Leonberg is a small suburb outside Stuttgart in west Germany. The foundations of this breed took place in this area and believed to be the work of Heinrich Essig who devoted himself to breeding a number of dog breeds, not least what is now known as the Leonberger. He crossed a Swiss St. Bernard with a Landseer I 1839. But they are also understood to have Newfoundland and Great Pyrenees as foundation stock and it is not surprising that they excel in cart work and water work. For a big dog, the Leonberger is very agile and capable of tremendous feats of athleticism for his size. He is called a gentle giant but in truth this is the characteristic of a mature dog of three years or more, younger specimens can be willful and rambunctious.. The first breed club was formed in 1895 along with the breed standard.
Like many German breeds the Leonberger was affected badly by the two world wars. These dogs are extremely friendly and playful. They make a calm and confident, yet fearless companion.
Coat: The Leonberger has a medium length soft to coarse double coat that is very water resistant. Males often have particularly thick fur on the neck and chest creating the appearance of a mane. There is distinct feathering on the backs of the front legs and thighs. Coat colour can range from lion yellow, red, reddish brown, and sandy. Black hair tips are permitted, but black must not determine the dog’s basic colour. All Leonbergers have a black mask. The Leonberger sheds fur very heavily. A good brushing every week is sufficient to keep it in fine shape, except when the undercoat is being shed; then daily combing or brushing is in order for the duration of the moult. Regular use of a drag comb (it looks like a small rake), especially in the undercoat, is highly effective.
Temperament: A Leonberger is a family dog, the desire to be with his pack is far more important than a large yard, he can adapt to modest living quarters if he is given time with his people, a daily walk and regular training time. Leonbergers are good with children and other dogs. Socialization and thorough obedience training are extremely important with any giant breed, including Leonbergers. Although the Leonberger is generally welcoming of friends and family, he is watchful (“much praised,” says the FCI standard, “for his watch and draft abilities”) and may use his size to intimidate but never his teeth to protect his loved ones. Since the Leonberger is a very kind animal, it’s not well suited to be a guard dog, despite his size. The defining characteristics of a Leonberger are kindness, steadiness, self assurance and an easy going joie de vivre.