Leonberger Breed Magazine - Showsight

Leonberger Breed Magazine features information, expert articles, and stunning photos from AKC judges, breeders, and owners.


Let’s Talk Breed Education!

Official Standard of the Leonberger General Appearance: The Leonberger is a large, sociable working dog, muscular yet elegant, with a proud head carriage. The breed is distinguished by its black mask, substantial bone, balanced build, and double coat. Adult males are particularly powerful and strong and carry a lion-like mane on the neck and chest. Bitches are unmistakably feminine. The Leonberger is a dimorphic breed; a dog or a bitch easily discernible as such. Although imposing in size, the Leonberger is graceful in motion. Natural appearance is essential to Leonberger type. The breed is to be shown with no trimming, sculpting or other alterations. True to the breed’s origins as a multipurpose family, farm and draft dog, today’s Leonberger excels as a versatile working dog and devoted family companion. Intelligent and lively, friendly yet vigilant, the Leonberger is attentive and self-assured in all situations. Size, Proportion, Substance: Size : An adult male is 28 to 31½ inches in height (30 inches preferred). An adult female is 25½ inches to 29½ inches, (27½ inches preferred). Weight is in proportion to the overall size and structure. When proportion, substance, and balance are present, a slight deviation above standard is tolerated. Proportion: Height to length of body is 9:10. Height is measured at the withers; body length is measured from point of shoulder to point of buttock. The depth of chest is 50 percent of the height; brisket reaches to elbow. The angulation of front and rear quarters is in balance. Overall balance and proportion are as important as height. Substance: Strong bone in proportion to size of the body, well-muscled. Head : The head, in its entirety, is deeper than it is broad, rectangular shaped, with no wrinkles. The length of muzzle to length of backskull is equal. Cheeks are only slightly developed. The male head is strong and masculine, while the female head always expresses femininity. Mask: Face is covered with a full black mask that extends from the nose up to and over the eyes. A lesser mask is acceptable, but not desirable. Expression: Good-natured, soft, and intelligent expression. Eyes: Dark brown is preferred over light brown. Eyes are medium size, oval to almond shaped, neither deep-set nor protruding. Eyelids are close fitting, not showing any haw or sclera. Ears: When alert, ears are level with top of skull and set slightly forward. They are of medium size, triangular, fleshy, hanging flat and close to the head. Tips are level with corners of the mouth. Skull: As seen from the front and in profile, backskull is slightly arched. Skull is slightly longer than wide and the width of backskull is only slightly broader than it is at the eyes. Stop: Clearly recognizable and moderately defined. Muzzle: Nasal bridge of even breadth, never running to a point, level or slightly arched (Roman nose); never dipped. The jaw remains broad and strong between the canines. Planes: As seen from the side, the planes of muzzle and backskull are parallel. Nose: Large with clearly outlined nostrils, always black. Lips: Tight, corners closed and dry, outer lips black in color. Some de-pigmentation due to aging is acceptable. Teeth/Bite: Complete dentition of 42 teeth (20 upper, 22 lower), strong, meeting in a correct scissors bite, lower incisors touching inside of upper incisors. A level bite is accepted. Serious Fault - Lips - Drooling or wet mouth. Disqualification – Expression/Mask: Complete lack of mask. Teeth/Bite: More than one missing tooth other than M3s.

Neck, Topline, Body : Neck: Muscular, well set on shoulders, blends smoothly into withers, of sufficient length to allow for proud head carriage. No dewlap. Topline: Withers set above a firm level back that flows into a gently sloping croup. Rump not higher than withers. Body: Chest is broad, roomy, and deep, reaching at least to the level of the elbows, pronounced pro-sternum. Ribs: Well-sprung, oval. Underline: Only slightly tucked up. Loin: Broad, compact, strong, well-muscled. Croup: Broad, relatively long, gently sloped, flowing smoothly into root of tail. Tail: While standing relaxed, tail hangs straight down with the last vertebrae reaching to or below the hock. In movement, tail is carried no higher than the level of the back, with a curve up at the end permitted. An exuberant tail carriage, though higher than ideal, should not be confused with a high, incorrectly placed tail. Serious Fault - High tail carriage with tail curled over back at all times, whether standing or in motion. Forequarters : Shoulder: Well laid-back and well-muscled. Angulation: The shoulder meets the upper arm at slightly greater than a right angle. Shoulder and upper arm about equal in length. Elbows: Close to body, neither in nor out. Forelegs: Substantial bone, muscular, straight and parallel to each other. Pasterns: Strong, firm and straight when viewed from front, slightly sloping when viewed from side. Dewclaws: Usually present. Feet: Turn neither in nor out, rounded, tight, toes well arched (cat foot). Hindquarters : Rear Assembly: Powerful, muscular with substantial bone. Angulation: In balance with forequarters. Legs: Viewed from the rear, the legs are straight and parallel, with stifles and paws turned neither in nor out, placed widely enough apart to match a properly built body. Thighs: Upper and lower of equal length, slanting and strongly muscled. Stifles: Angle clearly defined. Hocks: Substantial bone with a distinct angle between lower thigh and rear pastern; well let down. Dewclaws: Rear dewclaws may be present. Feet: Turned neither in nor out, and may be slightly elongated. Toes arched. Coat : Leonbergers have a medium to long, water resistant, double coat on the body and short fine hair on the muzzle and front of limbs. Outer coat is medium-soft to coarse and lies flat. It is straight, with some generalized wave permitted. Mature males carry a mane, which extends over neck and chest. The male coat is typically longer than the female coat. The undercoat is soft and dense, although it may be less so in summer months or warmer climates. In spite of the double coat, the outline of the body is always recognizable. Leonbergers have some ear feathering and ample feathering on fore and rear legs. Tail is very well furnished. Leonbergers are to be presented with no sculpting, scissoring, trimming of whiskers, or any other alterations whatsoever, except for neatening of the feet. Fault: Parted or curly coat.

