If you are a Leonberger owner, then you are fortunate. This rare dog breed nearly disappeared from the face of the earth just after World War I. Just 25 remained when the dust had cleared, and out of these, only five were fit for breeding. A few dedicated breeders revived the line and there are many in the world currently, although they are still considered to be a rare breed. They are gaining popularity in the United States as well as in other parts of the world, and we’re beginning to see the population of purebred Leonburgers rise. Anyone who is considering becoming a Leonberger owner needs to understand what they are getting into. Here are 20 things that only Leonberger owners would understand.
1. You have a security guard
Leonbergers were bred to be guardian dogs. They are vigilant and very aware of their surroundings. Once your Leonberger knows that he is at home, he will patrol the perimeter of the property, or at least scan the area with his eyes and he’ll keep his ears open. These dogs are amazing guardians and they can become aggressive if there is an intruder coming onto your property. They will not tolerate strangers coming into the home unless they have the reassurance from their owner that it’s okay. You will feel much more secure when you own a Leonberger.
2. The neighbors may think you own a lion
As Leonbergers mature their looks change. By the age of two or three, they develop a mane around the neck that resembles a lion. Most of them are close to the same color as well with variations of golden yellow coats to a red and brown. Most have a facial mask that may be black or at least darker in color than the rest of their coats. From a distance, neighbors may mistake your dog for a lion. This is one of the physical characteristics that make them so unique and special. The mane is similar in appearance to that of an Australian Shepherd, except that it is much longer and fuller.
3. Your puppy won’t look much like a puppy
Leonbergers are large dogs at full maturity. The weight on average ranges fro 90 to 150 pounds. This dog is not fully mature until he is three years of age, but he will reach his full height of between 28.5 to 31.5 inches at the shoulder by the time that he is one year old. He may still act like a puppy, but he certainly won’t look like one. His ears will begin to drop about the time that his lion like mane grows in so expect to see these changes if you own a purebred Leonberger.
4. Your dog can be as quiet as a mouse
Most Leonberger owners can attest to the fact that this breed is usually very calm and quiet. There are times when you’ll need to look for your dog because you might not hear him for long periods of time. This doesn’t mean that he is lethargic or lazy though. You’ll discover that his energy level is not low, he simply has a calm and quiet temperament unless the need for being more vocal arises. This is one of the things that Leonbergers appreciate about the dog because they don’t raise a ruckus unless there is a good reason to do so.
5. Your dog will be your best hiking buddy
Originally trained to be working dogs, the Leonberger is happiest when he is doing something physical. He loves to take long walks and hiking is the perfect activity to help keep his muscles well conditioned. Historically, this breed of dog was created not only for guarding, but also for pulling sleds or carts. If you’re a hiker, then he’ll love accompanying you on your treks into the wilderness. If you’re not, then he’ll probably pester you out of your mind if you don’t take him on at least one daily walk. Two outings are even better than one. He’ll even let you know when it’s time to go out. Don’t stop at taking your dog for a daily walk or two though. This breed needs to have a fair amount of exercise to keep his muscles in top condition. It’s best to allow him to participate in family games and activities, and to have plenty of space to roam around in the back yard or in other places.
6. Don’t be surprised when he jumps into the swimming pool
Leonbergers truly enjoy a good swim. They love the water so if you walk him by a pond or a stream, you’d better have a strong leash. They are good swimmers and are apt to jump in to take a quick paddle around the pool or any body of water that looks inviting to them. If you’re into summertime water sports he will feel like he’s in heaven on your family outings. This dog will have no fear when it comes to jumping in with the family and joining in the games. Swimming is actually one of the better activities that will help your Leonburger to get the kind of intense exercise that he needs in his younger years. This may change and he gets older and starts to slow down. Be advised that this dog loves the water and he may surprise you by jumping in the lake when you least expect it.
7. You need to take pictures of your Leonberger
You will be amazed at how much your Leonberger will change from the time that he’s a puppy until he reaches the age of one. He’s going to grow fast, and in just a few short months after he joins your family, he will hardly look like the same dog. Take lots of pictures and videos because he will rapidly transform from the cute and adorable puppy into a beautiful and quite large adult dog. It’s fun to compare the pictures from month to month to see just how much different they look as they mature. He’ll be full sized by age one, but over the next 12 to 24 months, when his mane starts growing in, the changes that will take place in his appearance will seem almost magical. His ears will also start to drop. This isn’t a bad thing because he will grow to be a beautiful dog that all your friends and neighbors will remark about.
