1. Brief historical summary
At the end of the thirties, beginning of the forties of the 19th century, Heinrich Essig, town Councillor in Leonberg near Stuttgart, crossed a black and white Newfoundland bitch with a so-called “Barry” male from the monastery hospice Grand St.Bernhard.
Later a Pyrenean Mountain Dog was added. This resulted in very large dogs with predominantly long, white coats. Essig’s aim was for a lion-like dog. The lion is the heraldic animal of the city of Leonberg.
The first dogs really called “Leonbergers” were born in 1846. They combined the excellent qualities of the breeds from which they stemmed.
Only a short time later, many of these dogs were sold as status symbols from Leonberg all over the world. At the end of the 19th century, the Leonberger was kept in Baden-Württemberg as the preferred farm dog. His watch and draft abilities were much praised.
In both World Wars and the needy post war times, the numbers of breeding stock reduced dramatically. Today the Leonberger is an excellent family dog which fulfills all the demands of modern life.
2. Characteristics and temperament
The Leonberger is a noble, powerfull yet gentle, dog. They are warm, big, soft, if necessary protective, companions, perfect for nestling into or clutching if you are a toddler.
Leonbergers are sometimes affectionately referred to as "lean-on-bergers" because of their tendency to lean against their loved ones.
However, Leonbergers are large dogs and are frightening to many people simply by their size. Fear and aggression in a stranger can activate a dog's protective instincts. Huge dogs can also do a great deal of damage just by jumping up on someone in a burst of enthusiasm. When you invite a Leonberger to share your life, you bring to that contract the responsibility to make sure that both you and your dog receive excellent obedience training.
To become excellent family and watchdogs, Leonbergers must be well socialized as young puppies and well-trained and under the control of their people at all times. It is difficult to train a dog that has been improperly socialized. The fear of infections has led breeders and owners to make the tragic mistake of keeping their puppies isolated until they have completed their vaccination series; they risk ending up with a fearful, timid dog that may become aggressive as an adult. Owners must strike a balance: Puppies, especially from birth through four months, must be exposed to a variety of people and experiences. There are many activities and places to take dogs, and new owners have to take the time to expose their new pups to as many of these as possible. This is especially true for one's second and third Leonberger; it is too easy to keep the new pup in the company of the older dogs, depriving him of the opportunity to develop self-confidence.
Leonbergers are known for their stability. As a general rule, they are consistently even-tempered and generally pleasing to be around even in noisy and chaotic situations that would be highly stressful for some other breeds. A typical and impressive sight at dog shows and gatherings is a large "pride" of Leonbergers peacefully and contentedly sitting and lying together in close quarters.
Leonbergers are excellent watchdogs, not given to frivolous barking or unnecessary alarms. Their imposing size and deep bark are usually enough to deter uninvited guests. They instinctively establish and maintain their household's territorial rights. However, upon receiving the OK from family members, strangers are accepted and welcomed.