What To Know About A Leonberger

Medically Reviewed by Vanesa Farmer, DVM on April 23, 2022
6 min read

Leonbergers, or Leos for short, are huge and powerful dogs that are friendly and playful. They are affectionate and easy to train. For this reason, Leonbergers can make excellent pets for families with children and other animals. Well-trained Leonbergers will grow to be gentle giants that are social with other dogs and humans.

Leonbergers are huge dogs. One can weigh anywhere from 90 to 150 pounds. Male dogs can stand 28 to 31 inches at the shoulder while females are smaller at 25 to 30 inches. Additionally, their heads are adorned with a striking black mask and a set of lush triangular ears. Leonbergers are muscular with a dramatic lion-like mane around their neck and chest. Their giantly demeanor blends with their gentle, dark brown eyes to produce a kind appearance.

A Leonberger’s coat is long and coarse with waterproof qualities. This means that they can swim and not get water on their skin. Their coat also helps keep them warm. Its color can be brown, mahogany, red, yellowish, or any combination of these colors, and it has a seamless pattern. These dogs can shed quite an amount of hair. As such, you’ll require grooming tools like brushes to keep the dog neat. For such an intimidating dog, Leonbergers are well-coordinated and exhibit both intelligence and sound judgment.

Like many large dog breeds, Leonbergers don’t live that long. They have a lifespan of 8 to 9 years. Despite their size, they tend to be self-assured and submissive to family members. These dogs are, calm, affectionate, and friendly toward children. However, as with other huge and powerful dogs, Leonbergers can easily overpower toddlers and infants. 

If your home is frequented by visitors, you don’t have to worry about locking your dog away. A Leonberger can tolerate strangers, although it is important to instill this social behavior while they’re still young. You can take your dog to most public places without the fear of them attacking people or other animals. Although Leos are usually friendly with other pets around the house, they can be aggressive around dogs that they are unfamiliar with.

This dog breed does not make good kennel dogs and prefers to be with its guardians. These dogs make very good companions because they are intuitive about human emotions and form strong bonds with family members. Leos are not only loyal and sociable, but also great pets and protectors. Although they are often calm inside, these dogs have high energy levels and need plenty of daily exercise and space to move around.

Just like every other dog, the Leonberger comes with a whole lot of responsibilities. 

Grooming. Leonbergers are a heavy shedding breed. They also have a thick, full outer coat and a shorter, fluffier undercoat that requires regular brushing. You can groom your dog at least once a week. To do this, you’ll need tools like a metal comb and an undercoat rake to work out the undercoat. A slicker brush or pin brush will help you to work the outer coat. Focus on removing any excess hair and ridding the coat of any debris and dirt.

In addition, trimming the pads of your dog’s feet allows it to walk comfortably on all surfaces. Include a good ear, dental, and anal hygiene routine for your dog every other week. Some pet owners prefer anal cleaning done by veterinarians. 

Exercise. Your adult dog will require at least two hours of exercise and high-energy activities per day due to their huge muscles. However, you should not over-exercise the puppies because their bones may not be fully developed.

Feeding. Whether you chose to buy dog food or make it yourself, your pet’s diet should contain appropriate nutrients. Most commercial canine diets for large dogs will do well for your dog. Ensure to always provide sufficient clean water at all times. Some dogs easily get overweight, so watch your dog’s weight and calorie intake. Adult dogs should be fed once or twice a day, while puppies can feed 2 to 3 times a day depending on their age. Watch what you feed your dog with as they can experience bloating where their stomachs fill will gas, liquid, or fluid. 

According to the University of Sydney’s LIDA task force, Leonbergers are less prone to diseases compared to other breeds. However, Leos may suffer from inherited diseases such as:

Laryngeal paralysis. This condition is also called vocal cord paralysis. It occurs when the nerve impulses to your dog’s voice box (larynx) are disrupted. If your dog has this condition, their breathing is affected and you may notice noisy breathing, a change in their bark, and strained breathing. The disease may progress to a point where surgery is required for treatment.

Bloating. This condition is also called gastric dilatation and volvulus (GDV). It can affect any dog, but particularly those with deep chests like the Leonberger breed. This life-threatening condition causes their stomachs to fill with gas, liquid, or fluid, and as a result, they twist. You may notice that your dog is restless, has an enlarged abdomen, or repeatedly attempts to vomit. 

Routine veterinary check-ups are crucial to avoid conditions like bloat, which could threaten your dog’s life if left untreated. You should also ask your vet about special diet considerations for your dog. Pets that are prone to digestive issues can be helped by disciplining them on eating and following feeding instructions.

Bone cancer. Primary bone cancer is a common type of cancer in large dog breeds. As such, your Leonberger could be at risk. This disease can occur due to weight-bearing stress during long bone formation. You may notice your dog has difficulty eating if it affects the jaw. You may also notice swelling of the limbs when cancer affects them. Surgery is the usual treatment for bone tumors. 

The following are ways of preventing bone cancer in dogs:

  • Monitor your pet's weight
  • Have regular veterinary checkups
  • Avoid long-term exposure to sunlight
  • Avoid exposure to asbestos
  • Add vegetables to their diet
  • Examine your pet once a month

Cataracts. As dogs age, they may develop cataracts the same way humans do, since they have eyes with similar features as ours. Cataracts form when the proteins in dogs' eyes clump together to form a cloud-like substance. Most cataracts in dogs are inherited. Surgery is the only sure way to eliminate them.

Hip dysplasia. This condition is also common among giant breed dogs. It causes the hip joint not to fit or develop properly. Canine hip dysplasia can be rectified through surgery and lifestyle modification.

Routine checkups can help provide your dog with the best chance of lifelong health and comfort.

Dogs have been part of human society longer than any domestic animal. Leonbergers are naturally good with people and are ideal for families with children and pets. Despite their large size, Leos are gentle and make great companions for kids. With their deep, imposing barks and confidence, Leonbergers provide a sense of security by deterring intruders.

To keep them healthy, Leonbergers require ample exercise, good food, and lots of love. Keep in mind that puppies have a lot of energy and are extremely enthusiastic. It is important to train them by gently exposing them to other animals and people while still young. 

The history of Leonbergers goes way back to the 1830s. They seem to have originated from the town of Leonberg, where Heinrich Essig, a 19th-century politician and entrepreneur, brought together a female Landseer Newfoundland with a Barry male. Later, a Pyrenean mountain dog was added, resulting in a very large dog with a very long white coat and a pleasant temperament.

Historically, Leonbergers were majestic dogs fit for royalty. They were popular among the rich, including Napoleon II, Empress Elizabeth of Austria-Hungary, the Prince of Wales, Otto Von Bismarck, Emperor Napoleon III, and Umberto I of Italy. Because of their versatility and unbelievable energy, Leos were also working on farms and waterfronts. They were frequently pulling carts around the villages of Bavaria and surrounding districts. Since then, it has maintained that role at the Italian School of Canine Lifeguard.

Other breeds such as the Newfoundland were reintroduced in the 20th century and the results were the modern Leonberger, with darker coats and black masks. Eventually, the Leonberger received American Kennel Club recognition as a member of the Working Group on January 1, 2010.

If you love big dogs and are looking for a companion to take you fishing, the Leonberger is your ideal pet. They do not drool and enjoy activities such as swimming and sledding with their beloved humans. If you also enjoy hiking, the Leonbergers will always be looking forward to your next excursion.