For anyone considering taking one of these wonderful Giants in to their home, please be aware that this is a dog classified in the Molossoid breeds, mountain type and require long term commitment and understanding of the breed specifics. The Leonberger is one of the oldest breeds originating in Germany. Description taken from the International Leonberger Union website
The Leonbergers love to be worked and enjoy water and draught work along with many other activities, they make exeptional Pet's As Therapy dogs, they are so very sensitive and most love to do therapy work. Their laid back temperament and love of children makes them the perfect addition to any family as the perfect companion dog.
They are very intelligent and need to be at the heart of a family, being involved in day to day life. They do not thrive well being away from the family or being left alone for long periods of time.
There are not many breeders of Leonbergers nowadays but here are a few pointers as you begin your search for your new family member.
There are several breeders of Leonbergers in the Uk to choose from. Your choice should be someone who you feel able to communicate with as this will be necessary during the life of your puppy
You can search online for UK Leonberger breeders and also find a few listed on the Leonberger Club of Great Britain website, although many breeders are no longer members, including ourselves after 7 years. Reputable breeders don't have to be associated with organisations to breed and belonging to an association doesn't always make a reputable breeder! Unfortunately, many links on the site don't work and some websites are not updated.
There are now only 6 breeders belonging to the Kennel Club Assured Breeder Scheme. More than 20 were registered just a couple of years ago. (We have left on 30.04.20 after 10 years)
There is a code of ethics for breeding the Leonberger and there is ethical breeding, they don't necessarily mean the same thing.
Social media isn't a good neutral place to search for a Leonberger breeder. Most British breeders don't like to see others being recommended on social media groups and one has actually banned this. Around the world, it's not a problem but in the UK there is too much animosity.
Most good breeders will come by recommendation from previous puppy owners and you can ask to see testimonials from them,
Most good breeders will have an up to date website with information about them and a list of all their past breeding. If they don't have a website then they are not being transparent. What are they avoiding?
2019 saw new breeding licences brought in by the government and issued by local councils. All breeders can now only have two litters per year before requiring a licence to breed.
Most breeders will have a waiting list so be prepared to have to wait for a well bred puppy.
Most breeders will supply health results of their dogs on their website, or you can find them here if you know the pedigree of the dog World Wide Leonberger Database Also find here past litters of breeders, just type in their Affix eg. Pagency
Most breeders will want you to visit them.
You will usually be asked lots of questions about your Homelife, family, working commitments, your ability to afford to keep a Leonberger etc, this shows the interest the breeder has in the prospective home and also your suitability to the breed.
Meet their dogs in their home to give you an idea of how this big dog will fit in to your home. Be aware of dogs in cages/crates.
Ask if the Dam actually resides with them on a permanent basis. Be concerned if they don't.
Ask questions about their past breeding, how many litters do they have? Look at the temperaments of their dogs in breeding, are they friendly? ask to see their older dogs, if not there why? Do they keep their older dogs when they have finished breeding?
Do they have only dogs of breeding ages or are they mixed ages? An indication of a puppy farmer.
Ask where dogs actually live, a spotless home usually means dogs don't live in the house.
Most Leonberger breeders are passionate about the breed and genetic diversity but there are some who breed solely for financial reasons, as in all breeds and sometimes with little care for the welfare of the Dam and her pups.
Does the breeder breed more than one type of dog or other animals. Is it a hobby or a business?
Ask how many dogs they have in breeding.
Ask what goals the breeder wishes to achieve for their breeding, what is their contribution to the breed and genetic diversity so far?
Do they breed every dog that passes health tests?
What happens to the dogs that they can't breed from?
Ask about the Sire, why is he the chosen one for the Dam? What qualities do they both have for breeding? What weaknesses do they have? The perfect Leonberger hasn't been bred yet.
What health issues are there in the lines? There is no perfect line, if they have none they are lying. How far back can the breeder go with their lines to know what problems may have been in the ancestory or are likely to crop up in the future?
