A complete breed guide for Leonberger Dogs
Top Products for the Leonberger
|Place of origin:
|Leo, Gentle Giant, Gentle Lion
|Low to moderate
|About 20-60 minutes of exercise per day.
|Tendency to bark:
|45-70kg (male), 40-65kg (female)
|71-80cm (male), 65-75cm (female)
|Double coat. Golden to red, with black mask.
|Overall grooming needs:
|Moderate to high, daily brushing is essential
In the 1840s, a German politician by the name of Heinrich Essig hoped to create a new breed. An avid dog trader in the town of Leonberg, Essig's aim was to create a dog that resembled the lion on his hometown's crest. In 1846, Essig announced that he had succeeded in his quest, achieved by crossing a Saint Bernard with a Landseer Newfoundland, and then with a Pyrenean mountain dog. (However, modern sceptics doubt this claim of only using three breeds to create the Leonberger, and suspect he may have used genetics from a wider range of dog breeds).
The Leonberger was owned and loved by the rich and famous. Essig managed to sell his new breed to many celebrities of the time, including the Prince of Wales, the King of Italy, and the Czar of Russia.
The Leonberger has a reputation for being a gentle giant. Typically quite a placid, calm dog, they make a great chilled-out buddy for families. They do however have quite a long 'teenage' period before they are fully mature, and tend to reach adulthood closer to two years of age.
Leos are very intelligent but can be a little stubborn during training. If you choose to add a Leonberger puppy to your family, make sure to be diligent with proper training as they mature, and always practice positive reinforcement with treats.
Leos love the great outdoors - they are excellent companions on a hike, a swimming excursion, or even just an outdoor family picnic. Despite being a placid breed, it's still important to ensure they receive at least 20-60 minutes of exercise like walking every day.
However, their affinity for the outdoors doesn't mean they should be kept as an outside dog. They are well-known for forming deep attachments to their family members and do best when kept amongst the action in the home. If you're worried about their fur shedding indoors, just be sure to keep them regularly brushed, and train them to chill out on their own large dog bed from which they can watch the family go about their business. Luckily, unlike many other giant breeds of the mountain dog family, the Leonberger doesn't tend to drool - which makes it easier to keep them inside!
Leos are friendly and not aggressive towards humans, but can become less sociable with strangers as they mature. They can be dog-aggressive, so good socialisation early in life is key.
This large, cuddly dog is sure to turn heads wherever it goes. Despite being bred to resemble a lion, this gentle giant is probably more like a teddy bear in both looks and personality.
One of the most noticeable things about the Leonberger is their mammoth size. These gentle giants can reach 70kg (males) and their fluffy, mane-like fur only adds to their magnificent stature.
They are also known and admired for their lush, double coat and unique markings. Typically, Leos should have a golden-red coloured coat with a black mask face.
The Leonberger can be prone to orthopaedic problems including hip and elbow dysplasia, osteochondritis dessicans and panosteitis. Also have a heightened risk of some eye diseases including entropion and ectropion, as well as osteosarcoma, polyneuropathy, Addison's disease, hypothyroidism, and gastic torsion.
The term 'dysplasia' means abnormal growth, therefore 'hip dysplasia' means abnormal growth or development of the hips. What causes hip dysplasia? While the condition is primarily genetic in origin, the degree of hip dysplasia will vary between dogs due to a combination of factors such as body weight, nutrition, hormonal factors and other environmental considerations such as exercise. It's important to note that the inheritance of the gene is not simple, and breeding dogs with 'normal' hips can give rise to offspring with dysplastic hips and vice versa. The Orthopaedic Foundation of America publishes statistics of certain breed-related conditions based on breed and is worth a look if you are considering owning a Leonberger. For example, of the 2,766 Leonberger dogs examined in the United States, 14.0% of the hips were found to be abnormal. You can access the full report at the Orthopaedic Foundation of America website.