Color : Coat colors are lion-yellow, golden to red and red-brown, sand colored (cream, pale yellow) and all combinations thereof, always with a black mask. All colors may have black tips (some with long black tips) on the outer coat, but black must not be the basic color. Dark coat colors are accompanied by a lighter colored undercoat and feathering of front and hind legs, that blend harmoniously with the basic body coloring. A small, unobtrusive stripe or white patch on the chest and some white hairs on toes is tolerated. Disqualification: Any coat color other than those listed. White hair on chest that exceeds 5 inches in width; white extending beyond toes. Gait : The Leonberger has a ground-covering, even and balanced gait. The stride is powerful, free and fluid, with good reach and strong drive, giving the impression of effortless power. In motion, the Leonberger maintains a level topline. Viewed from the front and from behind, forelegs and hind legs travel straight. As the dog’s speed increases, the legs tend to converge toward the centerline. Temperament : The gentle character and even temperament of the Leonberger is of utmost importance for fulfilling their role as a family companion. The Leonberger is confident, with a steady, playful demeanor. The breed is willing to please and possesses a good capacity for learning. Serious fault - Quarrelsomeness or hostility towards people or dogs in normal situations; unwarranted show of timidity or nervousness. Faults : Any deviation from these specifications is a fault. In determining whether a fault is minor, serious, or major, these two factors should be used as a guide: Deviation - The extent to which it deviates from the standard; and Impact - The extent to which such deviation would actually affect the Leonberger’s phenotype or ability to fulfill its role as a family companion, and working dog. Disqualifications : Mask - Complete lack of mask. Teeth - More than one missing t oo th other than M3s. Color - Any coat color other than those listed. White hair on chest exceeding 5 inches in width, white extending beyond toes.

Approved July 12, 2016 Effective August 31, 2016


I n judges’ circles, we often hear that winning dogs stand out as they enter into the ring. In Leon- bergers, the same often holds true. We see some of the impor- tant elements of breed type fi rst; large size, proud head carriage with black mask and calm, con fi dent demeanor. Once the class lines up, the silhouette of the breed is vital to the correct Leonberger type. Several elements are highlighted in the general appearance section of the standard. Let’s examine these elements one-by-one. t -BSHFTJ[F t #BMBODFE#VJME t 1PXFSGVMBOE4USPOH t -JPOMJLFDPBU CMBDLNBTL

Large Size. Th e Leonberger is a large dog. Th ough many in the fancy believe that “bigger is better”, it is important to note that Leos are not meant to be as large and JNQPTJOHBTUIF4U#FSOBSE OPSTIPVME UIFZCFUIFTJ[FPGUIF#FSOFTF.PVOUBJO Dog. Ideally, their size falls somewhere in CFUXFFO #JUDIFT IBWF BO JEFBM IFJHIU PG 27 ½ " and dogs are ideally 30". Th e depth of the chest is close to 50% of the height at the withers. Th ey must be large and power- ful enough to be suitable as an all-purpose working dog, but not so large that they lose the powerful, elastic, and agile movement that is characteristic of the breed. Balanced Build. Th e Leonberger will ideally have rear angulation matched to

the front producing a balanced dog. Th e eye should not be drawn to any particular part of the body, but should see the entire silhouette. Th e slightly rectangular body is supported with medium—heavy bone in direct proportion to his size. Th e Leon- berger’s neck fl ows elegantly into well laid-back shoulders, blending smoothly into a level topline. Th e Leonberger has a “full body”, meaning that there is only a slight tuck up. Th e underline is as impor- tant as the topline. Powerful and Strong. Th e Leonberg- er is a powerful dog that shows a combi- nation of strong and lean muscles, good bone, correct angulation, proper length of body, and balance. Well laid-back S HOW S IGHT M AGAZINE , F EBRUARY 2014 • 219

shoulder blades with a matching return of upper arm provide the framework needed for powerful muscles. Th e well- sprung ribs, broad, compact loin and sloping croup, all come together to create great power in the balanced Leonberger. Its important that nothing is overdone to accomplish this power. Everything is in moderation and in balance! Lion-like coat and black mask. .BUVSF NBMFT DBSSZ B NBOF UIBU FYUFOET over the neck and chest. Th is mane, cou- pled with great size, makes their silhouette immediately discernible from the bitches. Th e females typically have a shorter coat and lack the length of main males get. Th is does not make the dogs typeier than bitch- es. Leonbergers are a dimorphic breed; males and females are easily recognizable. With everything else equal, an elegant CJUDIJTFWFSZCJUBTEFTFSWJOHPGB#FTUPG #SFFEBTBSPCVTUEPH The Leonberger Head Correct head and expression, in harmo- ny with overall size and coat, are hallmarks of the Leonberger. As with the silhouette, the head should always be appropriately masculine or feminine; you should have no doubt about the sex of the Leonberger from looking at the head. Th e bone struc- ture, coloration, and expression are unique to the Leonberger. Th e ideal head is well balanced in pro- portion to the size of the dog and is deeper than broad with the length of muzzle and the length of skull approximately equal. Th e face is covered with a striking black mask that extends above the eyes; the Leonberger’s good-natured expression is soft, intelligent, and con fi dent. Likewise, the nose and lips are black and blend with the mask. With close fi tting eyelids, the eyes are moderately set into the skull upon a slight oblique; the eyes are medium sized, almond shaped, and colored a rich, dark brown. Th e ears are an integral part of the head’s proper silhouette; they are fl eshy, moderately sized, pendant, and hang close to the skull. Th e tip of the ears are level with the inside corners of the mouth. When alert, the ears are level with the top of the skull and set slightly forward. Th e fl ews are tight and close fi tting and there 220 • S HOW S IGHT M AGAZINE , F EBRUARY 2014

