Is This Breed For You?

Most Leonbergers are wonderful, loving dogs, but due to their size and strength, they are NOT the dog for everyone. They require time, dedication, grooming and, above all, training to ensure a well-behaved dog. Buying any dog should be a lifetime commitment, so make sure you learn about the Leonberger before you buy.  As with any breed of dog, do not buy a Leonberger if you somehow believe it will be a catalyst toward changing your life style.  It won’t.  Research and purchase a dog that matches your lifestyle as it currently exists.

Here are some facts about Leonbergers for you to take into consideration if you’re thinking of adding one to your family:

Leonbergers are NOT outdoor dogs. 

Oh, they are fine outside for short periods of time when the family is away from home, but these dogs were bred to be companions.  They are devoted to their people and want to be with you as much as possible. They are likely to behave badly to alleviate their boredom – digging, chewing, barking, etc. if they are left outdoors for extended periods of time.

You can be fooled by Leonbergers you see at a dog show.

Those glistening, dry, fluffy coats are gorgeous.  But, those are show dogs.  After the show, when they go home, a Leonbergers true nature bubbles to the surface.   They love to romp and swim.  Mud is their friend and one with which they enjoy a very close relationship.  Their natural look is slightly damp with leaves stuck to their coats.

Leonbergers are called “Gentle Giants” but they don’t get that way without a lifetime of consistent training.

Leos all go through a very stubborn adolescent stage. It’s imperative to teach them to respect and honor you and your rules at this point.  You are the alpha and your Leonberger must understand that.  If you scrimp on training, you may wind up with a 150+ pound, shall we say, independent thinker.  They may take food from the table because they can, sleep on the couch or your bed when full of mud, or take off chasing a cat down the street with you attached to the other end of the leash.

Well trained Leonbergers live to please you, but they need continual guidance from you to know how. This requires committing to at least a puppy kindergarten course, as well as basic obedience classes before the dog is one year old. It is essential to do 1-2 short (10 minute) homework sessions every day during their first two years of life, as well as incorporating the lessons into your daily life as often as possible. This training cannot be delegated to someone else (e.g., boarding school) because the relationship of respect and obedience is personal between the dog and the person doing the training. As each lesson is learned, the rest of the household must also work with the dog, ensuring that they are obeyed as well.

Do you like and enjoy a clean house or car?

Not good.  They have long fur that tends to be everywhere. They shed mainly twice a year (in large quantities), but there is always some fur in the corners.  Many Leonberger owners refer their dog’s hair as condiments. They adore being wet and muddy – that means wiping four paws every time they come in from outside unless you don’t mind the occasional muddy paw print. Their coats usually look and smell clean which means that the mud and muck that they love to play in has dried up and fallen on your floors, and oftentimes walls and furniture as well. Their tails are at the perfect height to sweep the coffee table knickknacks right onto the floor. Although they don’t drool, they are not the most efficient about closing their mouths after drinking water or eating. They may dribble food or water across your freshly mopped floors.  They love nothing more than accompanying the family on any outing, whether it involves them directly or not.  That comes at a price.  If you have 2 Leonbergers, the back of your car will look like a 3rd Leonberger.

You must be willing to attend to their basic health and grooming needs. They need to be examined by a veterinarian every 3 weeks until they are 4 months old, and then at least once a year. They need a good brushing once a week and nail trimming once every 2 weeks.  If you don’t want to use this time to bond with your dog or are unable to do this yourself, be prepared to spend the extra money to have your local groomer or veterinarian do it. They need daily checks for ticks and foxtails when these health risks are in season. Unless you provide them with large raw marrow bones to keep their teeth clean, or brush their teeth daily, they will need periodic dental care from a veterinarian.

Leonbergers eat……A Lot!!

The care that goes into keeping the Leonberger breed sound and healthy cannot be done cheaply.  They are relatively expensive dogs when purchased from an LCA-approved breeder (as all puppies should be). They are a giant breed, which means much larger food bills than you may be used to. (This also means the yard pick-up chore is sometimes considerable).  You will pay more for everything; spaying and neutering, as well as any other type of surgery, are more expensive for large dogs because the anesthesia charge is proportional to body weight. Actually, almost everything seems to be a little more expensive (crates, dog beds, food bowls, etc. for large dogs than smaller ones).

Let’s Go For A Walk!

If you want to see a 150 pound dog go crazy, pick up your car keys.  Leos love their daily walks.  They need to have at least 2 half hour daily walks, or one of about an hour, every day. They thrive on play sessions with other dogs, especially at your local off-leash park, but are perfectly happy just to play with you. Most Leonbergers love to swim and including water in their daily exercise keeps them very happy and in great shape. Exercising your dog well prevents a lot of problems that can occur when dogs are bored and have no outlet for their energy. Even a well-trained dog will misbehave when they don’t get enough exercise (excessive barking, charging fences, jumping up on people, digging, chewing inappropriately, etc.)

Do you enjoy talking to strangers?

You’d better.  Leos are not a breed you see every day.  When you’re out at the local open air market or just out for your daily stroll, you will be stopped by people all the time.  “What kind of dog is that”?  Many veteran Leo owner could retire if they received a nickel every time they answered that question.  Many actually have T-shirt that answers the 10 most often asked questions.  Frankly, most Leo owners enjoy the attention and, of course, the dogs love nothing more than meeting new people.   But, in all honesty, if that doesn’t sound like something you’d enjoy, get a Lab.

A Leonberger is for life. Don’t buy a Leonberger if you don’t believe in providing them with a lifetime home.

If you don’t intend to provide a home for the life of the dog, please don’t pursue a Leonberger (or any other breed for that matter).  Do not hesitate to contact your breeder with any questions or problems you may encounter in raising your Leonberger to be the companion dog that he/she was meant to be.  Just as your Leonberger is yours for life, so is your breeder.  7 months or 7 years, your LCA member breeder should always be there for you.  If you can no longer be there for them, establish a pet trust in your will to provide for his care in the event you should pre-decease him/her or become terminally ill.  It’s far easier to place your dog when their financial needs are taken care of.

If you’ve read all of this and you’re still excited to own a Leonberger, BRAVO!!  You will have new family member who will provide unequaled and unconditional love from the day you bring him home.  Remember, 50% of people who own a Leonberger have more than one.  There’s a reason for that.