Facts About Leos

Leonbergers are a giant breed, meaning they grow up fast and are big! 

Yes, they can become a friend, companion, an ideal family dog but only after a lot of socialization with people on and off their property; only after formal obedience training, using positive reinforcement methods.  It takes consistent work and participation from all family members. No dog is born with good behavior, you must teach that to your Leo.

Leos are high-energy dogs with amazing intelligence. They do well in obedience, agility, as therapy dogs, in swimming trials, in all outdoors activity but it takes lots of patience, training and work.  All of this adds up to TIME!

Leos do not adapt to being an outside dog. They must be integrated with the family. They are demanding of your time and most of them like to have the companionship of other animals.  A Leo alone in a yard is not a happy dog and dogs that are consistently unhappy often become ill.  Lonely Leos are bored Leos and bored dogs can become destructive. Provide for the body and mind of your Leo. 

Leos enjoy being part of a “herd” of Leos!  They are attracted to each other, but will accept other breeds.  They accept cats, horses, farm animals and kids!

Most Leos instinctively like children but not all children instinctively like dogs. Never leave your Leo puppy or adult alone with strange children. With patience, you may train the kids to accept your dog.  Remember, an adult Leo is at eye level with a 5 or 6 year old child. 

A Leo is extremely sensitive to your moods and your family's interactions. Family squabbles make a Leo very unhappy, so avoid loud angry arguments in the presence of your Leo.  Argue when you're away from your Leo.

Leos love to go with you on errands, trips and outings. You will need a vehicle large enough to accommodate your giant Leo. Taking your Leo along is part of proper socialization, and this type of socialization must continue throughout the dog's life. Donate your tiny car to charity. Keep in mind that Leos, like all dogs, can die quickly from heat exhaustion when left in a car in the hot sun.

As puppies, Leos can be very destructive if left to invent their own games. Provide lots of interactive toys like Wiggly balls, hide-a-treat balls, Kong toys, and frizbees. Whatever you purchase, use common sense to avoid choking hazards like toys that are too small or that break apart or toys that can be eaten and cause intestinal blockage. Always provide lots of toys but remember, toys cannot replace your companionship. You must spend a lot of time with your Leo.

Leos are inherently playful and need lots of playtime throughout their lives. If you combine play breaks with training, your Leo will be much happier while learning what makes you happy.

Older Leos also enjoy play periods, proving that old does not mean inactive.  Walks, exercise and play periods also keep your Leo’s weight under control while tuning up the immune system.

Dogs dig. Leos are dogs. Leos dig. Provide an out-of-the-way area for digging and you'll both be happier. Something under a bush away from the traffic areas because Leos can excavate a fairly large bunker.

Leos are mud puppies throughout their lives. They love water and see nothing wrong with rolling in dirt. They are a drip-dry breed but as they dry, the mud covers your house. That's life with a Leo. If you're very meticulous about your carpet and furniture, a Leo may not be your ideal dog.

Because Leos love water you should at least have a giant bathtub at their disposal. A child's wadding pool is okay but lakes, rivers and oceans make Leos very happy.  Make another source of drinking water available ,since your Leo's little pool will quickly become mostly dirt!

Leos like most dogs, need some help and reassurance when they enter adolescence.  They may demonstrate shyness or fearfulness.  You can overcome this and help your Leo develop into a self-confident dog by reassurance and exposure to new things. Bikes, skateboards, traffic, all of these things can startle and frighten which is why you are there with your Leo to help it overcome any shy behavior.  Shyness can lead to very negative behavior.

The average Leo can easily surf your kitchen counters taking whatever it wants including your dinner. Remember, if your Leo reaches 30 inches at the shoulder, its big head is at least 6 inches or more higher. Dogs have a one thousand times greater sense of smell than humans—Leos can smell any food left on your kitchen counter!

Leos, being a large dog, can cover your house with a lot more fur than a small dog. Keep that in mind when deciding on a Leo. Their fur can jam your vacuum cleaner!

For reasons that must be genetic, all Leos love to lay across the couch looking out the window.  They may station themselves semi-sitting, head hanging over the back and stare out the window.  Covering your couch is easier than breaking your Leo of this enjoyable past time.

Many Leos are finicky eaters. The flock guardian breeds (one-third of the Leo from the Great Pyr) may go for a few days without eating. This usually happens in warm weather. Perhaps, we humans should take a lesson from their book and try fasting--it can't hurt.

Leos should not be fed a high protein food. Giant breeds should be allowed to grow at their own genetic pace and not overfed to promote growth. An all-natural kibble with a protein content of 24% or lower is ideal. Give your Leo lots of fresh raw vegetables--anything they like except onion--which can cause anemia in some breeds, and grapes or raisins that induce kidney failure.  Leos do well on the new raw food diets or a combination of both raw foods and kibble.  Glucosamine/chondroitin, antioxidants, essential fatty acids, and digestive enzymes, are just a few important supplements to consider.  I have raised my Leos on Great Life Dog Food.

Leos weigh upwards of 100 pounds and like most dogs, they like to eat the wrong thing (wait, doesn’t that sound like all of us!).  A fat Leo is a going to need you to carry it around when it develops early arthritis.  Keep track of those ribs—when you can no longer see them or feel them, your Leo needs a diet.

Most Leos are sensitive to some drugs, usually tranquilizers, anesthetics and sulfa-based drugs. Whenever possible, avoid overuse of these drugs. This should be discussed with your veterinarian when you bring your puppy in for a health exam.

Leonbergers, like many other breeds, can suffer lasting health problems when over-vaccinated. The latest recommendations for a safe vaccine protocol use fewer combination vaccines and more individual vaccines, given at 2-3 week intervals. Booster shots are no longer recommended as an annual ritual but are recommended once every 3 years.  That does not mean your Leo should not receive an annual physical, just avoid too many vaccines. 

The big killers of Leos and nearly all breeds is cancer.  Environmental triggers have been linked to many cancers.  Sure, you'd like to keep your Leo free of pests but too many pesticides can destroy the health of your Leo and you. Investigate some of the natural forms of flea control, such as nematodes and diatomaceous earth.

Leash training and crate training are important training tools for all Leos.  If Leos were meant to roam free without attachments, they would be called wolves!  These are Leos.

Enjoy your Leo but never forget it's a dog.  It will never speak English--you must learn to communicate in ways it can understand so train...TRAIN....TRAIN!

 © 2000 Barbara Bouyet                         



Last updated 08/01/2017 .
© 2004 All Rights Reserved.

Learning More

Leonberger Online FAQ.

Leonberger Union.

The Leo in America.

Working Leonbergers.

Your Leonberger Puppy.