Leonbergers with plentiful black tipping can appear quite dark, especially when out of coat; this is not a fault. A black tipped dog should always have a lighter undercoat. No coat color is preferable to another. In general, dogs will have more coat than bitches and should have, at maturity, a well-developed mane. Having well fur- nished feathering on the back of the fore- legs and breeches is desirable in an adult dog. A Leonberger will often not develop a fully mature coat until they are three to four years old. Th ough coat is a desirable aspect of breed type, coat by itself does not make the Leonberger. Leonberger Character .BUVSF-FPOCFSHFSTTIPXBCTPMVUFDPO - fi dence while exuding a gentle and some- times playful demeanor. A giant tail wag in the ring is quite welcome. Th e modern purpose of the Leonberger is to be a stead- GBTUGBNJMZDPNQBOJPO1SPQFS-FPOCFSHFS character is essential to breed type. With a mature exhibit, any hint of aggression, nervousness, shyness, or fear should be penalized in the breed ring. Leonbergers have about a two-year “puppyhood” that can sometimes lead even well trained exhibits to overly playful or submissive behaviors when being greeted by the judge. Th is should not be confused with a faulty temperament, but rather rec- ognized as acceptable (even if undesirable) puppy behavior. With a patient and friend- ly approach from the judge, they should recover fairly quickly. To sum up the Leonberger type and char- acteristics: Calm, con fi dent, large size with BQQSPQSJBUF EJNPSQIJD GFBUVSFT #BMBODFE CPEZUPMFHQSPQPSUJPOT#BMBODFEGSPOUBOE rear angulation. Strong bone with double DPBU1PXFSGVM GSFFBOEFMBTUJDNPWFNFOU An even temperament with gentle char- acter is the outmost importance in ful fi ll- ing their role as a family companion. BIO Agi’s involvement with purebred dogs started in 1969 in her native country of Hun- gary. Her first breed was the Kuvasz, and then added the Leonberger 20 years later. Agi is an AKC judge who serves as the Judges Education Chair for both of her breed clubs. S HOW S IGHT M AGAZINE , F EBRUARY 2014 • 221

should be no coarseness or drooling, even in a large male. An ideal Leonberger has a scissors bite with full dentition; level bite is acceptable. Leonberger Gait When looking at a Leonberger, one should expect e ffi cient, balanced, ground covering movement. At a trot the Leon- berger is e ff ortless, powerful, free, and elastic and should always maintain a level topline. Viewed from the front or from behind, their forelegs and hind legs travel parallel. As speed increases the legs tend to converge toward the centerline.

Overall the e ffi cient gait of the Leon- berger along with strong reach and drive gives the impression of a large dog that can travel e ff ortlessly. Leonberger Coat Th e greatest variety in Leonberger type can be found in the coat. Leonberger coat is acceptable in a wide range of colors and lengths and—to a lesser extent, textures. A judge is highly unlikely to have an unaccept- able coat color entered into the ring today. Coat colors are lion-yellow, golden, red, red- brown, sand, pale yellow, and all combina- tions thereof, sometime with black tipping.



P rior to this article, ShowSight Magazine published two articles on judging the Leonberger by Agi Hejja and Alida Greendyk, well-respected breeder judges of Leonbergers. Th ey are wonder- ful stand-alone resources, perpetually available online, and I would encourage anyone with an interest to read those roadmaps in full when studying the breed. Th ough there is value in repeating what has been said before, we are going to focus on the challenges commonly encountered when learning and applying the Leonberger standard. A decade has passed since Leonbergers began to exhibit in AKC rings. Th e number of entries in a typical All-Breed ring is none to few in most of the country on a given show weekend. Don’t let that fool you; behind the scenes are enthusiastic show-goers who travel great distances to attend specialties and sup- ported entries. One weekend there are two Leonbergers in the ring and the next weekend there are seventy! Without consistent, large, quality entries competing from weekend to weekend, getting a sense of the breed can be di ffi cult. If you get a chance to attend one of the twelve or so specialties put on by the Leon- berger Club of America and a ffi liated regional clubs, I highly recommend the opportunity. Mentors will be there to help and, as a bonus, there is always food. Judges new to the breed usually have similar fundamental questions. What are the hallmarks of the breed? How should we value type versus structure? What in the history of the breed should inform our judging? How important is size? When do I penalize or reward for coat quality? Well folks, like a Leon- berger o ff leash beside a smelly pond, let’s dive right in! THE HISTORY MYSTERY Th e history of the breed Leonberger folks are likely to know and judges are likely to hear is the same story that makes for the greatest superhero movies: the origin. But, like a superhero, I think it’s the fi rst tri- als that really set the character of this breed and that could use a little more attention. For the Leonberger, these major hurdles were crossed at the turn of the 20th Century by the International Club for Rottweilers and Leonbergers which formed in the region of Stuttgart, Germany–a little north of Rottweil and east of Leonberg. Th ese fanciers started to give the breed concrete de fi nition and real direction when the president of the Club, Albert Kull, wrote the fi rst standard for both the Leonberger and the Rottweiler. A century ago, the Leonberger and Rottweiler had quite a bit in common for their shared fanciers. In the club at this time, and in the German Rottweiler Club that followed, there was less emphasis on the morphology of the Rottweiler and more emphasis on their working attributes. Like Leonbergers today, Rottweilers came in a variety of sizes and colors. Imagine club members separating the lower-to-the- ground, muscular, short-coated Rottweilers and the taller, coated, mountain-type Leonbergers to clear the path to the breeds we love today. Even now, a hundred years after the club dissolved, black and tan Leonbergers pop up in the whelping box and red, well furnished Rottweilers are walking about! As an exercise, reading the two standards side-by-side can provide some insight into common values that have been retained even as two very distinct breeds have emerged. THE BREED’S NEEDS Details are always important, but we really need to have the big picture foremost in the mind. A good Leonberger in your ring should embody the major characteristics of breed type. You should see a large, powerful, rectangular, working dog. Th e head is in balance with the body, held high above the withers, and adorned with a striking black mask. Th e topline and underline fl ow smoothly to construct a silhouette built for both drive and power. Adults exude a calm, con fi dent, and intelligent presence. Adults will have a well-furnished, double coat that enhances the silhouette. In movement, they are graceful, powerful, e ffi - cient, and surprisingly light on their feet. You can imagine the Leonberger pulling a cart, herding sheep, performing water rescue, or snuggling with a three-year-old child. Th at is the Leonberger you are looking for; always keep the big picture in mind.


