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The Lowchen is a small purebred from Germany and France and was developed to be a toy dog companion. Its name means little lion and it is sometimes called the Little Lion Dog. It also does well in show events such as conformation, agility and obedience and is active for a small dog. While the name might make you think it is a fierce little thing in fact that is just in reference to its looks, its temperament is quite gentle and playful. For this reason it is a great family dog and therapy dog.
|The Lowchen at A Glance|
|Other names||Petit Chien Lion and Little Lion Dog|
|Average weight||8 to 18 pounds|
|Average height||12 to 14 inches|
|Life span||13 to 15 years|
|Coat type||Long, silky, dense|
|Color||Black, tan, brown, blue, red, silver, white, grey – any|
|Popularity||Not popular – ranked 171st by the AKC|
|Intelligence||Above average – bright and easy to train|
|Tolerance to heat||Good – can handle very warm or moderately hot weather but nothing very hot or extreme|
|Tolerance to cold||Good – can handle moderately cold weather but nothing very cold or extreme|
|Shedding||Low – not a breed that will leave a lot if any of hair around the home|
|Drooling||Low – not a breed prone to a lot of slobber or drool|
|Obesity||Average – can gain weight but not prone to it, watch its food and exercise|
|Grooming/brushing||High maintenance – will need more care than many breeds|
|Barking||Frequent – will need a train it to stop on command|
|Exercise needs||Quite active – active for a small breed though this is still easy to fulfill|
|Trainability||Easy to train with the right approach|
|Friendliness||Excellent with socialization|
|Good first dog||Very good – even those without experience could easily own one|
|Good family pet||Excellent with socialization|
|Good with children||Excellent with socialization – supervision with small children may be needed due to its smaller size|
|Good with other dogs||Very good with socialization – tend to challenge larger dogs so supervision needed for their own sake|
|Good with other pets||Very good with socialization|
|Good with strangers||Very good with socialization – approachable and friendly|
|Good apartment dog||Size makes its excellent but it is a frequent barker which is a problem when you have close neighbors|
|Handles alone time well||Low – does not like being left alone for long periods and can suffer from separation anxiety|
|Health issues||Quite a healthy breed, just a few issues such as eye problems and patellar luxation|
|Medical expenses||$435 a year for basic health care and pet insurance|
|Food expenses||$75 a year for a good quality dry dog food and dog treats|
|Miscellaneous expenses||$460 a year for grooming, toys, miscellaneous items, license and basic training|
|Average annual expenses||$970 as a starting figure|
|Cost to purchase||$2,000-3,000|
|Rescue organizations||Several including the Lowchen Club of America Rescue|
|Biting Statistics||None reported|
The Lowchen’s Beginnings
There is some dispute between dog experts as to where exactly the Lowchen comes from. Its name is German so Germany is a big possibility, but it was popular in other European countries like Holland, Spain, Italy and France and there is also some argument that it is actually Mediterranean in origins. Lowchen is German for ‘little lion’. It can be found dating back to the 1400s and its popularity stayed through to the 1800s. Its name comes from how it was groomed to look like a lion. It was bred to be a vermin catcher and a companion and was kept by the poor and was popular amongst the nobility and royalty. It was even used by many ladies like a hot water bottle!
The dog’s image can be found on many tapestries, paintings and drawings and can also be found in some written records too. Its appearance has changed very little to how it seems to have been back then. However in the mid to late 19th century its popularity started to drop. As early as the late 19th century there were some attempts being made to increase its numbers. While initially these attempts proved success, they were then almost wiped out by the World War I and World War II.
New Lease on Life
After the wars the same Belgium breeder who had made efforts before the war to save the breed, continued her attempts after. Her name was Madame Bennert and she spent years searching for the few dogs that had survived the wars. She was aided by Dr. Hans Rickert and some other breeders and owners. When she had all the Lowchens she could find she began a breeding program and when she died Dr. Rickert carried on. Their efforts though were a slow process. There was a point where it became the rarest dog in the world and it was named as such by the Guinness Book of World Records in 1960 and it was renamed as such in the early 1970s with a reported amount of dogs being just 65 to 70.
