1. Key Breed Facts
2. Breed Characteristics
3. Looking for a Leonberger ?
8. Intelligence / Trainability
9. Children and Other Pets
11. Caring for a Leonberger
15. Average Cost to keep/care for a Leonberger
The Leonberger is a handsome, large dog that hails from Germany. They have a lion-like mane which adds to their overall striking and powerful appearance. Although impressive to look at, they are known to be a real "Gentle Giant" and have even been given this as a nickname. Although, these dogs make good family pets and love being part of a family, Leonbergers are not the best choice for first time owners because they need to be trained by people who are familiar with this type of large and impressive dogs.
Leonbergers first appeared on the scene in 1840 and as such they are a relatively new breed. They were created by Heinrich Essig who was the mayor of the town of Leonberg, hence the breed's name. The monks of the Hospice of St. Bernard had a part in developing these proud and noble looking dogs having sent the mayor some of their St Bernards to breed from. As a thank you to the monks, he helped the monks in their own breeding programme by sending them some of the dogs he had bred.
It was only at the end of World War I that records were finally kept on the breed and at that time there were just 5 Leonbergers left alive. Fortunately, through careful and selective breeding, their numbers started to rise only to once again be affected by the onset of World War II when only 8 dogs survived. After 25 years of very careful breeding, their numbers increased although Leonbergers are still considered as being among one of the rarest breeds around. With this said, the breed is gaining popularity with more people both here in the UK and elsewhere in the world getting to know about them and the fact they are such reliable, kind and loyal dogs in a home environment.
Height at the withers: Males 72 - 80 cm, Females 65 - 75 cm
Average weight: Males 54 - 77 kg, Females 40 - 60 kg
The Leonberger is a handsome, impressive looking dog with a very lion-like mane. Their heads are nicely in proportion with the rest of their body being more elongated rather than stocky showing no wrinkles and it's broader at the eyes. They have a medium stop and nice black nose with muzzles tapering nicely to the tip. They have a slightly Roman nose which adds to their overall charming appeal.
Their eyes are medium in size and oval in shape with dogs having a kind, intelligent expression in them. They can be a medium to dark brown depending on a dog's coat colour. Ears are set high on a dog's head being moderately large. They hang close to the side of the head and are well feathered with rounded tips. The Leonberger has a strong jaw with a perfect scissor bite where their upper teeth neatly overlap their lower ones. Their lips are black and close fitting.
Their necks are strong, moderately long and flow nicely into a dog's withers. Shoulders are well laid back with dogs having straight, well-boned front legs. Their chests are deep, broad with dogs boasting a firm, level back and broad, well-muscled loins. Croups slope gently to a dog's broad and slightly rounded rump. Bellies are nicely tucked up and back legs are well-muscled, long and strong. Their feet are rounded and tight with well arched toes and black pads. Tails are well feathered and straight which dogs carry slightly curved.
When it comes to their coat, the Leonberger has a double coat with a harsher top coat and a much softer, thicker undercoat. Their coats can have a slight wave in it and dogs have a mane on their chests and necks which is more profuse in males than it is in their female counterparts. They have a lot of feathering on their front legs and nice breeches on their back legs. The accepted breed colours are as follows:
The Leonberger is known to be an intelligent dog that never does anything in a hurry. They like to take their time about things and this has to be taken into account during their training. They are known to be very even-tempered which is one of the reasons they make such great family pets. However, they are not the best of choices for first time owners because they need to be trained by someone who is either familiar with the breed or has owned similar type dogs.
With this said, they are known to have an unusual amount of patience with children being loyal and always considerate when they are around them. Being so laid back by nature, does means that the Leonberger can easily turn into a "couch potato" if they are allowed to which means they are prone to putting on too much weight if not given the correct amount of exercise.
Puppies need to be well socialised from a young age and this has to include introducing them to as many new situations, people, animals and other dogs once they are fully vaccinated as possible for them to grow up to be outgoing, confident and obedient mature dogs.
Being so intelligent and eager to please, in the right hands and with correct training methods, the Leonberger is an easy dog to train being extremely quick to pick up on what is expected of them. However, their training has to start as early as possible so that these large dogs get to understand their place in the pack and who is alpha dog in a household. They are never happier than when they know who to look up for direction and guidance. Once they know who is boss, they are obedient, well-behaved and always keen to please dogs.
Leonbergers are known to be good around children although thanks to their large size, they may accidentally a toddler knock over and scare them. As such any interaction between younger children and toddlers has to be well supervised by an adult to ensure playtime does not get too boisterous which in a worst case scenario could end up with someone getting hurt.
