Leonberger

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Get information about the Leonberger breed's personality, intelligence and more in our guide.

Breed Snapshot

Life Expectancy:
7 years
Size:

Extra Large

Maintenance Level:

Very High

Shed Level:

Very High

Temperament:
AffectionateGentlePlayful
Coat Color:
YellowSandyReddish Brown Or Red.

Best For

The Leonberger is best for experienced and active pet parents with lots of land or a fenced yard to roam. They are great with kids and other dogs and can do well with cats, if raised with them from puppyhood.

Leonberger Traits

What makes the Leonberger a Leonberger? Let's find out how they stack up.

Leonberger Temperament

The Leonberger is known as the “Gentle Lion” for good reason. These pups are playful, tender and affectionate. They are not independent dogs, preferring to be included in all your fun. Leos are very loyal and sensitive to your mood; if you need a hug, they’ll likely want one, too. Their gentleness and sensitive nature make them excellent therapy dogs, as they’re willing to share their love and gentleness with everyone, not just their family.

Leos aren’t known to be aggressive or biters, but they need socialization starting when they’re puppies to bring out their naturally friendly nature. If they’re not socialized as puppies, these dogs may become wary around new people and situations.

Their loyalty to their family makes them excellent guard dogs. They will bark when someone comes to the door, and they are known to protect their family if they’re in danger.

Leos love kids and are great playmates, but you’ll need to supervise them around small kids and babies. This giant-sized dog weighs well over 100 pounds, and they have a strong tail. One happy wag in the wrong direction could topple a tiny tot.

How to Care for a Leonberger

The Leonberger breed is a very large dog with very large care needs. With their thick, double coat, it should come as no surprise that they’re heavy shedders, and their fur will need a lot of care to prevent matting, too. These pups have a lot of energy and need a lot of training, as well. So, you’ll be spending a lot of time with your pup every day—and that’s just how you both prefer it.

Leonberger Health

The Leonberger can live a healthy and happy life for such a large dog and has a life expectancy of 7 years. But, like all dog breeds, the Leonberger can be prone to certain diseases. It’ll be reassuring to do your homework so you know what to be aware of when buying your pup and signs to look out for.

  • Stomach Bloat: This is a condition that often affects large dog breeds. When it occurs, your dog’s stomach may twist and trap gas inside. Symptoms include a distended stomach, unsuccessful attempts at vomiting and restlessness. Bloat can be a life-threatening condition, so get to your vet immediately if you think your pup has symptoms. Your vet can perform a surgery to lessen the chance of it recurring by stitching the stomach to the side of the body. You can also help to prevent bloat by avoiding exercising your dog immediately after eating and giving smaller meals throughout the day with a slow feeding bowl. Talk to your vet about feeding options or preventative surgery.
  • Dysplasia: As large dogs, Leonbergers are prone to hip and elbow dysplasia. Dysplasia is a hereditary condition where the joint is malformed and rubs. Symptoms of hip dysplasia include visible stiffness or limping; your dog may struggle to climb stairs or get in and out of the car. Signs of elbow dysplasia also include stiffness and swelling (in severe cases) and their elbows can appear to be held awkwardly. Treatments include weight and exercise management, physical therapy or surgery.
  • Eye Disease: Leonbergers are prone to a few eye diseases. Cataracts and progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) both lead to blindness. Cataracts can often be corrected with surgery, but PRA cannot. Entropion, where the eyelid rolls inward and rubs, can lead to corneal ulcers and is treated with surgery. Ectropion, where the eyelid rolls outwards, is often treated with medicated eye drops.
  • Polyneuropathy: This is a progressive neurological disease that affects the nerves of your dog and signs can appear from 1 year old. This can cause your dog to tire easily, be unsteady on their paws and have noisy or labored breathing. Unfortunately there is no treatment to cure the disease, but medication can be given to manage the symptoms.

Leonberger History

Unlike most other working dogs, which are typically bred for physical labor, the Leonberger was bred to be a companion for European royalty. The breed was founded by Heinrich Essig, a 19th century politician and entrepreneur of Leonberg, Germany. He crossed large working breeds such as Saint Bernards and Newfoundlands, and their offspring served rulers such as Napoleon III, Tsar Alexander II of Russia and the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII of the United Kingdom).

The Leonberger has also graced households of elites, including composers Richard Wagner and Sergei Rachmaninoff and the Italian patriot Giuseppe Garibaldi. Over time, Leonbergers became working-class dogs who served on farms and other less aristocratic households. The breed was recognized by the American Kennel Club in 2010 and is the club’s 167th breed.

So where’s the best place to find a Leonberger puppy? You can find a list of reputable breeders on the American Kennel Club’s website. The cost of a Leo is between $2,000 and $4,000 which is on the higher end of the scale for the price of a puppy, but oh so worth it! For this price, they’ll typically come screened for potential health and behavioral issues and may even come with papers. But you’ll need to be patient as these puppies are pretty rare. If you’d like to adopt a Leo, reach out to the Leonberger Club of America.

FAQs

Do Leonbergers shed?

Yes! Leonbergers shed quite heavily, especially in summer or when the weather gets hot as the undercoat starts thinning. You will have to brush your Leonberger daily throughout the year with a thorough brushing once a week.

Do Leonbergers drool?

No, Leonbergers don’t drool habitually, but they are known to be sloppy drinkers and can shake off a wet mess when they’re done.

What were Leonbergers bred for?

The Leonberger was originally bred to be a companion to European royalty. They were later used for working on farms and doing other physical labor.

Are Leonberger dogs aggressive?

No, the Leonberger dog isn’t aggressive. The breed is quite friendly, but will greet strangers with caution.

Are Leonbergers good guard dogs?

Yes, Leonbergers make good guard dogs. They are protective of their loved ones and will sound a warning bark if they see suspicious activity.

What are the most popular Leonberger names?

The most popular Leonberger names include Max, Juno, Sparky, Princess, Abby, Duke, Persis, Gus, Vulcan, Wolf, Brandy, Molly, Ginger, Lola and Shadow. Get more dog names here.

What are the most common Leonberger mixes?

The most common Leonberger mixes are:

  • Leonberger-German Shepherd mix
  • Leonberger-Golden Retriever mix
  • Leonberger-Poodle mix
  • Leonberger-Newfoundland mix
  • Leonberger-Husky mix
  • Leonberger-Labrador mix
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Top Takeaways

One of the dog world’s gentle giants, the Leonberger is playful, affectionate and eager to please. Give them plenty of room to run and you’ll have one happy dog. Life with a Leonberger can be full of fun and affection, but they’re also a lot of maintenance. You’ll be doing a lot of brushing, especially in warm weather, as the Leonberger is a world-champion shedder!

Amber Walker, KPA-CTP, zoologist and owner of Animal Intuitions. Aitrainers.com, and Dr. Sara Ochoa, DVM and veterinary consultant for DogLab.com.

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