About Us and our life with our beloved Pets
We are Alan and Dianne and we share our home and our lives with our beautiful Leonbergers, our little Coton De Tulear and our five cats who all live together in harmony (most of the time lol!) We have a few oldies here now, 4, 10 yer old dogs and ages ranging from 2 years to ten. Cats & dogs who are with us for life.
We live in Great Britain on the North Staffordshire and South Cheshire border, surrounded by lovely countryside, the perfect place for Leonbergers. We are true pottery people born and bred.
Angel 22.11.11 Chico 09.08.15 Yoda 09.08.09 Kit 29.04.15
Coton de Tulear Chinchilla Cat Ragdoll Bengal
Princess Leia 25.01.17
Bengal Chinchilla cross
Our one and only homebred kitten
& Fifi 29.04.2019
Norwegian Forest Kitten
Fifi passed away 15.08.23
Yoda 11 years old & Fifi 19 months
YoYo sadly passed away 8 months later on 8th April 2021
We were first introduced to the Leonberger breed in 2006 and fell in love with them almost immediately. We have had dogs all of our lives, different breeds and for 25 years we had Cavalier King Charles Spaniels along with other breeds. We had always admired Giant breed dogs from afar, but never ventured in to this new world to which we would become totally and utterly absorbed.
Over the years, our dogs have become much more than just a big part of our lives, 17 years on, they are our lives. They have taken over our home, our vehicles, our sofa, bed etc, and in doing so, they have enriched our lives to the point that we can never imagine life without them in it. Each and every one of them brings something special to us that makes us love them more and more as time goes on. As you read further, you will find that we much prefer our dogs to most people! they are loyal & true, their love is unconditional and they don't judge, love and care is all they ask for in return. Us humans are not capable of this level of total devotion.
We also accrued a little yappy dog who was with us for 11 years, sadly now gone. We also have 4 cats, all who mingle with our big dogs and rule the roost. They are all getting older as the years go on, as we are too.
Over the years we have lost some of our beloved pets and our hearts have been broken from their loss.
We describe ourselves as a hobby kennel, in that our dogs are our beloved pets first and foremost. They live with us in our home and not outside in kennels and they stay with us for life. We do nothing without them.
We began with just four Leonbergers, our 3rd and foundation bitch Siska, was on breeding terms and she cost us £4000 in 2010 when she had her first litter. With the exception of our imported dogs, all our breeding goes back to our late Siska, who was well bred and the most amazing girl to own throughout her life, a credit to the breed.
The difference between a hobby breeder and a commercial one, is that the latter don't keep any dogs who can not earn money or gain them popularity in the show ring, and certainly not dogs who may require money spent on them as they get older. Dogs no longer in breeding are usually sent to a new home to retire as are new youngsters who don't meet the grade are re-homed. No matter how many years left we have in breeding, we will never become this breeder!
Our purpose for breeding is to improve on what we already have, along with expanding the narrow breeding gene pool here in the UK. We ONLY breed Leonbergers, although we do have other pets.
We have had 19 litters over a 13 year period.
We don't breed to fund a lavish lifestyle, or expensive hobbies and we don't have our fingers in other pies, (so to speak) We have no dogs in co-own homes for breeding purposes, so all breeding dogs live here with us. We have given away male puppies in the past, in the hope that we may be able to use them in the future, but sadly, this hasn't been a success.
We purchased our first four dogs for £7000 but the two boys, Ozzy & Balou were never used in breeding, only the two girls, Elsa & Siska. Since we first began to breed in 2010, we incurred huge costs in travelling abroad for several Sire's. Our male import from Slovakia in 2014; two girls from Poland in 2018 and another boy from Poland in 2019. in 2023, we imported another male from British Columbia, Canada, so five imports in total. Importing dogs is expensive business and we can never be certain that we are able to breed from them so it is always a gamble.
It was 2017 and after seven years of breeding that our dogs became self sufficient, but only for that year. We now have to breed to be able to keep our many Leonbergers, most of whom are not in breeding, and to pay vet bills for our older dogs.
We regularly take our dogs on holiday throughout the year and for this reason, we will soon only have one litter per year, as we did previously. Our gang love to go away and they take it in turns to go on an adventure with us so they all get a holiday. Over the last couple of years, we have increased our time away and intend to do this much more in the very near future.
We no longer holiday abroad, we prefer to have our fur kids with us to enjoy quality time with them away from home.
It will always be our priority to breed healthy, happy and well socialised puppies, who are confident and ready to meet the world. Puppies are born and reared in our home around our family and other pets. We give them the utmost of love and care to ensure a comfortable, safe and stable beginning for them.
We research the background and pedigree of our chosen stud dogs to the best of our ability to ensure good health, temperament and longevity. We are health conscious but not health perfect!
