Choosing a Leonberger

Leonbergers are gaining reputation all over the world as a wonderful companion dog. They can be expensive to obtain, and most breeders are careful about who they will sell to, but the right owner will have a most loyal and affectionate companion in a Leonberger.

The Leonberger is a member of the American Kennel Club's miscellaneous class in the Foundation Stock Service (FSS). The FSS is the AKC's record-keeping system for rare breeds which are not yet fully AKC recognized.

History and Origin

The history of the Leonberger is one of obscurity and speculation. There have been innumerable tales of the origin of these impressive dogs, each one as uncorroborated as the last. One of the more popular legends is of a man named Heinrich Essig. In the early 1800s, Heinrich lived in a small German town called Leonberger. This town had an Imperial Coat of Arms that depicted a lion. It is said that Heinrich set out to breed a dog that resembled this crest. He purportedly bred Newfoundlands, St. Bernards, and Pyrenean wolfhounds to create what is now known as the Leonberger. Of course, the exact gene pool cannot be determined.

Heinrich reportedly donated his dogs to royals such as Empress Elizabeth of Austria, who popularized the Leonberger as a companion breed. Many records from the late 1800s considered Leonbergers to be St. Bernards and Newfoundlands. It seems that these names were used interchangeably between these three dogs.

Both world wars decimated the population of purebred dogs, and the Leonberger is no exception. Most breeding records kept before World War II were destroyed; therefore the true lineage of the Leonberger can only be speculated.

The first Leonberger clubs began in the 1890s in Germany. This is when many breeding standards were set. These standards were changed after World War II, and the breeding records of Leonbergers began to be kept in a very detailed fashion.

Appearance and Size

Leonbergers have a double coat that varies in thickness and length, but is usually medium length. The coat color comes in an assortment of shades of brown, yellow, gold, and red. The hair is soft and somewhat wavy, but not curly. His tail is bushy, and set low.

The Leonberger has long, wide ears that are edged with dark brown or black hair. His face is slightly wrinkled with a black mask and soft, pleasant eyes. His expression is gentle and charming.

Considered to be a giant breed, the Leonbergers' size can be intimidating. His body structure is stocky; he has hefty, round feet and a thick neck. But one look into his soft, brown eyes will tell you that this breed is nothing but charming.

Most Leonbergers weigh between 105 and 135 pounds, although there are some males who get bigger. They stand around 25 to 31 inches at the shoulder


Leonbergers love to be a part of the family. They are laid back and tend to fall into the routine of almost any household. These dogs are incredibly loyal and loving to all family members.

These dogs are excellent with children. They are gentle and relaxed but are easily persuaded into a game of chase. They love to swim, but do not retrieve very well. They like to chase, but can't seem to get the hang of bringing it back. They become very attached to their family and love to be involved in all family business.

They are good watchdogs, barking only when necessary. They rarely bite or act aggressively.

Home and Family Relations

Just about any living situation will accommodate a Leonberger. They are so adaptive to family that even apartment living is fine. They do tend to be a bit messy, especially when eating and drinking. They get along with children, as well as other pets.


Training a Leonberger is a pleasure, as they live to please. They will do almost anything for you, including carting, obedience, agility and herding. Due to their calm nature, Leonbergers excel as therapy dogs.

Special Concerns

Due to their size, Leonbergers need consistent exercise to prevent obesity. They have a high maintenance hair coat; daily brushing is required to keep it soft and untangled.

Common Diseases and Disorders

Gastric torsion (bloat) is a life-threatening sudden illness associated with the stomach filling with air and twisting.

Hip dysplasia is a malformation of the hip joint that results in pain, lameness and arthritis.

Panosteitis is an inflammation of the long bones during growth. It results in pain and lameness until the dog matures.

Entropion is a problem with the eyelid that causes inward rolling. Lashes on the edge of the eyelid irritate the surface of the eyeball and may lead to more serious problems.

The Leonberger is also prone to osteochondrosis, osteosarcoma, arthritis and Addison's disease.

The life span of the Leonberger is 8 to 10 years.

We realize that each dog is unique and may display other characteristics. This profile provides generally accepted breed information only.