Let’s Talk Breed Education!
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.
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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 theworld’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-
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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-
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JUDGING THE LEONBERGER By Agi Hejja
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 JNQPTJOH BT UIF 4U #FSOBSE OPS TIPVME UIFZCF UIF TJ[FPG UIF#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 CJUDI JTFWFSZCJUBTEFTFSWJOHPGB#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.
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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Leonberger Q& A While Leonbergers are certainly not a breed for everyone, as they need to be well-socialized as youngsters, require obedience training given their size, shed significantly throughout the year, need regular grooming, and have short life spans—they are also an incredibly beautiful and majestic breed with an affinity for children and make wonderful family companions for committed owners. TIFFANIE COE I have been involved with
we just want to cry. Leonberg- ers are not push button dogs, they do not appreciate training with repetition. Most Leon- bergers will perform a task or cue two to three times and then are ready to move on. It doesn’t mean they completely understand what you are ask- ing, it just means they prefer to work on the next exercise. How does living with a large dog jive with the current
Leonbergers since 2007. Our family currently shares the house with three Leonberg- ers, and we will be adding Leo Roar’s offspring shortly. My three-year-old daughter, Mara Rose, has grown up with Leonbergers and is showing our current special in the Pee- Wee events offered by the local kennel clubs. Our young girls have just finished their cham- pionships and will work to
trend to downsize human housing? Most Leonbergers want to be in the same room as their family members. Our home is not very big, just over 1200 sq ft, and our dogs are usually by our side. When I am playing with Mara in her bedroom, Leo Roar is right there with us. The two younger puppies love to prance through the house with dog toys. At what age do I choose a show prospect? Structural evaluations are done at eight weeks of age. Choosing an actual show prospect requires more than just structure. It also requires the correct atti- tude. One can have a stunning dog, that is structurally correct, but hates to show. You can work with the dog to see if the attitude can be changed or not, but a true “special” will be the complete package of structure and attitude. My favorite dog show memory? I have two very special memo- ries. The first memory is when I finished my first champion, GCH CH UCH Int CH ElDorado’s Diamond Breeze CGC by going Best of Winner’s under Ms. Debra Thornton. Aira was a tough bitch to show and was very opinionated. Aira Breeze loved to show and if the judge was not looking at her, she would stomp her paws and whine in the ring to capture the attention. Aira and I went on to also earn her Grand Championship. The second memory is when I won my first working group with Leo Roar in Arizona under Mr. David Haddock. My family was ringside, Robert was holding our two new puppies and our daugh- ter, Mara Rose was cheering so loudly yelling “You won mommy! I’m so proud of you!” This moment meant so much to me because my daughter could see that all of the hard work and dedication that we as a family put into our special, GCHP CH UCH Int. CH VLA BluDrift’s Bold Lion’s Roar RI NDD CGCA CGCU aka Leo Roar, paid off. Leonbergers are extremely cute and fluffy puppies. They grow extremely quickly and require constant training. There is nothing worse than a 120 pound out of control adolescent. Leonbergers also shed—a lot! Invest in a great vacuum and be prepared for dog hair to become a condiment in every meal. Daily brushing and combing can keep the coat healthy and minimize the amount of dog hair shed around the house. SHELLEY SCOTT FREEMAN We spend our time between Northern California and Northern Idaho. Empty nesters, we enjoy traveling, working on our ranches and hosting guests at our Airbnb in Clements. Do people on the street or at the vet recognize the breed? Few recognize the breed. We always have to allow more time when we wander out. Our Leos love meeting new people and, of course, they draw attention wherever we go. Do I find fellow Leo lovers to be cooperative when it comes to breeding, showing, and helping fellow breeders to place pups? The Leonberger Club of America members are a great tight knit family.
