Discussing Leonbergers

Above photos from the article “Judging The Leonberger" (ShowSight February 2014 Issue) by AKC Judge Agi Hejja.

 

We asked the following questions to our friends in the Leonberger community. Below are their responses, which are taken from the September 2019 issue of ShowSight. Click to subscribe

 

  1. Where do you live? What do you do “outside” of dogs?
  2. Huggable and lovable but also a formidable foe, the Leo has gained a great group of fans. Do people on the street or at the vet recognize the breed?
  3. The Leonberger Club of America recently won BEST BOOTH IN SHOW at AKC’s Meet The Breeds® event. This takes a great deal of cooperation between fanciers. Do you find fellow Leo lovers to be cooperative when it comes to breeding, showing and helping fellow breeders to place pups?
  4. What is the most surprising aspect of the breed’s personality?
  5. How does living with a large dog jive with the current trend to downsize human housing?
  6. At what age do you choose a show prospect?
  7. What is your favorite dog show memory?
  8. Is there anything else you’d like to share about the breed? Please elaborate.

 

Ginny Bartholomay

Ginny Bartholomay is an active LCA breeder and AKC exhibitor. Since, 2007, she has bred or finished 16 AKC Champions and Grand Champions. She and her husband share their home with 11 Leos.

I live in Montana. When I am not with the dogs I am riding horses or doing something outside such as hiking, fishing, kayaking or, in winter, cross country skiing.

Huggable and lovable but also a formidable foe, the Leo has gained a great group of fans. Do people on the street or at the vet recognize the breed? I don’t know why you describe Leos as a “formidable foe”. As a rule, Leonbergers have a friendly demeanor. While Leos are still on the “rare” side, I have found that more people know what a Leonberger is than they did five years ago.

Do I find fellow Leo lovers to be cooperative when it comes to breeding, showing, and helping fellow breeders to place pups? Yes, the Leonberger community at large is really one large family. And, like most families, we may not always agree but in a pinch we are there to offer assistance and support for one another. I have seen it repeatedly in our club. The willingness of our members to help someone in need is remarkable.

What is the most surprising aspect of the breed’s personality? The empathy the breed possesses.

How does living with a large dog jive with the current trend to downsize human housing? For a large dog, I find they don’t take up a lot of space. What they do need is exercise so that is more important than the size of the human’s house.

At what age do I choose a show prospect? I make the decision on a show prospect at about eight weeks. In most cases I have been watching the puppy since birth and have photographed it from four weeks on so I have a pretty good idea of who will be my show pick.

My favorite dog show memory? Winning the 2005 National with me handling my girl, Forevergreen’s Keepsake.

Some people have the misconception that Leonbergers are guard dogs—they aren’t. The breed was not bred for a specific working purpose. It was supposed to be an “every man” dog, elegant enough for royalty yet sturdy enough to do farm work. Leonbergers are versatile workers and will do almost anything their owners are up for doing. Because of their empathetic nature many of them are well suited for doing some kind of therapy work.

 

Julia Brady

We first discovered Leonbergers in 1995 and have been active members of the Leonberger Club of America (LCA) ever since. Since that time, we have had the privilege of making Leonberger friends all around the world and have attended almost all of our annual Leonberger Club of America national specialties.

Over the past years, I have served as the President of the Frontier Leonberger Club, an Associate Member of the LCA Breeding Committee, a Regional Representative for Leonberger Rescue, assisted with several of our LCA National Specialties, worked with the LCA Health Committee, and chaired the LCA Web Committee.

I am also an approved LCA Breeding Acceptability Check List (BACL) examiner, and enjoy mentoring individuals new to the breed in the areas of conformation and breed structure. I am a breed presenter for the LCA Judges Committee and work with other club members to educate interested AKC judges about our breed standard.

We breed on occasion in order to ensure adequate socialization and individual attention for each puppy. Breeding Leonbergers is strictly a hobby for us, done with the sole intention of producing healthy, good-tempered, structurally correct Leonbergers who will hopefully go on to provide their new owners with as much love and companionship as our dogs have given us.