Thoughts on Judging the Leonberger


A fun photo of some puppies from a recent litter of mine.

The rectangles produce both power and elegance.

coat in the Leonberger ring as to discover a hen’s tooth in a gerbil. THE SIZE PRIZE Th e Leonberger is a large, working dog similar in size to the Great Pyrenees. Func- tionality and agility may be compromised when Leonbergers are sized outside the standard. Achieving more size than out- lined in the standard does not constitute a merit and there should not be a “size prize” in the mind of the judge. In today’s rings, you are likely to see a great variety in Leon- berger height and size; a ring can easily have an eight inch span between the tallest dog and shortest bitch. If all the Leonbergers in consideration are within standard and the merits of two exhibits are in close conten- tion, judges should be mindful that the standard states that the preferred height of a bitch is 27.5 inches and the preferred height of a dog is 30 inches. You are more likely to have a larger than preferred Leon- berger in the ring than an undersized one. Proportions, color, and the height of the handler can all work together to trick the eye, so some diligence is due when sizing up the ring. A reality check you can keep in the back of your mind: the ideal height of a Leonberger bitch and Doberman Pinscher dog are identical.

THE RECTANGLE ANGLE When in doubt, remember that the Leonberger is constructed of rectangles built upon rectangles. Th e muzzle is a broad and deep rectangle, longer than wide. Th e backskull is a rectangle set wider than the muzzle. Th e neck is longer than deep and the body is rectangular, slightly longer than deep. Th ese rectangles work together to pro- duce a Leonberger that is sturdy, elegant, and balanced. Something you will observe along the rectangle angle: in adult Leonbergers, the body tends to follow the head and vice versa. A short, coarse head will usually be attached to a square, cobby body. A long, narrow head will usually be in front of a similarly long, narrow body. If you fi nd a great body, the head will usually match. Th is can be particularly useful in judging young Leonbergers where the head is very slow to mature. THE FRUMPY PUPPY In Leonbergers, we tend to talk more of promise than of quality in Leonberger pup- pies. You can guarantee Leonberger pup- pies won’t get any shorter and that the bone won’t get any heavier, but almost everything else is subject to change. Angulation can be lost or gained. Th e coat will change color,

THE COAT MOAT Very few breeds have as much variety in coat as the Leonberger. Th e standard names the many colors in shades of yellow, gold, red, brown, and sand and describes the black mask and lightly colored undercoat. Add- ing more variety, the coat comes in varying lengths, coarseness, and textures. Th e guard hairs, coat, undercoat, and furnishings also di ff er in length, coarseness, color, and tex- ture. Th ere are literally thousands of accept- able combinations of color, length, coarse- ness, and texture that could end up in your ring. Most Leonberger people think about coat like hardwood; if it’s beautiful and can do the job, it’s probably fi ne. Th ough not explicitly explained in the standard, the adult coat is not monochro- matic; there should be multiple colors in the coat: two or more shades of the main tone throughout the body, black hairs on the face, and a light undercoat. Th ere may or may not be black guard hairs on the body and they may be quite abundant. Depend- ing on sex, climate, care, and season, Leon- bergers are constantly in di ff erent stages of being in and out of coat. My advice: don’t get too caught up in coat with Leonbergers. You are about as likely to fi nd a DQ with


Thoughts on Judging the Leonberger


texture, and length. Th e skull and muzzle will develop. Muscling will come in and the chest will spring out. Th e amount of change that happens is mind boggling and you don’t have a crystal ball. Th e fi rst thing you are likely to see, espe- cially with juniors, is a wiggly, gangly puppy with wavy (or even curly) coat that wants to go in every direction on the planet. Th e head may seem too small for the body and the Leonberger may decide to o ff er very lit- tle cooperation with the top of the lead. My advice is to evaluate what you can evaluate with as much patience and kindness as you can. In a year or two, this puppy might be a nice Leonberger! If you see harmony, bal- ance, and good movement under all the cra- zy coat, you likely have a promising puppy before you. THE TYPE HYPE Th ere is no one aspect of type in the Leonberger that trumps the others. Natu- rally, many exhibitors strongly prefer that weight be given to the aspects of type that align with the merits or exaggerations of their exhibits or breeding program, but a good Leonberger is “one piece”–a total package that comes across as both inten- tional and harmonious. Th ere is more than one way to make a tasty hamburger and there is more than one way to have a typey Leonberger. Regional di ff erences in France, Germany, Italy, Russia, and Scandinavia were in the imports that began coming into America 40 years ago and those regional di ff erences, exacerbated by geographical isolation in America, are strongly present today. A well-made Leonberger in the style of a particular region should be appreciated and awarded. Look for the harmony, bal- ance, and type in the exhibit before you. Not every supermodel needs to look exactly the same; the Leonberger is a diverse breed and we value that diversity. With the funda- mentals in mind, a focus on the core aspects of breed type, and an eye for the power, ele- gance, and harmony that make our wonder- ful breed, you will be ready for those tough choices in a competitive Leonberger ring. ABOUT THE AUTHOR Matthew and his better half, Susan, have been living with Leonbergers in Mebane, NC for twenty years. Th ey are the preserva- tion breeders behind Sforzando Leonbergers and have produced a long line of champion- ship Leonbergers who are happy at home on the couch and fl ying around the ring. Matt is a breeder judge who keeps busy as presi- dent of the Mid–Atlantic Leonberger Club of Virginia and the Tarheel Leonberger Club. In his spare time, he is an educator at the Durham School of the Arts.

