The Leonberger is a giant breed of German origin. They are friendly, gentle, and playful. Although they are in the working breed group, they were originally bred as a companion breed fit for a king.
The breed was the brainchild of Heinrich Essig of Leonberg, Germany. Using Saint Bernards and Newfoundlands, among other large working breeds, Essig’s goal was to breed a majestic pet for European royalty.
The Leonberger is big and powerful and loves to be outside being active. They are also loving companion dogs and make excellent family pets despite their massive size.
Leonbergers are natural and powerful swimmers. They are built to swim, with webbed feet, a waterproof coat, large jowls to trap air, and great lung capacity.
How much exercise does a Leonberger need
Leonbergers need at least 60 minutes of exercise and activity every day. The UK Kennel Club actually recommends two hours daily. This should include a daily walk with additional free play and strengthening exercises. High impact or over strenuous exercise can lead to joint pain.
For a large dog they are fairly active. They have been used a farm dog, guard dogs and, due to their strength, for pulling carts.
Being a water dog, most Leonbergers love the water, so give them the opportunity to swim whenever possible. Also, include mental stimulation to prevent boredom such as puzzle toys or scenting games.
Their daily activity requirements can be grouped into three categories.
- Daily Walk
- Free Play
- Mental Stimulation
Avoid too much exercise with a Leonberger puppy
These suggestions relate to a healthy adult Leonberger 18 months or older. Leonberger puppies grow fast and this can put excessive stress on their bodies. Their growth plates are not completely closed until they are over 18 months old.
Long walks are not required for a puppy and the best exercise for a Leo puppy is free to play off-leash. Avoid high impact activity on hard surfaces.
- up to 6months old 10 to 15 minutes a day is sufficient.
- 6 to 12 months old 30 minutes a day is enough.
- 12 to 18 months, not a lot more than 6 to 12 months is needed
For more on exercise for a puppy see here.
Introducing them to the water and swimming while young is recommended and is a great low impact exercise.
Mental stimulation is important for puppies and can tire them just as much as physical activity. For more on mental stimulation for puppies see here.
Leonberger exercise after eating
Leonbergers are one of the dog breeds that are at a higher risk of bloat or GDV (Gastric Dilatation Volvulus ), Do not feed your Leo straight before or after exercise to minimize the risk of this. Wait at least one hour, preferably two hours before or after exercise. For more about avoiding bloat in your Leonberger see here.
It is also recommended that you feed your Leonberger on an elevated surface or from a raised bowl to aid with digestion and prevent GDV.
See Raised Dog Bowls on Amazon.
Leonberger exercise in hot weather
Leonbergers have a thick heavy coat. They can easily overheat when the temperature is high.
Avoid exercising them outside when the weather is hot and the sun is blazing down. Allowing them to overheat can result in heat stress or even heat stroke. It is important for a Leonberger owner to beware of the signs and symptoms of overheating.
It is still important that they receive exercise even when the weather is hot. For tips on exercising a dog in hot weather see here.
Leonberger Walking Needs
The daily walk is essential for a Leonberger not only to release some pent-up energy. The walk allows your Leo to stimulate the mind with the sights, sounds and smells they come across.
A healthy adult Leonberger will require a daily walk of 25 to 45 minutes. The pace of the walk should be a casual comfortable speed for them.
If your Leonberger has good recall, off-leash walking or running at the park is ideal. Alternatively, you can use a retractable leash or long lead to allow them more freedom while maintaining control. In general, Leonbergers are obedient and usually have good recall if trained.
You can add extra resistance to the walk by using a weighted vest or dog backpack. It is recommended that no more than 10% of their body weight be added. This is more than sufficient to tire them and strengthen their muscles without overworking them. Other ways of increasing the resistance on the walk are to walk on sand or include uphill sections in the walk.
Can Leonbergers go on long walks
Leonbergers do have a good level of stamina and can walk for reasonably long distances. However, 30 to 60 minutes is probably more than sufficient. If you do choose to go on long walks, monitor your Leo for signs of fatigue, soreness, or excessive panting. Bring the walk to an end if they seem to be struggling.
Leonberger exercise ideas
Free play in your yard or at the park is a great way to burn pent up energy, provide mental stimulation, and have some fun. Here are some suggested ways for providing the opportunity for your Leonberger to play and exercise.
Most Leonbergers love to swim. Swimming is high intensity and helps to tire a dog quickly. Five to ten minutes of continuous swimming can be equivalent to a hard 30 to 40 minute run for your dog.
It is also low impact making it ideal for a big dog like a Leonberger as they can be prone to joint issues.
To learn more about the exercise benefits of swimming for dogs see here.
Play with toys
Provide you Leonberger with a good range of toys. This will help encourage them to be more active. To learn about the different type of dog toys and how to use them see here.
