Leonberger - Origin, Characteristics and Behavior

Leonberger: find out what this animal is like, its physical characteristics, character, behavior, etc. The Leonberger is an ancient dog breed that originated in Germany, where it...

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The Leonberger is an ancient breed of dog originating in Germany, where it has always been trained to perform guard and protection work. However, his calm and child-friendly temperament has made him popular as a companion dog. Its success transcends its country of origin and can be found today on all continents.

If you are interested in adopting a dog of this breed, or if you simply want to learn more about the canine universe, continue reading this PlanèteAnimal dossier and find out much more about the characteristics of the Leonberg, its behavior, the way it should be educated and the care it needs to enjoy a good quality of life!

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  • Europe
  • Germany

FCI Nomenclature

  • Group II

Physical Characteristics

  • Rustic
  • Muscular
  • Proportional


  • Giant


  • 70-80

Adult Weight

  • 45-100

Life expectancy

  • 12-14

Recommended physical activity

  • Average


  • Strong
  • Very loyal
  • Quiet
  • Dominant

Ideal for

  • Children
  • House
  • The guard


  • Harness

Recommended climate

  • Cold

Hair type

  • Long
  • Smooth

Education and canine training

  • Hard

Origin of the Leonberger

" As we said, this breed of dog was created in German soil, more precisely in the city of Leonberg, in Baden-Württemberg, which today is the third German Land in terms of territorial extension and population density.It is a fairly old breed, whose origins date back to the 1930s and 1940s. At that time, the city councilor of the city, Heinrich Essig, wanted to develop a new class of dogs whose appearance would come as close as possible to that of a lion (hence their name by the way!). Speaking of which, check out more dogs that look like lions!"

" To achieve his goals, Heinrich Essig began by crossing a black and white female Newfoundland with a male of the Saint Bernard breed known as Barry. Then he will also include a Pyrenean Mountain Dog to get closer to the aesthetic result he wanted. Eventually, after several selective crosses, the first so-called Leonberger dogs were born around 1846. They quickly gained popularity and they began to be exported to other parts of the Baden-Württemberg region, where they acquired in the 19th century considerable popularity as farm dogs."

However, its popularity and survival were badly affected by the effects of the two World Wars in Europe, and it took years of work by specialist breeders to restore the Leonberger to the recognition it deserves. deserved as an excellent watchdog and companion.

In the 1950s, the breed was officially recognized by the largest canine federation in the world, the Fédération Cynologique Internationale (FCI), which included it in section 2.2 (molossoids, mountain-type dogs) of the large group 2, which includes all pinschers, schnauzers, molossians, mountain dogs and Swiss mountain dogs. Likewise, the global population of Leonberger dogs began to reverse the downward trend beginning in the 1970s, when a steady increase in litter births was recorded year after year. And according to data published on the Worldwide Independent Leonberger Databases site, since 2018, there are about 4,000 individuals born each year.

Characteristics of the Leonberger

He is an imposing dog, gigantic in size and with well-developed muscles. Her body structure is very harmonious and she is characterized by an elegance that is perceived from the first glance. The height at the withers in males is 75-76 cm, but variations of 72-80 cm are acceptable, and the weight should be between 35-50 kg. In the female dog, the ideal size is 70 cm, with an acceptable range of 65 to 75 cm; its ideal weight will be between 30 and 50 kg. He is one of the biggest dogs in the world.

" The Leonberger&39;s head is deeper than it is wide and visibly longer than it is round. Seen from the front and in profile, the skull is slightly domed and the stop (nasofrontal depression) is moderately marked, but at the same time very visible. The breed also has a very distinctive trait called a ram&39;s nose which is characterized by a rather long, but not pointed, muzzle and a broad, slightly arched, but not sunken muzzle that peaks and ends in a black nose."

The Leonberger's eyes are medium sized, oval, and their color can vary from light brown to dark brown or maroon. His ears are also medium sized, plump and pendulous, high set and never too far back. At the same time, the mouths of these dogs are distinguished by tight-fitting black lips that protect powerful jaws characterized by an absolutely devastating scissor bite.

Leonberger colors

Its coat is rather long, smooth or slightly wavy, it has a good volume thanks to an abundant undercoat. Also, males usually develop a large mane on the chest and neck.

The tail, which hangs quietly when at rest, but which can be slightly curved without exceeding the line of the back when in motion, is also covered with abundant hair. His eyes, on the other hand, should not be covered with fur.

As for the colors of the Leonberger, the FCI standard defines as acceptable the typical colors of the lion: yellow, red, reddish brown, sand or cream and all their combinations, always with the characteristic black mask. Black hair is also allowed, but the black color must not be predominant. Although undesirable, a thin white stripe or patch on the chest is acceptable, as is a small amount of white hair on the toes. Combinations of black and tan, silver black or stag color are not acceptable.

How is the Leonberger puppy?

If you wonder if a Leonberger puppy is purebred, you can pay attention to the accepted colors (mentioned above) and it will be useful for you to know that the FCI considers the following characteristics not accepted :

  • Truffles and/or brownish pads.
  • Excessive lip depigmentation.
  • Eyes without brown/chestnut or coffee shades.
  • Curled tail or carried too high.
  • No face mask.
  • Predominance of white in the dress.

In general, they are shaggy puppies, even looking like large active little lions. If the Leonberger puppy you adopted is a mixed breed dog, that's okay! In any case, you will have an excellent companion at your side who will give you the best of himself every day and who will display the behavioral traits that we will discuss in the next section. The important thing is therefore not the race because the important thing is that you can meet his needs.

