Leonberger Overview

Dog Breed:
Breed Group:
Working Dogs
Friendly, playful, patient, gentle and smart.
25-32 inches
90-170 pounds
Life Span:
9 years
Coat Colors:
From lion-yellow through to golden and red-brown colored.
Area of Origin:
Best For:
Large living spaces/Not too house proud/Owners committed to training and exercise
Adult Food:
Best Dog Food for Leonbergers
Puppy Food:
Best Puppy Food for Leonbergers

Leonberger Characteristics

Good for First-Time Owners
Good with Children
Easy to Train
Exercise Requirements
Ease of Grooming
Amount of Shedding
Amount of Drooling
Tendency to Bark

About The Leonberger

  • Large and powerful breed

  • Watchdog and all-round worker

  • Not suitable for hot climates


While known for their elegance and grace, there’s no getting away from the size and power of the Leonberger. The breed is instantly recognizable, not only for their size but also because of the lion-like mane across the chest and neck of male dogs.

The Leo is a friendly dog, but they’re also a watchdog and excellent all-round workers. Not too surprisingly, this is not a candidate for apartment or condo living. And unlike many other giant breeds, the Leo is still athletic, enjoying long walks and the opportunity to run off-leash.

With all that coat, this is not the choice for hotter climates unless you can provide continuous access to air-con and then take extreme care as to when they receive exercise. Cooler climates, however, are no problem for the Leonberger, they’ll thrive amidst the cold weather.

Leonberger Breed History

  • Developed initially from the Landseer and the Saint Bernard

  • Became popular with German artists and nobility

  • International Union of Leonberger Clubs formed in 1975

Heinrich Essig was an animal trader and politician who lived in the Leonberg region of Southern Germany. in 1846, Essig declared that he had created the Leonberger. It later came out that he had crossed a black-and-white female Landseer with a long-haired Saint Bernard, which resulted in black and white puppies. He then crossed his dogs to a yellow and white Saint Bernard and a white Pyrenean because at that time, he as trying to develop an all-white dog.

He toured the country displaying his dogs, and they quickly became favorites of German artists and royalty. It wasn’t until Essig’s death in 1889 that the breeding became much more consistent in the dogs that were produced, and puppies began to display the characteristic tawny-colored coat and black mask.

By the turn of the century, two Essig bred dogs called Caesar and Sultan were touring the US, staring in theater productions. Then, come the late 1800s and early 1900s, Leonbergers were being entered into dog shows across the eastern United States.

World War I and World War II resulted in the breed coming close to extinction, but a few Leonbergers survived, and the German Leonberger Club was formed in 1948. In 1975 the International Union of Leonberger Clubs was formed, representing 18 national clubs, including the Leonberger Club of America. This international union meets every year in Leonberger to preserve and protect the breed.

Leonberger Size & Weight

  • Males up to 31.5 inches and 170 pounds

  • Females up to 29.5 inches and 140 pounds

  • A giant breed who may weigh may than their owner!


The Leonberger is a giant breed with males measuring 28-31.5 inches at the shoulder and weighing between 110-170 pounds. Females are smaller, being 25.5-29.5 inches at the shoulder and weighing 90-140 pounds.

While the Leonberger is known as being a gentle breed, their size and power mean that it requires some very careful consideration as to whether they might be the right breed for you.

Leonberger Personality & Temperament

  • Calm and well-natured adult

  • Slow to mature

  • Socialization needed from a young age


An adult well-trained Leonberger is generally a calm and well-natured dog. They are loving to their family and adore being with them as much as possible. This does mean that they don’t do well when left alone for long periods or resigned to living in the yard. In those situations, it’s highly likely you’ll come back to a scene of destruction or your yard remodeled!

Despite the calmness of the adult dog, do be aware that Leo puppies and teenagers are high energy, and with hormones soaring, they can be quite a handful for their first few years.

The Leonberger is a smart dog, they were bred to be allrounders from pulling drafts through to farm work and being a family companion. This does then mean that training needs to be a focus from being a young puppy.

