Leonberger

April 12, 2012

Leonberger, a giant breed of dog that hails from Germany has a distinct sexual dimorphism. Females are 25½ to 29½ inches tall and has an average weight of 105 pounds while males has an average height of 29 to 31½ inches and an average weight of 132 pounds. A Leo is an elegant dog whose appearance is made even more impressive with a distinct black facial mask.

A Leonberger is a large breed and common to large breed of dogs is a shorter life span. A Leo has an approximate life span of 8 to 9 years. These dogs grow fast and owners have to make sure that the dog would grow at their own pace. The dogs should not be overfed to accelerate growth. These breed has the tendency to gain weight. Their heightened sense of smell would lead them to cooling foods. Because of the dog’s height it can easily reach tables and kitchen counters. It would not be surprising to see a Leo filching the owner’s dinner.

A Leo can be considered to be a “jack of all trades” as in spite of the impressive appearance, the strength and the well muscled body typical to working dog, the breed was not developed for one specific purpose. The dog was primarily developed to be a family companion. A Leo is versatile and can adapt to any situation and any given task. The dog has excelled in obedience and agility competitions, has proven its worth in rescue operations, and is known to be a good therapy and herding dog. In spite of all these accomplishments, the dog instinctively knows that its prime function is to be an excellent home companion and its key task is to make the human family happy.

A Leo may not be the right pet for you and you may not be the right master for a Leo. These are high energy dogs that possess an extraordinary intelligence. These dogs would be demanding of the owner’s time. A Leo would want to be included in all the activities of the family. It would not be wise to leave a Leo alone in the yard as the dog would become bored and destructive. The pet may also become ill.

If you are fastidious about mud in your home and in your carpets, then a Leo is definitely not for you. These dogs dig, they dig a lot! A grown Leo will be a puppy when it sees an opportunity to roll in mud. Their coats may be drip-dry but your furniture and carpets are not. Leos are adorable dogs and excellent companions that is if you have the time to train the dog. Training is certainly a must to develop the dog into a well mannered one.

Information

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Appearance

Leonberger is a large dog with a domed skull and well muscled body, an oval broad deep chest and a straight, broad and firm back. This breed has a distinct sexual dimorphism. Sex of the dog is evident as males have regal male head and female heads are smaller and feminine. A very distinct feature of this breed is the black mask. The mask is usually up to the eyes though in some dogs the mask extends above the eyes. The Roman nose and the close fitting lips are black. The dog has thick medium sized pendulous ears that are set on high and hand close to the head. Jaw is strong and complete teeth meets in a scissor bite. The oval, medium shaped light brown to dark brown eyes with close fitting eyelids has a gentle expression.

The dog’s body is profusely covered with hair that can be red, reddish brown and lion yellow. Coat color can also be cream or pale yellow. The undercoat that densely covers the dog’s body is soft. The outer coat is long and rough looking. Some dogs would have black tipped guard coats. Both coats are water resistant. Male Leos grow thick manes. This gives the dog a lion-like appearance. It takes four years for a male dog to grow this mane. Females have less noticeable manes. Both front and rear legs are distinctly feathered. A Leo’s feet have black pads and webbing between the toes. The bushy tail hangs down when the dog is standing, slightly curved when the dog is moving but never carried above the level of the topline.

Personality

Leonbergers are gentle giants. These dogs are very affectionate, loving, friendly and calm. They make excellent companions even for insufferable children as the dog has a lot of patience and known to be gentle and trustworthy. These dogs openly demonstrate their affection to the members of the family. They are known as the lean-on-bergers because of their tendency to lean on the people they love. These dogs can tolerate noise very well but not noise from family squabbles. These are highly sensitive dogs that would be unhappy if exposed to shouting and loud arguments. These are not aggressive dogs as they would turn away if a situation gets heated. However they make good guard dogs because of their impressive size.

A Leonberger is said to be highly intelligent and because they have this innate trait to please they adapt well to obedience training. However, the dog has a laid back attitude and prefers to be relaxed. The dog may run and chase a ball or a stick but don’t expect a Leo to return the stick to you. Retrieving would take too much effort for a dog that prefers to be relaxed.

Leonbergers prefer to be where the master is. But these are highly energetic dogs that would not get their needed exercised if made to live in an apartment. A house with a yard would be most suitable. A Leo tolerates other pets; in fact they would really need to be with other animals.

Care

Leos have long thick coat that is shed heavily twice a year. If you own a Leo be prepared to have dog hair all over your home, dog hair floating on your coffee and on your food. During the molting season, the hair must be brushed every day. This is to remove the dead hair and to accelerate the shedding process. The coats are weather resistant and any debris “collected” by the dog can be easily brushed thus bathing should only be done if really very necessary. Nail clipping and teeth brushing should be done regularly. The ears must be kept clean to avoid the development of infection.

History

Similar to the history of other breeds, Leonberger’s history is quite clouded. Although not supported by reliable documents and proofs it was believed that the breed was established in 1846. The breed was believed to have originated in Leonberg, a small rural town in the region of Wurttemberg, Germany. Heinrich Essig, a German breeder who became a prominent citizen by being elected in the town council was responsible for breeding the dog. Essig is passionate about animals. Aside from dogs, he also keep turkeys, peacocks, foxes and many other animals so much so that his home (Schweizerhaus) can be considered a virtual private zoo. Essig has planned to create a dog that would resemble the lion on the town’s crest. Large breed of dogs was favored during that time. Heinrich Essig created the Leonberger by crossing a black and white Newfoundland female with a long haired St. Bernard he found from a monastery in Switzerland. The puppies that resulted were black and white. For four generations these dogs were crossed with yellow and white St. Bernard and with the white Great Pyrenees because Essig was trying to create an all white dog.

Generations later and after so many crossings, the black mask and the golden color of the Leonberger has evolved. Heinrich Essig was a politician and an astute marketing genius. He promoted the town of Leonberg and at the same time popularized the breed by gifting celebrities and royalty with Leonbergers. He gave dogs to Garibaldi, to the Czar of Russia, to King Umberto of Italy, to the Prince of Wales and to Empress Elizabeth of Austria. Henrich Essig became very well known and his kennel flourished, easily selling up to 300 puppies in a year.

The two World Wars almost cause the extinction of the breed. Food was scarce then and it would be very hard to keep large breed that consume big amounts of food. After the war only a few Leonbergers were left. Fortunately, an organized breeding program was undertaken by a handful of dedicated breeders. The breed was revived and presently the breed has gained popularity in many countries of the world as a guard for livestock. The Leonberger has excelled in search and rescue operations. It has also gained a reputation for being an excellent water retrieval/rescue dog. And most of all the Leonberger is most valued as a home companion because of its affectionate, loyal, warm and gentle personality. The gentle giant’s impressive appearance also makes it a daunting protector of family and properties.

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