The Leonberger, or Leo for short, is a large and friendly dog breed known for its amicable personality and gentle temperament. They are often compared to lions, both for their size and fluffy coat. This plush coat comes with challenges of its own, as it does require frequent maintenance in order to retain its fluffy, lush look. This is the main reason people often ask how to groom a Leonberger dog.
Leonberger grooming includes the full list of other hygienic tasks like bathing, nail trimming, and ear cleaning. You might be wondering “Do Leonbergers shed? Absolutely! Leos tend to shed a lot because their coat is double layered and likely to thin quite a bit every spring. All in all, though, these gentle giants need just a bit more attention when it comes to Leonberger grooming.
Brush your Leo twice a week
Starting with a thorough brush is a good first step on how to groom a Leonberger dog. Since Leos are a fuzzy breed, they should be brushed once or twice a week. This habit is a vital one for both the health of your Leo’s coat and the cleanliness of your floor and clothes.
Without frequent grooming, your Leo will tend to shed more and their coat will mat much faster. A thorough brushing session typically takes about thirty minutes, but you can shorten the time with practice.
Leonbergers have an undercoat beneath their regular coat, making them a bit tougher to brush out. To combat this, you’ll need a small collection of brushes that every professional dog groomer uses.
A slicker brush comes in handy
A slicker brush is a great multi-purpose brush. The metal bristles on a sicker brush sink to the skin of your Leo, allowing both coats to be brushed in one swoop. Slicker brushes come in a variety of bristle lengths and sizes, making them a perfect addition to your brushing toolbox.
Undercoat rakes make tough areas more manageable
For the tougher areas, you’ll benefit from an undercoat rake. These rakes cut through the undercoat and any matting within it without the painful tugging other brushes can’t avoid. You may need the assistance of an undercoat rake around the rump of your Leo, behind their ears, and around their mane-like neck tuft.
A traditional comb is good to have on hand too, as they are especially useful for areas around the face, ears, and paws.
Brush before bathing!
Be sure to brush your Leo before having them take a dip in the tub. Any mats or tangles in the fur will only be exacerbated by the water and drying process, which you’ll want to avoid. A properly brushed Leonberger will look fluffy and shiny, with an overall smooth and even appearance.
With your Leo all brushed out, they’re ready for a bath. You should give your Leo a bath every other week or so, depending on how dirty or smelly they are. It’s not recommended to go more than six weeks without a wash.
Buy doggy shampoo
You should also note that dogs need their own shampoos. Yours won’t suffice, even if it’s gentle. For Leonbergers, aim for a shampoo that’s gentle, nourishing, and moisturizing. A shampoo with moisturizing capabilities gives them a glossy coat and a pleasant moisture boost to their skin.
Finish with a conditioner
Due to the density and length of Leonberger coats, you may also want to consider incorporating a fur conditioner into your regime. A doggy conditioner will give their coat some extra shine and softness, which looks especially impressive on their coats.
The bathing process is what you’d expect-wet their fur all the way to the skin, lather with shampoo, and rinse thoroughly. All you need to keep in mind is the temperature of the water and that you’re being careful around their eyes and ears.
Rinsing can be tricky because of the thickness of their coat, but taking a little extra time here solves that problem.
Avoid tangling & matting when drying the coat
Once you’ve lathered and rinsed, it’s time to dry the coat. This part can be challenging-you want to try to avoid causing mats and tangles as much as you can, which can be difficult when towel drying.
To combat this, pat them dry with small dabs across their coat. Use a blow dryer next, holding it far enough away from their fur to not cause any wind-blown tangles. If you don’t have a blow dryer, now’s a good time to add one to your bathing day toolkit. Your tired arms will thank you!
Like other dog breeds, Leonbergers need occasional nail trims to stay feeling and looking good. For some dogs, regular outdoor activity is enough to keep their nails at an appropriate length. Nails left too long can hurt them when walking when they press up into their paws.
Materials like concrete and asphalt work like natural nail files, as does a hearty run or two. For those without this benefit, you’ll likely need to add nail trims to your Leo’s grooming regime.
The general rule of thumb regarding when to trim can be decided using your ears. If your Leo clicks and taps as they walk around, their nails are a bit too long. Here’s what to keep in mind when you trim their nails.
Beware of the quick.
The quick is a bundle of blood vessels and nerves within each nail. It’s usually easy to spot on light nails, seen as a pink core that stops just below the nail’s edge. If nipped, the quick tends to bleed quite a bit.
It’s a good idea to keep some styptic powder on hand, as getting a cut quick to stop bleeding is difficult without this clotting powder. As the nail grows, so does the quick. Use extra caution when trimming overgrown nails for that reason.
Acclimate your Leo to the clippers.
Introduce your nail clippers by bringing them close to your Leo and touching them to their paws. Your goal here is to reduce and remedy any fears they may have surrounding nail trims or the clippers themselves.
Slow and steady.
Don’t be afraid to take this process gradually, especially as you and your Leo get used to it. If they (or you) need a break, take them without hesitation.
Like us, Leonbergers need their dental health maintained to stay in good health. The specific timeline for brushes tends to vary between pet owners, but you should aim for three times a week.
Be sure to use dog-specific kinds of toothpaste, as the human counterparts aren’t safe for doggy mouths. For Leos in particular, using a brush will likely work better than a silicone finger brush. Finger brushes are perfect for little mouths, which makes them a bit impractical for Leonbergers.
How often your Leo will need their ears cleaned is partially dependent on their lifestyle. If they enjoy frequent swims, expect to give their ears a clean once a week. Their long and floppy ears also merit more frequent cleans.
Try to give each ear a gentle clean at least once a month, using a cotton ball and dog-appropriate ear cleaning solutions.
What to do if you find matting
Matting is impossible to avoid with breeds like Leonbergers. When you find a patch of matted hair, first try to separate it with your fingers. This method is the most gentle on your Leo’s skin and fur. If you’re not getting far, use a comb to pick it apart, or take your undercoat rake and ease it out. If the mat reaches their skin or is proving impossible to remove, you’ll need the help of a hair clipper. Use a short blade attachment and stay close to the skin until you work through the entire mat.