When in doubt, focus on the fundamentals of harmony and balance.

The silhouette is clearly visible; note the variety of colors, texture, and length.

Balance, harmony and power should be seen while standing and in motion.


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W hat are Leonbergers like to live with? Back in the days before the Internet put the whole world at our fingertips, the process of learn- ing about a breed of dog was a different adventure than it is now. Nowadays, a simple Internet search will yield literally millions of hits about Leonbergers. Finding information about a Leonberger these days is so much easier than it was when I first started looking into the breed that the chances of getting inaccurate or misleading information is also much higher. So, what are Leonbergers actually like to live with? This is a very good question. The AKC website and the Leonberger Club of America’s website both have very good basic information about Leon- bergers, including a good description of their size and general temperament, and various health issues to keep in mind when considering the breed. My goal with this article is to address in a bit more detail some of the important considerations to keep in mind if you are thinking of adding a Leonberger to your home. My goal is to make you aware of the details you might not see in an advertisement—the nitty gritty of this big, hairy, enthusiastic, and athletic breed that I love so much. Ask any longtime Leonberger owner and you will likely hear a fair amount of not-so-glowing details sprinkled in with the wonderful aspects. This is because, while we love and adore our breed, we also know it is not for everyone. And we know it is important for people just starting their inquiries to hear a bal- anced representation. We hear questions like, “Are they good with children?” and “How are they with other dogs?” These are understandable questions, but Leonbergers are complex living creatures, not factory-stamped, totally-predictable machines. Also, some of the terminology used to describe a dog might vary quite a bit from person to person. So, let’s get down to the basics. In general, Leonbergers tend to be fond of children, and they tend to get along well with other dogs, cats, etc., in gen- eral. Another example is that they are easy to train. Well, yes and no. The Leonberger comes from flock guardian ancestry, which typically tend to think for themselves and make deci- sions based on the situation. The Leonberger is not as indepen- dent and/or aloof as many flock guardian breeds, and they do tend to be more extroverted. Most of them are very confident and outgoing, and friendly. Most of them do learn new skills very quickly, and their lack of specialized purpose in their cre- ation makes them quite versatile. But they may well respond to training with a bit of, “I hear what you’re saying, but what about this instead?”



kicking in, but newly forming adult thought processes are still in their early stages. And with the boys, I tend to refer to them as frat boys in the 18- to 24-month range. In general, they are becoming young adults, and in other ways, they are steeped in hormones and may experience bouts of temporary stupidity. After two years of age, each year of a Leonberger’s life is roughly equivalent to a decade of human life. Thus, a 3-year- old Leonberger is basically similar to a 30-year-old human. But this also means that a 6-year-old Leonberger is beginning to have some of the issues of a 60-year-old human, which means that if they are kept in shape and not allowed to be overweight, they are still very much athletic and ener- getic. And while there are certainly active and healthy 9- and 10-year-old Leonberg- ers, most are beginning to have issues asso- ciated with old age when they reach those double digits. All of this means that the first two years of a Leonberger’s life should be treated as childhood. Expect similar issues that you might find in a human’s first two decades. When you get a Leonberger, you should count on spending time training and socializing them. Even if you have a very outgoing puppy that was given a good foundation by their breeder, you will need to find a puppy kindergarten class, and then a basic obedience/manners class. You will need to introduce them to new situa- tions, new people, new experiences, visits to the veterinarian office, and so on. This is important for every dog, but particularly so for a breed that may well end up out- weighing his/her owner as a mature adult. Training is not a one-and-done thing. Training should continue throughout the dog’s lifetime. You are legally responsible for your dog’s behavior. This means that, even if your dog is well-trained and social- ized, they are still big enough to acciden- tally cause harm to a human or another animal. So, you will need to keep that in mind when considering this wonderful but large breed. What does all this mean if you are showing your Leonberger? Well, it means that when your teenage Leonberger bitch puppy goes into heat, you can expect her to go through some similar symptoms as a human adolescent female. She may expe- rience PMS (pre-menstrual-syndrome), where she might suddenly become some- what unsocial, maybe a bit irritable at times, less tolerant of her housemate dogs’ attention. And then, ah, yes, when she reaches what we so casually refer to as

“standing heat,” she may suddenly become extremely flirtatious with the boys and less tolerant of other female Leonbergers. This is all normal, and does not actually contra- dict any of the other general descriptions of the breed. It does, however, mean that the owners may need to rewind back to their own adolescence and remember the contradictory emotions and moods that can happen in our own adolescence. Likewise, if you have a male Leonberg- er, just think back to the chest-thumping and strutting that can happen in human males at that age, including brief spasms of insecurity and surges of testosterone. In other words, although your 2-year-old Leonberger male may have been a piece of cake to take places, be prepared for the possibility that, ringside at a show, he may suddenly have a brief display of stupidity when there are females in heat nearby. He may suddenly forget his manners, and you will need to step in and instruct him how to deal with it.

