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The Leonberger Dog Breed ~ One Of The Largest Dogs In The World

Updated on November 9, 2015

Beautiful Giants

Leonberger's are gigantic, beautiful dogs.
Leonberger's are gigantic, beautiful dogs. | Source

Gentle Giants With A Fascinating History

The Leonberger dog breed is believed to have originated in Germany in the early 1800's, most likely between 1830 and 1846. I say "believed to" because when the breed was created, someone disputed it and said that this type of dog was owned by royalty, the family of an Austrian prince, as early as 1585. The name Leonberger came from the city of Leonberg in Germany.

This breed is characterized by their incredibly thick fur coat, a double coat, which can range in color from the yellow coloring of a lion to sand, red-brown or red. They are known for having a black mask on their face, along with black paw pads, lips and nose leather. The fur on their coats can have black tips, but it usually doesn't take away from the original color. They can also have a small patch of white fur on their chest.

This breed grows to be incredibly large. A female can reach a weight of 135 pounds, while a male can grow up to be around 170 pounds, the size of humans! Although, most females tend to weigh around 115 and males around 140 to 150.

The coat of a Leonberger is thick and plush, along with being water-resistant. Additionally, male Leonberger's usually have a mane similar to that of a lion. There is a legend surrounding the Leonberger that they were bred originally to resemble a coat-of-arms animal called Leonberg the Lion. They were originally bred by crossing the breeds of Landseer Newfoundland with a St. Bernard.

Leonberger Dogs Have An Intriguing Backstory

It is said that the Leonberger dog breed was very much affected by both World wars. During both wars, this dog breed served their country by pulling ammunition carts and helping with the war effort. This led to almost all of these dogs being destroyed. In fact, it was reported that only five dogs survived World War I, and that only eight dogs survived World War II. As a result, the common belief is that all of today's Leonberger dogs can trace their ancestry back to these original eight dogs that survived World War II.

Originally, Leonberger's were used as working farm dogs because of their strength and sturdy build. They were also able to do draft work like pulling carts, and were especially used for these purposes in Bavaria. They have also been imported to Canada to work as search and rescue dogs, especially in water rescues. In fact, they are still used today at the Italian School of Canine Lifeguards, along with other breeds like Golden Retrievers, Newfoundland's and Labrador Retrievers, where they are trained for water rescue.

The Leonberger Dog Has Striking Good Looks And An Excellent Temperament

Leonberger dogs are known for their exceptional good looks. People have said that they have a facial expression that expresses kindness, intelligence and even pride. They have been considered to be good-natured family dogs for years because of their gentleness, loyalty, submissiveness, and the fact that noise doesn't seem to bother them. They are especially good around children and other pets. They're also playful dogs that adapt well to many types of conditions. They do need training and socialization, but they catch on quickly and soon become an indispensable part of a family.

They live between seven and ten years, but some dogs do live longer, as long as 13 years. Leonberger's are generally healthy dogs, but can have some of the issues that come up with many very large dog breeds like hip dysplasia. The instances of hip dysplasia have been observed to occur less than 15 percent of the time in the Leonberger breed due to breeders being careful to breed only dogs that have been free from hip dysplasia for the last three generations.

Leonberger Information From Animal Planet

Taking Good Care Of A Leonberger Dog

Even though Leonberger's are giant dogs, they don't require a huge area to live. A reasonable size yard is good for them. What they seem to want most is time with their human companions. They probably won't do well being left home alone for long periods of time. They want the excitement and attention of being part of a pack.

If you can be with them during the day, or if someone in your household can, that is ideal. They do need time with their people, and a daily walk. They don't need a lot of exercise, but must be walked for good health. Walking also helps them to become better socialized, which benefits you and them. They want to be indoors, with their people! They would NOT do well being kept outdoors. If you can handle the amount of shedding they do, this might be a dog to consider.

Because of their long, thick coat, and their tendency to shed... a lot... they have to be brushed regularly. They can be brushed with a rake type of brush to help get rid of the undercoat they no longer need. Since they have a double coat, they will shed (moult) about two times a year, and they probably will require daily brushing during those times.

Leonberger dogs will also need to be socialized at a young age. Socialization is important for all large dog breeds. They will also need some obedience training, but the methods used to train them should be gentle and never harsh. They make amazing companions as long as they are trained and socialized properly as puppies. Even older dogs can be trained, since they are a very smart breed.

Special Health Concerns

In addition to the possibility of hip dysplasia, Leonbergers can experience other health issues. These can include eye problems like cataracts or progressive retinal atrophy (PRA), digestive issues, thyroid problems, allergies or cancers like hemangiosarcoma or osteosarcoma. Another concern is known as Leonberger Polyneuropathy, which can be a hereditary condition.

A Leonberger can live a largely healthy life, however, by feeding them food that is recommended by a veterinarian, feeding them smaller meals throughout the day instead of large meals and adhering to a veterinary care schedule just like you would with any other household pet. Regular exercise is also a requirement for the best health. Leonbergers do tend to have a shorter life span, which is common for very large breed dogs, although some have lived to be 13 years old.

A Wonderful Family Dog

The Leonberger is a wonderful choice for a family dog. However, young kids should still be supervised around them mostly because of this dog's sheer size. They could knock a child over, or an adult for that matter, without meaning any harm to them. Young children should be taught that a dog is a living thing and be taught how to treat them in a kind, gentle way. This is true no matter what family pet you choose.

I chose to write about the Leonberger after coming across information on this fascinating, incredible breed while I was researching something else on the Internet. I guess what attracted me to them is their amazing personality, gentleness and good nature. The probability that all Leonberger dogs today are the ancestors of just eight surviving dogs from World War II also fascinated me!

In our case, our home is really too small for a dog this size and we don't really have a yard, just a small patio. Otherwise, this breed would definitely be under consideration!! Right now, I think we'll stick with out two cats. For the right family, though, a Leonberger can be a great choice!

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    • KathyH profile image
      Author

      KathyH 2 years ago from Las Vegas, Nevada

      Thanks, teaches12345~ I really like the breed from what I've read and heard about them, but living in the city, we couldn't have one. I think, like you, if we lived on a farm, this is most likely the type of dog we'd have! :)

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 2 years ago

      If I lived on a farm where one could run, I would love to have one as a pet. You make it sound like it is the best dog a person could own!

    • profile image

      Michelle B- Grand 2 years ago

      what a big dog

    • KathyH profile image
      Author

      KathyH 2 years ago from Las Vegas, Nevada

      And that guy was right! All the water would eithet be splashed out of the pool, or soaked up into the dog's fur! ( Laughing!!)

    • KathyH profile image
      Author

      KathyH 2 years ago from Las Vegas, Nevada

      We went to a Dock Dogs event here in Vegas last summer! So much fun!

    • Bob Bamberg profile image

      Bob Bamberg 2 years ago from Southeastern Massachusetts

      Nice hub, Kathy, loaded with interesting information. I've met one Leonberger, and you're right, they're huge. This was at a Dock Dogs event I was repping at. There were tons of dogs and people there, and this giant was just as calm as can be. He was quite an attraction and drew admirers everywhere they walked.

      One guy said, "Hey, you ought to have him compete," and another said, "Yeah, sure, when he jumps in the pool, there'd be this huge tidal wave and the thing would empty."

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