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The Lowchen, also known as the Little Lion Dog, the Leoninus (meaning "lion-like") and the Petit Chien Lion, has been bred for centuries for the sole purpose of giving love and getting love in return. The correct pronunciation of the word Lowchen is "lerv-chun." The breed is perhaps the ideal pet: hypoallergenic, virtually non-shedding, easily trained and full of fun. According to the American Kennel Club: "Show them a squirrel and they'll bark, but then won't know what to do with it. Show them a stranger, they'll bark, and then be the person's friend. Show them a child, not too young, and they will allow themselves to be picked up and carried gently. If they find an adult who will walk and feed them, and brush them a few times a week, they'll become that person's best friend, never leaving their side." The Lowchen plays well with all others if properly socialized and thrives in large homes or tiny apartments, in both urban and rural settings. This is not a breed to be left in a kennel or in the yard; he needs a bed in the house, close to his family. Lowchens are big dogs in little packages. The American Kennel Club first recognized the Lowchen in 1996; it became eligible for full registration in the Non-Sporting Group in 1999.
The ideal Lowchen stands 12 to 14 inches at the withers. Dogs or bitches above or below this range are faulted to the extent of the variance under the American breed standard. Lowchens typically weigh between 8 and 18 pounds. Their natural coat is long, somewhat dense and moderately soft, with a slightly wavy appearance. No scissoring or shaping is permitted for the untrimmed show coat. However, when shown in the lion trim, the coat is clipped to about 1/8" on the hindquarters, tail base and top of all legs, leaving a full natural face and mane on the neck and front, cuffs on all lower legs and a plume on the tail's end. None of the unclipped areas are to be smoothed, shaped or shortened with anything other than a brush or comb. When in the lion show cut, the Lowchen closely resembles a miniature Portuguese Water Dog. All colors and color combinations are acceptable in this breed, with none being preferred over another. Unclipped coat areas should be brushed regularly to keep tangles from forming. Pet owners often keep their Lowchen in an overall short "puppy cut" to reduce grooming needs.

History & Health


The exact origin of the Lowchen is a subject of debate. Some suggest a Mediterranean ancestry, closely related to the Bichon-type breeds including the Maltese, the Bolognese and the Bichon Frise. Other sources trace the Lowchen back to Belgium, Holland, France and Germany, where its name translates as "little lion" (although it is not related to the "lion dogs" from Asia); this theory places the Lowchen as an ancestor of the modern day poodle. Dogs resembling the Lowchen are seen in historical artwork dating to the mid-1400s, with their close-clipped hindquarters and full, natural mane. Goya included a Lowchen in his painting of the beautiful Duchess of Alba in the late 1700s. Regardless of its precise ancestry, the Lowchen undoubtedly was an enormously popular and pampered pet of royalty and aristocrats as far back as pre-Renaissance Europe, where ladies of the court groomed it in the likeness of a lion. Two reasons are suggested for this lion-cut. The first is that the dogs were intentionally clipped to resemble lions, which were symbols of strength and power. The second is that the warm exposed skin of these little dogs was comforting to their lady owners, who essentially used them as canine "hot-water bottles" to take the chill off of cold nights. The Lowchen also was an excellent varmint-catcher and fierce little guardian of hearth and home.
The breed almost disappeared due to the World Wars. By the middle of the 20th century, it was considered to be among the world's rarest dog breeds. In 1960, the Guinness World Records book named the Lowchen "the rarest breed in the world"; the 1973 edition of The Guinness Book of Records stated: "The rarest breed of dog is the Lowchen, of which only 65–70 were reported in March, 1973." Fortunately, the breed was brought back from obscurity thanks largely to the efforts of Madame M. Bennert of Brussels, Belgium. Starting in 1945, she searched for and gathered all surviving Little Lion Dogs that she could find and began a careful breeding program to save them from extinction. After her death, her work was continued by Dr. Hans Rickert, a German veterinarian. The selective and well-managed breeding programs of Mrs. Bennert and Dr. Rickert started a slow but steady revival of interest in the breed. The Lowchens that ultimately arrived in Great Britain and North America came directly from Dr. Rickert's Von Den Drei kennel.