We are located in the north Texas area, approximately 25 minutes north of Dallas, Texas. Outside of my Leonbergers, I spend my time working with children as Head of School for a K-12 public charter school and supporting our local county homeless shelter.

Do people on the street or at the vet recognize the breed? People do occasionally recognize the breed, certainly more so now than in the past.

Do I find fellow Leo lovers to be cooperative when it comes to breeding, showing and helping fellow breeders to place pups? The Leonberger community of owners and breeders is a small and close-knit one, both within the United States and abroad. Leo lovers tend to be laid-back, friendly and very willing to support one another.

What is the most surprising aspect of the breed’s personality? Leonbergers absolutely adore their family members and must be an integral part of their families in order to mentally and socially thrive. This is a very intelligent breed, and if bored or left to their own devices, Leonbergers can become destructive.

How does living with a large dog jive with the current trend to downsize human housing? It is definitely possible to have a Leonberger in a smaller setting, so long as sufficient daily exercise is provided. What Leonbergers care about most is being with their people, regardless of location.

At what age do I choose a show prospect? I typically identify show prospects by the age of eight weeks, after having observed them closely from birth onwards.

One of my favorite dog show memories is owner-handling one of my females to a National Specialty Best in Show win.

While Leonbergers are certainly not a breed for everyone, as they need to be well-socialized as youngsters, require obedience training given their size, shed significantly throughout the year, need regular grooming, and have short life spans—they are also an incredibly beautiful and majestic breed with an affinity for children and make wonderful family companions for committed owners.

 

Tiffanie Coe

I have been involved with Leonbergers since 2007. Our family currently shares the house with three Leonbergers, and we will be adding Leo Roar’s offspring shortly. My three-year-old daughter, Mara Rose, has grown up with Leonbergers and is showing our current special in the PeeWee events offered by the local kennel clubs. Our young girls have just finished their championships and will work to earn their Grand Championships as they mature. As a family, Robert, Mara, and I have crisscrossed the United States campaigning our current special. It has been great family time and a way for Mara to see the country. I enjoy grooming our dogs and helping others with grooming their dogs. I enjoy hosting hands on grooming clinics in which people can learn the techniques to grooming their dogs and keeping their coats healthy. As a family, we are looking forward to the rest of the show year with our current dogs as well as starting the next generation.

I live in Black Diamond, Washington. I work full time at a start up company in downtown Seattle. Robert and I also have a three year old daughter, Mara Rose, and enjoy family time when we are not at dog shows.

Do people on the street or at the vet recognize the breed? The Leonberger is indeed gaining in popularity. Many people try to guess the breed or have an idea of what it could possibly be. The one thing almost all Leonberger owners will tell you is that when walking, we do not get very far before there is a crowd.

Do I find fellow Leo lovers to be cooperative when it comes to breeding, showing, and helping fellow breeders to place pups? Responsible Leonberger Breeders do help each other out. As a breed community we also try to help breeders with home visits or providing referrals for families interested in the breed. In addition, breeders will co-breed litters. Breeders will also lend a helping hand when possible in whelping the litter, in the first few weeks, puppy evaluations, and as a support network if something is not right with a puppy.

As far as showing, the community tries to be supportive. It can be as simple as holding a dog ring side, or taking a dog back in. Majors are tough to come by, so we do try to coordinate. It really comes in waves, but there are a few key shows every year that
draw majors.

I have a passion for grooming this gorgeous breed. I love teaching people how to care for their dog’s coat, how to blow a coat out, and just explaining simple grooming tips that truly make a difference. I have had the honor of hosting multiple grooming seminars as well as hands on clinics in which I groom part of a dog while teaching the owner at the same time. The owners are then asked to groom the opposite side.

The most surprising aspect of the breed’s personality? Leonbergers are extremely smart and have a wicked sense of humor. Just ask any of us who also participate in performance events such as obedience, rally and drafting. Our dogs literally make us laugh so hard we just want to cry. Leonbergers are not push button dogs, they do not appreciate training with repetition. Most Leonbergers will perform a task or cue two to three times and then are ready to move on. It doesn’t mean they completely understand what you are asking, it just means they prefer to work on the next exercise.

