Vital Stats:Dog Breed Group: Companion Dogs
Height: 1 foot to 1 foot, 2 inches tall at the shoulder
Weight: 9 to 18 pounds
Life Span: 13 to 15 years
With a name that translates to "lion dog," you might expect the Lowchen to have a fierce demeanor, but with people he's lionlike only in his looks. Playful and gentle, the Lowchen is a great companion for children and adults alike.
He is surprisingly robust and loves to roughhouse with his people. The Lowchen generally gets along well with everyone, but he can be shy of strangers. With proper socialization, this trait can be overcome, however. Generally, Lowchen will fit into any household whether there are dogs before they arrive or not. They also get along well with other pets.
The Lowchen is affectionate and loving. They thrive when they are with their people and can fit wherever that person is living, be it an apartment or a large estate. They should not be left outside or in a kennel, and doing so will not only lead to ill health for the dog but also to many temperamental problems.
Lowchens are not known for their high activity levels, but they enjoy their role as watch dog and will bark an alert whenever they see something they think merits a response. Some can also be partial to digging, and this habit can be difficult to break.
The name "lion dog" comes from the traditional Lowchen clip, with close-cut hindquarters and a full, natural mane, but the nickname applies to the little dog's big personality as well. Lowchen have the "small dog...big personality" down pat, and that can be a joy and a frustration.
They are lively and energetic, sweet and affectionate, and they will challenge any dog or rule if they decide to. They will take over the homes and lives of the people they love, and with their fierce determination and wonderful even temperament they will take over their owners' hearts as well.
- The Lowchen was not developed to be an outdoor or kennel dog. They are companion dogs and are happiest when they are in the company of the people they love.
- Barking is a much-enjoyed pastime for the Lowchen. They make excellent watchdogs with their alarm barking but they may become a nuisance to neighbors.
- Lowchen make wonderful apartment residents as long as their exercise requirements are met. Expect to spend at least 20 minutes per day exercising him. He makes an excellent walking companion and will go for long walks with his people.
- Although the Lowchen doesn't shed much, he still requires regular brushing and grooming to prevent tangles and mats and keep him in good health.
- Although not all Lowchen exhibit this trait, many enjoy digging and the habit may be difficult to discourage.
- Lowchen can be shy of new people, and it is important to socialize them at a young age to discourage any fearfulness or timid behaviors.
- Lowchens are companion dogs and may suffer from separation anxiety whenever their companions leave for the day. They are not the best breed for people who work long hours.
- To get a healthy dog, never buy a puppy from an irresponsible breeder, puppy mill, or pet store. Look for a reputable breeder who tests her breeding dogs to make sure they're free of genetic diseases that they might pass onto the puppies, and that they have sound temperaments.
There are several theories as to the origins of the Lowchen, and the debate is often steeped in controversy. One theory has the breed originating in Northern Europe, which includes Germany, Belgium, and France. It is believed that the Lowchen may be one of the founding breeds in the development of the Toy Poodle or may be linked to the founding breed.
Another theory is that the Lowchen is related to the Bichon breeds and originated in the Mediterranean. The third and possibly fourth theories are that the Lowchen may have originated in Russia or even Tibet.
Wherever the breed originated, we do know that its primary purpose was as a companion dog. It may also have been used as a rodent hunter and possibly as a little alarm dog. We also know that people in all stations of life owned the Lowchen, and they could be found in farms and castles alike.
The Lowchen has been depicted in art around the world through the centuries and the breed today is relatively unchanged from what it looked like centuries ago.
Over the years, Lowchen became less popular, and toward the end of the 19th century only a few remained. In 1897, a breeder named Madelaine Bennert took on the effort to save the Lowchen from the brink of extinction. She was successful, although World Wars I and II again threatened to wipe out the breed.
Madame Bennert restarted her effort to save the breed and spent the years after the war searching for the remaining Lowchen lines that had escaped the war. With the help of Dr. Hans Rickert, whose dogs were originally purchased from Madame Bennert and are the dogs that contributed to the breed as they are today, and a few other owners and breeder, the Lowchen was able to recover as a breed.
Although he is still rare today, the Lowchen is assured of a future. The first Lowchen arrived in the United States in 1971, and the AKC recognized the breed in 1999.
The Lowchen is slightly longer than he is tall. The ideal height for a Lowchen is 12 to 14 inches, and he generally weighs between 9 and 18 pounds.
The Lowchen is the personification of an even-tempered breed. He is lively and active, affectionate and gentle. He is an intelligent dog who learns quickly and easily. Lowchen are fearless watchdogs and will often alert bark if they see something or someone suspicious. They don't seem to mind that they are small and will challenge larger dogs if they feel the need.
They take control of their home, and their people may feel as if they've become a beloved possession of their sweet little dog. There is no doubt that the Lowchen is a wonderful breed with a cheerful disposition who has many people opening their hearts and homes to not just one but to many Lowchen companions.
The Lowchen is a wonderful breed to train. They are intelligent and take to training very quickly. Like many toy breeds, they can have issues with housetraining, but this can be overcome with patience and consistency. Socialization is a must for this breed, which can be shy around people. Lowchen that are not properly socialized can become fearful or timid. They generally get along well with other pets, but socialization with other dogs is important for all breeds.