earn their Grand Championships as they mature. As a family, Rob- ert, Mara, and I have crisscrossed the United States campaigning our current special. It has been great family time and a way for Mara to see the country. I enjoy grooming our dogs and helping others with grooming their dogs. I enjoy hosting hands on grooming clin- ics in which people can learn the techniques to grooming their dogs and keeping their coats healthy. As a family, we are looking forward to the rest of the show year with our current dogs as well as starting the next generation. I live in Black Diamond, Washington. I work full time at a start up company in downtown Seattle. Robert and I also have a three year old daughter, Mara Rose, and enjoy family time when we are not at dog shows. Do people on the street or at the vet recognize the breed? The Leonberger is indeed gaining in popularity. Many people try to guess the breed or have an idea of what it could possibly be. The one thing almost all Leonberger owners will tell you is that when walk- ing, we do not get very far before there is a crowd. Do I find fellow Leo lovers to be cooperative when it comes to breeding, showing, and helping fellow breeders to place pups? Responsible Leonberger Breeders do help each other out. As a breed community we also try to help breeders with home visits or pro- viding referrals for families interested in the breed. In addition, breeders will co-breed litters. Breeders will also lend a helping hand when possible in whelping the litter, in the first few weeks, puppy evaluations, and as a support network if something is not right with a puppy. As far as showing, the community tries to be supportive. It can be as simple as holding a dog ring side, or taking a dog back in. Majors are tough to come by, so we do try to coordinate. It real- ly comes in waves, but there are a few key shows every year that draw majors. I have a passion for grooming this gorgeous breed. I love teach- ing people how to care for their dog’s coat, how to blow a coat out, and just explaining simple grooming tips that truly make a differ- ence. I have had the honor of hosting multiple grooming seminars as well as hands on clinics in which I groom part of a dog while teaching the owner at the same time. The owners are then asked to groom the opposite side. The most surprising aspect of the breed’s personality? Leonberg- ers are extremely smart and have a wicked sense of humor. Just ask any of us who also participate in performance events such as obedi- ence, rally and drafting. Our dogs literally make us laugh so hard
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Leonberger Q& A Members of the LCA are like their dogs, friendly, always willing and able and great source for support. What is the most surprising aspect of the breed’s personality? My dog, Carter, has a great sense for children. It’s amazing watch- ing him with them. He actually will get down to their level if they are small, his way of telling them he loves them. Carter has been known to literally kneel down and crawl over to toddlers. Quite amazing to watch! Georgia, she’s very sweet and loyal. They imme- diately bonded and are best friends. How does living with a large dog jive with the current trend to downsize human housing? Leos definitely need lots of room and exercise. Not a dog for apartment living unless they go everywhere with you. At what age do I choose a show prospect? Usually before puppies are chosen for their new homes, an LCA member friend will come and help determine which puppies are show quality at eight weeks. Some breeders will have show homes waiting and will keep their picks until the age of four to six months to determine if the are of a “special” quality. It’s very breeder specific. My favorite dog showmemory? I have two. Carter, CH Sir Carter Leon, A Clement Gentleman, THDN, CGC, finishing under Mr. Jim Owens at the AKC National Leonberger Specialty as “Winners Dog” this year in Estes Park, Colorado. We are very grateful to Amanda Shea, Alberto Montila and Rachel Adams for their amaz- ing handling skills and to Jim Owens for the special placement. Georgia, GCH CH Sweet Smell of Success, CGC finishing her Grand Championship at Woofstock this year at 14 months of age. Leonbergers capture your heart once you own one. They love the water and are very versatile in their abilities. A short lifespan is the biggest down fall of a Leonberger. Choosing a reputable breeder is most important, as any reputable breeder breeds for quality of health first. ALIDA GREENDYK I have lived in New Jersey
