A huge dog with a heart to match, the Leonberger is a whole lot of awesome when put in the right home.
Standing as tall as 31 and a half inches at the shoulder with thick yellow gold to red-brown, medium-long coat and a black masked face that holds soulful eyes – it’s hard to forget a Leonberger once you’ve met one.
When I began thinking of writing a blog on the Leonberger, I knew exactly who to reach out to for information: Naomi Kane and Lori Dzingala. Naomi Kane bred her first litter of Lewenhart Leonbergers in 2002. Lori Dzingala has breed Leonbergers since 1996 and her kennel’s name is Heronview. Enormous thanks to Naomi and Lori for helping me put this blog together.
Photo provided by Naomi Kane
The Leonberger was originally bred as a family companion and as a status symbol as it resembled the lion on the town crest of Leonberg, a small town in Germany. Recognized as a breed in Europe since 1846, Leonbergers were recognized here in Canada in the early 1990s.
One of the Leonberger’s claims to fame is that they are a very big breed that doesn’t drool, besides the normal drool like any dog does when presented with a liver treat. But just because they don’t slobber, that doesn’t mean your floors will always be dry if you live with one. “Leos” love water, especially playing with it and getting their faces wet and then lovingly laying their giant wet faces in human laps. It’s as though they want to share their water with the ones they love.
Weighing in at 90-120 pounds for females and 100-150 for males the Leonberger is a giant breed dog. With a gorgeous double coat that sheds heavily twice a year, they require a good weekly brushing to keep their coat from matting. Shedding season will be easier and shorter if you have your Leonberger bathed and blown out.
Photo provided by Naomi Kane
Leonbergers have earned the reputation for being tremendous family dogs. They are generally very tolerant of children, but like any dog of any size or breed children should always be supervised around them. Leos love their people with a devotion that can sometimes be overwhelming. The Leonberger is focused and attached to their people, they will go with you anywhere - in fact they insist on it! The downside to this attachment is that they can suffer from separation anxiety if they are not properly trained to accept absences. No matter how long you are gone you will be greeted by what we refer to as the “Leonberger Tsunami”, spinning, jumping, yelps of joy and full body wagging when you return. In public Leonbergers are calm, dignified and regal, accepting the pats and exclamations of strangers as their due. At home, they are cuddly, goofy teddy bears.
The Leonberger belongs to the Working Group and is talented at tracking, search and rescue, water rescue, and carting - as well as holding down various comfortable pieces of furniture. They are very active for their size and are ready to go when you are, but do have an “off switch” and are generally calm indoors. Some Leonbergers will retrieve, but most aren’t interested, they seem to think that if their people keep throwing things away from them that must be where they want them! Leonbergers have guarding instinct and will protect property and people, so they need proper training and socialization.
Photo provided by Lori Dzingala
Training a Leonberger is either so easy you almost didn’t notice it happened or it is an exercise in infinite patience. Leos don’t like to do things over and over again - for no particular reason - and sometimes take our insistence for repetition as a sign they are getting it wrong, causing them to get anxious and stop learning. Short, play-based training works best with Leos, working on one behavior at a time. Leos are sensitive to their humans and do not respond well to aggressive training methods as they live to please their people.
The Leonberger might be the breed for you if:
- Like a “Velcro Dog” (and don’t mind a dog that follows you into the bathroom)
- If you like the idea of an 100 pound lap dog
- Enjoy excessive enthusiasm (the greeting is the same whether you’ve been gone for five minutes or five hours)
- You have a good vacuum
- Have a good sense of humour
- You like being stopped on the street by everyone to admire and ask questions about your dog
- If you like a focused and intuitive dog
The Leonberger might not be the breed for you if:
- Adoration makes you uncomfortable
- You don’t want a dog that sheds ( shedding season means a Leo will shed several extra dogs worth of hair)
- Don’t have the time to give a dog ongoing positive socialization
- You want a dog that can resist a puddle
- Have physical limitations. Leonbergers are very large and powerful.
To sum up the Leonberger Naomi quoted her son at the age of eight who said “Leonbergers are like moms because they are always there if you get hurt and they always like hugs.”
If the Leonberger interests you, connect with Canadian Kennel Club member Leonberger breeders by using our Puppy List. www.thepuppylist.ca