Dario, a two-year-old Leonberger, made headlines at Westminster this month in an unusual way: in his run around the ring, he abandoned etiquette in favor of some treats sneaked from his handler’s pocket. The bouncy Leo had the judges, the audience, and even his handler, Sam Mammano, laughing uproariously as he tried repeatedly to work goodies from Mammano’s flapping jacket while in full motion.
You can watch the video of Dario’s antics here:
Though he didn’t place at Westminster, Dario immediately gained a global fan base from people who saw his video, which was shared all over the world.
Dario was an excellent Leonberger ambassador by inadvertently finding an outlet to share a glimpse into the Leo’s true personality. However, his overnight celebrity status is almost certain to herald a sharp rise in parties suddenly very interested in owning one of these big, beautiful clowns for themselves. In cases like this, the chances of irresponsible breeding and even puppy mills inevitably increase in response to increased interest. It’s possible that this could eventually lead to widespread damage to a breed that has until now been so carefully bred and controlled in this country.
There is a level of responsibility that comes with owning a rare dog of generally superior breeding. Leonbergers are not for everyone! While they are huge, gorgeous, and loving, they are also free-spirited with much less interest in following commands than, say, a Golden Retriever. They require firm direction and handling, healthy energy outlets, and – often – an infinite sea of patience.
As we field questions about our dogs from people who “really really want one!” we must remember that it’s better not to encourage the uninitiated to go grab a Leo on a whim. Keep in mind that your responsibility to the breed goes beyond your own dog(s); maintaining good breeding practices is even more important to a breed’s survival than its popularity.