Over the years I have always found Leonberger people to be united in their deep love of the breed. The Leonberger community often works together, and often help each other out with handling, grooming tips, and even puppy referrals. Despite their size, Leonbergers are surprisingly agile and light on their feet! I have had several dogs that are almost catlike in their ability to jump with ease onto things such as the grooming table. Leonbergers are very adaptable to the different lifestyles of their families, and they can do very well in this time of downsized hous- ing. I have several families living in apartments in NYC who have Leonbergers from me, and they live happy and fulfilled lives. With proper exercise some Leonbergers can live in a fairly small space. Because Leonbergers are happiest when with their humans, they adapt to their human’s lifestyle. If it’s a day indoors watching TV, a Leo is content to lie quietly all day and sleep, and they are equally happy to go on a long walk the next day. Because my puppies go to their new homes at 8 weeks old, I make final decisions on show prospects at seven to eight weeks of age. I prefer to make my final choices as close to 8 weeks as possible as they can change a great deal from seven weeks to eight weeks. My favorite dog show memory is an easy one...in 2016 my male Dario (GCHG Khaimas’ From Me to You) won the breed at West- minster, and proceeded to entertain the crowd in the Garden dur- ing the Working Group judging by leaping up and down next to the handler and trying to pick his pocket! He earned the nickname of the “tricks, no treats” Leonberger and the video of his antics went viral. It earned the two of us an appearance on Good Morning America a few days later. I have owned and loved Leonbergers for 30 years and I am com- pletely addicted to them! I have looked at and admired other breeds, but have never been tempted to own one, as I will be a lifelong Leo lover! LINDA SEBASTIANI I am an AKC Breeder of Merit, I have been breeding for approx- imately 15 years. I have produced many, many Champions and Grand Champions. I live in Orangevale, California. I am retired and outside of dogs I quilt and do art and craft work. Do people on the street or at the vet recognize the breed? More and more often folks are beginning to recognize the breed, but they still seem to be a show stopper for many folks. Do I find fellow Leo lovers to be cooperative when it comes to breeding, showing and helping fellow breeders to place pups? Yes, we have a very large, very strong “family” community of Leo peo- ple. Hence our motto, “Great Dogs, Great People.” What is the most surprising aspect of the breed’s personality? Leos are uncannily intuitive. I tell people that and they will say “Oh, my dog was that way,” and then they get a Leo and will call me and say, “I had no idea!” One puppy person told me, “I never knew I was adopting a roommate.” How does living with a large dog jive with the current trend to downsize human housing? I find Leonbergers very adaptable to
for the past 20 years, and have been breeding Leonbergers for 25 years. Besides show- ing, grooming and training my dogs, I enjoy gardening (with occasional help from my Leonbergers ), reading, and cooking. I have had Leonbergers for 30 years, and when I had my first Leonberger the breed was never recognized or known when we were out in pub-
lic. I was always asked what mix of breeds my dog was. There is a marked increase in the number of people who recognize my dogs as Leonbergers, either at the vet, at the park, or the pet store. About half of those I encounter either recognize the breed or the name of the breed.
“Despite their size, Leonbergers are surprisingly agile and light on their feet! I have had several dogs that are almost catlike in their ability to jump with ease onto things such as the grooming table.”
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Leonberger Q& A
“LEONBERGERS ARE NOT FOR EVERYBODY; THEY ARE BIG, HAIRY AND LOVE WATER AND MUD. BUT THEY HAVE HEARTS AS BIG AS THE WORLD AND ARE CALLED VELCRO DOGS FOR A REASON—THEY NEVER WANT TO BE AWAY FROM YOUR SIDE.”
their space. My home is on the larger size, but my step-daughter has three Leos in a very small house. At what age do I choose a show prospect? At birth? Seems like my eye tends to go to a particular puppy right away. I don’t make any final decisions until right before they go to their new homes at eight weeks. My favorite dog show memory? My boy that I bred placing Win- ners Dog under the acknowledged world expert on the breed, Dr. Guido Perosino, at a National Specialty. Leonbergers are not for everybody; they are big, hairy and love water and mud. But they have hearts as big as the world and are called Velcro dogs for a reason—they never want to be away from your side. MARGARET L. SMITH I live outside of Atlanta, Georgia. I own a hobby farm on a large recreational lake called Allatoona. I have horses besides dogs. My profession is as an Innkeeper for my Victorian bed and breakfast and wedding facility. I also sell real estate as an agent. Do people on the street or at the vet recognize the breed? The breed is getting more popular in the US. I have run into a few peo- ple that recognize the breed. Do I find fellow Leo lovers to be cooperative when it comes to breeding, showing, and helping fellow breeders to place pups? I have found that the Leo fanciers, like in any other group of people, have different personalities and can be both cooperative and unco- operative. I have had negative responses but mostly positive coop- eration from most. What is the most surprising aspect of the breed’s personality? I would not consider their wonderful temperaments toward people especially children, their intelligence and active but not too active personalities surprising. That is exactly the reason I picked the breed. I love large dogs but personally had a bad experience with a temperament issue in another large breed that I owned. The Leos were bred for families. How does living with a large dog jive