Leonbergers can and do take to a vari- ety of companion sports and activities, including water rescue, herding, nose work, barn hunt, agility, rally obedience, draft and carting, obedience, and yes, even flyball and weight pull. Care must be taken when introducing a sport to a young Leonberger, and it is a good idea to find a mentor familiar with the breed when ven- turing into some activities because they do take a long time to mature, physically and mentally, and it is important to let their skeletons and their brains mature without undue stress. Though they get big quickly, they remain a puppy and then a teenager for longer than you might think. After decades of living with, training, handling, and breeding Leonbergers, I have found that the way-too-general for- mula of comparing dog-years to human- years does not apply to Leonbergers. That one-year-to-seven-year ratio is just not accurate with this breed. Rather, for the first two years of a Leonberger’s life, each month is roughly equivalent to a year in human development. Thus, a two-month- old Leonberger puppy is roughly equiva- lent in development to a two-year-old human child. A six-month-old Leonberger puppy (though some may be over 100 pounds by then) is still roughly equiva- lent to a 6-year-old human in terms of development and learning capacity. Mind you, this means that an 18-month-old Leonberger puppy is roughly the same as an 18-year-old human. Hormones are



All that said, Leonbergers are a truly wonderful breed. Yes, they shed (a lot). And yes, they take a long time to mature. And yes, they will think for themselves sometimes. And yes, they can have stub- born moments. But they have soul, and they are generally wonder- ful therapy dogs, and they generally prefer to be with their people over being alone. Their soulful, dark eyes will draw you in. Properly raised, trained, and socialized, they are a wonderful addition to the right household. And at this point, I will add a personal note from my own experi- ence. Some years ago, I had my fifth Leonberger at an AKC show in Fredericksburg, Virginia, as we were working on finishing his grand champion title. A family arrived at that show to meet some of the breeds they were considering as a companion for their special needs daughter. When they entered the building, my Leonberger boy made a beeline to their daughter in her wheelchair, and he bonded with her immediately. I was deeply touched when, years later, they told me that it was because of him that they went on to have Leonbergers. Many of that dog’s offspring became therapy and/or service dogs. If you can handle the shedding and the size, and the sometimes bumpy adoles- cent phase, this breed is truly a delight. A last note: If you got your puppy during the COVID pandemic and were unable to do the proper amount of socialization due to shut- downs, just know that it’s not too late. But it is still important to get it done. If you need help finding venues for socialization, contact your breeder and your local Leonberger club.

Here’s a little detail about the scent of a female in heat that you may not have known. That scent can travel for miles in the air. Miles. Let that settle in for a moment. It means that your boy dog can detect a bitch in heat miles away. They can certainly detect that scent within a dog show building, let alone within the confines of a dog show ring. And while some companion events do not allow bitches in heat to be on the grounds, conformation shows do allow it. They may even be in the ring with your dog for Best of Breed. Your usually chill Leonberger may behave differently in that situation. Just be aware of this, and be proactive. For owners of intact females, there are a few considerations as well. Do not park in a ringside chair with your standing-heat female, as this can cause the atmosphere of the males in the ring to change. It is generally expected that you will not bring your in-heat female ringside until immediately before you go in the ring. Do not wander/mingle in the ringside traffic with your dog on a pet collar and a six-foot lead. Understand that the smell of hormones in the air can and will change the behav- ior of other Leonbergers that might have gotten along just fine in other situations. And when a Leonberger, as big as they are, loses his mind for a moment and roars or postures, it is loud and attracts attention. And as natural as it might be, we do not want this to happen at shows. Consult your breeder or trainer for ways to keep on top of this without being tense yourself.

BIO Shannon White grew up with dogs but got her first Leonberger in 1997. With her Leos, she has participated and/or titled in obedience, rally, agility, tracking, water rescue, carting, and freestyle. She has been a class instructor in multiple training facilities over the years, and was a certified professional trainer specializing in dogs with remedial behavior problems and bite histories. Shannon has served as the working dog editor of the LeoLetter for many years. She is an approved BACL examiner, and has judged sweeps and matches for the LCA, including a recent Top 20 judging assignment. She is the current Leonberger columnist for the AKC Gazette, and willingly contributes her time and energy to the LCA whenever possible. Shannon created and still helps to monitor the Raw Fed Leonberger page on Facebook, and she continues to handle Leonbergers on a limited basis in the show ring. Shannon is also an ARRT certified Radiologic Technologist in both Radiography and Computed Tomography.


THE LEONBERGER An Inadvertent Modern-Day Companion By Caroline Bliss-Isberg

Nineteenth-century illustration of Heinrich Essig in his kennel with his early Leonbergers by T. Specht.

I n 1846, Heinrich Essig, a dog- loving entrepreneur beamed as he observed a wriggling litter of newborn puppies. Th at day, after years of trying, he was witness- ing the realization of a dream— the birth of his own dog breed. He named his breed the Leonberger, in honor of Leonberg, Germany, his hometown. Th e genetic stew that produced Essig’s desired traits came from breeding and inter-breeding a Barry-type dog from the Hospice of Saint Bernard, a Land- seer Newfoundland, and a wolfhound

of undetermined parentage. Th ere is evi- dence that early Leos also had more than a dash of genetic material from the butch- er dogs residing in the neighboring town of Rottweil. Essig was a visionary who was always a bit ahead of his time. He succeeded in inten- tionally producing the fi rst dog breed spe- ci fi cally designed to be a luxury commodity. Furthermore, he achieved this goal a full decade before the Victorians ushered in the modern age of purposeful dog breeding. Th roughout Essig’s life, Leonberg- ers were status symbols, commanding

high prices and shipped world-wide. Th ey graced the palaces of Empress Elizabeth of Austria, King Umberto of Italy, Garibaldi, and Richard Wagner. In the 1880s, Bu ff alo Bill Cody tried unsuccessfully to buy a pair from an American actress for $5,000.00. As a self-made man, Essig felt con- strained by the rules of the Victorian dog fancy, and refused to write a breed standard or provide pedigrees. His stubbornness alienated the nineteenth-century dog world. After his death, the Leonberger almost disappeared, but a handful of ardent admir- ers resurrected the fl oundering breed.


