One of the rarest dogs in the world, the löwchen (pronounced lerv-chun) is a European breed known for its petite frame, mane-like fur, and playful attitudes. The löwchen's unique name actually means "little lion" in German, which is why this breed is often affectionately referred to as the little lion dog. These petite pups boast a huge heart, with a courageous, fun-loving, and affectionate disposition that makes them the ideal companion for any family.
Height: 12 to 14 inches
Weight: 10 to 18 pounds
Coat: Long, thick, soft, slightly wavy coat that is often cut into a distinctive Lion Clip
Coat Color: Come in a wide variety of colors and patterns.
Life Span: 13 to 15 years
Temperament: Loyal, playful, attentive, active, protectively, lively
Origin: France, Germany, Europe
Characteristics of the Löwchen
The löwchen is a adaptable little dog that can make a fantastic pet for most families. The breed is known for being very affectionate and they enjoy being showered with love at all times. However, they are best suited to living in a home where they will have company most of the day to prevent separation anxiety from surfacing. They are known for getting along well with respectful children and other animals and can be very playful and fun-loving.
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History of the Löwchen
Despite their name being of German origin, the exact history of the löwchen is still something that is debated amongst breed enthusiasts and historians. Some argue that the breed is related to the Poodle and thus originated from Northern Europe, around the French, Belgian, and German parts of the continent. Others believe they are more closely related to the Bichon Frise and were first developed in the Mediterranean region. There are even suggestions that they may have come from Russia or Tibet.
Dogs resembling the breed, with the distinctive lion clip haircut, have been depicted in paintings as far back as the 16th century. There is no debating that the löwchen, wherever they first came from, is a breed with a long history. Given their representation in a variety of artwork, it is clear that they were a popular choice amongst selected gentry and regal figures. It has even been argued that their famous haircut came about because their warm skin acted as a hot water bottle when ladies kept them in their beds.
The first formal löwchen breeder is recorded as an individual named Dr. Walthier in early 19th century Germany. At the end of the 19th century, breed enthusiast Madame Benert was credited with ensuring the survival of this rare breed. They were introduced in the United States in the 1970s and received recognition by the AKC in 1999. Löwchens are still considered to be one of the rarest breeds today, although numbers are steadily increasing.
Löwchens are fairly easy to care for thanks to their petite size, but they will need more exercise and grooming than you might assume. Their coat is high-maintenance, and they will need frequent brushing and trims to stay looking their best. Your löwchen will also need to stay active, though thankfully it will be easy for them to get their exercise indoors or outdoors.
Despite its small size and love of pampering, löwchens are not simply lapdogs. They are an active, curious, and energetic breed, and they will need a decent amount of daily exercise and plenty of enrichment around the home to keep them stimulated. They are known for enjoying and excelling in agility and will enjoy mental stimulation from dog puzzles. Likewise, they can definitely get their exercise indoors (as well as outdoors), provided they live in a big enough home for brief games of catch or physical activity.
The löwchen has a long, single coat and, while they do not shed much, they will need regular grooming to prevent mats and tangles from developing. Their coat grows quickly too and they'll need regular clipping to stop it from becoming unruly. They are usually given a simple puppy trim, but can also receive the traditional show-style Lion Clip that distinguishes the breed. This style of clip varies depending on the country you are in, but it generally involves the hair around their rear end being shaved off completely.
Additionally, you should trim your löwchen's nails about once a month and check their ears weekly for wax buildup, redness, and abnormalities, which can be a sign of serious infections. Also, aim to brush your dog's teeth every day.
Löwchens are a clever little breed and respond extremely well to positive reinforcement training methods. They learn commands and tricks very quickly and are eager to please their owners. They even have a history as circus performers in centuries past. The löwchen is known for being a fearless little dog and can sometimes take on the role of watchdog, alerting with frequent barking. To prevent their barking from becoming excessive, you may need to put in extra training around this aspect of their personality.
Common Health Problems
Löwchens are generally considered a robust and healthy breed. However, as with most breeds, they are known for being associated with a few inheritable health conditions. A good breeder will perform health checks on prospective parents to minimize the risk of these conditions developing in puppies.
Some of the conditions Löwchens can be prone to include:
- Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA): This is a degenerative eye condition that can eventually lead to complete blindness. It is not curable—however, most dogs can learn to adjust to their sight loss and still enjoy a high quality of life with proper support from their owners.
- Hip Dysplasia: This is a relatively common condition, especially for smaller breeds. It involves the abnormal position of one or both hip joints, and it can range from mild to severe in terms of discomfort and mobility limitations. In severe cases, surgery can be required.
- Luxating Patella: This is another joint issue, this time involving the knee joint slipping out of place. Like with hip dysplasia, it can range in severity and is another issue that can require surgery if the problem is serious.
Diet and Nutrition
As with all dogs, löwchens should be fed a high-quality, balanced, and appropriately portion-controlled diet. It can be easy to spoil your dog with too many unhealthy treats and table scraps—or just by simple overfeeding. Obesity is one of the biggest health problems in dogs across the United States, and it can lead to a host of other (more serious) problems.
Where to Adopt or Buy a Löwchen
Because the löwchen is a rare breed, it may mean you'll have to go on a waiting list or travel further to secure a puppy. If you decide this is the right breed for you, it can be easy to get carried away in your excitement and rush into something. Make sure that you do your research and are prepared to be patient to wait for a pup from a reputable breeder.
Unscrupulous backyard breeders and puppy mills often target rare breed enthusiasts. By buying a puppy from a source of this type, you are inadvertently helping an industry rife with cruel practices thrive. Your puppy may not have been appropriately socialized, could have health problems, and may have been taken from their mother too early.
A good place to start your research would be to contact The Löwchen Club of America. Given their rarity, there will not be too many löwchens in rescue organizations. Don't let that put you off considering adoption, though. The Löwchen Club of America has a rescue program, and there are lots of other deserving small breed dogs in shelters across the country looking for their forever homes.
Affectionate and fun-loving
Confident and adaptable
Doesn't shed much
Can be vocal
Not suited to a house where they will be left too long on their own
Regular grooming required to prevent matting
More Dog Breeds and Further Research
There are lots of fantastic small breeds out there worth considering. If you think a löwchen is the right dog for you, make sure to do ample research—talk to breeders, other dog owners, and anyone else with experience with the breed to figure out if they're the right pick for your family.
If you're interested in similar breeds, check out:
There’s a whole world of potential dog breeds out there—with a little research, you can find the right one to bring home!
Are löwchens good apartment dogs?
Yes—thanks to their petite size, löwchens can be an excellent dog option for apartment dwellers. Even so, that does not mean they don't need daily activity. If you live in an apartment, make sure to take your dog out for frequent walks and trips to the dog park.
Are löwchens aggressive?
Löwchens are not considered an aggressive dog breed—however, they are protective of their home and families, and may bark excessively at strangers or other dogs.
Are löwchens rare?
Yes! Löwchens are a rare breed—among the rarest in the world. While they are still bred in the United States, it can be difficult to find a breeder in your area, and you may need to travel to secure your dog.