The Leonberger is a noble, powerful yet gentle dog. They are warm, large, soft, protective companions when needed, perfect for snuggling or clutching as a toddler. Leonbergers are sometimes affectionately called “lean-on-bergers” because of their tendency to lean on their loved ones.
However, Leonbergers are large dogs and are frightening to many people simply because of their size. Fear and aggression in a stranger can activate a dog’s protective instincts. Large dogs can also do a lot of damage just by jumping on someone in a burst of enthusiasm. When you invite a Leonberger into your life, you bring with you the responsibility to ensure that both you and your dog receive excellent obedience training.
Leonbergers are known for their stability. In general, they are consistently even-tempered and generally pleasant 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 scare off uninvited guests. They instinctively establish and maintain the territorial rights of their household. However, when given the OK by family members, strangers are accepted and welcomed.
To make excellent family and guard dogs, 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 not been properly socialized. Fear of infection has led breeders and owners to make the tragic mistake of isolating their puppies until they have completed their vaccination series; they risk ending up with a fearful, timid dog that may become aggressive as an adult. Owners need to strike a balance: Puppies, especially from birth to four months, need to be exposed to a variety of people and experiences.
There are many activities and places to take dogs, and new owners must take the time to expose their new puppies to as many of them as possible. This is especially true for the second and third Leonberger; it is too easy to keep the new puppy in the company of the older dogs and deprive it of the opportunity to develop self-confidence.