The Leonberger may seem intimidating at first glance because of his huge size. They are one of the world's largest and strongest dog breeds. Yet the breed is known for being gentle and loving giants.
What Does a Leonberger Dog Look Like?
Leonbergers definitely have a distinct appearance. If you've seen one in person, you know they're hard to miss!
A male adult Leonberger can weigh between 110 and 170 pounds. Females will range between 90 and 140 pounds. Their height can reach 28 to 31.5 inches for males and 25.5 to 29.5 inches for females. Because of their huge size, the breed has a lifespan of as little as 7 up to 13 years.
Aside from their size, one of the most distinctive features of a Leonberger is their long, gorgeous coat. The coat color is a mix of reds, black, brown and gold with a black mask on their face. The males also stand out for the lion-like mane around their necks.
Leonbergers have a reputation for being calm dogs with a pleasant temperament. They make excellent family dogs if properly trained and socialized although with their size you may want to avoid this breed if you have small children.
Caring for a Leonberger
Although you would think such a big dog will be less rambunctious than a smaller one, younger Leonbergers are quite energetic until age two.
- You will need to commit to walking them daily for at least 20 minutes or more.
- The Leonberger Club of America states that leaving these dogs in a small yard with no dedicated exercise can actually lead to them becoming territorial and overly protective of your property.
- Leonbergers also enjoy many dog sports such as agility, obedience, carting and they adore swimming and playing in water.
Leonbergers respond well to positive training and are very intelligent. The most important factor in training is socializing your Leonberger puppy as soon as you bring them home. You want to make sure a dog of this size is comfortable around all types of people and strangers once he achieves his full weight and height. You also need to make sure he has at least the basics of family manners training down pat, such as sit, stay, coming when called and walking politely on leash. If you want to go further with training, Leonbergers actually make excellent therapy dogs.
Because of their long, double-coat, Leonbergers need a regular grooming routine to keep their coat and skin healthy. Regular grooming will also help reduce the amount of shedding as these dogs are heavy shedders. Your grooming schedule for your Leonberger should include:
- Regular bathing every 6 weeks although you can bathe them biweekly if you wish. Leonbergers tend to love water and getting muddy so depending on your dog's regular activities, baths may need to be more frequent.
- Brushing should be done at least once a week and you should check for matted hair as well.
- They will need regular trimmings on their feet and legs as well as ear cleaning and nail trimming.
- Addison's disease which affects a dog's adrenal glands.
- Bloat is a life-threatening condition where a dog's stomach twists and organ failure will occur if not treated quickly.
- Eye diseases can include cataracts and other conditions that can potentially lead to blindness.
- Hip and elbow dysplasia, which is a painful condition of the joints.
- Hypothyroidism can lead to lethargy, weight gain, and poor skin and coat condition.
- Osteochondritis dissecans is a condition affecting the cartilage in a dog's bones.
- Osteosarcoma which is cancer of the bones.
- Panosteitis is an inflammation of the leg bones that can lead to lameness.
- Polyneuropathy and Leukoencephalomyelopathy are neurological disorders that affect the spine and nervous system.
Finding a Leonberger Puppy
If you think a Leonberger is the right dog for you, the place to start is contacting the Leonberger Club of America through their website. They have a directory of Leonberger breeders nationwide. The website is also a fantastic source of information on the dogs and has a "Leonberger University" dedicated to furthering the education of breeders and owners who love these dogs. Another site to check out is the AKC Find a Puppy section which lists breeders who follow AKC Standards.
How Much is a Leonberger Puppy?
You should expect to pay between $1,500 to $2,000 for a Leonberger puppy from a reputable breeder. The Leonberger Club of America has a document on their website listing breeding practices you can use to ensure your breeder will provide you with a quality pup. If you are looking for a show-quality dog, you can expect to pay several thousand more.
Rescuing a Leonberger
If you decide to adopt a Leonberger instead of buying a puppy, the Leonberger Club of America recommends Leonberger Rescue Pals. This group is a nationwide network of Leonberger lovers dedicated to finding homes for displaced dogs.
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. The Leonberger was imported to Russia in the 1800s and has been owned by numerous royal families, including Empress Elizabeth of Austria and the Prince of Wales. The first Leonberger dogs were imported to the United States in the 1970s and are becoming popular for their versatility and unusual appearance.
Is the Leonberger the Right Dog For You?
If you like a clean, orderly house, you may find the Leonberger a bit much as they shed quite a bit and they can be messy eaters, not to mention their love of water and mud. However, if you enjoy a large, loving dog with a calm demeanor, and you're willing to put in the time for grooming, socialization and training, the "Leo" can become your own gentle lion and part of your family.