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Sally Anne Thompson, Animal Photography
The Lowchen’s German name means “little lion.” He is a cute, charismatic little dog who loves to clown around and be the center of attention. When he encounters other dogs he sometimes thinks he’s as big as a lion and must be prevented from taking them on. His long, dense coat is soft and comes in any color or combination.
Very popular in parts of Europe in the 1500s, the Lowchen was nearly extinct by World War II. A Belgian woman managed to revive the breed with just two females and one male.
If you remember Freeway from the popular 1980s television series Hart To Hart, you’ve seen a Lowchen, albeit one without the breed’s distinctive lion trim. It’s not surprising that one of these charismatic little dogs became a TV star. They have a clownish personality and love to be the center of attention. The name comes from German words meaning “little lion,” and the breed’s history dates to the Renaissance, as evidenced by paintings and woodcuts from the era depicting the breed.
Curious and smart, but sometimes stubborn, the Lowchen is playful, fast on his feet, and enjoys the outdoors. Despite his small size, approximately 15 pounds as an adult, he lives up to his name and won’t back down from anything or anyone. That seems cute, but it means you have to protect the dog from himself. He won’t fare well if he tries to take on a bigger dog and isn’t restrained.
He’s alert to everything going on around him, and you must teach him early on to temper his desire to bark. He learns quickly and can do well in agility and obedience trials. He has a happy, cheerful personality and can get along well with children and other pets.
You may hear from breeders that the Lowchen is a hypoallergenic breed, but that’s not true. It’s not a dog’s hair that triggers allergies, but dander (dead skin flakes) and saliva. There’s no escaping any of those when you live with a dog, no matter what breed it is. If a hypoallergenic dog is important to you, meet and interact with as many Lowchen as possible to find out if you react to the breed.
Exercise is good for every dog, so make sure the Lowchen gets some activity daily. While it’s tempting to carry this little dog everywhere you go, resist the impulse and let him walk on his own four feet. He’ll be happier and better behaved for it.
Lowchen were bred exclusively as companion dogs. They need to live in the house and never outdoors.
Lowchen puppies are adorable, and it’s one of the reasons they are so popular. Cute puppies sell, and that makes the Lowchen a favorite of puppy mills and greedy, irresponsible breeders. Do your homework before buying one of these little dogs, and you’ll be well rewarded with a charming and affectionate friend. The Lowchen is an uncommon breed. You may have to wait several months or even a year or more before a puppy is available for you to take home.
The Lowchen’s name comes from German words meaning “little lion.” Paintings and woodcuts give evidence that dogs resembling the Lowchen have existed since the 15th century. A painting by Jan van Eyck, The Birth of the Baptist, which dates to 1422, depicts one of the curious-looking little dogs and is perhaps the earliest visual proof of the breed’s age. The expressive woodcuts by German artist Albrecht Durer also provide Lowchen lovers with a glimpse of their breed’s past.
During the Renaissance, a period rife with symbolism, the little lion dogs represented courage. Knights who were killed in battle were buried with the statue of a lion at their feet, but if they died of natural causes, the statue of a lion dog was substituted. The little lion dogs were also popular with court ladies, who kept them as lap dogs, flea catchers, and foot warmers.
As the centuries passed, the Lowchen’s popularity waned. By World War II, the breed was considered rare and came close to disappearing. A Belgian woman, Madame Bennert, managed to revive the breed with just two females and one male. She worked closely with German breeders to increase the Lowchen’s numbers and maintain its quality. English breeders began importing the dogs in 1968, and three Lowchen were imported by an American couple in 1971.
The first Lowchen to achieve pop culture stardom was an untrimmed dog who starred as Freeway, the popular canine co-star of the 1980s television series Hart to Hart. The breed was recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1999. Lowchen currently rank 147th among the breeds registered by the AKC, down from 131st a decade ago.
The lively Lowchen has an outgoing personality and what can only be described as a sense of humor. He loves to clown around, and his vivacity is captivating. The charming ragamuffin of a dog has a spirited nature, and the expression in his dark eyes melts hearts. In short, he has charisma to spare.
He’s an excellent watchdog, but don’t expect him to scare away intruders. He’s more likely to give them a happy welcome lick and show them to your jewelry box. He goes on about it whenever he sees or hears anything out of the ordinary, so be sure to nip nuisance barking in the bud.
In the matter of training, the Lowchen is curious and smart, but sometimes stubborn. He’s also playful and fast on his feet. With the right motivation — usually food — he learns quickly and can do well in agility and obedience trials. He’ll love for you to challenge his intelligence, but don’t bore him by making him repeat things he already knows.
