What is a Leonberger?

    Leonbergers are an old German breed. They have been in existence for over
    150 years, longer actually, than the German Shepherd breed.  They were used
    in Europe as, working farm dogs, family watchdogs and flock guardians.
    Today they are mostly companions. This is not a good breed
    for an apartment or a small, suburban lot. An acre (43,000 sq feet)  is about
    minimum to assure a dog who does not become frustrated and territorial.
    The Leo was introduced in the US in the late 70’s and the Leonberger Club of America  was established
    in the mid 80’s. In 2010 the LCA became the official American Kennel Club's Parent Club for the breed.
    Leonbergers are shown in the AKC's  Working Class.

    Leos are very large and substantial dogs , with the females 25 1/2"-29 1/2" at the withers and the males
    28" to 31 1/2" at the withers. Weight runs from 120 lbs - 160+, depending on size and substance. Their
    coats require a thorough brushing once a week although they seldom need baths unless you are
    showing. They shed profusely twice a year.  They should have their nails cut and their feet trimmed
    regularly as they will mat between their toes. The hair is taken off under the bottom of the foot so
    they do not slide. In the showring the only trimming that is allowed on a Leo is neatening up of the
    feet.

                                           Leos should not drool, but they do like to share their water with you after
                                           taking a drink! Younger Leos sometimes sleep with their chin or ear in the
                                           water dish, which can turn into a hot spot and can become a staff infection
                                           if you aren’t  watchful. They love playing in mud and being wet, collect “weed
                                           seeds” in those coats, knock things off of the tables with their tails, and    
                                           leave large footprints both on your floor and on your heart.          
                                           They are definitely not a good choice for fussy housekeepers nor people
                                           who like to wear black clothes!

    Leo puppies are often rambunctious  and enthusiastic and are not laid back! They require
    work and diversion to use up their energy or they can become destructive. They are social but need to
    meet many new people and animals and experience their world during the first year of their lives so
    that the natural confidence comes through as an adult. The working breeds, in particular, need to be
    able to sort out the normal from the abnormal and the way to do that is to introduce them to
    continually changing, unique, stimuli as young and adolescent dogs. Leonbergers wander and need
    appropriate 5'-6' fencing. Young Leos will not thrive in small yards and homes.

    The best description I have seen of a mature Leonberger’s temperament was written by noted
    authority and author on the breed, Guido Perosino of Italy; “ It has an outgoing temperament within
    the family that is slightly more contained with friends, and with strangers it becomes dignified and
    even reserved.” A well trained and socialized adult can be taken anyplace, but  as is true of all dogs, an
    untrained and unsocialized adult may be a liability. It's not "just add water," nor love. It is training.

    Leos are capable of competitive obedience work but most are not selectively bred for those traits and
    they do better in Rally. They are more independent thinkers although they enjoy working
    with humans. Adults can be stubborn. Due to their size and build I do not suggest agility work as it can
    lead to injuries.  The breed tends towards canine cruciate ligament problems and it is both a painful
    and very expensive injury. Part of the reason they need a yard large enough to run straight out without
    turning in tight circles. They are a mountain breed and their rear assembly tends to be a bit
    straighter than dogs of the herding or sporting breeds, and they therefore tend towards more injuries
    in sports with sharp turns and fast stops. They will learn well with motivation and poorly with force.  
    Like many smart breeds, they get bored easily. Most survey a situation, make a decision based on their
    observations and experiences and don’t just jump into something, wondering later if it was the right
    guess. Some days you think they are not learning at all, and all of a sudden they “get it.” Overall they
    are a sensible breed as adults and a lot of fun to work with. They will teach you patience and to begin
    understanding the culture of a different species if you let them.

    Next page: What is it like living with a Leonberger?                       Back to: "PUPPY PACK"
Cherrywood Kennels
PUPPY PACK: What is a Leo?
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