Lowchens are generally healthy, but like all breeds, they're prone to certain health conditions. Not all Lowchens will get any or all of these diseases, but it's important to be aware of them if you're considering this breed.
If you're buying a puppy, find a good breeder who will show you health clearances for both your puppy's parents. Health clearances prove that a dog has been tested for and cleared of a particular condition. In Lowchens, you should expect to see health clearances from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) for hip dysplasia (with a score of fair or better), elbow dysplasia, hypothyroidism, and von Willebrand's disease; from Auburn University for thrombopathia; and from the Canine Eye Registry Foundation (CERF) certifying that eyes are normal. You can confirm health clearances by checking the OFA web site (offa.org).
- Cataracts: A cataract is an opacity on the lens of the eye, which causes difficulty in seeing. The eye(s) of the dog will have a cloudy appearance. Cataracts usually occur with old age and can be treated by surgically removing the cataract.
- Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA): A degenerative eye disorder. Blindness caused by PRA is a slow process resulting from the loss of photoreceptors at the back of the eye. PRA is detectable years before the dog shows any signs of blindness. Reputable breeders have their dogs' eyes certified on a yearly basis.
- Patellar Luxation: Also known as "slipped stifles," this is a common problem in small dogs. It is caused when the patella, which has three parts — the femur (thigh bone), patella (knee cap), and tibia (calf) — is not properly lined up. This causes a lameness in the leg or an abnormal gait in the dog. It is a disease that is present at birth although the actual misalignment or luxation does not always occur until much later. The rubbing caused by patellar luxation can lead to arthritis, which is a degenerative joint disease. There are four grades of Patellar Luxation ranging from grade I, which is an occasional luxation causing temporary lameness in the joint, to grade IV, in which the turning of the tibia is severe and the patella cannot be realigned manually. This gives the dog a bowlegged appearance. Severe grades of patellar luxation may require surgical repair.
Lowchen make excellent apartment residents, but they can be prone to excessive barking. It is important to take this trait into consideration before bringing a Lowchen into your home since some apartment buildings and neighborhoods have noise restrictions.
The Lowchen is not an outdoor dog or a kennel dog. Although they enjoy going outside to play and romp and enjoy the company of other dogs, their heart lies with their people and they prefer being with them whenever they can.
Recommended daily amount: 1/2 to 1 cup of high-quality dry food a day, divided into two meals.
Note: How much your adult dog eats depends on his size, age, build, metabolism, and activity level. Dogs are individuals, just like people, and they don't all need the same amount of food. It almost goes without saying that a highly active dog will need more than a couch potato dog. The quality of dog food you buy also makes a difference — the better the dog food, the further it will go toward nourishing your dog and the less of it you'll need to shake into your dog's bowl.
For more on feeding your Lowchen, see our guidelines for buying the right food, feeding your puppy, and feeding your adult dog.
Coat Color And Grooming
The Lowchen has a dense coat that is long and moderately wavy with a soft texture. Lowchens can be found in all colors and combinations, and there is no preference for any one color or combination.
Lowchens can be clipped or kept in a natural coat. When clipped, they are given a "Lion Trim." The hair is shortened to 1/8th of an inch in length from the last rib to the rump, as well as on the legs, with cuffs of hair just above the feet. The tail is also trimmed, with a plume left at the tip of the tail. Regular brushing keeps the coat from tangling. This breed sheds very little.
Brush your Lowchen's teeth at least two or three times a week to remove tartar buildup and the bacteria that lurk inside it. Daily brushing is even better if you want to prevent gum disease and bad breath.
Trim his nails once or twice a month if your dog doesn't wear them down naturally to prevent painful tears and other problems. If you can hear them clicking on the floor, they're too long. Dog toenails have blood vessels in them, and if you cut too far you can cause bleeding — and your dog may not cooperate the next time he sees the nail clippers come out. So, if you're not experienced trimming dog nails, ask a vet or groomer for pointers.
His ears should be checked weekly for redness or a bad odor, which can indicate an infection. When you check your dog's ears, wipe them out with a cotton ball dampened with gentle, pH-balanced ear cleaner to help prevent infections. Don't insert anything into the ear canal; just clean the outer ear.
Begin accustoming your Lowchen to being brushed and examined when he's a puppy. Handle his paws frequently — dogs are touchy about their feet — and look inside his mouth. Make grooming a positive experience filled with praise and rewards, and you'll lay the groundwork for easy veterinary exams and other handling when he's an adult.
As you groom, check for sores, rashes, or signs of infection such as redness, tenderness, or inflammation on the skin, in the nose, mouth, and eyes, and on the feet. Eyes should be clear, with no redness or discharge. Your careful weekly exam will help you spot potential health problems early.
Children And Other Pets
Lowchen make excellent dogs for families with either children or other pets. They generally do well with children and enjoy playing with them. They are surprisingly robust and exceedingly gentle.
Lowchen are also very sociable and will do well in homes with other pets and dogs. Unaware of their small size, they often have a desire to challenge larger dogs that they meet in public, so it's important to protect them from themselves.
Lowchens are often purchased without any clear understanding of what goes into owning one. There are many Lowchens in need of adoption and or fostering. There are a number of rescues that we have not listed. If you don't see a rescue listed for your area, contact the national breed club or a local breed club and they can point you toward a Lowchen rescue.