8. Your Leonberger is definitely not an outside dog
Even though he’s big, your dog doesn’t do as well outside and he does living in the house with you. He’s not a good kennel dog, but he’ll tolerate it for short periods of time. You can even set up a kennel indoors for him to sleep in, but he needs to be free to make his periodic inspections of the home because, after all, he is a guardian dog and it is in his nature to remain aware of what’s going on in his domain. This is not the best breed if you’re looking for an outside dog because he prefers to be around his owner and family versus outside locked in an enclosed area. Most Leonbergers at maturity are calm dogs that don’t get into a lot of mischief if they are properly socialized and have their own toys available.
9. He needs to have his own space
Your Leonberger is a smart dog and he learns quickly. He will learn that there are places he should be and some that he shouldn’t if you show him. It’s important that he has an area that is his, and a place that he can go to rest and relax. This should be where you place the dog bed that he sleeps on at night. It will give him a sense of ownership and a place to go when he needs to get away from the noise and the crowd when you have guests in your home. This will help him to feel more secure and at home in your house. When you give him the command to go lie down, this is the place that he will retreat to. Protect your dog’s personal space from other people such as small children or rowdy guests and let them know that when he goes there he shouldn’t be disturbed.
10. You need to socialize him very early
Leonberger owners will agree that early socialization of this dog is important if not vital. It is not usually an aggressive dog, but it can be if it doesn’t learn the proper behaviors early. Start by teaching your dog to play gently and not to bite ever. Jumping up on people is another behavior that you shouldn’t allow because your cute cuddly puppy is going to become a large dog that could easily take you down while just playing around. Introduce your Leonberger to other animals and stay in the immediate area with him. He needs to get used to other animals and you should be there until he learns how to behave around them. If not socialized, Leonbergers can become aggressive with other animals and even with people that they do not know, so make this one of your top priorities when training him.
11. When he’s a puppy, he’ll eat your shoes
Leonberger puppies have a natural instinct that simply forces them the chew. This means that you’ll need to keep your shoes up, or they will be fair game for your pup. His gums are swollen and itching because there are new teeth coming in. The only relief that he gets is by chewing on something firm. A shoe is the perfect solution, but this isn’t the only thing that he’ll target. Throw rugs, chair legs or anything else that he can get his teeth into are subject to become his victims. Buy him some sturdy dog toys that are meant for heavy duty chewing and this will help to take the pressure off of your other household items. You’ll still need to keep things picked up, because when these dogs are puppies and young adults, they are highly likely to gnaw on anything that is left lying around. When they’re older and have learned right from wrong, the threat of destructive behaviors should be much less.
12. He’s easy to train
Leonbergers are relatively easy to train because of their high intelligence. If you’re consistent and firm, he’ll respond by trying to do the things that you want him to. While he’s not as eager to please his master as some other breeds, his calm temperament makes him a better candidate for paying attention and learning faster. As long as you are clear, direct and consistent, he should get the hang of things like potty training, proper behaviors and the dos and don’ts of the house.
13. He must have toys that amuse him
Because your dog is smart and bred to be a working dog, he needs something to do to keep him occupied. If you don’t supply him with an assortment of doggie toys, he’ll be on the lookout for something else, and this could result in destructive behavior. Dogs don’t have hands so they play with their mouths and their teeth. This means chewing, so it’s better to let him amuse himself with a few different toys that he can play with rather than him investigating some of your personal belongings as potential play items. He’ll be much happier if he has a few different toys around to play with. If you buy toys with squeakers inside them, he’ll be thrilled. Just be sure that the device is embedded deep within the toy so it doesn’t pop out and present a choking hazard because he’s going to apply some heavy pressure.