Fetch is a favorite game for most dogs. It not only gets a dog moving but is also a great bonding activity for you both. Remember not to overdo it and end the game if they are panting excessively or showing signs that they have had enough.
Keep this a controlled game for your Leonberger so they are not turning too quickly which can put pressure on the joints. A soft surface such as on the grass is best.
Doing water retrieval is ideal as your Leonberger gets the benefits of both swimming and playing fetch.
Play with other dogs
Provide the opportunity for your Leonberger to play with other dogs. This is not only great to burn energy and stimulate their mind, but teaches them important social skills. Leonbergers love the company of people and other dogs.
Leonberger muscle-strengthening exercise
One of the major benefits of incorporating muscle building and strengthening activities into your dog’s daily exercise is that it assists to prevent injury. This is achieved by building muscle to support and give stability to the joints and tendons and increase bone density.
From a fitness point of view strengthening exercises increase the cardiovascular system and reduces fat preventing obesity and helps maintain a healthy weight. For overall health, it improves gastrointestinal regularity, strengthens the immune system and improves sleeping and eating patterns.
Here is some suggested strengthening exercise you can do with your Leonberger.
Walking up and down stairs is a good exercise in that it provides two complementary actions. Going up the stairs makes them use their muscles to propel forward. Coming down the stairs requires balance and controlled core stability.
It is important not to rush up and down the stairs and keep this a controlled exercise to avoid injury.
For a full guide to stair exercise for dogs see here.
This video gives a good insight in to this.
Tug of war
A classic dog game and one that is loved by most dogs. Make them use their strength to crouch and pull back. Many dog trainers are opposed to this game as they feel it encourages dominate behavior. As long as your dog takes and releases the tug toy on command and you control the game this is not an issue.
A spring pole is simply a spring connected to a rope that hangs from a tree branch or beam with a lure or toy attached to the end. This allows your dog to play tug of war with him or herself even if you are not there. Popular with a lot of dogs and particularly strong breeds that love a good game of tug of war.
This is similar to human squats. Have your dog sit and then stand. You can use treats to make this easier. If they don’t stand when you say just step back and offer the treat. After a week or two, you can increase the resistance of the exercise by putting a backpack on your dog and add weight, but not more than 10% of their body weight.
For more muscle building and strengthening exercises for dogs see here.
Leonberger Mental Stimulation
Your Leonberger will get some mental stimulation and enrichment from their daily walk and time spent with free play. However, it is a good idea to provide other activities that stimulate the mind. Mental exercise can burn as much energy as physical exercise.
Many dog behavior problems are a direct result of boredom. Read “Mental enrichment and mind stimulation for dogs” to learn about the six categories of enrichment for dogs.
Some ideas to provide mental stimulation include;
Puzzle toys are a great way to test your dog’s intelligence and improve their problem-solving skills. Check out “Top puzzle toys for dogs” for my top picks.
Kong toys which you stuff with food and treats work in much the same way. Read “How to use a Kong for dogs”.
Puzzle toys are great for times when your dog is home alone. Leonbergers love company and many have separation anxiety when left alone. If your dog is home alone while you are at work or out you may find some helpful information at “Leaving a dog alone while at work”
Teaching new commands and tricks is also excellent to provide mental enrichment. A popular game that involves learning is to teach them the names of their toys. Dogs can learn hundreds of words and names.
Chewing is a natural behavior for dogs and has many benefits including maintaining dental health and keeping them occupied. It also as mental health benefits. When a dog chews it releases endorphins to their brain making them feel calm and relaxed helping to lift their overall mood.
For more on the benefits of chewing and the best chew toys for your dog see here.
Turn mealtimes into an opportunity for your Leonberger to get a mental challenge and enrichment. Instead of feeding them from a bowl, give them activities that require them to work for their food. To learn more about feeding enrichment for dogs see here.
Enrich their environment
Environmental enrichment is the process of making a dog’s living space more engaging and interesting. To learn more about environmental enrichment for dogs see here.
How much exercise does an Older Leonberger need
As a dog gets older they become less active and have lower energy levels. However, it is still important that they remain reasonably active to keep their joints and muscles mobile and to manage their weight. Read ” Dog exercise for a senior dog” to learn more.
Many dogs develop arthritis as they age. Exercise for them becomes a balancing act. It is important to keep their joints mobile and manage weight, but too much can make them sore. Read “How to exercise an arthritic dog” to learn more.
Summary – Leonberger exercise requirements
Leonbergers require daily moderate exercise of 60 minutes or more. This should include a daily walk with additional free play and strengthening exercises. High impact or over strenuous exercise can lead to joint pain.
Leonberger puppies do not require too much exercise as they are growing quickly. Exercise for an older Leonberger is still important to keep them mobile and healthy but a balance is required to avoid soreness.
Let us know if the comment how you exercise your Leonberger.