Frequently Asked Questions


Do Leonbergers make good family dogs ?

Leos are very devoted to their families and are especially fond of children and well able to tolerate other household animals, provided they have been socialized to them at an early age. They remain stable and calm amid noise and chaos and are happiest when participating in family ventures. Because this breed’s attachment to its family is very strong and it has a sensitive personality, it does not do well if left isolated for long hours each day or left alone outside. This can be considered a ‘temperament defect’ by those who prefer a dog who is less dependent upon human company.



What is the life expectancy of the Leonberger ?

On average, Leonbergers live 8-10 years, although some have been known to surpass this age.


Do they drool?

Leos were bred to have tight flews. As such, in the absence of loose flews to collect saliva, this breed does not drool.


Do they shed and need a lot of grooming ?

Leonbergers shed heavily every Spring and Fall, but because a Leo’s coat can vary quite a bit in length and thickness, depending on the type of coat and the time of year, brushing may range in frequency from daily to once a week. And given the thick undercoat, it is important to watch out for matting, especially behind the ears and in all the feathered areas.


Are they easy to train ?

Leonbergers are not natural obedience and agility zealots; however, because they are stable and calm and want to please, they respond well to training and tend to perform well even when their handlers are stressed.


Are there any known genetic illnesses or health issues associated with the breed ?

Like all giant breed dogs, Leonbergers are susceptible to certain health issues. These include:

  • Hip and Elbow Dysplasia – This is a hereditary disorder found in almost all breeds of dogs, especially giant breeds like the Leonberger.

  • Panosteitis (Pano) – This is also known as “growing pains” and can be a problem among all breeds of dogs that grow rapidly. This condition is temporary and can be successfully managed with medication, if necessary.

  • Osteochondrosis Dissecans (OCD) – This condition is usually found in large breed dogs that experience rapid growth. Because it is hereditary, it is recommended that dogs be x-rayed for this disorder before being used in a breeding program to prevent it being passed on.

  • Addison’s Disease – This disease has been diagnosed in Leonbergers in both Europe and North America. It is a serious hormonal disorder of the adrenal glands and, if left undiagnosed and untreated, can be fatal.

  • Cataracts – This is a hereditary eye disorder that affects many different breeds of dogs. It is recommended that dogs used in a breeding program be tested for this disorder prior to being bred to prevent it being passed on.

  • Entropion and Ectropion Eyes – These malformations of the eye rim create a very undesirable eye condition that can be corrected surgically. If left untreated, blindness may result. Because these are genetic conditions, dogs with Entropion or Ectropion eyes must not be used in a breeding program.

  • Hypothyroidism – This is a condition characterized by low levels of the thyroid hormone and can be successfully managed with medication.

  • Osteosarcoma – This is a cancer which spreads rapidly throughout the organs, particularly the lungs. Bone cancer is also a frequent cause of death in giant breed dogs like the Leonberger but is generally associated with older dogs over the age of 7.

  • Laryngeal Paralysis – This is an inherited disorder that involves the loss of function in the laryngeal muscles that normally open the larynx when an animal breathes, resulting in airway obstruction and difficult or laboured breathing. Mild cases can be treated with medication; however, advanced cases may need surgery. Because this disorder is an increasing health concern among the Leonberger population and little is known about its causes, ongoing research into Laryngeal Paralysis is being conducted by the Leonberger Health Foundation.

  • Leonberger Polyneuropathy (LPN) - An inherited disorder which affects the nerves that stimulate muscles. The disease typically presents itself before 3 years of age with symptoms of slowly worsening exercise intolerance and gait abnormalities. There is often a wasting of the muscles in the hind limbs which is progressive, leading to an inability to walk. LPN and LP (Laryngeal Paralysis) may appear concurrently or independent of each other. Tests have been developed isolating the LPN1 and LPN2 genes in Leonbergers and are in use worldwide.

  • Bloat - This is a life threatening condition found in all giant breed dogs with a deep chest, such as the Leonberger. The occurrence of bloat, together with gastric torsion, is a real possibility which is why it is absolutely vital that you learn about it and know the symptoms. This condition requires immediate veterinary care and is always fatal if left untreated. Click here for more information on this condition and click here for an article describing some of the things you can do if you are faced with this situation.

  • Heart problems – There are many potential problems that can be found involving the heart, such as Cardiomyopathy, leaky valves, etc. which is why it is important that all breeding dogs be tested for irregular heart activity prior to being used in a breeding program to prevent the problems from being passed on.

