The Leonberger is a giant dog breed, and is unusual for large breed dogs in that it was developed specifically for its appearance, rather than a specific function. The breed’s name derives from the city of Leonberg in Baden-Württemberg, Germany, and was apparently bred to resemble lion in the town crest.
The Leonberger has a lively nature. It is brave, intelligent, steady, affectionate and calm , the Leonberger loves everyone. It is intelligent, and its loyalty and love for its family is unparalleled. A well-balanced Leonberger will be highly trustworthy and have incredible patience, even with the most obnoxious children. With most of these dogs, if the situation becomes too intense, instead of showing any aggression, the Leonberger simply walks away. They are not known to be great watchdogs. The Leonberger does not respond very well to harsh training methods; training requires patience. Owners need to be firm, but calm, confident and consistent. Often called a gentle giant, the Leonberger is serious, eager and willing to please, responding well to training. The Leonberger gets along with other dogs, but it is highly recommended that they are well socialised and trained early as this puppy will become a very large adult. Especially essential is teach your dog to respect humans by training it not to jump, to heel on the lead and to enter and exit all door and gateways after the humans.
The Leonberger sheds fur very heavily. A good brushing every week is sufficient to keep it in fine shape, except when the undercoat is being shed; then daily combing or brushing is in order for the duration of the moult.
This is a big breed, males reach a height of 29 – 31 inches (74 – 80 cm) at the withers and females 27 – 29 inches (61 – 74 cm). Weight for an adult male can vary between 130 – 170 pounds (59 – 77 kg) and females 100 – 130 pounds (45 – 59 kg).
The head is rectangular shaped and deeper than it is broad. Males’ heads are generally larger than the females’. The skull is somewhat domed. It has a black mask and a rather long muzzle. The black mask should not extend above the eyebrows, although it can be up to the eyes or above the eyes, but never over the entire head. The large nose is always black with clearly outlined nostrils. The lips should be black, and are usually tight and dry. In males with a very majestic head, slightly loose flews are common, however loose flews collect saliva, so some males might drool slightly. The teeth should meet in a scissors or level bite. The medium-sized ears are triangular in shape, fleshy, hanging flat and close to the head. The tips of the ears are level with corners of the mouth. The neck is muscular and strong.
Mature, masculine Leonbergers exhibit a pronounced mane which proudly parades the entirety of his neck and chest, helping to define a lion-like outline, this doesn’t usually reach its peak till the dog is around 4 years old. The Leonberger has distinct, ample feathering on the back of his forelegs and breeches. Similarly, his tail is very well furnished from the tip to the base where it blends harmoniously with the breech’s furnishings, it hands straight down. Climate permitting, his undercoat is soft and dense. The pads of the feet are black, and may have webbing between the toes like a Newfoundland.
Apart from a neatening of the feet, the Leonberger is presented untrimmed in the show ring.
The medium to long, water-resistant, double coat comes in lion-yellow, golden to red, red-brown, sand, cream, pale yellow and any combination of those colours, always with a black mask. All colours may have shorter, medium or long black tips on the outer coat. There may be a small stripe or white patch on the chest and some white hairs on the toes. There is always discussion about the amount of white allowed, standards usually refer to the size permitted as a “like the palm of a hand,” but it all depends on whose hand you are referring to.
In the 1830s, according to tradition, Heinrich Essig, a dog breeder from Leonberg near Stuttgart in Germany, originally created the Leonberger by crossing a female Landseer Newfoundland with a male from the Great St. Bernard Hospice and Monastery (which would later create the Saint Bernard breed). Later, according to Essig, a Pyrenean Mountain Dog was added, resulting in very large dogs with the long white coats that were the fashion for the time. The first dogs registered as Leonbergers were born in 1846 and had many of the prized qualities of the breeds from which they were derived.The popular legend is that it was bred to resemble the coat-of-arms animal of Leonberg, the lion.By the end of the 19th century, Leonbergers were kept as farm dogs, much praised for their abilities in draft work.
Around the beginning of the 20th Century, Leonbergers were imported by the Government of Canada for use as water rescue/lifesaving dogs. The breed continues in that role today, and they are used at the Italian School of Canine Lifeguard.
The modern look of the Leonberger, with darker coats and black masks, was developed during the 19th century by introducing other breeds, such as the Newfoundland.Leonbergers were seriously affected by the two world wars. During World War I most Leonbergers were left to fend for themselves as breeders fled or were killed. Only five Leonbergers survived World War I and were bred until World War II when, again, almost all Leonbergers were lost. During the two world wars, Leonbergers were used to pull the ammunition carts, a service to the breed’s country that resulted in the Leonbergers’ near-destruction.All Leonbergers today can have their ancestry traced to the eight dogs that survived World War II.
Leonbergers are strong, generally healthy dogs, and have fewer breed specific problems than many other breeds. Leonbergers in UK and USA/Canada surveys had a median lifespan of about 7 years,which is typical of similarly sized breeds.
Hip dysplasia, which devastates many large breeds,is largely controlled because of the effort of many breeders who actively screen their Leonbergers using x-rays
Though not common, Leonbergers do inherit and/or develop a number of diseases that range in their impact from mild to devastating. Including heart problems, Inherited Leonberger Paralysis/Polyneuropathy (ILPN), various cancers including osteosarcoma, hemangiosarcoma, Osteochondrosis Dissecans, allergies, digestive disorders, cataracts, entropion/ectropian eyelids, progressive retinal atrophy (PRA), perianal fistulas, and thyroid disorders.
Leonbergers, like other large breed dogs, require less dosage per pound of sedative than smaller breeds to yield the same effect.
Unfortunately, there are some serious diseases that can affect the Leonberger. Certain types of cancers are very common in the breed, as is bloat. Adult Leonbergers should always be fed twice a day rather than one large meal in order to reduce the likelihood of developing this very painful and serious condition.
In a 2004 UK Kennel Club survey, the most common causes of death were cancer (45%), cardiac (11%), and “unknown” (8.5%).In a 2000 USA/Canada Leonberger Club of America survey, the most common causes of death were cancer (37%), old age (12%), cardiac (9%), and “sudden death” (8%).