- Breed group — Working Group (American Kennel Club)
- Height — 25.5-31.5 inches
- Weight — 90-170 pounds
- Coat length & texture — Long double coat with a lion-like mane
- Coat color — Golden, reddish brown, or lion-yellow with a black mask on the face
- Exercise needs — Medium
- Intelligence — High
- Barking — When necessary
- Life span — 7-10 years
- Temperament — Gentle, friendly, and playful
- Hypoallergenic — No
- Origin — Germany
Leonberger fun facts
👉 Coming up with a pet name can be fun but tricky. Search no further! According to PetScreening’s 2024 database, the majority of our users name their male Leonbergers Griffin and Bucky. Meanwhile, most of our users with female Leonbergers love Harley and Bailey equally.
- The Leonberger owes its name to the town of Leonberg in Southern Germany. This is where the breed first originated.
- Leonbergers make excellent therapy dogs, and are also trained to be water rescue dogs. The webbing in their feet makes them very good swimmers.
- Leonbergers are dimorphic. This means the male dogs should look distinctly larger and more masculine than the female.
Leonberger temperament and characteristics
Despite their large size, the gentle giant Leonberger can be a patient and loving addition to the family. Although they have a powerful size, Leos are surprisingly graceful and agile, and excellent large-breed dogs for families with children and even young children. They are playful companions who need moderate exercise but lots and lots of interaction with their humans to be happy. These pups were bred to be your buddy, and typically love everyone they meet. While their intimidating size might be an initial deterrent for strangers, a Leo is far more likely to snuggle than snarl at a stranger.
Common Leonberger health problems
As with all large dogs, there are common health issues that may be a concern for Leonberger owners. The Leonberger Club of America participates in the Canine Health Information Center, and reputable breeders will submit evaluations from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) and eye test results from the Canine Eye Registration Foundation (CERF).
- Hip dysplasia. Large dogs are commonly prone to a condition known as hip dysplasia, which is a malformation of the hip joint that causes painful arthritis and may result in expensive surgeries. DNA tests can determine if this issue is present in your dog’s line, and a healthy diet and active lifestyle can decrease the risk of occurrence if this genetic condition has been identified in your Leo.
- Gastric dilatation-volvulus (GDV). This is an extremely dangerous condition common in large breed dogs. Also called bloat or gastric torsion, GDV happens when the stomach expands with air, twists in on itself and cuts off blood supply. While there is currently no genetic test for GDV, signs of bloat in Leonbergers include excessive drooling, attempting to vomit, restlessness and an enlarged abdomen.
- Hypothyroidism. A relatively common endocrine disorder in dogs, hypothyroidism is an underactive thyroid condition. Symptoms of this disorder include lethargy, weight gain, skin and hair changes.
- Eye problems. Leonbergers may be prone to eye issues, including cataracts, entropion and ectropion.
Cost of caring for a Leonberger
While the love and friendship of a Leonberger is priceless, it is important for potential dog owners to consider the costs of bringing this gentle giant into your family. Not taking precautions with your dog’s joints can result in substantial costs down the line. Orthopedic surgery for hip dysplasia can total more than $4,000 per affected leg.
You can help to greatly offset Leonberger medical expenses by investing in pet insurance. Securing a pet insurance plan early ensures large dog owners get the most benefits that will help their pup later in life. In any case, Leo owners will want to make sure they budget well for pet costs through every stage of their dog’s life. Starting a pet savings account can also help in financial planning for your pooch.
History of the Leonberger
Leonbergers got their names from the town of Leonberg, Germany in the 1840s. Variations of the dog had reportedly been in Germany as early as the 1500s. But it was Heinrich Essig, a resident of Leonberg, who is officially credited for giving the Leonberger its name. Town legend says that Essig bred a combination of Saint Bernard, Newfoundland, and Great Pyrenees to create a mascot for the town. Essig reportedly wanted a dog who resembled a lion on the town crest. From there, the Leo’s popularity soared as a farming, drafting and companion dog. Sadly, we almost lost the Leonberger to extinction. Lack of breeding to World War I led to only 25 Leonberger dogs, and after World War II only eight Leonberger dogs remained. However, Leos made a comeback, and now all Leonberger dogs can trace their lineage to those eight dogs from the 1940s.
