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Issue 1 - Getting Ready

Take the time to read the following - even if you are a savvy dog owner, some of this may not have come to mind and/or are good reminders.  Please note that many suggestions are Leo specific! 

Vet, Socializing and Training

  • Vet - Just like a baby needs a pediatrician, you need to solidify your vet. Make sure they know how to treat and care for a large breed dog.

  • Training/Socializing - Look for a training center that you can attend for the entirety of the dog's life. One that can grow with you. Typically they offer beginning and advanced classes in agility, competition obedience, rally, etc.  Even my dogs continue to attend classes for training and of course socialization.

    • Remember that the socialization window closes by the time they are about 16 wks old.​

    • Plan ahead and make sure you make this time period as successful as possible.

    • Of course, play dates with other dog-owning neighbors and local puppy socialization classes provide other opportunities for getting your dog accustomed to other dogs – and people – while burning off energy and getting essential exercise. Local dog events such as parades, festivals, and fun walks are another way to get your dog familiar with the world. Be sure to talk with your vet before engaging in such activities, however. Dog parks are not suitable for puppies still undergoing vaccination protocols and whose bones are still growing, and long parades are too much for a young giant-breed dog. Make informed decisions for both your peace of mind and the health of your dog.

    • The Leonberger is a guard dog, so without constant socialization, especially in the first 2 years of his life, he might just take it on himself to decide who is a stranger or even that anybody outside the immediate family is a stranger. And he will protect his family and property more than you like.

    • Puppies go through many phases at times where they are shyer or more outgoing and sometimes they will try you out. To build your pup's self-confidence you need to take him with you to as many different places as possible. If he shows signs of dominant behavior towards you or your family members, make sure to practice dominance exercises on a daily basis.  

    • You should always be able to take a bone out of his mouth and touch his food while he is eating!!

    • Be consistent in your training without shouting and anger.  Leos are very sensitive and will be affected by your household emotions very easily.  Praise and dog biscuits will be the methods of choice due to their sensitivity and for the most part, any Leo would like to please his owner.   If they could be with you 24x7, that would be perfect for them.

    • Involve your children whenever possible in training your puppy.  Always supervised, to make sure it is done properly, but it is wonderful for your child to learn appropriate obedience and training for your puppy.  It will also help make it clear to the puppy that the child is ‘above’ the puppy in the pack order.

    • The work with your puppy in the first two years will pay off because he will be your wonderful companion.

Please view this video:     (click here) Socialization

Critical periods in puppy development

  • Neonatal Period (0-12 Days):

    • The puppy responds only to warmth, touch, and smell. He cannot regulate body functions such as temperature and elimination.

  • Transition Period (13 - 20 Days):

    • Eyes and ears are open, but sight and hearing are limited. Tail wagging begins and the puppy begins to control body functions.

  • Awareness Period (21 - 28 Days):

    • Sight and hearing function well. The puppy is learning that he is a dog and has a great deal of need for a stable environment. 

  • Canine Socialization Period (21 - 49 Days):

    • Interacting with his mother and littermates, the pup learns various canine behaviors. He is now aware of the differences between canine and human societies.

  • Human Socialization Period (7 to 12 Weeks):

    • The pup has the brain wave of an adult dog. The best time for going to a new home. He now has the ability to learn respect, simple behavioral responses: sit, stay, come. Housebreaking begins. He now learns by association. The permanent man/dog bonding begins, and he is able to accept gentle discipline and establish confidence.

  • Fear Impact Period (8 - 11 Weeks):

    • Try to avoid frightening the puppy during this time, since traumatic experiences can have an effect during this period. As you can see, this period overlaps that of the previous definition and children or animal should not be allowed to hurt or scare the puppy -- either maliciously or inadvertently. It is very important now to introduce other humans, but he must be closely supervised to minimize adverse conditioning. Learning at this age is permanent. 
      This is the stage where you wonder if your dog is going to be a woosy butt all his life. Also introducing your puppy to other dogs at this time will help him become more socialized. If available in your area, doggy daycare is great for this.