Are all their dogs healthy? Have their past dogs had any health issues?
Has cancer been an issue in their breeding programmes over the years? Remember that cancer is in all breeds but in some lines more than others.
Can they provide you with an up to date record of losses from their past litters which can be verified?
Where are puppies reared, inside the home or outside, or in a separate breeding area?
How are puppies socialised?
Can you visit to see the litter and see the Dam with her pups? This is now a legal requirement under Lucy's Law April 2020. Update: during the Corona Virus lockdown, this has not been possible but Defra have agreed that viewing by video is acceptable during this period.
Will you get regular updates as the puppy develops? Can they be seen on a website?
Will there be a contract for the puppy and are there any endorsements attached to the KC registration? Can you be furnished with a copy on request?
Does the breeder wish to be kept informed of the puppy's progress in the future?
Is the breeder available for advice after the sale of the puppy?
Will the breeder take back the puppy should your circumstances change in that you are unable to keep him/her in the future? Unlikely but it happens.
While there are many pro factors to have a Leonberger, there are also some cons to be considered as well:
Do you like big coated lion like dogs?
Do you like hair in your food, on your clothes and almost everywhere?
Do you like big muddy paws all over your floors?
Do you like water, especially all over your kitchen floor?
Do you like long daily walks?
Do you like to committ to weekly training school sessions?
Do you like dog grooming and lots of it?
Do you like cleaning, because there will be lots of it to do?
Do you like to never have clean patio doors ever again?
10. Do you like to share your sofa; bed; car; with a loveable Giant, who will be constantly by your side and who will give you his heart for as long as it beats?
Only if you answer yes to any of these questions, is the Leonberger the dog for you!
Whilst not the perfect dog for everyone, they are a true mix of canine strength and elegance at it's best.
The Leonberger is a friendly character who makes a great family pet, very distinguished in his manner and child friendliness. As a companion he is agreeable, obedient and fearless in all situations of life. The Leonberger although a working breed, was not bred for one purpose alone.
"The most interesting characteristic of The Leonberger is his lack of specialization. Although he is in body, the strength and the muscle of a typical working dog, the fact that he has been selectively bred for the balanced temperament of a house dog....rather than any precise working task, has gifted him with a versitility almost unique on the present canine scene. The Leonberger adapts himself well and often, spontaneously to various uses; he seems to know instinctively what is expected of him"
Above quote by Guido Perosino, Italian author of The Leonberger, International Judge and expert in the field of Leonbergers.
The story began in the early years of the 19th century in Germany, a small rural town called Leonberg, a flourishing market town 20km from Stuttgart in Wuttemberg in the foothills of the black forest. Heinrich Essig was born in 1809, he is the creator of the breed and turned out to be the modern day "entrepreneur".
He was an animal lover, a showman and a very clever merchant. The Saint Bernard and The Newfoundland were prestigious dogs of that day, he wanted a dog to rival these popular breeds and to promote the town in which he lived along with creating a breed which closely resembled the look of a lion in the town's crest.
He crossed a Landseer Newfoundland with a long haired Saint Bernard owned by monks at the St Bernard monastry. He in-bred these dogs and then outcrossed to another dog in his kennels the White Pyrenean Mountain Dog, another popular dog of that time. The Leonberger emerged from this in 1846, this lion like dog who resembled the lion in the Leonberg town crest met with great success and soon became in demand. His marketing genious created widespread popularization of the breed. He had ardent loyalists who paid great sums and defended him publicly against the outraged breeders of the Saint Bernard & Newfoundland following his new creation. By this time he was a town councilor who took great advantage of his superior position, his dogs were sold in to the castles of royalty, most notably, Empress Elizabeth of Austria, the Prince of Wales, Emperor Napoleon II, Garibaldi, the King of Belgium, Bismarck, King Umberto of Italy and the Czar of Russia. They were exported worldwide to the wealthy who desired large and fashionable dogs.
In the nineteenth century, many Leonbergers were imported to Russia.