Lowchens came to Emgland first and then from there went to the US in the early 1970s. At the time it was known as the Little Lion Dog. The Lowchen Club of America was formed and the breeds name was changed to Lowchen. It was recognized by the AKC in 1999. It is still a rare breed but now it is not facing extinction. It was the American TV show Hart to Hart where Freeway the beloved pet dog was a Lowchen that helped increase its popularity there. Today it is ranked 171st in popularity by the AKC.
The Dog You See Today
This is a small dog weighing just 8 to 18 pounds and standing 12 to 14 inches tall. It has a short but proportioned body and is a little longer than it is tall. It has a level topline and its tail is set high, carried like a cup handle and is medium length. It has a long, dense, flowing and wavy coat that should not be curly. It can come in any color such as black, tan, brown, blue, red, silver, white and grey. Often its coat is clipped with a lion cut, one that emphasizes its similarity to a lion in looks. Part of the tail, the hindquarters and part of the front legs are clipped close. Its mane is left long and the end of the tail is left tasseled. The Lowchen has a short head that it carries high with a broad skull and muzzle that is also short. The nose is dark and the eyes are round, set deep and dark. Its ears are pendant, feathered and are a moderate length.
The Inner Lowchen
Lowchens are very good watchdogs as they are alert and will bark to let you know if there is an intruder. However it is not likely to scare off any intruders and it is not considered to be a very protective breed so may not act to defend you or the home. It is a good breed for new owners as it is responsive, loyal, cheerful and affectionate. Lowchens are lively, cheerful, playful and sociable. They are also smart and fearless but also have a gentle and somewhat sensitive side. It does bark frequently so a command to stop it will likely be needed.
This is not a delicate lap dog, it is a tough and robust dog, and it can be strong willed. You will need to be firm with it so it does not develop small dog syndrome and become loud, snappy, destructive and hard to control. With the right owners it is good natured, sweet and happy and great to be around. It does enjoy it cuddles and will want to sleep in your bed with you. In fact it does tend to bond very closely with you and will not like being left alone in the home. It can suffer from separation anxiety and it needs a certain level of attention. It will need a good mix of activity play and lap time. It likes being around people and if it is unhappy it will express that through barking, hyperactivity and destructive behavior. It likes to sit itself on the back of the sofa or a chair or on window ledge to watch the world go by.
Living with a Lowchen
What will training look like?
Training a Lowchen is easy with the right approach but for those with less experience it may be a bit more of a gradual process. It is often a quick learner, it is smart and it likes to be with you and make you happy. Make the training sessions a lot of fun and keep them short and varied and that will keep it interested in what is going on. Be consistent and firm though while also being positive. Offer it treats, praise and encouragement. If you are too meek and do not make it clear you are the leader it can become difficult as it thinks it is the boss. It is a great idea to extend its training from just basic obedience as it does well at it and gives it plenty of mental stimulation.
Early socialization is also very important with this dog, some can lean towards being timid and socialization will keep it confident and well rounded rather than becoming overly cautious, suspicious and snapping out in defense. Housebreaking can be harder than regular training, as is the case with a lot of small breeds. Just keep correcting them when you can, use crate training and stick to a schedule.
How active is the Lowchen?
Lowchen are a lively and energetic small dog and while it can live in an apartment thanks to its size, its barking may be an issue. With its size even being an energetic dog it is easy to keep it happy and healthy. It is active inside and while a yard is a bonus it is not needed. If there is a yard keep it well fenced and be warned it does like to dig so have a space for it where that is okay. It needs a couple of walks a day and a place to run safely off leash and play now and then. A dog park is a good idea and gives it an opportunity to socialize too. It can play ball for hours and it loves being outside. Make sure it gets enough mental activity as well as physical.