How does living with a large dog jive with the current trend to downsize human housing? Most Leonbergers want to be in the same room as their family members. Our home is not very big, just over 1200 sq ft, and our dogs are usually by our side. When I am playing with Mara in her bedroom, Leo Roar is right there with us. The two younger puppies love to prance through the house with dog toys.

At what age do I choose a show prospect? Structural evaluations are done at eight weeks of age. Choosing an actual show prospect requires more than just structure. It also requires the correct attitude. One can have a stunning dog, that is structurally correct, but hates to show. You can work with the dog to see if the attitude can be changed or not, but a true “special” will be the complete package of structure and attitude.

My favorite dog show memory? I have two very special memories. The first memory is when I finished my first champion, GCH CH UCH Int CH ElDorado’s Diamond Breeze CGC by going Best of Winner’s under Ms. Debra Thornton. Aira was a tough bitch to show and was very opinionated. Aira Breeze loved to show and if the judge was not looking at her, she would stomp her paws and whine in the ring to capture the attention. Aira and I went on to also earn her Grand Championship.

The second memory is when I won my first working group with Leo Roar in Arizona under Mr. David Haddock. My family was ringside, Robert was holding our two new puppies and our daughter, Mara Rose was cheering so loudly yelling “You won mommy! I’m so proud of you!” This moment meant so much to me because my daughter could see that all of the hard work and dedication that we as a family put into our special, GCHP CH UCH Int. CH VLA BluDrift’s Bold Lion’s Roar RI NDD CGCA CGCU aka Leo Roar, paid off.

Leonbergers are extremely cute and fluffy puppies. They grow extremely quickly and require constant training. There is nothing worse than a 120 pound out of control adolescent. Leonbergers also shed—a lot! Invest in a great vacuum and be prepared for dog hair to become a condiment in every meal. Daily brushing and combing can keep the coat healthy and minimize the amount of dog hair shed around the house.

 

Shelley Scott Freeman

We spend our time between Northern California and Northern Idaho. Empty nesters, we enjoy traveling, working on our ranches and hosting guests at our Airbnb in Clements.

Do people on the street or at the vet recognize the breed? Few recognize the breed. We always have to allow more time when we wander out. Our Leos love meeting new people and, of course, they draw attention wherever we go.

Do I find fellow Leo lovers to be cooperative when it comes to breeding, showing, and helping fellow breeders to place pups? The Leonberger Club of America members are a great tight knit family. Members of the LCA are like their dogs, friendly, always willing and able and great source for support.

What is the most surprising aspect of the breed’s personality? My dog, Carter, has a great sense for children. It’s amazing watching him with them. He actually will get down to their level if they are small, his way of telling them he loves them. Carter has been known to literally kneel down and crawl over to toddlers. Quite amazing to watch! Georgia, she’s very sweet and loyal. They immediately bonded and are best friends.

How does living with a large dog jive with the current trend to downsize human housing? Leos definitely need lots of room and exercise. Not a dog for apartment living unless they go everywhere with you.

At what age do I choose a show prospect? Usually before puppies are chosen for their new homes, an LCA member friend will come and help determine which puppies are show quality at eight weeks. Some breeders will have show homes waiting and will keep their picks until the age of four to six months to determine if the are of a “special” quality. It’s very breeder specific.

My favorite dog show memory? I have two. Carter, CH Sir Carter Leon, A Clement Gentleman, THDN, CGC, finishing under Mr. Jim Owens at the AKC National Leonberger Specialty as “Winners Dog” this year in Estes Park, Colorado. We are very grateful to Amanda Shea, Alberto Montila and Rachel Adams for their amazing handling skills and to Jim Owens for the special placement.

Georgia, GCH CH Sweet Smell of Success, CGC finishing her Grand Championship at Woofstock this year at 14 months of age.

Leonbergers capture your heart once you own one. They love the water and are very versatile in their abilities. A short lifespan is the biggest down fall of a Leonberger. Choosing a reputable breeder is most important, as any reputable breeder breeds for quality of health first.

 

Alida Greendyk

I have lived in New Jersey for the past 20 years, and have been breeding Leonbergers for 25 years. Besides showing, grooming and training my dogs, I enjoy gardening (with occasional help from my Leonbergers ), reading, and cooking.

