A Huge, Sweet Dog that Looks Like a Lion and Loves Everyone... especially Children
One of the most congenial of large dogs, not to mention impressive in appearance, no other breed quite compares with the Leonberger. A dog that simply loves everyone, this is a breed which is exceptionally intelligent, brave and loyal to its family, including children. Even if your children are like most, (not always well-behaved), you will find this breed an exceptional choice. Unlike many breeds that may become aggressive when their patience is tried, the Leonberger dog will not – he will simply walk away. This dog is truly a “gentle giant.”
In 1846, Heinrich Essig set out to create a dog that resembled a lion. As a breeder from the region of Wurttemberg in Leonberg, Germany, he crossed three large breeds: the Great Pyrenees, Newfoundland and St. Bernard. Essig, a successful politician of the 1800s with a knack for public relations and marketing, was known for his exploits as an animal trader and his ability to market dogs. While his attention to the details of dog breeding were questionable, his marketing prowess and what some refer to as "chutzpah" were unrivaled.
When Essig announced his creation of Leonberger puppies, the breed was greeted with huge popularity, to the chagrin of breeders of Newfoundlands and St. Bernards. However, because of the public reaction to the new breed, many were loyal to Essig and paid him huge amounts of money for his puppies. Those who were considered members of Royalty adopted Leonbergers as pets, some of whom included the Prince of Wales, Garibaldi, King Umberto of Italy, and Emperor Napoleon II.
After Essig's death in 1889, the breed almost became extinct around the period of World War I—like many purebred dogs – but through the determination of Otto Josenhans and Karl Stadelmann, two men who were dedicated to saving the breed, it remains today. Classified by the AKC within the Working Group, it shows superior aptitude for learning and although it excels as a therapy, farm or draft dog, its most desirable trait is that of companionship.
Often referred to as a "mountain dog," the Leonberger is a huge animal that, while elegant in appearance, is quite muscular with a lush and generous double coat. This breed offers a dramatic presence, its head held proudly with a striking black mask on the facial area. As adults, the Leonberger will weigh between 100 and 170 pounds, with males always heavier than females. On average, this breed ranges from 25 to 32 inches high.
The color of the coat varies and may include red, red-brown, lion yellow and sand tones. Many Leonberger dog coats are highlighted with black tips, a subtle characteristic which enhances the overall color of the dog. A striking mane adorns a mature, masculine Leonberger dog, very similar to that of a male lion. And like the female lion, the mane on the female Leonberger is similarly less prominent.
The Leonberger dog is a sweet, calm, and affectionate canine companion, ideal for any large-dog lover, but especially wonderful for families with children. In most cases, the breed gets along famously with everyone, including your other dogs and pets. Not ruffled at all when small children are lively or engage in a bit of rough play, it is a devoted breed with exceptional patience. Properly trained, this breed makes a good watchdog who will respond extremely well to socialization and obedience techniques. Despite this breed's large physique, it is well-coordinated and more active than other breeds in this size range.
Because of its size, apartment living is not ideal for the Leonberger dog. Although puppies can start life in an apartment, as they grow they will need more room. A large fenced-in yard or a rural setting will allow this dog to enjoy plenty of room to fulfill its need for a moderate amount of daily exercise. In cooler climates, the Leonberger can tolerate outdoor living, but will always prefer to be wherever you are.
Most giant breeds of dogs are prone to hip dysplasia, and this breed is no exception. Other possible health conditions include skeletal diseases or disorders, bone disease and defects in the eyelids. The breed may inherit heart problems or ILPN (Inherited Leonberger Paralysis/Polyneuropathy); allergies; cataracts; or digestive disorders; although these are rare. Overall, the Leonberger dog is a healthy, strong breed with few health concerns.
As you might expect, a dog with this thick and long a coat will shed liberally. As a result, it is necessary to brush your pet on a weekly basis. In weather conditions that are wet or humid, check your pet's coat regularly for hot spots which will require treatment prescribed by your veterinarian. Hot spots are a raw, eczematic, skin disorder caused by bacteria, exacerbated by moisture, and irritated by the dog’s constant licking or biting, probably to relieve itch. De-matting the coat will help to prevent this condition. During the heaviest shedding seasons, brush or comb your pet daily. Legs, tail and the area behind the ears should also be checked for matting. Regular cleaning of ears and teeth will help keep your pet free from infections.