Today, aside from being faithful and loving pets, Leonbergers are known as fantastic therapy dogs, lifeguards, and search-and-rescue dogs. The webbing in their feet make them excellent swimmers suited to helping save endangered people in the water. They are also very popular pets, and were recognized by the American Kennel Club in 2010.
Caring for your Leonberger
Adding a Leonberger pup or adult dog to your family will add plenty to your to-do list! First, you’ll want to make your first trip to the vet and schedule your dog’s vaccinations. If your new dog is a puppy, you’ll also want to puppy-proof your home and prepare for teething. And while the thought of losing your pup is something no one wants to think about, FidoAlert provides a free Fido ID and tag so you’re prepared just in case. Below you’ll find some basics to help care for your new Leonberger.
While the Leonberger is a gentle and subdued breed, they still need a good amount of moderate exercise per day. Leonberger puppies are very active and playful, and once they move into adulthood, a dog owner should plan for daily hikes or jogs to keep up with a Leonberger’s healthy lifestyle. Because the Leonberger is a working dog, they should have lots of space to roam. An apartment or small living space isn’t an ideal place for a Leo. Also, working dogs do very well with agility training or drafting (pulling a cart), and enjoy the mental stimulation that these activities require.
The beautiful long double coats and striking black mask of the Leonberger is a sight to behold, but also requires plenty of care and upkeep to keep them healthy and sleek. Leonbergers should be brushed every day, paying special attention to areas that tend to mat (the backs of legs and behind the ears). A pin brush and slicker brush will help keep their outer coats looking nice, while a metal comb and undercoat rake can be used to groom the dog’s undercoat. Plan to trim their nails every other week to keep your Leonberger’s paws protected. And brushing your pup’s teeth a couple of times a week will help fight plaque and tartar buildup, prevent heart issues later in life, and keep your dog’s breath smelling fresh.
Diet and nutrition
Leonbergers are well-suited to high-quality dog food designed for a large breed dog. Be sure you are giving your dog food appropriate to their age, whether a puppy, adult or senior dog. Because one health risk of a Leonberger is bloat, the breed should be given multiple small meals a day rather than one or two larger meals. On average, a Leonberger eats about 5-7 cups of food per day. Work with your veterinarian to figure out the ideal feeding schedule for your Leonberger. Treats are also an important part of bonding with your dog and training, but should be given carefully to prevent excessive weight gain.
Training your Leonberger
The sweet and gentle Leonberger is a fantastic large breed choice for any new dog owner, provided they are prepared to bring a large breed dog into their home. These smart pups are extremely keen to please their humans and will work hard for your love and affection. They are also very sensitive dogs, and don’t respond well to harsh treatment. Train your Leo with positive reinforcement and plenty of praise for their good behaviors. As the Leonberger is a working breed, they do very well with agility training or drafting training, which helps keep their mind sharp and active as well as helps them bond with their humans. Be sure to make sure you’re able to spend plenty of time with your Leonberger, as the thing they love most is being with their human companions.
Breeds similar to the Leonberger
Not quite sure that a Leonberger is right for you? Even if you are, it’s worth taking the time to research and consider other similar breeds. Here are a few to get you started:
- Great Dane. Another gentle giant, the Great Dane’s short-hair coat may be easier for some dog owners to manage when grooming at home.
- Tibetan mastiff. This large breed dog is more reserved and independent than the Leonberger.
- Bernese mountain dog. Berner, as they’re affectionately known, require a little more exercise than the Leonberger and would be a great dog for someone with an active lifestyle.
Be a smarter pet parent
Sign up for the best pet advice you can get
Frequently asked questions
What two dog breeds make a Leonberger?
The Leonberger is believed to have been originally created from crosses between Newfoundlands and Saint Bernards, as well as a backcross with a Pyrenean mountain dog.
Are Leonberger dogs aggressive?
Quite the opposite, the Leonberger breed is known to be very affectionate and loving.
Are Leonbergers good family dogs?
Leonbergers are excellent family dogs and even a great large breed pick for families with small children due to their excessively gentle nature.
What is a Leonberger known for?
This regal dog of German origin is known for its aristocratic grace and elegance.
What is it like to own a Leonberger?
Expect lots of snuggles and affection from your gentle giant! You can expect plenty of shed fur and drool, too.