Leo’s get on well with other dogs as long as they received appropriate socialization when young and have the opportunity to meet lots of other friendly dogs. While the Leonberger will love being around the family children, care is needed to provide constant supervision. This is a dog who may be heavier than an adult, and so they can easily and accidentally send a child tumbling in play.

Leonberger Health & Grooming

  • Short life span

  • Several genetic conditions which breeders should screen dogs for

  • Daily grooming needed to avoid mats and tangles


The Leonberger, as with many giant dogs, has a relatively short lifespan. This then means that it becomes essential that breeders have their dogs screened for the following medical conditions:

  • Hip and elbow evaluation to check for any problems with the joints which can cause pain and lameness.
  • Ophthalmologist Exam carried out by a veterinary ophthalmologist to identify any eye problems and determine if they can be inherited.
  • Thyroid Evaluation to check for hypothyroidism, which can cause a decrease in metabolism.
  • Leonberger polyneuropathy, which is checked through the LPN1, LPN2, and LEMP DNA Tests. This is a hereditary collection of diseases that affect the dog’s neuromuscular system.

The Leonberger doesn’t generally need professional grooming, but they do need daily brushing. Their heavy double coat can become matted and tangled if not taken care of. Leo’s do shed their coat, and with this size of dog, that means a lot of hair flying around the home.

Leonberger Training

  • Training needed for a well-mannered dog

  • A smart breed who is quick to learn

  • Very versatile taking part in a wide range of activities and sports


With large and strong adults and high energy youngsters, this is a breed whose owners need to commit to socializing and training throughout their dog’s life. Leonbergers are smart though, they quickly pick up new behaviors quickly and will love the chance to spend time with their family learning new things.

Leo’s are known for their versatility, and the breed club runs a Working Program. This scheme recognizes dogs for accomplishments in a wide range of performance sports, including drafting, water work, tracking, and flyball.

Prey drive seems to vary enormously between individual dogs, with some happy to share their home with small furries while others want to chase anything that moves. The Leonberger does not tend to be a vocal dog, and when they do bark, they only need to do it a few times to catch everyone’s attention!

Leonberger Exercise Requirements

  • Training needed for a well-mannered dog

  • A smart breed who is quick to learn

  • Very versatile taking part in a wide range of activities and sports


Even though an adult Leonberger is generally a calm individual, they do need to have the chance to get some good exercise each day to keep fit and healthy, Young Leos are well known for their high levels of energy and exuberance, but care is needed not to over-exercise their developing bodies. Check with your vet or breeder for advice on appropriate exercise for your young dog.

The adult Leonberger can be a great jogging or trail walking companion. Tall, sturdy fencing around a large garden will provide the Leo with somewhere to let off some steam.

Leonberger Diet & Feeding

  • Chat with vet or pet nutritionist for individual dogs needs

  • Good quality food needed to support growth

  • Susceptible to bloat


For advice on your Leonbergers individual nutritional needs, speak to your veterinarian or pet nutritionist.

Generally, youngster remain on a specially formulated puppy food until they’re around six months of age. This ensures that they receive all the nutrients they need during this growth phase of their life. Then they move across to an adult food selected for their age, size, and exercise level. As with all breeds, it’s important that the Leonberger is fed a quality food with a good source of protein.

Leonbergers can be prone to bloat, which is caused by a build-up of gas in their stomach. The stomach can then become twisted with fatal results. Although the exact cause of blot isn’t known, it is thought that providing one large meal and feeding just before or after exercise may increase its likelihood.

You may also be interested in:

Leonberger Rescue Groups

There will be times when a Leonberger needs a new home. If you’re interested in rehoming a rescue dog, we recommend speaking to the following breed rescue organization for more help and advice:

Leonberger Rescue Pals – https://www.leonberger-rescue.org/

For additional information on the Leonberger take a look at the website of the Leonberger Club of America: https://www.leonbergerclubofamerica.com/