14. He’ll defend your children
If you have children in the household, this natural guardian dog will instinctively feel obliged to protect them. This is why early socialization is so important. Even if you’re just playing rough with the kids, if he doesn’t know that it’s play he may become defensive. He won’t necessarily bite you, although he might, but he will get upset and try to insinuate himself in between you and the kid you’re rough housing with. When he knows that this is common interaction, he won’t react but your dog isn’t born knowing the difference between rough play and a serious threat until he learns this. Leonberger owners understand this and will nod their heads in agreement on the topic. This isn’t a bad thing though. You know that when he’s outside playing with them in the back yard, he’ll be on guard for strangers and he’s not about to let anyone hurt his family.
15. He’s loving and affectionate towards his family
Your Leonberger has a lot of love to give and although he’s a more calm canine, he has no trouble showing affection. He’s a little big for being a lap dog, but he does enjoy human contact. He craves affection and gives it right back in return. Most Leonbergers aren’t big on licking, but they do love to cuddle and nuzzle with their owner and other family members. Another great thing about this loving pooch is that he is not a big time drooler. Leonbergers are more classy than that and they don’t get dog saliva all over the house.
16. He’ll pull his weight in the family
While some dogs prefer to tear up the house or the yard, then just lie on a pillow and sleep most of the day, this is definitely not how a Leonberger acts. He’s a natural work dog and he loves having a job to do. He’ll watch over the yard and the house to keep it safe and although he’s quiet, he’ll bark and let you know if something is out of place. The best thing you can do is praise him for a job well done because he wants to work and he is going to be a real asset to your family because everyone in the neighborhood will know that he’s the guardian of the home. In addition to this, he won’t mind if you train him to perform a few other simple tasks. For example, when you’re backpacking or hiking, you could have him assist by outfitting him with a special canine pack to help lighten your own load, especially when packing into a remote campsite. You may also train him to pull a small cart of sled because this is what he was bred to do. It will give him something useful to do and as long as the loads are not too heavy, and he has already been trained to do it, it’s a win-win situation for both you and your dog.
17. If you leave him alone you’ll pay the price
Leonbergers are dogs that need companionship. They do not do well when they are left by themselves for long periods of time. This is something that you must consider before becoming the owner of this awesome dog. When the house is empty for hours at a time, your Leonberger will do much better is there is another compatible dog in the house, or a cat that he has bonded with. These dogs may have a calm and quiet temperament, but they enjoy company. This is one of the reasons why you shouldn’t attempt to make your Leonberger an outside dog. They are best suited for individuals or families who plan to make them house dogs. When they are left in isolation, this dog can easily become withdrawn and depressed. Some have been known to act out with bad behaviors when ignored or left alone for too long. Because they are so smart, they will try to get your attention and one way is to shred papers on the floor, chew up a throw rug or piece of furniture, or some other destructive behavior.
18. Stubbornness is one of the traits you’ll need to deal with
Any Leonbrrger owner will tell you up front that this dog can be stubborn. If he wants something badly enough, he’ll use his intellect to figure out how to get it. This could be an obstacle during training if you don’t command his respect from the very beginning. Physical punishment such as hitting is never the right approach with this dog, or any other dog for that matter. Positive reinforcement is the most effective way to train him, but firmness and consistency is an absolute must. You must show that you are the alpha from day one and maintain this position, or the dog will be harder to train and may become sneaky when he wants to have his own way. He’ll be stubborn for his entire life, but he’ll relent faster if he is well-trained to obey.
19. Your Leonberger acts like a lion
You dog not only bears a slight physical resemblance to a lion, but when you have two or three of this dog breed, you’ll be amazed at how much their behaviors are like a pride of lions. When together, they will lie together in close quarters just as you see the big cats do. They are usually calm and reserved when a group of them are resting together. This is one of the traits that has been remarked upon at dog shows when a group of Leonbergers are finished with their round of competition and taking a break until the next session.
20. Brush me twice a week and we’ll both be happy
Leonbergers have a dense coat that can be wooly, especially when the weather is beginning to get cooler in the fall. This dog isn’t the most prolific shedder but he does shed and it will get on your chairs, furniture and clothing unless you are proactive. Simply brush his entire coat twice a week and it will diminish the amount of time that it will take you to clean up the hair. Most Leonbergers love their bathing and grooming time. Grooming is relaxing and most often, your dog will just lie there and enjoy the special treatment that he’s getting.