Childhood is a critical period in the physical, cognitive, sensory and social development of all dogs, and it is also the best time to socialize and educate them.When it comes to Leonberger puppies specifically, you should never neglect their physical activity and diet, as this is what will ensure the proper development of their bones and muscles, which is essential for disease prevention. frequent osteoarticular problems in these dogs as well as for obesity.

Leonberger Character

Although the Leonberger has gained great popularity as a pet and is also an excellent companion for children, it is important to keep in mind that this breed has no was developed for this purpose, but that it was historically erected for guarding and surveillance. So, although the character of the Leonberger is calm and confident, we must not forget to socialize it from a young age because this is what will avoid behavioral problems related to territoriality and the protection of resources.

Excessive shyness, as well as insecurity and aggressiveness, are considered by the FCI as disqualifying faults and often indicate problems in the process of breeding and raising the Leonberger, as well as the systematic exposure to counterproductive methods of education, such as confinement and physical punishment, and other types of animal abuse.

Caring for a Leonberger

As we mentioned, a correct socialization process will be essential for the Leonberger to learn to live harmoniously with other individuals as well as a diversity of stimuli and environments. So this is one of the first things to take care of. But this is not the only critical factor in the education of the Leonberger because, from an early age, it is strongly recommended to teach him at least the basic obedience commands.

Although not a particularly energetic or athletic dog, the Leonberger does require moderate, regular exercise to maintain a he althy weight and prevent overweight and obesity, which tend to have a high incidence in these dogs. Daily walks, combined with mental stimulation and an enriched environment, are also essential to combat symptoms of stress and boredom, as well as behavioral problems associated with destructiveness and aggression.

Finally, it should be remembered that maintaining the Leonberg's coat requires time and dedication from its keepers. It is important to maintain a good brushing routine, which can be daily during the moulting period, in order to avoid the formation of knots and the accumulation of dead hair and impurities in the coat. It is advisable to follow the recommendations for brushing your dog's coat correctly, and we remind you of the importance of using brushes adapted to the type of coat of each dog. Also remember that excessive bathing is detrimental to your best friend's he alth, as it contributes to the removal of the natural layer of fat that covers and protects his skin and coat. You should therefore only wash your dog when he is really very dirty.

Training and education of the Leonberger

Despite its naturally calm nature, the Leonberger can be quite stubborn and somewhat difficult to train.This, combined with its large size and physical strength, can make its training and day-to-day management complex for beginners or people with little experience in dog training. However, with patience and the correct use of positive reinforcement, it is quite possible to educate a dog of the Leonberg breed and teach him the basic rules of behavior for a good coexistence at home, but it is essential that you begin to educate your dog as soon as he arrives at home. If you're not sure where to start, check out our article on potty training a puppy.

It is also essential to start socializing the Leonberger from its first months of life, and preferably before the age of three or four months, as this is the critical period in which the recognition of the friendly species takes place. You can start by introducing your puppy to other trusted dogs and pets that you know are he althy, vaccinated and wormed, until you've had the required vaccinations and you can start walking him down the street for that he interacts with a wider variety of individuals.Likewise, if you have decided to adopt an adult Leonberger or if you have not had the opportunity to socialize your best friend at the most opportune time, PlanèteAnimal offers you some advice on the socialization of adult dogs.

As far as Leonberg training is concerned, which is not the same thing as education, you must follow a progressive logic to educate your dog, starting with the most basic commands and working on them one by one in short sessions of 10 to 15 minutes a day, until your four-legged friend is able to assimilate and reproduce them fluently.

Leonberger He alth

If he benefits from a balanced diet and appropriate preventive medicine, the Leonberger will be a strong and very resistant dog that can accompany you for 12 to 15 years.

However, there is a degenerative disease with a high incidence in this breed that even bears his name.This is Leonberg's ancestral paralytic polyneuropathy, which affects the peripheral nervous system and the main symptoms of which are as follows:

  • Muscle weakness.
  • Progressive fatigue (mainly in the hind limbs).
  • Haucity.
  • Cough.
  • Difficulty swallowing.

In addition, like all large dogs, the Leonberger has a genetic predisposition to develop osteo-articular diseases, in particular hip and elbow dysplasia, and a significant tendency to canine hypothyroidism and entropion has been reported.

Finally, it is essential to promote good eating habits to prevent potentially fatal he alth problems, such as gastric torsion, which is directly linked to gluttonous behavior, very common in Leonbergers and their direct ancestors, namely the Newfoundland, the Saint Bernard and the Pyrenean Mountain Dog.

How to adopt a Leonberger?

" Abandonment of pets and overpopulation of stray animals are very serious problems affecting even the most developed countries, and contrary to what many people think, there are a large number of dogs pedigree that are picked up from the streets each month. If you want to share your home with a Leonberger, you have the opportunity to not only make your wish come true, but also help a dog that is in desperate need of a home and the love of a loving person. Therefore, before going to a kennel, we suggest you contact animal shelters near you to find out which dogs are available for adoption. And if you have any doubts about the adoption procedure and the conditions to be met, we invite you to read the following article: How to adopt a dog."

On the other hand, if you choose to go to a kennel, although at PlanèteAnimal we do not encourage the purchase and sale of animals, we recommend that you do all the necessary checks to ensure that the establishment is duly registered with the competent authorities and that it respects the sanitary, hygienic and ethical rules necessary for breeding worthy of the name.Also remember to check beforehand if the establishment is committed to leaving the puppies with their mother and siblings until the end of the weaning period, as premature separation often leads to learning difficulties and problems. of behavior in adulthood.

" Finally, don&39;t forget that Leonberger mixed breed dogs can also be great companions. So don&39;t dismiss them for not being purebred, because when it comes to adoption, it&39;s the dog&39;s characteristics and your lifestyle that matter most, not the aesthetics."

Photos of Leonberg

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