In 2016, we had our first litter from our own import boy Darco Leon Kral'ovce of Pagency (Neo) COI 3.12%
Over the last 17 years and 22 Leonbergers, we have had very little health problems in our dogs, so far, none in dogs that have been in breeding. Starting early 2017 with Neva, followed by Julz losing an ear, and then Balou losing his left eye, we had our first serious vet bills. As our dogs get older of course, vet bills will increase.
We cannot complain; in most breeds, cancer can be a problem and more recently, osteosarcoma, which has not yet arrived at our doorstep. It may only be time before we are also affected; who knows? We can only be vigilant and do our best to avoid lines in the future where it seems to be more prevalent, in the hope that we won't become another casualty.
We have lost 10 Leonbergers over the years, none to any form of cancer, bloat or Osteosarcoma. Most have suddenly passing away, probably to heart failure? We lost our four oldies at 10 years and over within 18 months, absolutely devastating!
We do not breed from any dogs unless we feel that they have something positive to bring to the breed, even when they conform to the breed standard. Julz, Neva, Summer & Dora were never bred from while Kiki & Nikita had only one litter each. Summer, from our Siska-Sweedy litter, came back to us at a young age but although she was clear for lpn1, we didn't feel that she was suitable to be bred from. We are fortunate that we have had enough girls to choose only the best for our breeding programme over the years. So far in 2023, we have had 19 litters out of a possible 41, had we have had 3 litters with all our girls, as most breeders do.
The Leonberger breed are well known for their friendliness towards people and is why they make such great family companions. One area that gets overlooked in breeding, is their behaviour towards other dogs, some can be quite unsociable, even aggressive. It has been difficult to understand over the years why such behaviour is acceptable when temperament assessments are done. Many years ago, we had a male who was quite dominant and unpredictable with other dogs, his Dam had been the same so this is obviously a hereditary issue. There was never any question about his ability to behave with people, he was a friendly, well trained and well mannered boy. We once took him to a temperament assessment day and had he have been old enough, he would have had a certificate to say he was sound in temperament. In our opinion, he was not.
We believe that they are not sound in temperament if they display any kind of aggression towards other dogs without reason. This is a flaw in their character and they should really not be bred from.
We have had only one dog who displayed a dominant character although she was always friendly and lovable with people, this was Kiki who we sadly lost in 2018 at 8 years old. In 2013, she had one litter and produced some dominant offspring. Dora was one of those pups and based on our observations and experience, we decided that Kiki would have no further litters. She produced some lovely puppies and it was a very hard decision to make.
Our own import boy Neo is aloof in temperament, as many Leonbergers can be. He is never the first one to say hello to visitors; preferring to watch from the sidelines and weigh up the situation before he is ready to join in and make friends. This is perfectly normal for the breed, some are exuberant in character, others quiet and need longer to trust people. A little shyness is better than aggression.
We strive to keep the Leonberger as it was originally intended, a beautiful, elegant, majestic and a harmonious Giant of a dog.
We do not line breed our dogs for type and have always out-crossed to a a sire who has either none or very few common ancestral links. The higher number of unique ancestors, the better and we provide the inbreeding COI for our breeding's. Bearing in mind that the Leonberger originally came from just a few breeding dogs following two world wars where the breed was almost decimated.
We also want to contribute to the gene pool here in the UK by bringing in new blood lines from Europe. Since we first began to breed in 2010, we have travelled to Paris; Belgium; Hungary; Germany, Poland x4; Holland; Italy and Slovakia in our quest to improve on quality and health in our lines. The genetic diversity of the breed is important to us for the future of the breed and it is hoped that our efforts will compliment the hard work done by others before us.
See future litters page for more information of our breeding plans.
We were UK Kennel Club Assured Breeders until April 2020. We had been assessed and approved in March 2014 and again in 2017. The Assessor kindly wrote in her report that we go above and beyond what is required of us.
When the KC first began their attempts to reduce puppy farming and promote responsible breeding, they introduced the Kennel Club Accredited Breeder scheme. We joined as members in 2010, as it seemed at that time that the focus was to change public perception of breeders and improve the general standard of breeding in the UK. The cost was £10 to join and we did so with great pride, we wanted to provide the highest possible standards within our breeding.
In 2014 when the KC changed to the Assured Breeder Scheme, it became more expensive to remain as members, increasing rapidly to £30, then to £60 and in 2018 to £80.00. in 2018 there were more than 20 Leonbergers breeders in the ABS, now in 2023, there are just 6.
With new laws coming in to force with council breeding licences in October 2018, it would seem that some breeders will now require a council licence to breed, there is no distinction between hobby and professional breeders. The two are very different; breeders with just a couple of females with puppies bred in the home among the family and in relative luxury, can't be compared with commercial breeding where all dogs are bred in kennels and on a large scale. While we agree on licensing for all breeding, there should be two different licences.
