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Behind the Breed: Leonbergers

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Affectionately known as Leos (or even gentle lions!), these massive dogs were originally developed not as guardian or working dogs but as companion dogs! Leonbergers are social, friendly dogs that love being around their people and definitely need some room to walk around. They have a medium-length double coat that definitely needs regular grooming and an energy level that requires daily walks (at the very least). Leos are affectionate dogs that truly love being around people and do not do well if left alone for hours at a time.

Leonbergers hail from Germany and were even named after the town they originated in! Heinrich Essig, a 19th-century entrepreneur and politician from Leonberg, Germany, is often credited as the person behind the Leonberger breed and there are some that claim Essig was trying to create a dog that looked like a lion. Ancestors of Leonbergers include the Landseer Newfoundland, St. Bernard, Pyrenean Mountain Dog (otherwise known as the Great Pyrenees), and a couple of other unknown breeds. Famous fans of the breed have included Napoleon II of France, Empress Elizabeth of Austria, and King Umberto of Italy.

Leos stand tall compared to many other dogs and can have a height of 25-31 inches! They can also weigh 120-170 pounds, making them quite big and generally unsuited for apartment life. While these dogs are large, calm, and quiet, they do have a higher energy level than most would expect, especially as puppies! Leos are playful dogs and love any sort of activity, particularly if it involves water and/or being around people. They aren’t great at jogging or running but there are plenty of activities they love, like carting, sledding, swimming, hiking, and even backpacking! As one might imagine, this breed does not tolerate hot weather particularly well and it is important to keep an eye on how they’re doing in warmer weather.

As far as coat care goes, Leonbergers do need to be brushed at least once a week, with special care taken to the areas behind their ears, the feathering on their legs, and their tails. These areas are particularly prone to matting and like any other breed, this should be avoided as much as possible! Wet weather and regular swims/baths can also be responsible for the matting of coats or hotspots so brushing, drying, and other forms of good coat care are all important for Leos living in rainy climates or those who regularly go swimming.

Like any other breed, training, socialization, and regular vet visits are all critical for Leonbergers. Leos are intelligent but stubborn so making training fun and using positive reinforcement can really help with many potential behavioral problems. They can get aggressive towards other animals at times, which is why socialization and supervision are both vital with Leos. Unfortunately, this breed has an average lifespan of 7-11 years and can be more prone to health issues like hip or elbow dysplasia, eyelid defects, bloat, and osteochondritis dissecans. Regular vet visits can help keep your Leo healthy while also catching potential issues early on.

Ultimately, Leonbergers are wonderful dogs and perfect for anyone looking for a calm and affectionate dog to go hiking with, provided you don’t mind more than a little drool and fur around! Leos are much more active than one might expect but with their thick coats, they still don’t tolerate warmer climates all that well. If you’re looking for a lovable, furry, large dog to go on backpacking trips with, a Leonberger might just be for you!

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