AKC Non-Sporting Group
Like other members of the Bichon family, which includes the Maltese and the Havanese, the Löwchen dates back to pre-Renaissance days, when it was a popular and much pampered pet of the European aristocracy. Depending on the account you read, the ladies of the court either deliberately groomed this little dog to look like a “löwchen” (or “little lion dog”), or they discovered the lion-like resemblance after shaving the dog down to use as a bed warmer at night.
Many artworks from earlier centuries feature the Löwchen; in fact, Albrecht Durer included the animal in many of his paintings and woodcuts. Yet by World War II the breed had become quite rare, and by 1969 the Guinness Book of World Records had identified the Löwchen as the rarest of all dog breeds. A Belgian woman, Madame Bennert, saved the Löwchen by collecting and breeding several of the dogs; all Löwchens living today can be traced back to Madame Bennert’s dogs. The dog is gaining popularity in North America and Europe. The AKC admitted the breed to the Non-Sporting Group in 1999.
The Löwchen’s long, flowing “mane” and tasseled tail lend this compact dog a leonine look, especially when in a “lion trim” (with the hindquarters, upper legs, and part of the tail closely clipped and with “bracelets” of hair left on the legs). The Löwchen’s bright and lively expression, however, belies its name. The backskull and muzzle should be fairly broad, and the large eyes are round, dark, and set apart and well into the skull. The ears are pendant and well-fringed, set slightly higher than eye-level. A scissors bite is required. The head is carried high, and the gait is lively and well-extended, lending the dog an elegant, but animated, style. Dewclaws should be removed, if present. The topline should be level from withers to tail. The loin is short and strong. The tail is set high and carried in cup-handle position over back when the dog is moving. All coat colors and combinations are allowed.
- Height: 12 to 14 in.
- Size: Small
- Weight: 12 to 18 lbs.
- Availability: Difficult to find
- Talents: Watchdog, agility, competitive obedience, agility, and performing tricks
In order to salvage the breed, the Löwchens were closely inbred for a number of years. Despite this, the dog remains remarkably free of genetic flaws. Patellar luxation (dislocated knees) is an occasional problem. The eyes should be checked annually for the possibility of progressive retinal atrophy. The dog doesn’t shed and is nonallergenic, but Löwchens need to be brushed regularly.
Despite its name, the Löwchen is far from being a ferocious dog and rarely shows aggression either to humans or other animals. In fact, he’s generally a cheerful, curious, and affectionate little dog who loves to cuddle—and even sleep—with people. The Löwchen is especially good with children. Filled with great joie de vivre, this dog makes a wonderful companion and a good watchdog for either a house or an apartment. The Löwchen is considered an “easy keeper,” as he gets along well with other animals, doesn’t need much exercise (although he loves to be outside and can be a good jogging companion), and travels easily. As a smart animal, the Löwchen also tends to do well in obedience, agility, and trick performance. But this very combination of high intelligence and adorability can sometimes be a problem; breeders note that owners should maintain an appropriate master-dog relationship, or the little dogs will become spoiled and willful. Temperaments can range from somewhat dominant to somewhat submissive based on early training and the relationship with the master.
- Children: Good with children
- Friendliness: Loves everyone
- Trainability: Moderately easy to train
- Independence: Not particularly dependent or independent
- Dominance: Moderate
- Other Pets: Generally good with other pets
- Combativeness: Not generally dog-aggressive
- Noise: Average barking
- Indoors: Relatively inactive indoors
- Owner: Good for novice owners
- Grooming: Regular grooming needed
- Trimming and Stripping: Moderate trimming/and or stripping needed
- Coat: Long coat
- Shedding: None (or very light)
- Exercise: A little exercise needed
- Jogging: A fairly good jogging companion, though small
- Apartments: If sufficiently exercised, will be OK in an apartment
- Outdoor Space: A small yard is sufficient.
- Climate: Does well in most climates
- Longevity: Fairly long lifespan (about 12 to 15 years)