Caring for the Lowchen
The Lowchen does have a lot of grooming needs, though at least since it is small this is not as time consuming as it might be with larger breeds. It will need brushing regularly to prevent tangles forming and will need regular visits to a professional grooming for clipping or trimming. It does not shed a great deal so there will not be a lot of hair to clean up around the home. It could be a good breed for allergy sufferers but this should be tested with a visit before you buy, just in case. Without regular trimming and brushing its coat easily matts and turns into a mess. Common cuts are the puppy cut or the lion cut. Do not bathe too often, just keep it to when it is needed as otherwise you can damage its natural oils.
Other needs include trimming its nails when they get too long, brushing its teeth and cleaning its ears. The nails should be done by a groomer or vet if you are not familiar with it. They have blood vessels and nerves in them and if you nick that it will hurt a great deal and cause bleeding. Its teeth should be brushed at least two to three times a week and check its ears once week. Make sure there are no signs of ear infection like irritation, redness, discharge or wax build up. To clean the ears never insert anything into the ear, just wipe them clean with damp warm cloth or cotton ball and ear cleanser.
It will need to be fed ½ to 1 cup of a good quality dry dog food a day, and that should be split into two meals. How much exactly can vary from one Lowchen to another depending on its metabolism, level of activity, age, health and size.
How is the Lowchen with children and other animals?
With socialization and when it has been raised with them it is very good with children, it can be a play mate, a best friend, run off some energy together, loves to play ball or fetch and can offer affection and comfort too. It is friendly and gentle but small children should still be supervised and always make sure you teach children how to touch and approach dogs in a safe and kind way. It can get along well with other pets with socialization and the same with other dogs though the latter it may need watching with. It does have a tendency to see itself as larger than it is, and will challenge other dogs without proper leadership, and will not back down from challenges.
What Might Go Wrong?
Lowchen have a life expectancy of 13 to 15 years and is in general quite a healthy breed. Some issues might include patellar luxation, eye problems and ear infections.
Being a rare breed there is not a lot of opportunity for it to be reported as being a part of any kind of incident. In reports from the US and Canada over the last 35 years on dogs attacking people and doing bodily harm, there is no mention of the Lowchen. It is not an aggressive breed though and apart from some dog dominance issues it is not a dog to be concerned about when out with it. Any breed though can have an off day, there is always the potential for an incident even if it is small. Things a good owner can do to lessen those chances are to make sure its well socialized, trained, cared for, given enough activity and attention.
Your Pup’s Price Tag
Being such a rare breed the price tag on this puppy is huge. You could end up paying between $5000 to $8000. There are less than a few hundred around the entire world. The waiting list you will be put on could be longer than just a few months. There may be backyard breeders or puppy mill sourced places like pet stores that offer a dog sooner, but these should be avoided. While a shelter or rescue might bring you to a mix breed you fall in love with, you are unlikely to find a Lowchen at one.
If you find a Lowchen and are ready to bring it home there are some initial costs to take of. Medical tests and needs like shots, blood tests, deworming, micro-chipping, spaying or neutering and a physical exam will cost around $260. Items for your dog like a crate, collar and leash, carrier and bowls and so on will cost around $120.
Then there are also yearly costs to be able to cover, for example a good quality dry dog food and dog treats will cost about $75 a year. Basic health needs like flea and tick prevention, shots, check ups and pet insurance will be around $435 a year. Miscellaneous costs like basic training, license, grooming, miscellaneous items and toys will cost $460 a year. This gives a yearly cost of around $970.
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The Lowchen is a small, elegant, and lively breed that loves to be around people, will need a certain level of attention and makes a great companion and family dog. It does bark a lot though so will need training for that and it needs a lot of care in terms of grooming, though you could ease that by using a professional groomer. This is a dog that is good for most people as while it likes to be active it is easy to give it what it needs.
Featured Image Credit: Svetlana Valoueva, Shutterstock
Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts’ knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.
- The Lowchen’s Beginnings
- New Lease on Life
- The Dog You See Today
- The Inner Lowchen
- Living with a Lowchen
- Caring for the Lowchen
- How is the Lowchen with children and other animals?
- What Might Go Wrong?
- Your Pup’s Price Tag