  • Seniority Classification Period (13 - 16 Weeks):

    • This critical period is also known as the "Age of Cutting" - cutting teeth and cutting apron strings. At this age, the puppy begins testing dominance and leadership. Biting behavior is absolutely discouraged from thirteen weeks on. Praise for the correct behavior response is the most effective tool. Meaningful praise is highly important to shape a positive attitude.

  • Flight Instinct Period (4 to 8 Months):

    • During this period puppies test their wings- they will turn a deaf ear when called. This period lasts from a few days to several weeks. It is critical to praise the positive and minimize the negative behavior during this time. However, you must learn how to achieve the correct response. This period corresponds to teething periods, and behavioral problems become compounded by physiological development chewing.

  • Second Fear impact period (6 - 14 Months):

    • Also called, "The fear of situations period", usually corresponds to growths spurts. This critical age may depend on the size of the dog. Small dogs tend to experience these periods earlier than large dogs. Great care must be taken not to reinforce negative behavior. Force can frighten the dog, and soothing tones serve to encourage his fear. His fear should be handled with patience and kindness, and training during this period puts the dog in a position of success, while allowing him to work things out while building self-confidence.

  • Maturity (1 - 4 years) :

    • Many breeds' especially giant breeds continue to grow and physically change well beyond four years of age. The average dog develops to full maturity between 1-1 1/2 years and three years of age. This period is often marked by an increase in aggression and by a renewed testing for leadership. During this time, while testing for leadership, the dog should be handled firmly. Regulars training throughout this testing period, praise him for the proper response. Giving him no inroads to affirm his leadership will remind him that this issue has already been settled.

List of items for your new baby


  • "The Art of Raising a Puppy", by The Monks of Newskeet

  • Crate/Vari Kennel – exercise pens - define sleeping and playing area.  (I love the Hagen crates (for a ‘vari’ kennel style):  (expensive, but worth it…easy to open, etc.)  Not sure they are available anymore... sorry.​

  • Puppy area defined in your house and back yard...puppy proof, think about poisonous plants, cords, etc.!!  I typically have an ex-pen in the kitchen area as well as their crate…this can be thought of as ‘puppy playpen’, and a safe place for them to be if they cannot be tethered to you…gives everyone a break (kids, other dogs, etc.) without putting them in their crate.

  • Food and water bowls

  • Make your first vet visit appointment.  Visit/talk with your vet of choice and give them a heads up that they will have a Leonberger as a client.  Make sure your goals are in line with the vets.

  • Food:  the puppies have been eating Badlands Ranch Complete as well as Beef Organ Mix

    • Premium kibble (I suggest something like Badlands Ranch at least as a topper)

    • Raw food source

    • Pumpkin (100% pumpkin)

    • Coconut cold-pressed oil 

  • Supplements:

    • NuVet (

    • Pre/Probiotics (2x per week)

    • Vitamin C - up to 2000-2500 per day.  Vitamin C is extremely important for growing bones and ligaments!!!!

  • Toys: all textures and feels till you find out what kind your pup loves plastic, rubber, soft cloth, chew toys (absolutely NO rawhides), bully sticks are great, etc.

  • First aid supplies (your vet might recommend)

  • Food storage - freezer space - etc.

  • Brush

  • Nail clippers - dremel

  • Toothbrush & doggy paste (dogs CANNOT use people toothpaste)

  • Heartworm medication (Sentinel)

  • Exercise Pen (if needed), doggy door (if needed)

  • Pooper scooper/doggy bags

  • Think about pet insurance.  (I use, and have been very pleased with, PetsBest)

Make sure that you are the pack leader…but with gentle, positive reinforcement!

​Above all, don’t forget your regional Leonberger club. Most parts of the United States are covered by one of the regional Leo clubs, which provide a great source of knowledge and camaraderie. You don’t have to be interested in competing with your Leo to join a regional club, or to join the parent club, the Leonberger Club of America; these organizations are open to anyone with an interest in Leos, and provide a great way to meet fellow Leo owners and to socialize – both yourself and your puppy – with people who understand life with these big, wonderful dogs. 

Vet/Training Selection
Critical Development
Items List
Final Comments
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