THEY’RE huge, they’re cuddly and they’re proving to be extremely useful.
Every week you can see the hairy hounds from the Rother Valley Newfoundland Training Group going through their life saving drills.
But they took a break from training for some festive fundraising.
Dressed in Santa hats and tinsel, the group and their dogs took to Rother Valley Country Park for a walk with an added touch of Christmas spirit.
And all proceeds from the sponsored walk have now been donated to the Royal National Lifeboat Institution.
The Newfoundland breed, known as being ‘gentle giants’, are renowned for their size, strength and swimming abilities.
It’s these skills that make the breed perfect for water rescues and lifesaving.
And they’re just the job when you can’t find a reindeer to pull your sleigh!
Spokesman Vin Whiting explained the group is a branch of the Northern Newfoundland Club which has trained at Rother Valley for over 20 years.
He said: “The group teach the dogs to use their natural abilities, enabling them to become qualified in both water and draught rescue.
“In the winter months the dogs and their owners train in draught work, which requires them to learn how to do land rescues.
“Then from April to to September they take to the water for rescue training.
“Throughout the year the dogs undergo tests which, if passed, can qualify them as water and valley rescue dogs.
“The tests include trials such as swimming to a boat or a person and towing them back to shore and searching for a person hidden behind a boat before rescuing them.”
The group is growing in popularity with around 20 dogs now being trained every Sunday at the Rother Valley Country Park - and a large crowd of spectators observing the fun.
Along with the rescue training the group offers obedience and control work for new owners of ‘Newfies’.
If you are interested in any of the training and would like to join the group call David Pugsley on 0114 236 0165 or Lynn Whiting on 01909 723 431.