If you are looking for a large, unusual pet, a Leonberger dog might be a perfect choice for you.
The Leonberger was established in 1846 in Leonberg, Germany. A breeder named Heinrich Essing crossed three breeds to come up with a dog that would look like a lion as well as retain the strengths of the individual breeds. He used the St. Bernard, the Newfoundland, and the Great Pyrenees. This combination gave the dog a large, muscular body with semi-long, silky hair. The Leonberger was imported to Russia in the 1800s and has been owned by numerous royal families, including:
- Empress Elizabeth of Austria
- King Umberto of Italy
- Napoleon II
- Prince of Wales
Although the breed nearly became extinct during the World Wars, it has been being reestablished and is now regaining popularity in Europe. The first Leonberger dogs were imported to the United States in the 1970s and are becoming popular for their versatility and unusual appearance.
The Leonberger is a very large dog measuring in at an average of 20 to 31 inches at the shoulder for males and up to 170 pounds. It is described as being a muscular working dog. The head is rectangular with a black mask and a long muzzle. The ears are triangular and hang close to the dog's head.
The coat is medium to long and water resistant. The colors may vary from yellow to golden to red or varieties of those colors. The dog will always have a black mask. The dog has a thick mane that gives it the resemblance to a lion that so many people love. It can take a male dog up to four years to develop the mane, and a female may never develop it totally. Since the Leonberger has the characteristics of the Newfoundland, a water dog, its feet may be slightly webbed.
The Leonberger is described as having a sweet expression. This dog is very intelligent and loyal, and it loves people. Like many large dogs, it does not have a long life expectancy and only lives about nine yearson average. Other characteristics including:
- Gets along with other dogs
Training the Leonberger
It is important to use gentle methods when training a Leonberger dog. You will need to be patient, firm and consistent during the time you are teaching your pet. This breed responds well to loving, confident firmness in the owner.
Since the dog is eager to please and intelligent, it will respond very well to training. It is essential to begin obedience training early because the breed becomes extremely large as an adult dog and can be difficult to control. It is especially important to train the Leonberger not to jump and to also heel and to wait for people to enter a room before it does.
The breed is successfully trained in a number of areas and has been used for many types of work including:
- Livestock guard dog
- Search and rescue dog
- Companion animal
- Water rescue
Plan on brushing your Leonberger dog on a weekly basis. The fur can become matted and tangled it you don't. These mats can create hotspots on the dog's skin, especially in damp weather or situations. The dog will shed heavily during the change of seasons and should be brushed daily during this time.
Always check your dog over carefully for fleas, ticks and ear mites as well as injuries that can be difficult to find beneath so much hair.
The Leonberger dog requires exercise daily as well as a large space to move around. This is not a good breed to choose if you have an apartment or small lot. Always make an informed decision, and share all your questions and concerns with the breeder before buying your dog. A pet is a lifetime commitment and should not be taken in without a lot of thought.