Because many of these issues are hereditary it is important to get your Leonberger from a reputable breeder who has health tested their breeding stock and has proof of health clearances. Breeding of any dog should not be done until after they have been proven to be free of evidence of significant hereditary diseases.


What health clearances are recommended for Leonbergers used in a breeding program ?

Leonberger Club of Ontario member breeders strongly recommend that their breeding stock hold the following requirements:

  • A certificate of examination from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) indicating no evidence of hip and/or elbow dysplasia.

  • A certificate of examination from an accredited Ophthalmology institute (Canine Eye Registration Foundation – C.E.R.F.), indicating no evidence of inherited eye disease or functional abnormalities of the eye. Annual C.E.R.F. testing is highly recommended.

  • A certificate of examination from an accredited Cardiologist indicating no physical signs of cardiovascular disease.

  • A Veterinary certificate that the dog has been found clear of any abnormalities for Hypothyroidism. Testing for Von Willebrand's Disease is optional.

  • Certificate from an accredited facility that the dog has been testing for LPN1 and LPN2.


I just want a pet.  Why do I need to worry about my Leonberger’s pedigree ?

Even if you are looking for “just a pet”, the pedigree of your Leonberger is very important. To help illustrate this, let us suppose that you buy your puppy from a breeder who knows nothing about the pedigree behind your dog. Your dog gets very sick, but neither you nor your breeder knows anything about the health or longevity of the dogs in your puppy’s pedigree. As a result you have no way of knowing why your puppy may be ill, or if it has a heritable disease.

When you buy a Leonberger from a conscientious breeder, they know about the dogs in your puppy’s pedigree and, in turn, can provide you with very important information about your particular dog. For example, they can tell you how long the dogs in the pedigree lived, what health ailments they may have had (note: responsible breeders avoid using dogs with known health issues in their breeding programs), and whether or not the dogs were health tested for common breed problems. These breeders are often able to tell you about dogs in their bloodlines as far back as 5+ generations, and are usually actively involved in earning titles and championships on their dogs.

These ‘show breeders’ usually only breed when they intend to keep a puppy to show. Their dogs are bred with the sole intention of improving the breed. They are constantly looking to improve upon the dogs they own, and making the next generation even better than the last. Contrary to popular belief, they do not breed to turn a profit. In fact, when you consider the money put into a breeding, it’s not easy to profit on a litter when no corners are cut. When you add up the cost of stud fees, health testing, premium foods, and other necessary costs involved in raising a litter, show breeders seldom make money. So called “backyard-breeders”, however, are usually individuals who own a purebred dog and want to make money by focusing on breeding pet lines. They are generally not a licensed breeder and have no idea about the lineage or the medical history of the dogs they are breeding. Because making money is their sole reason for breeding they cut corners on costs, usually starting with the stud fee. Many pet litters are repeatedly sired by the male the breeder owns, therefore making the stud fee a nonexistent cost. Health testing is rarely done and the puppies are often left to nurse on the dam longer than is advised to cut back on feeding costs.

Show breeders are very proud of the bloodlines they own and the dogs they breed, and there is a distinct advantage to buying from a breeder with lines that are known and have proven parentage behind them. Their dogs are usually predictable in appearance and temperament. In addition, the dog definitely is more likely to have fewer health problems if the parents were health tested. Pet breeders often view breeders voicing these benefits as ‘looking down’ on pet lines. In reality it is the questionable breeding practices often seen in individuals who only breed for profit, not necessarily the bloodlines themselves. Moreover, when you look at a Leonberger with all pet breeding behind it, it seldom comes close to the quality of conformation that pet quality dogs from show lines often exhibit. But the benefits run far deeper than just the ‘Champion’ names on a piece of paper. The majority of Leonbergers that you see in books and magazines are from show lines, and often people do not understand when they purchase a puppy from a newspaper ad or a pet breeder why the puppy does not look like those featured in the books, even though they have paid the same price for the dog.

So even if you only want a pet, understand what ‘Champion Lines’ are and why a reputable Show Breeder is most likely the best source for a Leonberger puppy. But be sure to research any breeder you are contemplating buying your puppy from because there are good and bad breeders in all situations.

To find out what makes a breeder a reputable one, read the article “Choosing A Breeder”.


Most of the Leonberger breeders I’ve talked to have waiting lists for puppies and I don’t want to wait.  Why shouldn’t I buy my puppy from a pet store ?