Don’t expect this dog to be satisfied just sitting around. The Lowchen enjoys the outdoors. He doesn’t need scads of exercise, but he’ll certainly be happy to go on long walks or hikes or play games in the house or yard.
Even though he’s small, the Lowchen thinks he’s a big dog. He does his best to live up to his name, never backing down from anything. It’s important to protect him from himself by not letting him engage with bigger dogs. Socialize the Lowchen early and often so he learns to act politely around his canine buddies.
Start training your puppy the day you bring him home. Even at 8 or 10 weeks old, he is capable of soaking up everything you can teach him. Get him into a puppy kindergarten class by the time he is 10 to 12 weeks old, so you can start building a strong working relationship, and socialize, socialize, socialize. However, be aware that many puppy training classes require certain vaccines (like kennel cough) to be up to date, and many veterinarians recommend limited exposure to other dogs and public places until puppy vaccines (including rabies, distemper and parvovirus) have been completed. In lieu of formal training, you can begin training your puppy at home and socializing him among family and friends until puppy vaccines are completed.
Talk to the breeder, describe exactly what you’re looking for in a dog, and ask for assistance in selecting a puppy. Breeders see their puppies daily and can make uncannily accurate recommendations once they know something about your lifestyle and personality. Whatever you want from a Lowchen, look for one whose parents have nice personalities and who has been well socialized from early puppyhood.
All dogs have the potential to develop genetic health problems, just as all people have the potential to inherit a particular disease. Run, don’t walk, from any breeder who does not offer a health guarantee on puppies, who tells you that the breed is 100 percent healthy and has no known problems, or who tells you that her puppies are isolated from the main part of the household for health reasons. A reputable breeder will be honest and open about health problems in the breed and the incidence with which they occur in her lines.
Fortunately, the Lowchen is a pretty healthy little dog. Potential health problems include a knee condition called patellar luxation and eye problems such as cataracts and progressive retinal atrophy.
Not all of these conditions are detectable in a growing puppy, and it can be hard to predict whether an animal will be free of these maladies, which is why you must find a reputable breeder who is committed to breeding the healthiest animals possible. They should be able to produce independent certification that the parents of the dog (and grandparents, etc.) have been screened for genetic defects and deemed healthy for breeding. Ask the breeder for written evidence that both a puppy’s parents have knee evaluations from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals and are certified free of eye disease by the Canine Eye Registry Foundation.
If the breeder tells you she doesn’t need to do those tests because she’s never had problems in her lines, her dogs have been vet checked, or any of the other excuses bad breeders have for skimping on the genetic testing of their dogs, walk away immediately.
Careful breeders screen their breeding dogs for genetic disease and breed only the healthiest and best-looking specimens, but sometimes Mother Nature has other ideas and a puppy develops one of these diseases despite good breeding practices. Advances in veterinary medicine mean that in most cases the dogs can still live good lives. If you’re getting a puppy, ask the breeder about the ages of the dogs in her lines and what they died of.
Remember that after you’ve taken a new puppy into your home, you have the power to protect him from one of the more common health problems: obesity. Keeping a Lowchen at an appropriate weight is one of the easiest ways to extend his life. Make the most of diet and exercise to help ensure a healthier dog for life.
The Lowchen hallmark is the lion trim he wears: basically a mane of hair extending to the last rib, poufs of hair forming “cuffs” around the ankles, a bare rear end, and a bare tail with a plume of hair left at the tip.
The hair on the Lowchen is long, dense, and soft to the touch. Expect to spend 10 minutes a night removing tangles and mats from his single coat, and give him a more thorough brushing at least weekly. Take him to a professional groomer for his lion trim every two months. If the lion trim doesn’t appeal to you, keep him in a cute and simple puppy cut.
The rest is basic care. Trim his nails as needed, usually every week or two. Small dogs are prone to periodontal disease, so brush his teeth frequently with a vet-approved pet toothpaste for overall good health and fresh breath.
Whether you want to go with a breeder or get your dog from a shelter or rescue, here are some things to keep in mind.
Finding a good breeder is a great way to find the right puppy. A good breeder will match you with the right puppy and will, without question, have done all the health certifications necessary to screen out health problems as much as possible. She is more interested in placing pups in the right homes than making big bucks.
Good breeders will welcome your questions about temperament, health clearances, and what the dogs are like to live with, and come right back at you with questions of their own about what you’re looking for in a dog and what kind of life you can provide for him. A good breeder can tell you about the history of the breed, explain why one puppy is considered pet quality while another is not, and discuss what health problems affect the breed and the steps she takes take to avoid those problems.