The rules are very confusing and differ between councils.
As demand outweighs supply, this only benefits the puppy farms. Many of us who supported Lucy's Law, in the belief that it would improve animal welfare, are disappointed to find out that it has not been what we were led to believe. Hobby breeding as we know it will be a thing of the past within the next ten years as we all find ourselves out of scope and needing a licence, planning permission, change of use of premises etc. Maybe this is the reason that only a few breeders now have a website and prefer to be recommended by the clubs who hold a list for these breeders.
We have all seen some horrific scenes in the puppy farms on TV, all these are licensed breeders where welfare is a huge issue.
For the first nine years of being in the breed, we had been members of The Leonberger Club of Great Britain, supporting fun days and shows. We were very proud to breed to their code of ethics which is more strict than the Kennel Club. Unfortunately, this relationship was soured when old friends suddenly became committee members in 2013, having not even been club members. We have written about this in more detail here.
New pages added in 2021 as the saga continues. More info will be added on this.
We believe that our own standards are indeed higher than is required within the club code of ethics and this will be maintained outside their remit. Most importantly, our dog's remain with us for life and are not re-homed to make way for more breeding dogs, which is sadly accepted by most clubs, including this one. They also appear to support co-owned dogs for breeding purposes.
In our puppy contract and as responsible breeders, we have a clause that states that our puppies must come back to us at any point should the need arise. We ask no questions and make no judgment should any puppy owner of ours be in this unfortunate position. While we would be sympathetic, our priority would be for the puppy that we have bred, so there should be no reason for anyone to not want us to know.
We emphasise that under no condition must any puppy bred by us, be involved in any way with the Leonberger welfare/rescue organisations.
This would be a breach of contract of which we take very seriously.
We have taken back only four dogs during our 13 years in breeding.
As responsible pet owners, we cannot emphasise enough how important it is to have a well trained, calm and obedient dog, especially as the Leonberger is very big and powerful.
We have trained most of our dogs under the Kennel Club Good Citizen Scheme and we make training our first priority. Most of our gang has at least the Bronze Award, a few have done up to silver but we only managed to get two to Gold level. Training begins at just 12 weeks old. We also train our pups for the show ring and usually only show dogs until they have their first litter.
A well trained dog is a happy dog as he will slowly learn that his good manners are rewarded with love and affection and of course, the occasional treat. It helps to form a special bond between owner and dog and it is also very enjoyable for all. It takes time, money and commitment to see the training through the Award process, but having a very well behaved and happy dog who is able to socialise with and respect other people and animals is worth all the hard work in the end.
Our aim was to have all our dogs trained to the Gold level but keeping so many puppies, it was difficult with so many dogs in training. We would highly recommend that our prospective puppy owners would at least train their dogs to bronze level standard. While many people have the ability to train at home, it's not quite the same as in puppy school where they will learn basic manners and socialise with other dogs at the same time. We ask in our puppy enquiry form if people are prepared to go through the training process and all reply yes! so it's disappointing when they don't make the effort and have to resort to head collars and harness's as they don't have full control of their dog. Seeing through the full training course from as early as 12 weeks old, will reduce many behavioral issues later on and the dog will be much happier.
When people visit us, our dogs are well behaved due to the work put in to them, they don't jump up and become out of control, and once the initial excitement is over, they return to calm and gentle Leonbergers taking life at their own pace and ready to make friends.
Good dog training classes don't need to advertise, many work on recommendations, check them out thoroughly before spending money with them, even when they have qualifications. We had a bad experience with a trainer in S-O-T, before we finally found an excellent dog trainer in our area.
On social media, it has been noted that Leonberger people in general are the very worst for their nastiness and bullying behaviour.
Very sadly, there are always people in breeding who relish in causing great unpleasantness for others. We have been the victims of this over the years with some very poisonous people that had previously been friends. They still have a spat at us on a regular basis.
The intention in 2010 was to stop us from breeding, the threat being to "Destroy us" but the negative events that followed actually worked in our favour as people saw the true reality of what we were up against. Vindictivness is an unnecessary evil and tells more about the giver than the receiver.. Writing about the facts strengthened our profile to the point that our pups have been in high demand for a number of years.
The downside of this is that some of our puppy owners who use FB have been descriminated against for having a puppy from us. Some just having a connection is enough to send them to Coventry. It is disappointing for people to post about their new addition and get negativity from some people. It's morally wrong.
We are not the only breeders to experience this, if you aren't in "the click" this is how it is and it's endorsed by the GB club even though it's against their own code of ethics.
To read about the beginning of the unpleasantness view here
Despite the negatives, we have continued to breed and enjoy our dogs, who will always remain our priority.
We will always write regular updates of our news, views and experiences, good or bad, warts and all!
Thank you for taking the time to read about us.
Winsilkats Leo The Lion
Leo is a Persian