Like many breeds, the end of the wars almost brought it to extinction, by the end of world war II as little as 30 dogs remained. In 1945, several Germans gathered some of the remaining Leonbergers and re established the breed.
Essig died in 1889 without ever defining a standard for the breed.
There is a remarkable story of how the breed first arrived in England UK after world war II.
"Dave Gower, Wilson and the ten bars of soap"
An excellent trilogy of books written by Metha Stramer is highly recommended.
Volume 1 " A turbulent past" 1846 - 1945
Volume 2 " A second beginning" 1945 - 1978
Volume 3 Not yet published from 1978 -present day
"The Leonberger" by Angela White is also a great read.
Large, strong, muscular yet elegant. Confident, calm and lively. Males in particular should be powerful and strong.
Amenable, intelligent and fearless companion; distinguished by his friendliness.
Self-assured and playful. Neither timid nor aggressive.
Head and Skull
Head in balance with body and limbs. Strong but not heavy, elongated rather than stocky. Proportion of muzzle to skull equal. No wrinkles. Skull in profile and seen from the front slightly arched. The back part of the skull not substantially broader than at the eyes. Medium stop. Nose black. Cheeks only moderately developed, muzzle moderately tapered but never snipey. Nasal bridge of even breadth and slightly arched (roman nose).
Neither deep set nor protruding, of medium size. Oval in shape with kind expression. Medium to dark brown in colour. Eyelids close fitting, showing no haw.
Set on high and not too far back, pendant, medium sized, hanging close to the side of the head, fleshy with rounded tips, well feathered.
Strong jaws with perfect, regular and complete scissor bite, level bite tolerated. Teeth evenly placed and vertical in the jaw, with complete dentition. No constriction of the canines in the lower jaw. Lips close fitting, black, corner of lips closed.
Strong, flowing into the withers in a slight arch, without throatiness. Moderately long, no dewlap.
Shoulders well laid, elbows close fitting. Forelegs straight, well boned and not too close. Shoulder and upper arm long, sloping and well muscled. Pasterns strong, firm and straight when seen from front, almost vertical seen from side.
Height at the withers to length of body in ratio of 9 to 10 (measured from point of shoulder to point of buttock). Depth of chest approximately 50% of height at withers, which should be pronounced, especially in males. Moderate forechest. Chest broad, deep, reaching at least to the elbows. Oval, not barrel chested. Back firm and straight with broad loins, strong and well muscled. Moderately sloping croup with relatively long, broad rump, gently rounded. Rump never higher than withers. Slight tuck up.
Legs set not too close together and parallel when seen from rear. Well muscled, long, slanting upper thigh. Moderate bend of stifle. Hocks strong, angle between lower thigh and rear pastern well defined, turned neither in nor out. Dewclaws should be removed.
Tight and rounded with well arched toes. Front feet pointing directly forwards. Pads black.
Well furnished, straight, reaching at least to hock. On the move, tail slightly curved, not carried above level of back. Never forming a ring.
Ground covering, even movement in all gaits maintaining a level topline. Extending well in front with good drive from hindquarters. Seen from front and behind, legs move in a straight line when walking or trotting.
Medium soft to hard, fairly long, lying close to body despite good undercoat. Slightly wavy but never curled. Very evident mane at throat and chest.
Lion gold, red, reddish brown, sandy (fawn or cream) and all combinations in between, always with a black mask. Black hair tips are permitted. Black must not dominate basic colour. Lighter colour on underside of tail, mane, feathering on front legs and breeches on hindlegs normal, but must not be pronounced. A small white patch or stripe on the chest and white hair on the toes tolerated.
Height at withers: Dogs 72-80cms (28¼-31½ ins); Bitches 65-75cms (25½ -29½ ins).
Any departure from the foregoing points should be considered a fault and the seriousness with which the fault should be regarded should be in exact proportion to its degree.
Male animals should have two apparently normal testicles fully descended into the scrotum.