An Ideal Companion Emerges In creating a luxury dog for the wealthy, Essig inadvertently created an ideal canine companion breed known for its versatil- ity and compelling adaptability to human interests and lifestyles. His Leonberg- ers were intelligent and elegant enough to please the most discriminating buyers. Th ey were hardy enough to withstand long over- land and ocean journeys, and they could fl ourish in a wide variety of households. Leonbergers have friendly, lively spirits tempered by calm, inclusive and tolerant dispositions. Th ey are gentle with other animals, loving with children, loyal to their adults and willing to try almost any activity. Th e power of the Leonberger’s appeal as an ideal companion helped it to sur- vive the ravages of World War I. During that time every Leonberger in Leonberg starved to death or was killed, and those in the rest of the world were brought to the very edge of extinction. After the War, the breed was resurrect- ed by two residents of Leonberg—Otto Josenhans and Karl Stadelman. In early 1922, using their knowledge of Essig’s dogs and a Leonberger Standard written by Albert Kull shortly after Essig’s death, they located and selectively bred seven dogs with Leonberger-like traits. From these they carefully rebuilt the breed. Today’s Leonberger comes directly from their work. Th e club they founded and the stud book they wrote are still in existence today. Unlike many dogs in Germany, the Leonberger survived the Second World War relatively well. Although the National Socialist party replaced the club leadership and rewrote the standard, the breed was protected by its German heritage. After the War, the Th ird Reich breed standard was replaced. Pre-war institutions were re-established, and breeding programs on both sides of the Iron Curtain helped the post-war breed to fl ourish.

Leonbergers are gentle and accepting of other animals. Image from the collection of Waltraut Zieher

sons or in large households bustling with children. They are happy in apart- ments in midtown Manhattan, sandy beaches, or in Arctic snow. Today’s Leonbergers are not distin- guished by striking colors, fl owing tresses, or unusually shaped bodies. Th ey aren’t warriors, pointers or retrievers. Th ey don’t yearn for rhinestone collars, as they are natural-looking, weather-proof, wash and wear dogs. Th eir lack of extreme or con- spicuous traits, however, is in itself strik- ing. Except for their size and the eager enthusiasm of their people, Leonbergers are notable for their lack of extremes in both form and function.

So what makes Leonbergers so desir- able? Th e secret lies in their very mod- eration. It’s no surprise that the dog in Sidney Harris’s famous cartoon is a bit of a Leonberger look-alike. Although many canine encyclopedias group the Leonberger with the giant breeds, nowhere in the o ffi cial standards of the world’s major kennel clubs is the Leonberger referred to as a giant. In fact, the standards emphasize that the Leonberger is large but not ponder- ous. Excessive height is undesirable. Is moderation the magic? Perhaps the very lack of exceptional traits create an exceptional breed capable of capturing hearts and changing lives.

Models of Adaptability & Moderation

Today, approximately forty thou- sand Leonbergers live mostly in Europe. Their numbers are growing in North America, Australia, and New Zealand. They live contentedly with single per-


ters. At least fi fteen percent of North Amer- ican Leonbergers participate in animal- assisted therapy. Many have received the coveted LCA Th erapy Award demonstrat- ing that they have provided over 50 hours of service in medical or educational facilities. While Leonbergers were proving them- selves to be exceptional health providers, Leonberger people, especially in America, were responding in turn.

Gesundheit! (German for Good Health)

Eight Leonberger pioneers united in the 1980s and founded the independent Leonberger Club of America (LCA), with its own Registry, and the ability to enforce the most stringent breeding regulations on the continent. For over two decades, they carefully grew the breed to number approximately 3000 ideal companions. LCA members are especially diligent about retaining breed health. When genet- ic mutations causing Addison’s Disease and Leonberger Polyneuropathy (LPN) crept into the breed, they eliminated the former by selective controlled breed- ing. Now, as the Leonebrger Parent Club within the AKC, the LCA works closely with America’s Leonberger Health Foun- dation and the Canine Health Foundation to eliminate both LPN and the cancers that are the major killers of so many dogs. Since 2000, Leonberger owners through the Foundation have raised and distributed over $250,000.00 for canine research. One hundred-sixty years of e ff ort on the part of dedicated, passionate breeders and owners has fashioned one of the world’s healthiest, happiest, and most companion- able of breeds. BIO Th is article is based on excerpts from Caroline Bliss-Isberg’s forthcoming book, “ Th e Leonberger: A Complete Guide to the Lion King of Breeds”. Caroline is a past President of the Leonberger Club of Amer- ica and currently serves as a Director of the Leonberger Health Foundation. Over twenty-five years she has loved nothing more than being surrounded by Leonberg- ers and the wonderful people who choose to live with them.

A few Leonberger elites showing their stuff in agility, water work, dock jumping and herding.

A Leonberger doing one of things they do best—help children learn to read in the READ canine therapy program.

