How do we get our Leonbergers?

Owner Surrender

As Leo lovers, we understand how difficult it would be to surrender a beloved Leonberger. But sometimes it is the very best decision a Leo owner can make. If you find yourself in a situation that calls for it, we can help you through the painful process of surrendering your Leo. And we will do everything in our power to make it as easy as possible. And after you have surrendered your Leonberger to our rescue, we will find the very best home for your beloved dog and will keep track of him/her to ensure that they are receiving the very best care.

The process: We find out the reason for the dog coming into rescue and get the dog¹s full history, including any health information. If lack of training or easily dealt with behavior problems are the cause, and if the owner is willing, we attempt to help the owner keep the dog by offering training suggestions and resources.

If the dog¹s behavior is too much for the owner or said owner is not willing to work with the dog, then one of a few things may happen. If the dog lives close enough to a volunteer experienced enough to do a basic evaluation, the dog is evaluated and matched with an appropriate foster home. If not, the dog is transported to the Regional Rep, or another experienced evaluator, for fostering.

Dogs with basic issues are evaluated by experienced volunteers, some who are trainers. In many cases, the change of enviroment coupled with consistent training is all it takes to correct behavior problems. However, if the evaluator feels that a professional review is warranted, LeoRescue pays for it. If the dog needs training beyond what the foster parents can provide themselves, LeoRescue pays for it. In short, we do everything we can to correct any behavioral issues.

Once a dog has been in our care for at least two weeks, has no medical or behavioral issues, it can be adopted. We examine applications carefully, do background checks, home visits, and more. Once the perfect home is located, then the dog is placed in that home. Afterward, we follow-up frequently with the new home owners to ensure things are going well and are always available for counselling or guidance.

To surrender a Leonberger to our rescue, please download the Surrender Form. We understand how difficult the decision can be, so your Regional Representative can help you with the whole process.

Shelter Dogs

Volunteers are sent to identify the dog as a Leo. The dog is evaluated by volunteers in a kennel setting, taking into account the shelter worker's experience and the fact that the dog is in a highly stressful situation. If the volunteer feels the dog is a Leo, the dog is removed from the shelter and transported to the regional rep or a foster home with the experience to deal with an unevaluated dog. From here fostering proceeds as for owner surrender.

Puppy Mill Dogs

Mill dogs turned over to rescue typically have had little to no human interaction, and have a wide range of health issues. These dogs are almost always placed in a kennel or vet/kennel situation where we can begin treating the health issues and start to gradually introduce human contact. The dogs are also evaluated by a professional with the knowledge of the specific issues these dogs have. These evaluations tend to be performed over more than one encounter, to allow the dogs to adjust to the changes in their enviroment and health as well as to become accustomed to human contact. These evaluations are flexible and limited in their breadth; we look for relationships between the dogs, who depends on whom, and whether it is better to keep them together or separate them.

So far, we have seen no aggression, only severe under-socialization and shyness. A surprisingly high number of dogs have made remarkable progress in the right foster homes and have been shown to have a solid genetic background in terms of temperament. Others have not been able to overcome the dreadful nature of their life in the mills and their personality will always reflect that experience. So far, none have been so devastated as to not find a level of peace when in the right setting. I say so far, because we have at least two that are not out of the woods yet and may never reach the point where the good things in life outweigh their fears and unrelenting stress.

Fostering a Mill dog requires special and experienced foster homes. We are in desperately need of such homes—if you have that experience or are interested in learning how to deal with these dogs, PLEASE let us know. As a rule, the foster period for a Mill dog is much longer than other dogs.

Dogs With Aggression Issues

Here we step into a complex area. LeoRescue's policy in dealing with aggression is highly flexible. To begin with, we recognize that “aggression” is a term that doesn't come close to representing the various behaviors collapsed into it, let alone the many levels of these behaviors.

If an owner calls LeoRescue wanting to relinquish an aggressive dog, we thoroughly investigate the situation. We ask that the dog be given a thorough health check, as there are several health-related triggers for aggression, such as thyroid imbalance. We ask detailed questions about training, environment, changes in life/lifestyle, the target of the aggression, the predictability of the behavior, the level of aggression, whether the behavior is escalating, whether or not the dog has bitten, the type of bite, etc.. In other words, we make every attempt to quantify the behavior and identify the cause.

Decisions are made on multiple levels. Is the dog clearly in the wrong home? Does the dog's history of bites allow us to place it? Can the dog be trusted to not harm anyone when placed in a home (keeping in mind that most homes think they can handle much more than they actually can)? Liability comes into play, but our interpretation of liability goes beyond financial issues—and yes, LeoRescue has insurance. We consider the family adopting the dog, the kids, the neighbor¹s kids, the fact that dogs do get away from the most experienced owners. We consider the dog's welfare should it do harm. We consider the reasons the dog bites and what that says about the quality of their life, what it says about the demons they are fighting. We consider the potential damage to the breed in general should the Leonberger become identified as a “dangerous” or “aggressive” breed.

LeoRescue will not place dogs whose aggressive behavior is unpredictable and manageable only by keeping it safely contained away from everyone. As heartbreaking as it is, LeoRescue cannot and will not base its decisions on the fact that 90% of the time the dog¹s aggression was not the dog¹s choice in the first place but the only way it knew to control its world. The decision has to be based on whether the dog is likely or not to cause harm again. The smallest indication that the dog might indeed cause harm means the dog cannot be placed.

If, after professional evaluation, it is determined that a dog is not safe to place into a home, the owner is informed that euthanasia is, sadly, the only option. If the owner cannot handle euthanizing their dog, we will do it for them. We recognize the difficulty in making such a painful decision, and we do not pass judgment.