If you’re wondering what a löwchen dog is, the meaning of their name is a good hint. Löwchen translates to “little lion” in German, and this is exactly what these dogs are meant to look like. They’re much smaller than actual lions but can be just as brave. Luckily, they’re also very affectionate and loving with their families.
Löwchen are petite creatures that the American Kennel Club (AKC) classifies as members of the non-sporting group. Some of the other kennel clubs around the world place them in the toy group.
Characteristics of Löwchen
Body size. Löwchen are considered small dogs. The average löwchen size is 12 to 14 inches tall at the shoulder. Healthy dogs weigh an average of 15 pounds. Make sure to talk to your veterinarian if you’re concerned that your dog is underweight or overweight.
This small size means that these dogs are highly portable. They don’t need much indoor or outdoor space as long as they get enough attention and interaction from their owners.
Body shape. Löwchen have compact, balanced bodies. They’re just shy of having square proportions in terms of their height and length. Despite their small size, they’re very sturdy pets with strong bones.
These dogs have broad skulls and muzzles. Their skulls are topped by well-fringed, pendant-like ears. These should be moderately long and fall down around the sides of their heads.
Their tails are set high and carried in a well-arched plume that touches their back.
Lifespan. The löwchen lifespan is normal for their size. These dogs live an average of 13 to 15 years. This means that you should plan on spending well over a decade with your dog before bringing one home, especially if you adopt them when they’re still a puppy.
Coat. Löwchen have long, wavy coats that are typically clipped in a unique, lion-like cut. This cut involves closely clipping most of their hindquarters and the base of their tails. This leaves their manes and tail tips long and fluffy, which gives the dogs a lion-like appearance.
Löwchen are a very colorful breed. The AKC recognizes 24 different colors for their coats, including:
These dogs can also come with eight different types of markings including:
- Tan points
- Silver points
- Irish pied
- Cream markings
Eyes. Löwchen eyes should be set well into their skulls. They’re large, round, and set far apart. Their eye colors range from darker to lighter shades of brown depending on their coat color.
Personality. Löwchen are friendly, positive dogs with huge hearts. They’re not just known as lion dogs for their looks. They’re also incredibly brave for their size and will try to fiercely defend their owners and themselves from perceived threats.
Otherwise, they’re outgoing dogs that like to socialize with their families. The Löwchen temperament is alert and inquisitive but never overly aggressive.
Caring for Löwchen
Grooming. Löwchen are simple to maintain, but you’ll need to find a groomer to maintain their lion-like cut. Otherwise, brush your dog thoroughly every few days to help spread their natural oils and keep them looking their best. You should also give your dog a bath every couple of weeks.
Clean their ears regularly to prevent infections. Trim their nails regularly because long nails can make walking painful. Brush their teeth on a daily basis with a doggy-safe toothpaste to complete their grooming routine.
Feeding. Make sure that your pet has access to clean water at all times.
Your löwchen should be fed with high-quality dog food. Try to find a brand that your pet enjoys. Make sure that the nutritional requirements are specific to their stage of life, including puppy and senior-specific foods.
Always consult your veterinarian before choosing to make an at-home blend for your dog. Making your own food is a complicated process. You need to make sure that you’re meeting all of your dog’s nutritional needs.
Also make sure that you know what human foods are safe for your dog to eat before feeding them anything from your kitchen.
Exercise and mental stimulation. Löwchen need a moderate amount of physical activity. The AKC rates them a three out of five for their energy levels. They’re content playing around in a fenced-in area and prefer physical activities that involve their owners. You can play fetch with your dog or take them on long walks. Keep in mind that these dogs don’t do well with long-distance runs.
They do need a decent amount of mental stimulation. The AKC rates them a three out of five for this trait. You can achieve this by mixing up activities and consistently providing them with new challenges.
Doggy sports are a good way to provide both mental and physical stimulation. These dogs are particularly good at obedience and agility competitions.
Veterinary visits, medications, and immunizations. Your veterinarian is the best person to determine all of the vaccinations that your pet needs. In general, all dogs need a core set.
This includes vaccinations for:
- Canine parvovirus
- Parainfluenza virus
These can begin as early as six weeks of age. There are other non-core vaccinations that you should discuss with your veterinarian.
Dosages for flea and tick medications are based on your dog's weight and used as needed. Oral and skin-based applications are available from your veterinarian or other distributors.
Many of these medications can be effective against a variety of pests and parasites, so talk to your veterinarian to figure out the best one for you. These days, heartworm medication is also recommended year-round in all parts of the U.S.
Health Problems to Watch for With Löwchen
For the most part, löwchen are healthy dogs, but there are still some problems that you could encounter in your pet.
Löwchen health issues can include:
- Patellar luxation. This is a common cause of lameness in dogs that’s due to problems with your pet’s knee joint. They could be born with it or develop the problem from an injury. The treatment will depend on how severe your dog’s condition is but could include surgery.
- Hip dysplasia. This occurs when the ball and socket of your dog's hip joint don’t develop properly. The bones grind against each other, eventually wearing down and making it difficult for your dog to move. Your veterinarian can evaluate your dog’s joints and see how likely they are to cause problems throughout your dog's life.
- Cataracts. These can form on your dog’s eyes as they age. They make your dog’s lenses more opaque, so your pet will slowly lose their vision. Cataracts can be treated with surgery, but many dogs are able to adjust to the condition on their own.
- Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA). With PRA, you may start to notice your dog struggling to see at first, particularly at dusk and dawn. At present, there isn’t a treatment for this condition. Your vet should perform annual eye exams to look for any signs of deterioration.
- Deafness. This is a heritable condition, so pay attention to your pet when they’re young to see if they listen to you. Have your veterinarian check them out as soon as you notice any problems. The condition could be an ear infection that requires immediate treatment.
- Legg-Calve-Perthes disease. This condition affects the hip joint. You should have your dog's hips regularly examined, particularly at young ages, to watch for signs of this condition.
Special Considerations for Löwchen
Before choosing to bring one home, there are some löwchen characteristics that you should keep in mind. They’re very good with young children. The AKC rates them a five out of five for this trait. Unfortunately, they’re less good with other dogs and strangers. The AKC rates them a three out of five for both of these traits.
Luckily, these problems can be fixed with early training and socialization. They don’t respond well to harsh methods, so always keep up a positive attitude while training this pet. They are eager to please, so you shouldn’t have too much trouble getting them to listen to you.
One trait that you’ll want to pay attention to is their barking. Without proper training as a puppy, they might begin barking constantly at any little noise or disturbance. Teach them early that this isn’t a necessary or acceptable behavior.
In terms of their physical characteristics, they rarely shed and are actually considered a non-shedding breed. They also rarely drool.
History of Löwchen
Löwchen are a very old breed of dog. No one is exactly sure of their origins, and dog historians have debated the point for quite some time. We do know for sure that they’ve been a popular pet in continental Europe for at least the last 500 years.
They possibly originated in Germany but were also believed to come from the Mediterranean region for a long time. They’re from the same kind of breeding stock that produced the bichon frise and the maltese.
Written and pictorial records of these dogs exist from the middle ages. These show that the breed has been mostly unchanged for centuries.
By the time of the middle ages, löwchen were popular dogs for noblewomen in particular in countries as far apart as Italy and Russia. Their distinct lion-style cut has been around for possibly as long as the breed has existed, but no one knows its exact origins.
The first löwchen Club of America was formed in 1972. In 1973, they were one of the rarest breeds in the world with only 65 registered dogs. They’ve bounced back a bit in popularity since then.
The AKC added them to the miscellaneous group in 1996 and transferred them to the non-sporting group in 1999.