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Other Names: Leo
The Leonberger breed 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 is a very large muscular dog, their distinctive feature is a black mask covering the face and reaching up to the eyes. They have brown eyes that view the world with a gentle expression. The ears hang down to the cheeks. Mature Leonbergers have a pronounced mane covering the neck and chest, contributing to the lion-like appearance. 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.
Coat: The coat is medium to long and water resistant. The modern-day Leonberger has a variety of coat colours, including “lion yellow,” red, red-brown and sand, each possible with black tipping highlighting the colour. The dog will always have a black mask.
Weight: Male: 63-68kg Female: 58 kg
Height: 74-80 cm Female: 60-74cm
Average Lifespan: 8-9 years
Temperament: The Leonberger is described as having a sweet expression. This dog is very intelligent and loyal, and it loves people. Leonbergers tend to be rather shy or wary of strangers, making integration and proper socialization a must. Also, the Leonberger dog has a great need for interaction – they are not a breed of dog that is content spending long periods of time on their own. Additionally, they are a slow dog to mature, so you have to be patient and wait for them to grow out of those “terrible two” type behaviors – for best results, enroll in puppy obedience classes and continue these classes as your dog matures. Leonbergers also love to romp and play in the mud, roll in anything and everything, and they are a heavy shedding breed. If you’re looking for a low maintenance, tidy dog, the Leonberger is not be for you. Leonbergers suit a family that lives in a large house with an equally large garden and one that has the time to both train the dog and give it the attention it needs.
Since the dog is eager to please and intelligent, it will respond very well to training. 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. As with all large breeds, It is essential to begin obedience training early because the breed becomes extremely large as an adult dog and can be difficult to control.
Coats must be groomed at least once a week to avoid any matting. 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 does not need a huge amount of exercise. As with all large breeds care must be taken not to over exercise this breed during puppy-hood as this can lead to long term damage to bones and joints. Daily gentle exercise is all that is needed to keep them healthy, at 9 months they are ready for some extra exercise but don’t overdo it. Gradually increase the amount of exercise as muscles grow and bones strengthen. Be careful during hot or humid weather for fear of overheating. The Leonberger loves swimming and is a superb dog to watch in water.
Leonberger Health Issues
Bloat – though not a hereditary condition, frequently affects many dogs including this breed. This is a very serious condition. When a dog bloats, the stomach can turn and block, causing a build up of gas. Unless treated quickly, bloat can be fatal. Signs of bloat include futile attempts to vomit and to salivate. Bloat, which may lead to cardiovascular collapse, usually occurs when exercise too closely follows eating. The incidence of bloat may be lessened by feeding adult dogs twice a day and, of course, by allowing a dog time to digest before taking him for a run in the park. Click Here for more information
Hip dysplasia – a malformation of the hip joint resulting in a poor fit between the head of the femur bone and the hip socket. This condition can be alleviated by surgery, at some cost to dog and owner. Because dysplastic dogs often produce dysplastic puppies, buyers should ask if both the sire and the dam of the puppy in which they are interested have been rated clear of hip dysplasia. Do not take yes for an answer without seeing a certificate, and ask for a copy to take to your veterinarian.
Hypothyroidism – an endocrine disease that results in the abnormally low production of thyroid hormones. The symptoms of hypothyroidism include lethargy, mental depression, weight gain and a tendency to seek out warm places. Hypothyroidism can also affect the coat and skin, causing hair loss and excessive dandruff.
Entropion, inward curling of the lower eyelid or ectropion, rolling out of the eyelid, is fairly common in the breed. The condition should be corrected surgically to prevent damage to the cornea of the eye.
Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) is an adult-onset condition which gradual degeneration of the retina leading to blindness.
A cataract is an opacity of the lens of the eye. May cause blindness if not treated surgically.
Inherited Leonberger Paralysis/Polyneuropathy (ILPN) is a degenerative disease of the peripheral nervous system that causes muscular weakness and progressive debility usually involving the rear legs. Damage to the laryngeal nerve may result in hoarseness, changes in barking, wheezing, heavy panting and coughing after eating or drinking.
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
By the end of the 19th century, the breed had found a home with many farmers, who used the dogs to guard livestock. During World Wars I and II, however, the breed facenear extinction in Germany. According to historians, only five Leonbergers survived World War I. The eight dogs who survived World War II can be credited as the ancestors to all modern-day Leonbergers.
The first Leonberger dogs were imported to the United States in the 1970s and are becoming popular for their versatility and unusual appearance. The breed found itself back in the spotlight in 1997, when three Leonbergers appeared in the starring role of “Buck” in the film “The Call of the Wild: Dog of the Yukon.”