How to prevent hip dysplasia? Responsible breeders will ensure their breeding stock is tested prior to breeding. Since 2016, the Australian National Kennel Council Ltd (ANKC) have been responsible for the Canine Hip and Elbow Dysplasia Scheme (CHEDS) which is weighted towards secondary joint changes associated with hip dysplasia. It's important to note that some of these changes may not be evident at 12 months of age and in some cases, not before 24 months of age. To help identify this condition at an earlier age, the PennHIP scheme is available which assesses hip laxity using radiography and a distraction index and can be performed as early as 4 months of age. For more information about how to diagnose and manage this condition, take a read through Hip Dysplasia in Dogs, contact our Vet Squad or speak with your regular veterinarian.
Elbow dysplasia affects the elbow joint, which is an articulation of three bones, the humerus, radius and ulna. The correct alignment of the joint requires each bone to grow at the correct rate otherwise dysplasia can occur. While there are a few different locations in the joint where dysplasia can occur, each with different potential underlying causes, the end result is the same. Dogs with elbow dysplasia typically display signs of lameness in one or both front limbs at around 4 to 10 months of age, with arthritis appearing and worsening with age.
Panosteitis is a disease affecting bone production, which causes lameness and bone pain. It is thought that there may be a relationship between high-protein, high-calorie diets, leading to fluid accumulation and increased pressure within the developing bone.
Osteochondritis Dissecans (OCD)
OCD is a joint disease in which a flap of cartilage lifts from the joint surface, commonly in the shoulders, elbows, knees and hocks of young large and giant breed dogs. This causes joint pain and lameness.
Entropion is inversion of the eyelid margin, where the eyelid rolls in and rubs on the eyeball and this may cause irritation by the eyelashes rubbing on the eyes or lids that don't fully close over the eyes. Ectropion is the eversion of the eyelid margin so the eyelid rolls outwards. The management of entropion or ectropion usually involves surgery to correct the conformation of the eyelids. For more information about eye diseases in dogs, take a look at Eye Discharge in Dogs and Cats.
GDV or "Bloat" - Gastric Dilation and Volvulus
Bloat is a life-threatening condition whereby the stomach stretches many times its normal size and in many cases twists and rotates, cutting off its own blood supply. The spleen is usually an innocent bystander that gets pulled into the rotation, also compromising its blood supply. While this condition typically affects deep chested dogs such as the Leonberger, German Shepherd and Great Dane, it can affect any breed and size.
How do you know if your dog has bloat? The main signs to look out for are sudden onset of abdominal distension, distress, anxiety, pain (such as panting, guarding the belly), drooling and multiple unproductive attempts to vomit. What should you do in this situation? Transport them to a veterinary hospital or emergency clinic immediately where urgent treatment and surgery is required. Do not attempt to give anything by mouth.
In breeds with a high risk of bloat, a preventative surgery called a prophylactic gastropexy can be performed at the same time as desexing. The surgery involves securing the stomach to the inside of the abdomen to prevent it rotating. For more information about bloat and preventative surgery, we recommend speaking with your regular veterinarian.
Hypothyroidism (also known as an underactive thyroid) is a condition where the thyroid gland does not produce enough thyroid hormone. In broad terms, this results in a slowing of metabolic processes which causes symptoms such as weight gain, lethargy, hair loss and skin conditions. Hypothyroidism is usually fairly simple to manage with an inexpensive daily medication to supplement thyroid hormone levels.
Addison's Disease, known medically as hypoadrenocorticism, is caused by a lack of hormone secretion from the adrenal glands. Common clinical signs include lethargy, inappetance, vomiting, weakness and weight loss. Diagnosis can be made difficult by vague symptoms. Immediate treatment is crucial, as the condition can result in an Addisonian crisis which is life threatening.
