Photo by Katie Zulty
The Leonberger originated in the 1800s when the alderman of Leonberg, Germany, bred a Landseer Newfoundland with a St. Bernard and mated later generations with the Great Pyrenees. Sources say that the alderman wanted a dog that resembled the lion on the Leonberg crest.
The Leonberger was considered a “Rare Breed’ until recognized by the American Kennel Club in 2010. If you are interested in more information about AKC breeders of merit, please contact the Leonberger Club of America.
Leonberger enthusiasts, trainers, owners, and breeders had traveled hundreds of miles to attend the 2017 Leonberger Club of America National Specialty, Old Bay Leos. We spotted dozens of these dogs, some well over 140 pounds, at the Delta Hotels by Marriott Baltimore Hunt Valley. Their black-masked expressions and flowing coats created a stunning spectacle. Both adults and children showed these “gentle giants.”
My dog trainer teaches dog obedience and owner etiquette. I have learned the following three tips:
- Dogs on a leash are on the defensive, therefore it is not a good idea for leashed dogs to mingle.
- Retractable leashes can confuse a dog because jerking the dog back is a correction and without training, they don’t understand the correction, so it’s not fair.
- You should try to protect your puppy from bad experiences because it could affect its life.
I failed my puppy on this last point because he was attacked four times, though he was leashed. From these attacks, I had learned that some dog owners don’t understand or practice dog etiquette. Since I have a large dog, this concerns me.
When our puppy was five months old, our daughter was walking him through a wooded park and an unleashed husky tore around the corner and ripped puppy’s face causing him to yelp and wine. The couple with the husky watched while my daughter pulled the dog off puppy. They didn’t apologize and seemed to find it humorous.
The second time, I was walking our eighteen-month-old puppy on a semi-crowded street. I stopped to talk to a friend while my dog sat at my side. I assumed that puppy was safe sitting close to me. However, a guy with a pit bull released his retractable leash and his dog charged. The dogs were face to face growling, biting and screaming. When we separated the animals, the guy said, “Sorry,” and walked away.
A few months later, I was walking puppy, who was about 110 pounds but still impressionable, when a dog bolted off a neighbor’s deck and attacked him. I believe that the dog had probably escaped because the owner had run over to grab his dog and apologized profusely. Sometimes, things are unavoidable.
A few weeks later, a tiny dog dashed off its property and grabbed my dog’s neck. The owners watched until I yelled at them to get their dog, and I was surprised that they didn’t react immediately especially because of the difference in the dogs’ sizes.
As a result of these attacks, I have had my dog neutered, and when I walk him I try to avoid other dogs. If I see someone with a dog near us, I walk him to the far side of the street and keep him close to me. Invariably, the person across the street releases their retractable leash and their dog approaches us. Ironically, the owner usually pretends that it is the dog releasing the leash. In addition, these are probably the people who allow their dogs to stretch their leash across the street making it a hazard to pedestrians, runners, and bikers.
Sometimes, I head down a side street to avoid other dogs, and the owner and dog will stand by that side street waiting for my return. I don’t understand why they insist on their dog meeting mine.
My favorite story is when I had been avoiding a couple and their dog for days. When they saw puppy and I walk, they would approach us while releasing their dog’s retractable leash, and I would pivot and walk in the opposite direction. I suspect that they were elated when they spotted our son walking our dog. They brought their dog over to him and the leashes entangled. Can you imagine what could have happened if one of the dogs become aggressive?
These encounters have made me tense and watchful when I walk my dog, and he probably senses it. I believe that if more dog owners learned dog etiquette, dogs and people would be safer. Therefore, if a dog walker avoids you and your dog, please don’t take it personally.
My husband had to file a mandatory dog bite report for our Leonberger puppy when he was 8-weeks-and-one-day old, and these photos clearly show his mean streak. The top one is his mug shot. Puppy had only spent one night at our house, when he scampered down the front lawn with my husband to get the newspaper.
After my husband picked up the paper, he saw puppy in the middle of the yard joyfully chewing on an unknown object. He hurried over to him and tried to pry his mouth open to remove the object, but puppy was determined not to reveal the prize in his mouth, and he kept his jaws clamped shut like he thought that he was a snapping turtle. With a little maneuvering, my husband finally opened his mouth and nicked his finger on his needle teeth in the process. Can you imagine his glee when he discovered that the coveted treasure was a possum skull? No wonder puppy didn’t want to give up this gem because he probably never had his own skull before.
A few days later, my husband’s finger became infected and he had to go to the medical center to have it treated. Because of a new law, that is more applicable to vicious dogs, he had to file a report indicating that his dog bit him before they would see him. He tried to explain that the puppy was 8 weeks old, but they wouldn’t hear it. He filed the report, and it took two rounds of antibiotics to treat him.
The result of this incident is that the dog must be on his best behavior for the rest of his life because he has a record.
I had pulled in my driveway on a rainy September day and spotted large and small strips of brown cardboard, pink, black and white clothing, and clear plastic bags that had been ripped open and scattered across my back lawn.
It looked like someone had tossed debris in random directions as they rode on a merry-go-round. Closer inspection revealed that about 50 golf shirts littered my yard. Clear plastic bags protected most of them, the rest were sopping and smeared with dirt.
I quickly bundled as many shirts as I could hold in my arms, and I hurried inside and dropped them on the Ping-Pong table. When I returned to collect more, I watched my giant Leonberger puppy hop among the clutter.
He grabbed a pink shirt, growled ferociously, and shook it like he was playing Tug of War. Then he threw his head up and down several times, tossed it in the air and pounced on it with muddy paws. I couldn’t help but laugh.
Oops, these were the company-monogrammed-Adidas-golf shirts that my husband had ordered for his customers. I had heard that the company had paid about $2,000 for them. Unfortunately he couldn’t give his customers shirts that took a spin in the washer. I knew that we were in trouble.
After I picked up the rest of the shirts, I called my husband from my cell phone so that he wouldn’t know that I was home.
“You didn’t leave the dog out, did you?” I asked
“Yes, I left him out,” he said.
“Oh, did you forget that anything that the UPS truck drops off on the driveway belongs to him?”
“I didn’t think about that,” he said
“If he gets into anything, my conscience is clear, how’s yours? Have a great day and see you at dinner.”
This was the second or eighth time that my puppy had opened a UPS box. Previously, he had torn into canine heartworm pills and had eaten a six-month supply. I knew that the pills contained arsenic, and I had made a frantic call to the vet who assured me that his 120 pounds protected him from the poison.
Though I had never eaten one, heartworm medication smells and tastes like dog treats, and my dogs love them. Unfortunately, food and fun had rewarded my puppy for puncturing packages. It was time to stop his behavior before he consumed his next carton.
After I picked up the rest of the shirts, I placed a cardboard box in my driveway and walked away watching him from nearby. When my puppy pounced on the box, I ran to him and grabbed his little black furry cheeks in my hands and put my face about two inches from his and screamed “NO!”
I yelled at him for about 15 seconds, and it worked. He never touched a box again.
It was a win-win. My puppy’s curiosity taught my husband pet-owner responsibility by making him consider the consequences of leaving him out without supervision, and our family and friends added to their wardrobe. Thank goodness we have that dog.