They are known to get on well with other dogs as long as they have been well socialised from a young age. However, care has to be taken when a Leonberger is around any small pets and animals, although if a they have grown up with a cat in the house, they generally get on well with them, but they may well chase any other cats.
For further advice please read our article on Keeping Children Safe around Dogs.
The average life expectancy of a Leonberger is between 8 and 9 years when properly cared for and fed an appropriate good quality diet to suit their ages.
The Leonberger is known to suffer from very few hereditary health issues which are worth knowing about if you are planning share your home with one of these active and good looking dogs. The conditions that seem to affect the breed the most include the following:
As with any other breed, Leonbergers need to be groomed on a regular basis to make sure their coats and skin are kept in top condition. They also need to be given regular daily exercise to ensure they remain fit and healthy. On top of this, dogs need to be fed good quality food that meets all their nutritional needs throughout their lives.
Thanks to their thick and lush coats, the Leonberger is quite high maintenance on the grooming front. They shed their coats throughout the year which means regular grooming is essential to remove any dead hair and to keep things tidy and tangle-free. Like other breeds, they do shed even more hair during the Spring and then again in the Autumn when more frequent brushing is usually necessary.
It's also important to check a dog's ears on a regular basis and to clean them when necessary. If too much wax is allowed to build up in a dog's ears, it can lead to a painful infection which can be hard to clear up. In short, prevention is often easier than cure when it comes to ear infections.
Leonbergers are high energy dogs and because they are so intelligent, they need to be given a lot of mental stimulation on a daily basis for them to be truly happy and well-rounded dogs. This means giving them a minimum of 2 hour's exercise every day with as much off the lead time as possible. If these large dogs are not given enough exercise, they quickly learn how to amuse themselves which usually sees dogs developing some very unwanted destructive behaviours around the home.
A shorter walk in the morning would be fine, but a longer more interesting one in the afternoon is a must. These dogs also like to be able to roam around a back garden as often as possible so they can really let off steam. However, the fencing has to be extremely secure to keep these large and active in because if they find a weakness in the fence, they will soon escape out and get into all sorts of trouble. It's also important to bear in mind that Leonbergers love water and will jump in whenever they can. As such care has to be taken when walking a dog anywhere near more dangerous watercourses.
With this said, Leonberger puppies should not be given too much exercise because their joints and bones are still growing and too much pressure on them could result in causing a dog a few problems later on in their lives. They should not be allowed to jump up or off furniture nor should they be allowed to run up and down the stairs because this puts too much pressure on their still growing joints and limbs.
If you get a Leonberger puppy from a breeder, they would give you a feeding schedule and it's important to stick to the same routine, feeding the same puppy food to avoid any tummy upsets. You can change a puppy's diet, but this needs to be done very gradually always making sure they don't develop any digestive upsets and if they do, it's best to put them back on their original diet and to discuss things with the vet before attempting to change it again.
Older dogs are not known to be fussy or finicky eaters, but this does not mean you can feed them a lower quality diet. It's best to feed a mature dog twice a day, once in the morning and then again in the evening, making sure it's good quality food that meets all their nutritional requirements. It's also important that dogs be given the right amount of exercise so they burn off any excess calories or they might gain too much weight which can lead to all sorts of health issues. Obesity can shorten a dog's life by several years so it's important to keep an eye on their waistline from the word go.
Because Leonbergers are prone to suffer from bloat, it is really important that they be fed twice a day instead of giving them just one larger meal a day. It's also a good idea to invest in a stand to place their feed bowl which makes it easier for these large dogs to eat comfortably without having to stretch their necks down low to reach their food. You should never feed a Leonberger just before or just after they have eaten either because this puts them more a risk of suffering from bloat.
If you are looking to buy a Leonberger, you would need to pay anything from £500 to over £1000 for a well-bred pedigree puppy. The cost of insuring a male 3-year-old Leonberger in northern England would be £49.39 a month for basic cover but for a lifetime policy, this would set you back £90.20 a month (quote as of May 2016). When insurance companies calculate a pet's premium, they factor in several things which includes where you live in the UK and a dog's age and whether or not they have been neutered or spayed.
When it comes to food costs, you need to buy the best quality food whether wet or dry, to feed your dog throughout their lives making sure it suits the different stages of their lives. This would set you back between £60 - £70 a month. On top of all of this, you would need to factor in veterinary costs if you want to share your home with a Leonberger and this includes their initial vaccinations, their annual boosters, the cost of neutering or spaying your dog when the time is right and their yearly health checks, all of which quickly adds up to over a £1200 a year.
As a rough guide, the average cost to keep and care for a Leonberger would be between £110 to £170 a month depending on the level of insurance cover you opt to buy for your dog, but this does not include the initial cost of buying a pedigree puppy.
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