with the current trend to downsize human housing? Any large breed would be a challenge in today’s world with the population exploding. Leos do need exercise and space. High concentrations of humans though is not a problem when you have a Leo as they are normally not aggressiveness. People are drawn to their majestic beauty and the Leos love it. At what age do I choose a show prospect? The first cut for a show prospect is made at eight weeks. At that age you can look at them and see their basic conformation. After that they fall apart as their body grows quickly at different rates with lots of changes. You can then look at them again around six months and decide their poten- tial as they start coming together again. My favorite dog show memory? Oh Lord. I have many. I have finished three dogs with their AKC championship so far through my handler Andrea Elliott-Casterline. That itself is exciting to me. I guess my favorite memories though are of the Leonberger Special- ties where there are many more dogs to compete against. Having big wins three years in a row at several of the specialties is to me a big honor and created wonderful memories. I’d also like to share that they are big swimmers. Great if you like water sports too. They also have a double coat which can make them uncomfortable in warmer weather. My dogs have AC available
to them at all times on my small hobby farm and they do appreci- ate it. Leos are a wonderful breed for families. Prospective owners should be aware that their size can be a challenge in the home as any large breed. Their coats need care as they do shed a fair amount. if you don’t have time to take care of coat or to spend time with your Leo they may not be the breed for you. SUSAN TURBOW I live in Reno, Nevada. “Outside of dogs” I’m a college profes- sor. I teach early childhood education and human development and family studies. I also have a passion for wolves, theater and reading. Do people recognize Leos? They are becoming more popular so sometimes people know what they are but for the most part no. If you want a Leo you have to be prepared to be stopped everywhere you go for people to pet them and ask “What is that?” When I say it’s a dog. Most people say it looks like a bear. Is this a new type of lean cuisine. Where’s his saddle? ETC. Do I find fellow Leo lovers to be cooperative when it comes to breeding, showing, and helping fellow breeders to place pups? Our Leonberger motto is “Great Dogs. Great People.” and I find this motto to be very true. There is an overall friendly competition between us but generally we help each other out. If someone is at a show and they forget a lead, bait, towel, anything, others are willing to help out. At our national specialty this year a professional handler offered bait to an owner handler when she ran out of bait. This is the type of people you find at Leo shows. In regards to breeding people help each other out all the time from taking care of whelping pups, sharing whelping boxes, coming to help out with the litter, etc. No one ever has to do it alone unless they want too. I believe that the most surprising aspect of a Leos personality is how mellow they can be. This isn’t surprising though. In regards to my own Leo, Perrin, I always call him a “slug” because he is to extra mellow. He passed his pet therapy certification at 13 months. That’s unheard of for most dogs but because of his temperament he passed. How does living with a large dog jive with the current trend to downsize human housing? Good question. I believe you can have a Leo where ever you live. I say this because out of the four I’ve had in my life all but one followed me from room to room though out the day so if your assuming a Leo needs lots of room that isn’t true. Okay, they need lots of room on the floor because they are so big but they don’t need a lot of space to roam. If you live in a small place as long as they get out three to four times a day for walks and such they are good to go. At what age do I choose a show prospect? Breeders can see potential show prospects at about eight weeks old. Sometimes they pan out to be a great show dogs, others times not. My favorite dog show memory is when Perrin won our Leon- berger Club of America’s National Specialty in Estes Park, Colora- do in May this year. This is what we all strive for in the end. He also won the Top 20 competition and the people’s choice award. I was so overwhelmed that I cried for two days after the show was over. Lowenhohle’s Magical Phalin Perrin is a MBISS winner; At this point in time he is the #1 All Breed Leo in the country with five group 4 wins; three group 3 wins; and two group 2 wins. He is the #3 Breed Leo with 38 BOB wins. Perrin is also a certified pet therapy dog.
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THOUGHTS ON JUDGING THE LEONBERGER
BY MATTHEW TOWNSEND
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.
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Thoughts on Judging the Leonberger
BY MATTHEW TOWNSEND continued
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
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Thoughts on Judging the Leonberger
BY MATTHEW TOWNSEND continued
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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