When looking to buy a puppy, many people consider the local pet store as the first place to look, but there are many reasons why a pet store should never be considered for your new companion. If you buy from a store you cannot meet the parents of the puppy that is being sold. Meeting the parents and seeing first hand what their temperament is like will give you an idea of what the puppy’s may be like, since temperament has a definite genetic component.

Aside from being in the dark about your puppy’s parents, it is important to understand that this includes everything about your puppy’s background. Pet stores buy their puppies from puppy mills or backyard breeders to whom the dogs are nothing more than a saleable product. As such, no genetic or health testing is conducted, and no prior thought or planning goes into their breeding programs. They just put two dogs of the same breed together and mass produce puppies. To them, the pups are nothing more than little money-makers. In addition, puppy mills usually produce many breeds of dogs, with the breeding mothers kept in cages permanently and bred every season, every year. And when they are no longer useful – that is when they can no longer produce puppies - they are often killed or disposed of otherwise.

As for the puppies bred by these so-called breeders, they are often whisked away from their mothers at an age that is much too young for them to be separated. Moreover, they are usually shipped across country in cramped cages at this very young and impressionable age. Studies have proven that puppies removed from their mother and litter mates too early and subjected to such a poor start in life have a higher chance of developing serious health and behavioural issues. The backyard breeders and puppy millers are not concerned about what’s best for the puppy though. And neither is the pet store selling the puppies. They are concerned about getting a saleable product into the stores when it is at its most marketable. Young puppies sell. Older puppies do not.

Many pet stores will deny buying puppies from puppy mills. They state “Our puppies come from private breeders”. This is simply untrue. Pet stores usually buy their puppies from brokers who, in turn, acquire the dogs from puppy mills. And let’s just say for argument’s sake that the puppies did come from private breeders. In this situation one has to seriously question what kind of reputable breeder would allow a store to take an entire litter of puppies and sell them with NO screening of buyers, NO contracts protecting the puppy or buyer, NO interviews, etc. Pet stores do nothing to ensure that the dogs they sell are going into happy homes where they will be treated well. The pet store’s only concern is that you pay in cash or by credit card!

It is, to use an old expression, akin to buying a “pig in a poke”. So even though you may be tempted to buy your puppy from a pet store to avoid waiting, or sincerely believe that by buying the dog you will be giving it a better life, PLEASE DO NOT. You will only be padding the puppy millers’ wallets, thereby giving them a reason to continue this horrendous practice.


Why do some Leonberger breeders stipulate that you must enroll your puppy in obedience classes as part of the contract ?

There are many practical reasons why breeders insist that their puppies be enrolled in obedience classes. Training is one of the most important aspects of raising a dog and is the foundation for everything you will want to do with your Leo. Whatever your ambitions are, training in a structured environment not only teaches your dog how to behave appropriately in different situations and around distractions, but also helps socialize him to other dogs and people.

In addition to the invaluable life-skills that obedience classes provide, a well trained dog is by far a happier dog because it requires fewer restrictions. It’s a fact that the more reliable the dog, the more freedom he is likely to be given. For example, many stores and businesses that normally won’t allow dogs on their premises will make an exception for a puppy or a dog that will heel nicely by his owner’s side, or will do a sit-stay or down-stay without hesitation. And when company arrives in your home, there’s no need to banish a well-behaved dog to another room for fear that he will be a royal nuisance. Moreover, because a well-mannered, obedience-trained dog is both appreciated and welcome, he receives more attention and interaction from family members, visitors, and passers-by than does the ill-mannered dog.

Obedience training also gives the dog owner the voice control necessary to prevent numerous potential tragedies. For instance, should a dog slip out of his collar in the middle of a congested traffic intersection, he can be safely heeled across the street, then given a sit command to facilitate putting his collar back on. Or should someone accidentally leave the front door open and you spot your dog leaving, he can be safely called back to you using the recall command. So not only will obedience training help your dog to become more responsive, but because it enables you to have immediate control over your dog’s behaviour in an emergency situation, it may save your dog’s life.

Finally, without proper training, the more likely your dog will be to misbehave. And when owners allow their dogs to misbehave, everyone suffers: the owner, because he or she lives with a dog that is a problem; the dog, because everyone’s down on him for misbehaving; the dog owner’s neighbours, because living next door to a difficult dog is no one’s idea of fun and, ultimately, every dog owner, because each incidence where a dog creates a nuisance increases anti-dog sentiment, and contributes to the likelihood that tough legal restrictions will be placed on all dogs.



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Page Updated

November 20th, 2013

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Leonberger Club of Ontario