I have had Leonbergers for 30 years, and when I had my first Leonberger the breed was never recognized or known when we were out in public. I was always asked what mix of breeds my dog was. There is a marked increase in the number of people who recognize my dogs as Leonbergers, either at the vet, at the park, or the pet store. About half of those I encounter either recognize the breed or the name of
the breed.

Over the years I have always found Leonberger people to be united in their deep love of the breed. The Leonberger community often works together, and often help each other out with handling, grooming tips, and even puppy referrals.

Despite their size, Leonbergers are surprisingly agile and light on their feet! I have had several dogs that are almost catlike in their ability to jump with ease onto things such as the grooming table.

Leonbergers are very adaptable to the different lifestyles of their families, and they can do very well in this time of downsized housing. I have several families living in apartments in NYC who have Leonbergers from me, and they live happy and fulfilled lives. With proper exercise some Leonbergers can live in a fairly small space. Because Leonbergers are happiest when with their humans, they adapt to their human’s lifestyle. If it’s a day indoors watching TV, a Leo is content to lie quietly all day and sleep, and they are equally happy to go on a long walk the next day.

Because my puppies go to their new homes at 8 weeks old, I make final decisions on show prospects at seven to eight weeks of age. I prefer to make my final choices as close to 8 weeks as possible as they can change a great deal from seven weeks to eight weeks.

My favorite dog show memory is an easy one…in 2016 my male Dario (GCHG Khaimas’ From Me to You) won the breed at Westminster, and proceeded to entertain the crowd in the Garden during the Working Group judging by leaping up and down next to the handler and trying to pick his pocket! He earned the nickname of the “tricks, no treats” Leonberger and the video of his antics went viral. It earned the two of us an appearance on Good Morning America a few days later.

I have owned and loved Leonbergers for 30 years and I am completely addicted to them! I have looked at and admired other breeds, but have never been tempted to own one, as I will be a lifelong Leo lover!

 

Linda Sebastiani

I am an AKC Breeder of Merit, I have been breeding for approximately 15 years. I have produced many, many Champions and Grand Champions. I live in Orangevale, California. I am retired and outside of dogs I quilt and do art and craft work.

Do people on the street or at the vet recognize the breed? More and more often folks are beginning to recognize the breed, but they still seem to be a show stopper for many folks.

Do I find fellow Leo lovers to be cooperative when it comes to breeding, showing and helping fellow breeders to place pups? Yes, we have a very large, very strong “family” community of Leo people. Hence our motto, “Great Dogs, Great People.”

What is the most surprising aspect of the breed’s personality? Leos are uncannily intuitive. I tell people that and they will say “Oh, my dog was that way,” and then they get a Leo and will call me and say, “I had no idea!” One puppy person told me, “I never knew I was adopting a roommate.”

How does living with a large dog jive with the current trend to downsize human housing? I find Leonbergers very adaptable to their space. My home is on the larger size, but my step-daughter has three Leos in a very small house.

At what age do I choose a show prospect? At birth? Seems like my eye tends to go to a particular puppy right away. I don’t make any final decisions until right before they go to their new homes at eight weeks.

My favorite dog show memory? My boy that I bred placing Winners Dog under the acknowledged world expert on the breed, Dr. Guido Perosino, at a National Specialty.

Leonbergers are not for everybody; they are big, hairy and love water and mud. But they have hearts as big as the world and are called Velcro dogs for a reason—they never want to be away from your side.

 

Margaret L. Smith

I live outside of Atlanta, Georgia. I own a hobby farm on a large recreational lake called Allatoona. I have horses besides dogs. My profession is as an Innkeeper for my Victorian bed and breakfast and wedding facility. I also sell real estate as an agent.

Do people on the street or at the vet recognize the breed? The breed is getting more popular in the US. I have run into a few people that recognize the breed.

Do I find fellow Leo lovers to be cooperative when it comes to breeding, showing, and helping fellow breeders to place pups? I have found that the Leo fanciers, like in any other group of people, have different personalities and can be both cooperative and uncooperative. I have had negative responses but mostly positive cooperation from most.

