Leonbergers Are Such Gentle Giants, They're Great Therapy Dogs

My only exposure to the Leonberger breed is the National Dog Show on Thanksgiving. I've unfortunately never had the pleasure of meeting a 'Leo' face to face. This breed is one of my absolute favorites and the pictures show how beautiful and regal this dog is whether at home or on a hike.

Here are three cool facts about the Leonberger breed:

  • Male Leonbergers have a lionlike mane on the neck and chest
  • 'The Leo' can be messy and destructive to live with. He's sloppy when he eats and drinks, he loves to play in mud and water, and he's a digger. (Sounds like our Doxie, Walter without the love for water) 
  • You cannot live with a Leonberger and be a compulsively neat person as your house will be a mess.

Any dog that is messy and loves to play in the mud is my kind of dog! Are you in love yet?

What is a Leonberger? 


MentalFloss.com explains the history behind this lionlike dog and it all started with a politician back in 1846.

"A resident of Leonberg, Germany, hoped to create a dog that resembled the lion on the town's crest. In 1846, Essig announced that he had developed a new dog by crossing a Landseer Newfoundland with a Saint Bernard, and then a Pyrenean mountain dog. He named the new breed after his beloved hometown."

This impressive dog is not known to be the easiest dog to live with if he's untrained. This German breed can weigh anywhere between 120 and 170 pounds.

What does a Leonberger look like? 

They are known for their lionlike appearance.

VetStreet.com shares that these dogs come in multiple colors! Their coat is also beautiful after being bathed, groomed and blown out.

"The Leonberger has a magnificent double coat that comes in lion yellow, golden or reddish-brown. The Leo loves being wet and muddy, and if his coat looks clean afterward, it's because all the dirt and debris has dropped onto your floor or furniture."

Leos shed too and weekly brushings aren't negotiable. You also have to comb the feathering on the ears, legs, and tail to remove or prevent tangles.

Are they a good family dog? 

The Leonberger is known as a family companion. They're bred as companion dogs and enjoy the company of their owners! Be prepared to socialize and train early on when they're pups.

While the answer is a resounding, 'yes!' it's important to know you're bringing home a highly active dog. VetStreet.com confirms he is wonderful with families but he needs attention and exercise.

"Expect to give him at least an hour of exercise daily. If you love the outdoors, he'll make a good hiking companion. Walk him on a leash so that he doesn't go running off after a cat, dragging you behind him. Other ways to help him expend energy include agility, drafting (pulling a wagon or cart), obedience, rally, and water rescue."

How long do Leonbergers live? 

When considering this breed remember that giant breeds like the Leo typically have a short lifespan of only six to eight years. This is a very short lifespan and it's also important to understand that giant breeds also tend to have some health concerns. The Leo is no different and you should talk to your breeder about these specifically:

  • Orthopedic problems such as hip and elbow dysplasia, osteochondritis dissecans and panosteitis.
  • Eye diseases including cataracts, entropion, and ectropion are a concern.
  • Other diseases that can affect Leos include cancer, including osteosarcoma

Hip dysplasia is a normal issue in larger dog breeds and working dogs so make sure the breeder walks you through the health problems she's seen over the years and what you can expect as far as life expectancy. The Leonberger Club of America and the American Kennel Club are also great resources for questions about this gentle giant.

We have some farm dogs near us that are great watchdogs and they're both Leonberger dogs. Another large dog to consider is a St. Bernard.

Do you know anyone that lives with a Leonberger? Let us know what characteristics you love about this breed!

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