THE RELATIONSHIP WITH THE MASTER
It might seem of secondary importance, but it is fundamental that the dog and its master have a complete understanding that makes the dog fully obedient and co-operative responding to the handlers signals. It is important that the dog is trained in such a way that it wants to please you because it loves you. This is obtained by giving a lot of time and attention to the animal, by feeding, brushing, stroking, playing and walking with it. This establishes the base of understanding needed. One hour of care is sufficient, as long as it is all dedicated to the welfare of the dog. If you ask only obedience you will obtain a frightened dog instead of an enthusiastic friend.
THE SIZE OF THE DOG
For this type of rescue it is necessary the dog is at least of medium size i.e. 25 to 30 kilos as this is required to give the minimum amount of strength and stamina necessary. The size and not the breed is important (a mongrel can succeed).
A good rescue dog must not be aggressive to people or quarrelsome to other dogs as it would be a hindrance rather than a help.
Instinctive confidence in water for the dog is a good starting point, but not essential as it can always learn to swim.
PREDISPOSITION TO RESCUE : AN INSTINCT TO PRESERVE
Some breeds of dogs have an instinct built-in to rescue people. The best known is the Terranova (Newfoundland) others are the Labrador and the Retriever.
Due to its size and physical attributes the Terranova is definitely the most suitable for this kind of work as it has very thick fur insulating it in water and giving remarkable resistance to cold, large paws that are like webbed feet to make it a very efficient swimmer over long distances, even while pulling heavy burdens and in winter. Its size also giving great strength puts it above other breeds for water rescue.
But the more important element is the instinct to rescue being part of its character. The dog attitude towards the master in water is evident: the animal will appear strained, excited and will furiously try to get free from leash and dive to rescue him.
If not yet clear, we are not talking of a vague love for water: your Terranova can easily ignore the sea waves during a walk or a stream met on a mountain excursion, but it will be ungovernable seeing its master in water, be it a river, a lake or open sea.