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Leonbergers Szelta
"Szelta" 03.04.2007
Photo with thanks to Trudy Fields
Photo with thanks to Ada,

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Group Working Dogs (KC)

Origin / History The Leonberger is a large dog breed originating from Leonberg in Southwest Germany. Heinrich Essing, a German breeder, developed the breed in 1846 by crossing the St. Bernard, Newfoundland, and Great Pyrenees, creating a dog that closely resembled the lion in the Leonberg town crest. Its stately appearance made it a favorite among the European elite. France’s Napoleon II, Austria’s Empress Elizabeth, and the Prince of Wales all owned Leonbergers.

The breed was almost wiped out, however, during the two subsequent World Wars. Leonbergers had a large appetite and could not be adequately fed due to the food shortage. By the end of World War II, only a few Leonbergers remained. It was only in 1945, nearly a hundred years after its creation, that a group of Germans gathered the surviving dogs and reestablished the breed. Today, Leonbergers are widely used for tracking, water rescue, and livestock protection.

Appearance They are muscular but elegant, stocky but lively. The coat is thick, long, and coarse. Some males have thicker coats on the neck and chest, creating the effect of a mane and its distinct lion-like appearance. The eyes are usually brown with a soft, gentle expression.

Colours Leonbergers may come in a variety of colors; acceptable shades are red, reddish brown, lion yellow, sandy, and any combination of these. Black marks may appear on the tips, but should not be predominant.

Temperament Despite its size, the Leonberger is sweet and affectionate, with a calm, friendly nature and remarkable loyalty to its owners. They are also very patient and take very well to children, making them excellent family pets. They show little to no aggression; in adverse situations they simply walk away. However, aggression can result from improper training or traumatic experiences as pups.

Height and Weight The Leonberger is a large dog, with males standing between 28 ½ and 31 ½ inches at withers and bitches between 25 ½ and 29 ½. Males can weigh up to 200 lbs and females up to 132.

Common Health Problems Leonbergers are prone to hip dysplasia, bone disease, and other disorders common to large breeds. Many cases are hereditary, but proper exercise and training can minimize discomfort and prevent complications. Eye defects may also arise from their naturally heavy eyelids, so regular eye checkups are recommended.

Living Conditions Leonbergers will adapt to any environment, but they thrive best in homes with at least a small yard for running around in. They also prefer cool climates. They’ll follow their owners around the house and can sleep in or out of the house. They don’t take well to being home alone; they can and should be taken on family outings as much as possible.

Exercise Requirements This breed doesn’t need a lot of exercise, but they should get enough to stay fit. Daily walks are encouraged, as with most large dogs. Hiking and cart-pulling are excellent activities for dogs of this breed, but the latter should be taught only when the dog is fully grown. Leonbergers enjoy the water and are very good swimmers—try taking them for a swim and having them retrieve toys from the water.

Training Requirements The Leonberger responds best to easy, gentle training. Rewards should be given sparingly; these dogs like petting and praise more than material rewards. They are surprisingly agile for their size and you can make the most of this by training them for rescue and retrieval. Owners with children or other pets should socialize Leonbergers at a young age to prevent behavioral problems.

Life Expectancy Leonbergers can live around 8 to 9 years, a good 4 to 6 years less than the average dog. This is mostly due to medical conditions such as cancer and heart disease.

Grooming Because of their long, thick coat, Leonbergers need weekly grooming and need to be brushed every other day. Baths should be given only when needed, but the teeth and ears should be cleaned regularly. Matting is common behind the legs and ears. Daily brushing is required during seasonal shedding periods.

Famous Examples

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More Leonberger Information: Check out our Leonberger Clubs and links to more informative websites dedicated to the breed.

Submit your Leonberger pictures Send us any pics of your Leonberger, let us know there name and age and any other details. We'll add to this page. Contact us

Leonberger's Photo
"Ollie" in the garden
 2 Leonbergers
"Alfie" and "Ollie"
Leonberger Szelta

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