With a big body size comes a big appetite! As a giant breed, the Leonberger is slow to mature, reaching its adult size and weight around 24 months of age. It has special nutritional requirements because of this, and it is important to feed a premium diet specifically formulated for large and giant breed puppies. To ensure large breed puppies aren't overloaded with nutrients that can lead to bone deformities, large breed-specific puppy foods are designed with the ideal amount of calories, calcium, and phosphorus to support a slower-maturing, larger-sized dog. We recommend feeding a premium diet from a reputable pet food company that has undergone AAFCO feeding trials. The diet should be fed in controlled amounts to promote slow rate of growth and a lean body condition score of 4/9. See the WSAVA Body Condition Scoring In Dogs for more information on assessing body condition scores.
It is also important not to exercise Leonberger puppies too long or strenuously, as they are prone to developmental orthopaedic problems while their bones are still forming. Allowing them to explore around at their own pace and restricting any forced exercise is a good way to prevent excess strain on their developing skeleton.
Top food recommendations for Leonberger Puppies
Our Vet Squad recommend the following diets for Leonberger puppies until they reach their adult size and weight at around 24 months of age.
A high quality, premium large breed puppy food formulated with optimal levels of calcium, phosphorus and energy for controlled bone growth.
Tailor made nutrition to support your growing giant breed puppy until the age of 8 months. For puppies between the age of 8 months and 18 to 24 months, we recommend switching to Royal Canin Junior Giant Dry Food.
An Australian made large breed puppy food with added green lipped mussel powder to support joint health.
Fortified with key nutrients to support healthy joints, this premium large breed puppy food is also enriched with colostrum to enhance immune defences.
Top food recommendations for the Adult Leonbergers
Once they have reached adulthood, we recommend Leonbergers transition to a premium diet specifically formulated for large and giant breeds. These diets contain ingredients to support bone and joint health and controlled nutrients in order to maintain lean body weight.
Due to their increased risk of joint issues later in life, a supplement for osteosupport is also recommended for this breed, and can be started as young as 2 years of age.
Formulated with nutrients to support bone and joint health, and maintain cardiac health, this diet also contains antioxidants to support health and longevity.
A high quality, premium diet which includes L-carnitine to encourage fat metabolism and maintain lean muscle mass, and glucosamine and chondroitin for healthy joints and cartilage.
A premium diet, formulated with natural sources of glucosamine and chondroitin and chicken as the main ingredient.
An Australian made, natural food range with high quality proteins as the main ingredients.
Top Joint Supplements for the Leonberger
The products below contain a combination of ingredients for joint support such as glucosamine and chondroitin and Green lipped mussel powder (a potent source of omega fatty acids which have an antiinflammatory action.)
These tasty chews contain Glucosamine and Chondroitin (the building blocks of cartilage) and Green Lipped Mussel (proven to reduce inflammation). Also available as a powder.
A premium quality, vet recommended joint supplement containing green lipped mussel and epitalis to help support joint health and ease the symptoms of arthritis.
A rich source of Vitamin C which has been clinically proven to reduce joint inflammation.
This powder contains green lipped mussel powder, a potent source of anti-inflammatory omega fatty acids and can be sprinkled over food.
- They are very in tune to human emotions. They tend to vibe off their family's energy, and can become visibly distressed when their family argues or quarrels.
- Due to their gentle nature and large size, they make excellent therapy dogs.
- They were originally bred to resemble a lion, in honour of the lion on Leonberg's town crest. (However we think they look more like a teddy bear!)
- They were owned by royalty all over the world during the 19th Century. Notable Leo-loving monarchs included the Prince of Wales, the Czar of Russia, and the King of Italy.
- The breed almost went extinct after World War I, and it is believed there were only 25 purebreed Leonbergers left at one point. The breed was restored thanks to a breeding program, which was eventually overseen by the German government.
- They tend to have small litter sizes, compared to other large breeds of dogs. Their average litter size is approximately 4-6 pups.
- The original breeder claimed they were a mix of a Saint Bernard with a Landseer Newfoundland, and a Pyrenean mountain dog. However, this claim has been disputed as modern experts believe there were probably more breeds involved.