Look for more information about the Lowchen and start your search for a good breeder on the website of The Lowchen Club of America. Choose a breeder who has agreed to abide by the LCA’s code of ethics, which prohibits the sale of puppies to or through pet stores and recommends that the breeder obtain health clearances on dogs before breeding them. Breeders who offer puppies at one price “with papers” and at a lower price “without papers” are unethical and should be reported to the LCA and the American Kennel Club.
Avoid breeders who seem interested only in how quickly they can unload a puppy on you and whether your credit card will go through. YYou should also bear in mind that buying a puppy from websites that offer to ship your dog to you immediately can be a risky venture, as it leaves you no recourse if what you get isn’t exactly what you expected. Put at least as much effort into researching your puppy as you would into choosing a new car or expensive appliance. It will save you money in the long run.
Lots of reputable breeders have websites, so how can you tell who’s good and who’s not? Red flags include puppies always being available, multiple litters on the premises, having your choice of any puppy, and the ability to pay online with a credit card. Quickie online purchases are convenient, but they are almost never associated with reputable breeders.
Whether you’re planning to get your new best friend from a breeder, a pet store, or another source, don’t forget that old adage “let the buyer beware”. Disreputable breeders and facilities that deal with puppy mills can be hard to distinguish from reliable operations. There’s no 100% guaranteed way to make sure you’ll never purchase a sick puppy, but researching the breed (so you know what to expect), checking out the facility (to identify unhealthy conditions or sick animals), and asking the right questions can reduce the chances of heading into a disastrous situation. And don’t forget to ask your veterinarian, who can often refer you to a reputable breeder, breed rescue organization, or other reliable source for healthy puppies.
The cost of a Lowchen puppy varies depending on the breeder’s locale, whether the pup is male or female, what titles his parents have, and whether he is best suited for the show ring or a pet home. The puppy you buy should have been raised in a clean home environment, from parents with health clearances and conformation (show) titles to prove that they are good specimens of the breed. Puppies should be temperament tested, vetted, dewormed, and socialized to give them a healthy, confident start in life.
And before you decide to buy a puppy, consider whether an adult Lowchen might better suit your needs and lifestyle. Puppies are loads of fun, but they require a lot of time and effort before they grow up to become the dogs of your dreams. An adult Lowchen may already have some training and will probably be less active, destructive, and demanding than a puppy. With an adult, you know more about what you’re getting in terms of personality and health and you can find adults through breeders or shelters. If you are interested in acquiring an older dog through breeders, ask them about purchasing a retired show dog or if they know of an adult dog who needs a new home. If you want to adopt a dog, read the advice below on how to do that.
There are many great options available if you want to adopt a dog from an animal shelter or breed rescue organization. Here is how to get started.
1. Use the Web
Sites like Petfinder.com can have you searching for a Lowchen in your area in no time flat. The site allows you to be very specific in your requests (housetraining status, for example) or very general (all the Lowchens available on Petfinder across the country). AnimalShelter.org can help you find animal rescue groups in your area. Also some local newspapers have “pets looking for homes” sections you can review.
Social media is another great way to find a dog. Post on your Facebook page that you are looking for a specific breed so that your entire community can be your eyes and ears.
2. Reach Out to Local Experts
Start talking with all the pet pros in your area about your desire for a Lowchen. That includes vets, dog walkers, and groomers. When someone has to make the tough decision to give up a dog, that person will often ask her own trusted network for recommendations.
3. Talk to Breed Rescue
Most people who love Lowchen love all Lowchen. That’s why breed clubs have rescue organizations devoted to taking care of homeless dogs. The Lowchen Club of America has a web page that can help lead you to a rescued dog. You can also search online for Lowchen rescues in your area.
The great thing about breed rescue groups is that they tend to be very upfront about any health conditions the dogs may have and are a valuable resource for advice. They also often offer fostering opportunities so, with training, you could bring a Lowchen home for a trial to see what the experience is like.
4. Key Questions to Ask
You now know the things to discuss with a breeder, but there are also questions you should discuss with shelter or rescue group staff or volunteers before you bring home a pup. These include:
What is his energy level?
How is he around other animals?
How does he respond to shelter workers, visitors, and children?
What is his personality like?
What is his age?
Is he housetrained?
Has he ever bitten or hurt anyone that they know of?
Are there any known health issues?
Wherever you acquire your Lowchen, make sure you have a good contract with the seller, shelter, or rescue group that spells out responsibilities on both sides. Petfinder offers an Adopters Bill of Rights that helps you understand what you can consider normal and appropriate when you get a dog from a shelter. In states with puppy lemon laws, be sure you and the person you get the dog from both understand your rights and recourses.
Puppy or adult, a breeder purchase or a rescue, take your Lowchen to your veterinarian soon after adoption. Your veterinarian will be able to spot problems and will work with you to set up a preventive regimen that will help you avoid many health issues.
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