The first Lowchen arrived in the United States (coming from England) in 1971, still carrying the breed name of Little Lion Dog. The Lowchen Club of America was founded that same year and eventually changed the breed name officially to Lowchen, which is German for "little lion dog." The American Kennel Club registered its first Lowchen and admitted it into the Miscellaneous Class in 1996. In January 1999, the Lowchen was give full recognition by the American Kennel Club as a member of its Non-Sporting Group. Under the Federation Cynologique Internationale registration, the breed is still called the Petite Chien Lion. It is shown in the Toy Group in England and elsewhere throughout Europe.
Although still a rare breed, the Lowchen is no longer in danger of extinction and is recognized by all major kennel clubs worldwide. Its popularity in America was strengthened by the American television series, Hart to Hart, in which an unclipped Lowchen starred as "Freeway," the family pet. The Lowchen excels in conformation, agililty and obedience competition, in part because of its intelligence, trainability and alert nature. They also are wonderful therapy dogs and family pets.


The Lowchen is an unusually healthy breed, with an average life expectancy of 12 to 14 years. Breed health concerns may include cataracts and patellar luxation.

Temperament & Personality


The name "Lowchen" means "Little Lion Dog" in German, but this breed is anything but fierce. The AKC standard states, "the Lowchen's outgoing and positive attitude make the breed a pleasure to be around." These little guys love people of all ages and are always sweet and even-tempered. They are cuddle bugs who love nothing more than to curl up with someone they love, and usually expect to be invited to sleep in bed. They are not, however, lazy. Lowchens love being outdoors and despite their small size, enjoy a bit of rompous play time. Like many toy breeds, Lowchens are alert watchdogs and are quick to alert you to an incoming visitor. They are highly trainable and adaptable, making them an excellent choice for first time dog owners.

Activity Requirements

Lowchens are little dogs, but they enjoy the outdoors. Their size makes them fine for apartment life, but they should be walked daily and allowed to run and play at the park once or twice a week to satisfy their desire to run and play. You can't tell by looking at them, but Lowchens actually make excellent jogging companions and can keep up like a champ.
They are also quite intelligent and need mental activity as well as physical activity. Providing them with interesting things to do is important to their mental well-being. An excellent outlet for this is competitive obedience and agility coursing, where they always excel.


Lowchens are highly trainable. They are smart, desire to please the people they love, and catch on to tricks rather quickly. Training should always be conducted with positive reinforcement and lots of treats. Lowchens are sensitive dogs, and treating them harshly will cause them to withdraw.

When basic obedience has been mastered, Lowchens should graduate to advanced obedience, tricks, or agility training. They love the activity and it fosters the bond between dog and owner.

Behavioral Traits

Separation Anxiety is common in Lowchens, but it is highly preventable. Lowchens love to be with people and hate to be left alone for long periods of time. Properly exercising your Lowchen can keep anxiety levels low, and most people don't realize how much exercise this breed is capable of. But lots of exercise means nothing if a Lowchen is left alone all day, every day. They are best suited for homes with a stay at home parent, or better yet, in the home of active retirees.

Barking is also a common issue with Lowchens. They are alert watchdogs and are quick to let you and everyone within earshot know that someone is approaching their home. Many Lowchen owners report that their dog's favorite spot in the house is perched on the back of a sofa where they can see out the window. Getting your Lowchen to obey a stop barking command can save your eardrums.

Breed Standard

General Appearance
A small, bright, and lively dog that originated as a companion breed in pre-Renaissance Europe where ladies of the court groomed it in the likeness of a little lion. Breed characteristics are a compact, balanced body; a relatively short, broad topskull and muzzle; and a proud, lively gait that accentuates the lion cut with a long flowing mane. These quintessential features, combined with an outgoing and positive attitude, result in a dog of great style.

Size, Proportion, Substance
Size - Ideally, mature dogs and bitches are between 12 to 13 inches at the withers. Height may vary 1 inch above or below this ideal. Only where the comparative superiority of a specimen outside this range clearly justifies it should greater latitude be taken. Absolute height at the withers should not take precedence over correct proportion and substance. Proportion - The body is just off-square when properly balanced. The distance from the prosternum to the point of buttocks is slightly greater than the distance from the withers to the ground in an 11 to 10 ratio. The distance from the ground to the elbow is slightly greater than the distance from the elbow to the wither. The Löwchen should never be low stationed. Substance: The mature Löwchen is sturdily built with strong bone and muscular hindquarters, but never coarse.

