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No dog looks more intimidating than the Leonberger. It’s a Goliath of a dog that would have even the toughest guy worried. But don’t let its size and lion-like features fool you. Leonbergers are really a big bundle of gentleness and love that will remain loyal and stay by your side. Whether you’re sitting on the sofa, taking out the trash, or lying in bed, your Leo will want to be with you - or on top you! Leonbergers are the ideal pet for families with a home large enough to accommodate these gentle giants.

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Leonbergers are a Big Dog

Anyone seeing a Leonberger for the first time can’t help being blown away by the sheer size of this canine. Females stand at 25-29 inches, while the males tower above at 28-32 inches, with both weighing in around 120 and 170 pounds.

Apart from its size, the main characteristic of a Leonberger is its soft, long, wavy hair. The nose and mouth area is always black, but the rest of the hair can be gold, sandy, cream, red, brown, or a combination of all these colors. But it’s the eyes that will truly have your heart melting. Big oval eyes stare at you, with an unmistakable expression of kindness.

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Leonbergers Have a Double Coat

Leonbergers have a double coat that’s water-resistant and helps to control body temperature. The downside of a double coat? Two coats mean a huge amount of fur! Your Leonberger will shed constantly, and twice a year, when the weather changes, there will be periods of intense shedding. You can help control where your Leo sheds, and keep your floors and furniture cleaner, with regular grooming.

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Keep Your Leo Well Groomed

Leonbergers need brushing at least once a week and daily when they’re shedding their undercoat. Because of its importance in regulating temperature, you need to resist the temptation to shave your Leo. However, regularly check for matted fur by running your hands over the dog’s coat, including the belly. If you find any tangles, gently comb them out. For stubborn tangles, you may want to use a detangling spray, which you can buy from the pet store or make yourself. Always remember to be gentle and patient when grooming your Leonberger, so they don't get over-excited.

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A Gentle Giant

Leonbergers are intelligent, playful, and loyal, making them the perfect companion for families, including those with children. These giants of the canine world get along very well with other animals - including cats. Although Leonberger’s are not bothered by loud noises, they are sensitive to arguments between the ones they love and will become visibly distressed. Try to keep any family disagreements out of earshot from your Leo or they may try to intervene.

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Training

Even if you have a Leonberger puppy, they will eventually grow to be stronger and possibly heavier than you. It’s imperative that your dog learns how to behave in the way you need them to. Young Leos also have huge amounts of energy and enthusiasm, so it’s vital that they receive proper training. Gentle exposure to a wide range of settings, people, and animals before 20 weeks will teach a Leonberger to be mild-mannered. Obedience classes will also help to turn an excitable puppy into a well-behaved canine companion.

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Plenty of Exercise

A Leonberger is a very social dog and won’t be happy spending all their time alone in the backyard. Daily walks and playtime are important for the emotional health of these dogs, and they thrive on being exercised for an hour every day. One of the specialties of this canine is cart pulling. It’s an activity that provides a great outlet for their strength, and it’s an excuse to get the kids involved.

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Therapy Dogs

A gentle temperament and sensitivity to emotions make Leonbergers great therapy dogs. With the increase in the use of pet therapy in care homes, Leos are the ideal breed to bring some joy and happiness to those in recovery. A good bedside manner combined with their size makes them the perfect height to be easily petted by people in bed. To see the pleasure on someone’s face as they stroke and feel the soft fur is a very emotional sight.

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Rescue Dogs

Even though they appear large and cumbersome, Leonbergers are actually very nimble, agile, and well-coordinated. They also have webbed feet which makes them great swimmers. These attributes, combined with a powerful sense of smell, makes Leos the ideal search-and-rescue dog. Canada and many countries across Europe use Leonbergers to help find missing people.

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A Healthy Breed

Leonbergers are considered a healthy breed with an average life expectancy of around seven years. Like all canines, exercise, nutrition, parasite prevention, and regular vet exams are key to them living a happy, healthy life. However, bloat - where there’s a twisting of the stomach - can affect large dogs, including Leonbergers. Feed them two small meals a day instead of one large portion, and bloat is not a condition your Leo will need to worry about.

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History of the Leonberger

Legend has it that in the 1830s, Heinrich Essig from Leonberg, Germany, wanted to breed a dog that would resemble the town’s coat-of-arms. He succeeded by crossing a female Landseer with a male St. Bernard. The result was the Leonberger. This majestic creature quickly became popular with royalty, and it’s said that Emperor Napoleon III and the Prince of Wales were among the first to own Leonbergers. During World War I and II, many of the dogs were abandoned as their owners fled their homes or were killed. It’s believed that all the modern-day Leos are direct descendants from just eight dogs that survived WWII.

Luckily for dog lovers, the number of Leonbergers steadily increased, and if you have space in your home and your heart, this adorable, gentle giant will give you years of love and loyalty.

leonberger history napoleon III lolostock / Getty Images

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