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.
The Lowchen is a toy dog breed that was developed as a companion dog and still finds itself in this role today. Active and smart, they do very well in dog competitions such as obedience and agility, and surpass the expectations that many have for a family companion.
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.
Other Quick Facts
- Except to achieve the distinctive “lion” look, the Lowchen’s coat should not be trimmed. It comes in all colors and combinations of colors.
- The Lowchen can vary in size. European dogs may stand only 10 to 13 inches, while American dogs can range from 12 to 14 inches.
- The lion cut probably originated as a sanitary measure, but a more romantic story is that court ladies would warm their feet on the dogs’ warm, exposed skin.
- AKC group: Non-sporting
- UKC group: Companion
- Average lifespan: 12 – 14 years
- Average size: 9 – 17 pounds
- Coat appearance: Wavy and long
- Coloration: Black, white, lemon and speckled
- Hypoallergenic: Yes
- Other identifiers: Small and compact body with proud head held high; short skull and muzzle with dark, round eyes; high tail and feathered ears
- Possible alterations: Clipped into a lion trim
- Comparable Breeds: Bichon Frise, Havanese
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 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.
The Löwchen, which has an average lifespan of 13 to 15 years, may suffer from minor health problems like patellar luxation or be prone to serious heart conditions. To identify some of these issues early, a veterinarian may recommend knee and cardiac exams for dogs of this breed.
Although the Löwchen is not meant for living outdoors, it loves access to a yard during the day. Short daily walks or a vigorous game is sufficient to satisfy the exercise needs of the Löwchen, but it is especially fond of mental challenges.
Its dense coat requires combing or brushing on alternate days. Clipping, meanwhile, should be done once or twice a month, in order to preserve the lion trim, the preferred choice among pet owners.
The Löwchen is good for apartment life. It is very active indoors and will do okay without a yard.
The Löwchen needs a daily walk. Play will take care of a lot of its exercise needs, however, as with all breeds, play will not fulfill their primal instinct to walk. Dogs that do not get to go on daily walks are more likely to display behavior problems. They will also enjoy a good romp in a safe, open area off lead, such as a large, fenced-in yard.
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.
Is this breed right for you?
An active breed that requires daily activity, the Lowchen is kind to children, family members and other furry friends. A cheerful breed, the Lowchen is very easy to train and is devoted to his family and home. A good watchdog, he does bark a lot. Although small, he believes himself to be quite the mighty pup. Without proper leadership or activity, the Lowchen will misbehave. Requiring some grooming, he’s easy to maintain with daily walks and socializing.
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.
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.
A dream day in the life of a Lowchen
A happy guy, the Lowchen may be your own private alarm clock. Waking you up with a bark, he’s ready for breakfast and his daily walk. After sniffing out the neighborhood, this spirited breed will return home ready to socialize with his family. Playing with the kids and romping with the other animals, he’ll be sure to keep watch on your home from morning to night. Barking at even the mailman, all of the neighbors are sure to know where the Lowchen lives. Going to sleep at the foot of his owner, he’ll be as happy as a lamb to have spent the perfect day with those he loves the most.