The head is a hallmark breed characteristic. The expression is bright, alert, and lively. The eyes are set well into the skull, round in shape, large, set well apart, and forward looking. Eyes are dark brown in color; lighter colored dogs may have lighter brown eyes but darker eyes are preferred. The ears are pendant, moderate in length, well fringed, and set on slightly above the level of the eye. The backskull is broad and relatively flat from ear to ear. The stop is moderately well defined. The length from nose to base of stop is two-thirds of the length from base of stop to occiput. The muzzle is well filled and relatively broad with moderate depth of underjaw resulting in a slightly rounded finish to the muzzle. The jaw is wide enough to accommodate all incisors in a straight row. Coloration of pigment is in accordance with coat color. Nose and eye rims are completely pigmented. The lips are tight with color the same as the nose. The bite is scissors and the teeth are rather large and well spaced with complete dentition.

Neck, Topline, Body
The neck is of good length with a slight arch, fitting smoothly into the shoulders and topline. The head is carried high when the dog is moving. The topline is level from withers to tailset. The body is slightly off-square when properly balanced. The loin is short and strong. The ribs are well sprung. The brisket is moderate in width and extends approximately to the elbows. The underline has a slight tuck-up at the loin. The tail is set high and carried in a well-arched cup-handle fashion with the plume touching the back when the dog is moving. A dropped tail while standing is not to be penalized.

The shoulders are strong and well laid back with smooth musculature. The upper arm is of equal length to the shoulder blade and the two meet in a near 90 degree angle. The elbows are held close to the body. Forearms are of good length and the distance from the withers to the elbow is slightly less than the distance from the elbow to the ground. From the front the legs are perfectly parallel from the elbows to the feet. The bone is more round than oval and of medium size with only a slight decrease in size at the pasterns. The pasterns are short, parallel from the front, and very slightly bent when viewed from the side. The forefeet point straight ahead and are tight and well arched with deep pads, and the two center toes are slightly in advance of the two outer toes. Dewclaws may be removed. The nails are relatively short.

The pelvic bone projects beyond the set of the tail and is at an approximate 30 degree angle from a perfectly horizontal line. The upper and lower thighs are well muscled and of approximately equal length with medium bone. The stifles are well bent. The hocks are well let down and perpendicular to the ground from any angle. The hindfeet point straight ahead, are slightly smaller than the forefeet, and are well arched with deep pads.

The Löwchen must be shown in the traditional Lion Clip. The unclipped areas of the coat are long, rather dense and moderately soft in texture. The unique Löwchen coat consists of hairs of varying diameters with a more noticeable collection of denser hair around the neck and withers. The coat may fall to either side but must never be artificially parted.
It has a slightly to moderately wavy appearance. Wiry, woolly, curly, and flat coat textures are not correct and are to be penalized to the degree of severity. No scissoring or shaping of the unclipped coat is permitted. Puppies typically have a softer coat.

Lion Clip - the coat is clipped to about 1/8" on the following parts of the body: from the last rib back to and including the hindquarters; the hindquarters to the hock joints; the front legs from the elbows to a point on the legs which is equal to the same distance from the ground to the hock joints leaving cuffs of hair on all four legs; the tail from the base to approximately one-half way to the tip leaving a plume at the end of the tail; and the feet are entirely clipped. The unclipped areas must be completely natural and untrimmed. On no account should the unclipped areas be smoothed, shortened, shaped or otherwise tidied with anything other than a comb or brush. Any clip other than specified or any shaping or scissoring of the long coat are disqualifications.

All colors and color combinations are acceptable with no preference given to any.

Movement at a trot is effortless with good reach in front and full extension in the rear. From the front the forelegs move in almost parallel lines converging slightly as the speed increases. From the rear the legs move in almost parallel lines and in the same line of motion as the forelegs, converging slightly as the speed increases. From the side movement is efficient and ground covering. The forelegs reach well out in front in a long, relatively low stride, and the rear legs come well under the body and extend behind to maximize propulsion. The body remains nearly square in outline and the topline is held firm and level, with the tail being carried curved over the back and the head held above the level of the back.

The Löwchen is alert, intelligent, and affectionate with the overall qualities of a loving companion dog. It has a lively, outgoing, and inquisitive personality

Any trim other than specified.
Shaping or scissoring of the long coat

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Sources: American Kennel Club


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