Leonberger

This giant pooch is slowly gaining popularity across the world. Read our guide for further information on the Leonberger’s health, personality, history, and more!

The portrait of Leonberger dog in the garden

Height: Male 28-32 inches, female 25-30 inches
Weight: Male 50-77 kilos, female 41-62 kilos
Leonberger Lifespan: Around 9 years
Pedigree (registered with the KC?): Yes, this breed is registered with the Kennel Club

Positives and Negatives

Find out the positives and negatives regularly seen in the Leonberger:

Pros

  • Great outdoor companion. Loves long hikes
  • Good watchdog. Protective nature
  • Very friendly and affectionate
  • Intelligent and easy to train

Cons

  • Doesn’t like to be left alone
  • Sheds fur heavily, high grooming needs
  • Tendency to drool
  • Not ideal for first time owners

Overview

This breed is a big friendly giant however things can still go wrong if you haven’t trained this pooch properly. A firm and consistent owner will be required for the Leonberger. Socialization comes first, obedience second and respect shall soon follow.

A Leonberger has a stubborn streak. They require a firm owner that has patience. This breed, especially in their younger years, can become dominant, which could lead to aggression. So aiming for the gentle and friendly Leonberger that we all know and love can be extremely difficult for first time owners.

Leonberger dog in the woods

The dogs stamina and worker mentality is what makes them popular worldwide. They are used as companions, to perform in dogs shows and some still work the farms to this day! A Leonberger will need lots of mental stimulation if they aren’t being used as a working dog.

Gentle and sweet this dog can make a great family pet. They adapt to children very well and may become more protective of the home if you have kids. Although they are gentle, they should still be supervised around toddlers and the elderly. Their large size can accidentally injure others.

History

The Leonberger dog breed originates from the city of Leonberg in the South West region of Baden Württemberg, Germany. They were especially loved as they closely resembled the lion featured in the towns coat of arms. Heinrich Essig a previous mayor of the town, is believed to have been the Leonbergers creator although this is disputed.

In the 1830s a Newfoundland and Barry der Menschenretter (now known as the Saint Bernard) were cross bred to produce the Leonberger. A Pyrenean Mastiff was then added to the development, helping to produce the Leonberger we now see today.

Some however, believe the Leonberger existed before the 1830s and could even date back to the late 1500s. There are some records of the German Noble family, Metternich, using a similar breed to protect their livestock.

World War I and II almost saw the extinction of the Leonberger. It is thanks to Karl Stadelmann and Otto Josenhans that this breed was able to recover post war.

This breed was used as a farm dog where they would protect livestock, pull carts and act as watchdogs in the villages of and surrounding Bavaria. In the early 20th century Canada began importing the Leonberger as a service dog. They would help rescue those that were in trouble at sea.

The looks and working mentality of this dog quickly attracted European royals. The Prince of Wales, Empress Elisabeth of Austria, Napoleon II and Emperor Napoleon III were all proud owners to the Leonberger.

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Personality

Leonberger Temperament:

This dog is fearless and loyal. They make an excellent guard dog and will always be on watch to protect their families. Like most giant breeds, they are really big softies at heart. Socialization will help enhance their friendly and gentle behavior.

A Leonberger dog is independent but can be rather stubborn. Patience will be needed for this pooch. They are playful and can become excitable, but this is seen more amongst puppies. A Leonberger puppy may nip or bark to initiate play.

Are Leonbergers Good With Strangers?

In their younger years during socialization, Leonbergers will be friendly towards strangers. Yet as they get older and mature they will become more suspicious. They shouldn’t become aggressive but may deter those they don’t know by barking. They are a creature of habit and don’t like strangers unexpectedly knocking the door.

Are Leonbergers Good With Children?

Playful by nature a Leonberger will keep any child happy! They are gentle and hold a lot of stamina, keeping up with your child as they play throughout the day! This breed isn’t known to intentionally harm a child, but the Leonberger size makes toddlers susceptible to injuries. They are intelligent and do recognize how big they really are.