Good Sports & Willing Workers As models of moderation, no Leonberg- er trait or instinct is so highly developed as to thrust Leos into the realm of the elite levels of any canine sport or working event. Th ey have to work much harder to excel than most of their competitors. Leonbergers may not have been bred for sport, but there is no doubt they are good sports. When Leonberger people decide to pursue a canine work or sporting activity, their dogs are right alongside them giving their all with customary enthusiasm, willing- ness and a bit of goo fi ness thrown in for good measure. All that matters to most Leonberg- ers is that they are included in the fun. Although Leos were not bred for any speci fi c working task, the FCI and the

AKC classify Leonbergers as working dogs. In America, however, Leonbergers live up to that label. Th ey have earned titles in agility, obedience, drafting, dock jumping, fl y ball, rally, and water work. Leos especially enjoy drafting. Several Leonbergers help their families by hauling 40 pound sacks of their own kibble from their cars to their homes, or by carting their family’s recycling to the road for pick up. Th ey also willingly share the load on backpacking and mountain climbing trips. Where working Leonbergers truly and naturally shine, is in all aspects of Animal Assisted Th erapy. Leonbergers throughout the world, and especially in North America, provide support and a healing presence in schools, hospitals, nursing homes and shel-





1. Where do you live? What do you do “outside” of dogs? 2. Huggable and lovable but also a formidable foe, the Leo has gained a great group of fans. Do people on the street or at the vet recognize the breed? 3. The Leonberger Club of America recently won BEST BOOTH IN SHOW at AKC’s Meet The Breeds® event. This takes a great deal of cooperation between fanciers. Do you find fellow Leo lovers to be cooperative when it comes to breeding, show- ing and helping fellow breeders to place pups? 4. What is the most surprising aspect of the breed’s personality? 5. How does living with a large dog jive with the current trend to downsize human housing? 6. At what age do you choose a show prospect? 7. What is your favorite dog show memory? 8. Is there anything else you’d like to share about the breed? Please elaborate. GINNY BARTHOLOMAY Ginny Bartholomay is an active LCA breeder and AKC exhibi- tor. Since, 2007, she has bred or finished 16 AKC Champions and Grand Champions. She and her husband share their home with 11 Leos. I live in Montana. When I am not with the dogs I am riding horses or doing something outside such as hiking, fishing, kayaking or, in winter, cross country skiing. Huggable and lovable but also a formidable foe, the Leo has gained a great group of fans. Do people on the street or at the vet recognize the breed? I don’t know why you describe Leos as a “for- midable foe”. As a rule, Leonbergers have a friendly demeanor. While Leos are still on the “rare” side, I have found that more peo- ple know what a Leonberger is than they did five years ago. Do I find fellow Leo lovers to be cooperative when it comes to breeding, showing, and helping fellow breeders to place pups? Yes, the Leonberger community at large is really one large family. And, like most families, we may not always agree but in a pinch we are there to offer assistance and support for one another. I have seen it repeatedly in our club. The willingness of our members to help someone in need is remarkable. What is the most surprising aspect of the breed’s personality? The empathy the breed possesses. How does living with a large dog jive with the current trend to downsize human housing? For a large dog, I find they don’t take up a lot of space. What they do need is exercise so that is more impor- tant than the size of the human’s house. At what age do I choose a show prospect? I make the decision on a show prospect at about eight weeks. In most cases I have been watching the puppy since birth and have photographed it from four weeks on so I have a pretty good idea of who will be my show pick. My favorite dog show memory? Winning the 2005 National with me handling my girl, Forevergreen’s Keepsake. Some people have the misconception that Leonbergers are guard dogs—they aren’t. The breed was not bred for a specific working purpose. It was supposed to be an “every man” dog, elegant enough for royalty yet sturdy enough to do farm work. Leonbergers are ver- satile workers and will do almost anything their owners are up for doing. Because of their empathetic nature many of them are well suited for doing some kind of therapy work.

We first discovered Leonberg- ers in 1995 and have been active members of the Leonberger Club of America (LCA) ever since. Since that time, we have had the privilege of making Leonberger friends all around the world and have attended almost all of our annual Leonberger Club of America national specialties. Over the past years, I have served as the President of the Frontier Leonberger Club, an

Associate Member of the LCA Breeding Committee, a Regional Representative for Leonberger Rescue, assisted with several of our LCA National Specialties, worked with the LCA Health Commit- tee, and chaired the LCA Web Committee. I am also an approved LCA Breeding Acceptability Check List (BACL) examiner, and enjoy mentoring individuals new to the breed in the areas of conformation and breed structure. I am a breed presenter for the LCA Judges Committee and work with other club members to educate interested AKC judges about our breed standard. We breed on occasion in order to ensure adequate socialization and individual attention for each puppy. Breeding Leonbergers is strictly a hobby for us, done with the sole intention of producing healthy, good-tempered, structurally correct Leonbergers who will hopefully go on to provide their new owners with as much love and companionship as our dogs have given us. We are located in the north Texas area, approximately 25 min- utes north of Dallas, Texas. Outside of my Leonbergers, I spend my time working with children as Head of School for a K-12 public charter school and supporting our local county homeless shelter. Do people on the street or at the vet recognize the breed? People do occasionally recognize the breed, certainly more so now than in the past. Do I find fellow Leo lovers to be cooperative when it comes to breeding, showing and helping fellow breeders to place pups? The Leonberger community of owners and breeders is a small and close- knit one, both within the United States and abroad. Leo lovers tend to be laid-back, friendly and very willing to support one another. What is the most surprising aspect of the breed’s personality? Leonbergers absolutely adore their family members and must be an integral part of their families in order to mentally and socially thrive. This is a very intelligent breed, and if bored or left to their own devices, Leonbergers can become destructive. How does living with a large dog jive with the current trend to downsize human housing? It is definitely possible to have a Leon- berger in a smaller setting, so long as sufficient daily exercise is provided. What Leonbergers care about most is being with their people, regardless of location. At what age do I choose a show prospect? I typically identify show prospects by the age of eight weeks, after having observed them closely from birth onwards. One of my favorite dog show memories is owner-handling one of my females to a National Specialty Best in Show win.


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