AKC Dog Breeds: Leonberger

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Miscellaneous Class Breed
Height: 27-31 inches   Weight: 100-170 pounds  
sandy, yellow, red, reddish brown with a  black mask

The Leonberger is a very large breed of dog. The breed's name derives from the city of Leonberg in south-west Germany. According to legend, the Leonberger was ostensibly bred as a 'symbolic dog' that would mimic the lion in the town crest. Originating in Leonberg, Germany in 1846, this versatile breed was a favorite with royalty. The Leonberger nearly became extinct at the end of World War I but was revived and restored by several German breeders that were devoted to the breed. They are considered to be the oldest of the German breeds. Leonberger's continue to be used as a working breed and companion in Germany, France, Scandinavia. However, they are relatively rare in other countries. The Leonberger breed is elegant, large, and powerful. This breed possesses a gentle expression and an impressive and regal appearance. Leonberger's are sturdy, well-built, and highly reliable.

General Appearance

The Leonberger is a very large, strong dog, substantial yet elegant. In appearance, he is rather squarely built and comes in shades of golden, reddish tan and brown. His distinguishing feature is his black mask, and dark, kind eyes. He should have close fitting flews and should not drool. Mature male Leonbergers are markedly masculine and carry a lionesque mane and long fully feathered tail. Females may appear less extreme in coat and are notably feminine when compared to a dog. The Leonberger has a medium length soft to coarse double coat that is very water resistant. Males often have particularly thick fur on the neck and chest creating the appearance of a mane. There is distinct feathering on the backs of the front legs and thighs. Coat color can range from lion yellow, red, reddish brown, and sandy. Black hair tips are permitted, but black must not determine the dog's basic color. All Leonbergers have a black mask.


In temperament, the Leonberger is distinguished by unflappability -- a coolness under pressure -- and friendliness. However, the Leonberger is also a mild guard dog who will alert to a threat and stand watch, using his size and substance to protect rather than his teeth. Unflappable though they are, Leonbergers are also quite sensitive, and become attached to their pack -- human or animal -- very quickly and very deeply. Leonbergers have Newfoundland, Great Pyrenees and Saint Bernard as foundation stock and it is not surprising that they excel in cart work and water work. For a big dog, the Leonberger is very agile and capable of tremendous feats of athleticism for his size. He is called a gentle giant but in truth this is the characteristic of a mature dog of three years or more, younger specimens can be willful and rambunctious. Leonbergers are good with children and other dogs. Socialization and thorough obedience training are extremely important with any giant breed, including Leonbergers. Although the Leonberger is generally welcoming of friends and family, he is watchful and may use his size to intimidate but never his teeth to protect his loved ones. The defining characteristics of a Leonberger are kindness, steadiness, self assurance and an easy going joie de vivre.

The Leonberger sheds fur very heavily. A good brushing every week is sufficient to keep it in fine shape, except when the undercoat is being shed; then daily combing or brushing is in order for the duration of the molt. Regular use of a drag comb (it looks like a small rake), especially in the undercoat, is highly effective.

Health Problems and Life Expectancy
Leonbergers are strong, generally healthy dogs, and providing they have the right diet they may be more resistant to hip dysplasia. Breeders are now screening their dogs to reduce the risk of bone/joint problems. Leonbergers in UK and USA/Canada surveys had a median lifespan of about 7 years, which is about 4 years less than the average purebred dog, but like similarly sized breeds. Studies have indicated problems with inherited polyneuropathy in certain populations of Leonbergers  and cataracts in dogs in the United Kingdom

Activity Level

The Leonberger is not recommended for apartment living. They require daily exercise, family interaction, and mental stimulation. This breed does best in a large securely fenced yard or rural setting. Leonberger's enjoy swimming, hiking, backpacking, running, and family activities. They excel at agility, tracking, therapy, and water rescue.


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