties have expanded to include water rescue, and one Italian instructor is putting their natural talents to good use!
Founded by Ferruccio Pilenga in 1989, the Italian School for Lifeguard Dogs came about as the result of the adoption of a dog named Mas. A Newfoundland, Mas got started right away being trained in water rescue. Since then, Pilenga has gone on to train over 350 pups for their volunteer services, and his team of trained service dogs has gone on to save hundreds of lives by assisting the Italian coast guard, averaging at around 20-30 per year.
According to a report by My Modern Met, the beaches of Italy are patrolled by around 300 dogs. In addition to Newfoundlands, Labradors, German Shepherds, and other strong working dogs are put to use to keep swimmers safe.
Often transported to the rescue location by boat or even helicopter, the dogs then jump into the water with only one mission in mind: to retrieve the person in the water, and help return them to shore or ship, safely. Injured or drowning swimmers will often grab onto a safety vest the dog is dressed with, allowing the pup to pull them through the water.
Of course, not all dogs are suited for such rigorous work, and even if a pooch is capable of getting the job done, it all depends on their relationship with their owner once the pair hits the water.
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