Leonberger puppy in kennel outside

Are Leonbergers Ok With Other Dogs?

Leonberger dogs can be aggressive to other Leonbergers of the same sex. So it isn’t recommended to keep two. They are otherwise friendly with other dogs. You can take them for doggy meetups and can have other different breeds within your household.

They can be raised around cats and other household animals, but it is always best to raise them together from puppyhood.

Exercise

This dog has a lot of stamina and will require over 2 hours of exercise each day. Be careful not to over-exercise a Leonberger puppy as this could cause joint problems. They can make a perfect running or jogging partner and love to be outdoors.

You must have a large garden for this dog. They need access to outdoor space so they won’t feel frustrated. As this pooch can be protective you should have high fences in place. A Leonberger would spend all day in the garden playing with the kids if they could!

Leonberger dog sitting on snow

Like most intelligent breeds, this dog will need mental stimulation. Kids can be a great help in this. Games are a good way to keep your dog’s mind ticking over. Hide and seek, find the treat and other proactive games will help meet your dog’s activity requirements.

Health

Leonbergers are generally healthy but do have some breed-related health issues as listed below:

Leonberger dog standing beside a woman

  • Hip Dysplasia- Abnormal growth in one or both of the hip joints can cause pain and lameness. This will eventually lead to arthritis. The condition occurs in fast growing, large breed dogs.
  • Elbow Dysplasia- Another health issue seen commonly amongst large breed dogs. Abnormal growth in the elbow joint leads to pain, lameness and arthritis.
  • Gastric Dilatation Volvulus- By eating to much to fast the dogs stomach could twist, trapping the gases and contents inside the belly. You must seek immediate veterinary attention. Commonly seen in large breed dogs.
  • Ectropion- When the eyelid rolls outwards exposing the conjunctival tissues of the eye. The lower eyelid will droop causing dryness.
  • Entropion-  The eyelid rolls inwards causing the eyelashes to scratch the surface of the eye resulting in pain.
  • Glaucoma-  An increase in intraocular pressure is due to the decrease in drainage of aqueous humor. This build up of pressure can damage to the retina and optic nerve within the eye.

Intelligence & Training

Training a Leonberger can be easy for those that know how to deal with stubbornness. It is often best to exercise your dog first, so they won’t feel energetic and distracted.

You must understand this dog is sensitive and can feel emotional if you become upset with them. They aren’t the type of dog that’s eager to please which is why its so important to keep their attention. Positive reinforcements such as food treats and love have always been the best way to make this pooch listen.

You should start with obedience training first. This should be done from as early as possible. Their strong size can easily knock you from your feet. They must acknowledge basic commands but most importantly they need to know how to heel. This dog is intelligent and respect will generally be gained once they understand your leadership.

From the ages of 8 months- 2 years you will see your dog beginning to push their boundaries. This is where clear leadership and consistency is really needed. Many dogs are often given away at this age by owners who just didn’t realize what it takes to look after a Leonberger.

Recommended: This pooch is perfect for families with children and even the elderly! Read our guide on the Kokoni dog.

Grooming

This dog will require a moderate to high level of grooming depending on the season. Leonbergers do have the tendency to shed so regular brushing will be needed.

Brush your dog every 2-3 days with a grooming rake as this is the best way to remove loose fur. Use a slicker brush after to maximize the shine to your dogs coat. The neck, tail, thighs and behind the ears are all areas that are prone to tangles.

Leonberger dog sitting

This breed is double coated and will need to be bathed every 2-4 weeks. You must vigorously wash the fur, drying it straight after to achieve the best results for your pooches coat.

Their long ears make them prone to ear infections. A weekly cleanse will be needed to remove any debris trapped in the canal. Remember to remove any hairs blocking the entrance to allow air flow. Eyes will also need to be wiped daily. Luckily their dark fur won’t noticeably show any tear stains.

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