Above all, Leonbergers need to be an integral part of their human’s family “pack”. They will happily adapt to a variety of living situations, from apartments to estates, as long as they are loved and included in activities.
As puppies, they require excellent training and consistent, frequent socialization activities. As adults, they need frequent and consistent exercise.
Feeding: What to feed a Leonberger is a subject of long and frequent debate. There are as many opinions as there are nations and Leonberger households! However, two things are always agreed upon: 1) Leonbergers should be fed high quality food, whether commercially prepared or home-produced. 2) Leonberger puppies should not be fed a diet that promotes rapid growth. Good breeders will assist new owners with food selection. And all owners should consult their veterinarian and many of the carefully written books on dog nutrition to determine what is best for their dog and their household.
Training: Leonbergers are not natural obedience and agility enthusiasts; however, they are so loyal and conform to their family’s culture and expectations that they tend to participate in obedience training to please. Because they are so calm and stable, they perform well even when their handlers are stressed. They usually excel at commands such as Down, Stay! Achieving a perfectly executed Sit and Finish is another story. Leonbergers are known in obedience classes for their casual approach to sitting. The sitting part is not a problem, but sitting up straight is not a priority for a dog that prefers to be laid back and relaxed. Retrieving is not a favorite activity either. Chasing a ball, toy, or stick is great fun, but bringing it back is such a chore! There are Leonbergers with obedience and agility titles, but they don’t come as easily as smaller dog.
Grooming: It’s worth noting that in Europe, grooming beyond brushing, clipping toenails, and a little trimming to even out the coat on the toe tips is not allowed in the show ring. The natural look is the desired ideal. However, Leonbergers can be messy and must be considered “high maintenance” from a housekeeping standpoint. Grooming is a weekly task that must be kept up to prevent the coat from becoming knotted and matted.
Leonberger fur is slow to dry. Huge, muddy paw prints are a given during the rainy season. Leonberger coats vary in length and thickness. They shed moderately throughout the year and “moult” with dramatic seasonal changes, usually twice a year. If you have one with a very thick undercoat and long feathers and mane, your grooming activities will be more demanding than if you have one with a more compact coat. All Leonberger coats are waterproof and very hard wearing. To keep these coats shiny and elegant, and to keep clothing and furniture in acceptable condition, at least some brushing is required on a daily basis. Bathing a giant dog, regardless of coat thickness, requires a lot of patience, water, shampoo and towels. A powerful professional hair dryer can help.
Although Leonbergers don’t usually drool, they will occasionally drool when stressed or after drinking (usually with their head and front paws as far down in the water as possible). Any water bowl is fair game for pawing and spilling!