What is the most surprising aspect of the breed’s personality? I would not consider their wonderful temperaments toward people especially children, their intelligence and active but not too active personalities surprising. That is exactly the reason I picked the breed. I love large dogs but personally had a bad experience with a temperament issue in another large breed that I owned. The Leos were bred for families.

How does living with a large dog jive with the current trend to downsize human housing? Any large breed would be a challenge in today’s world with the population exploding. Leos do need exercise and space. High concentrations of humans though is not a problem when you have a Leo as they are normally not aggressiveness. People are drawn to their majestic beauty and the Leos love it.

At what age do I choose a show prospect? The first cut for a show prospect is made at eight weeks. At that age you can look at them and see their basic conformation. After that they fall apart as their body grows quickly at different rates with lots of changes. You can then look at them again around six months and decide their potential as they start coming together again.

My favorite dog show memory? Oh Lord. I have many. I have finished three dogs with their AKC championship so far through my handler Andrea Elliott-Casterline. That itself is exciting to me. I guess my favorite memories though are of the Leonberger Specialties where there are many more dogs to compete against. Having big wins three years in a row at several of the specialties is to me a big honor and created wonderful memories.

I’d also like to share that they are big swimmers. Great if you like water sports too. They also have a double coat which can make them uncomfortable in warmer weather. My dogs have AC available to them at all times on my small hobby farm and they do appreciate it.

Leos are a wonderful breed for families. Prospective owners should be aware that their size can be a challenge in the home as any large breed. Their coats need care as they do shed a fair amount. if you don’t have time to take care of coat or to spend time with your Leo they may not be the breed for you.

 

Susan Turbow

I live in Reno, Nevada. “Outside of dogs” I’m a college professor. I teach early childhood education and human development and family studies. I also have a passion for wolves, theater and reading.

Do people recognize Leos? They are becoming more popular so sometimes people know what they are but for the most part no. If you want a Leo you have to be prepared to be stopped everywhere you go for people to pet them and ask “What is that?” When I say it’s a dog. Most people say it looks like a bear. Is this a new type of lean cuisine. Where’s his saddle? ETC.

Do I find fellow Leo lovers to be cooperative when it comes to breeding, showing, and helping fellow breeders to place pups? Our Leonberger motto is “Great Dogs. Great People.” and I find this motto to be very true. There is an overall friendly competition between us but generally we help each other out. If someone is at a show and they forget a lead, bait, towel, anything, others are willing to help out. At our national specialty this year a professional handler offered bait to an owner handler when she ran out of bait. This is the type of people you find at Leo shows. In regards to breeding people help each other out all the time from taking care of whelping pups, sharing whelping boxes, coming to help out with the litter, etc. No one ever has to do it alone unless they want too.

I believe that the most surprising aspect of a Leos personality is how mellow they can be. This isn’t surprising though. In regards to my own Leo, Perrin, I always call him a “slug” because he is to extra mellow. He passed his pet therapy certification at 13 months. That’s unheard of for most dogs but because of his temperament he passed.

How does living with a large dog jive with the current trend to downsize human housing? Good question. I believe you can have a Leo where ever you live. I say this because out of the four I’ve had in my life all but one followed me from room to room though out the day so if your assuming a Leo needs lots of room that isn’t true. Okay, they need lots of room on the floor because they are so big but they don’t need a lot of space to roam. If you live in a small place as long as they get out three to four times a day for walks and such they are good to go.

At what age do I choose a show prospect? Breeders can see potential show prospects at about eight weeks old. Sometimes they pan out to be a great show dogs, others times not.

My favorite dog show memory is when Perrin won our Leonberger Club of America’s National Specialty in Estes Park, Colorado in May this year. This is what we all strive for in the end. He also won the Top 20 competition and the people’s choice award. I was so overwhelmed that I cried for two days after the show was over.

Lowenhohle’s Magical Phalin Perrin is a MBISS winner; At this point in time he is the #1 All Breed Leo in the country with five group 4 wins; three group 3 wins; and two group 2 wins. He is the #3 Breed Leo with 38 BOB wins. Perrin is also a certified pet therapy dog. 

   

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