Bronco's Adventures

Are Leonbergers like bears, lions or wolves? Ask the Boy Who Cried Wolf!

Canis Lupus left, Canis Lupus Familiaris right, the Leonberger kind. Both are very brave. Canis Lupus is brave hunter. This specimen of Canis Lupus Familiaris is a brave protector.
Leonbergers are big dogs and little boys may think they are wolves, but Leonbergers are very friendly.
Canis Lupus left, Canis Lupus Familiaris right, the mini-Australian Shepherd kind. Canis Lupus is brave hunter. However, this specimen of Canis Lupus Familiaris is not so brave  and wants to sit in a stroller if he hears scary sounds like quacking ducks.
Mini Australian Shepherds like our dog Rollo may look like wolves but are rarely mistaken for wolves. A quacking duck can be very scary to little mini–Australian Shepherds.

Bronco was a big dog. Once when I was walking Bronco around the neighborhood, a neighbor who always let his black Labs run loose saw us. He shouted to his wife, “Honey, get the dogs inside! Someone is walking a bear out here.” I guess letting your large dogs run loose isn’t a problem until someone walks a dog much bigger than yours.

On a number of occasions, we’ve met people who said to us that Bronco is the biggest dog they’ve ever seen. However, there are bigger dogs. We’ve met bigger English bullmastiffs and bigger Great Danes.

One day I took Bronco into PetSmart, and after I did my shopping, he and I were standing in the checkout line. Bronco was very quiet and well behaved, but a boy ahead of us in line became quite alarmed when he saw us. He shouted, “Look! A wolf, a wolf, a wolf!” He pointed his finger at Bronco. His mom tried to calm the boy, but he would not stop shouting. He didn’t seem to be afraid of Bronco, but he was really concerned that there was a big wolf in the pet store. I tried to explain to the boy that Bronco was not a wolf. He was just a big dog.

Bronco's Adventures

Bronco the Very Big Dog Bites My Behind

Bronco was a big dog. As an adult, when he was not overweight, he tipped the scales at 135 pounds. He was significantly bigger than a German shepherd, and when he stood on his hind legs, he could easily put his big paws on a person’s shoulders, even if that person was almost six feet tall. Naturally, his size, combined with his energetic nature, made him a perfect dance partner, and Bronco loved dancing. His size and energy also combined to produce a lot of good stories.

Me and my Leonberger Bronco. Leonbergers are very affectionate.
Bronco was a very affectionate dog and a good dancer
Bronco our Leonberger was a very big dog. Here he is sitting in Claudia’s lap. He was 167 pounds in the photo.
Bronco was a very big dog. Here he is sitting in Claudia’s lap

When Bronco arrived at our house from the airport, for example, we had prepared a very large crate for him to sleep in. Unfortunately, even though it was spacious, he didn’t like it very much. As time went on, he decided that he wanted to abandon the crate and sleep with us in our bed. It was difficult to say no and listen to him whine at night. So Claudia lay down on the floor next to him and put her hand into the crate and petted him and held his paw. He loved that and was able to fall asleep that way.

Our Leonberger Bronco at 3 months
Bronco our Leonberger 3 months
Bronco our Leonberger 3 months old in black and white
Bronco our Leonberger 3 months old in black and white

Eventually, though, we relented and let him sleep in our bed. As the saying goes, “First they take your heart, then your bed.” But as Bronco quickly grew to 120 pounds, and then to 130 pounds, that arrangement didn’t work very well. We were three in the bed, and Bronco would sleep between us, a situation that became a bit crowded. Sometimes Bronco would push me with his paws until I fell off the bed and onto the floor. To my great relief, as time passed, he started to prefer the dog mattresses that we bought for him. On the other hand, Bronco was relatively easy to potty train. He quickly learned to go number two outside, but the peeing outside took a little longer, so Claudia hired a trainer from our veterinarian’s office to help us out. As a result, Bronco was mostly potty trained by four months old.

Dogs in our bed, including a giant breed. First they take your heart, then your bed.
First they take your heart, then your bed
Our Leonberger on our sofa. Not much room left.
One of our sofas was too big too be comfortable for people. It was perfect for Leonbergers.

I was often working long hours, and Claudia was at home with our kids, so it was she who mostly took care of Bronco, especially in the early years. She took him for walks every morning; she took him to the dog park, to go shopping, to Starbucks, and other places. She socialized him well. She also brushed him a few times a week, kept him clean, gave him medication to prevent heartworm and repel fleas and ticks,* and took him to the veterinarian’s office and the groomer. All of us in the family helped with the training, but Claudia did most of it. She grew up with dogs, so she knew what she was doing, and she did a very good job.

This medication also protects against infestations of chewing lice: see “Dog Lice:

What They Are, How to Avoid Them,” American Kennel Club, June 24, 2020, at

Ticks, fleas aw well as lice

Bronco was eager to learn, and he liked to go for walks, but he didn’t always finish them. When he got tired, he lifted his front paws up and scratched our legs. Then we picked him up and carried him. He loved being carried around like a baby. We carried him when he was thirty pounds and when he was fifty pounds, but at one hundred pounds it was time to stop.

Walking a big strong dog like Bronco presents special challenges. You need to be physically fit in order to control a Leonberger who isn’t listening to you. On several occasions Bronco yanked the leash so hard when I walked him that I almost fell forward. Did I mention that it’s not a good idea to wear flip-flops while you’re walking a big strong dog? When our daughter, Rachel, did, she fell face-first after. Bronco got excited and took off in pursuit of something. She shouted at him to come back, and he did. I guess he felt bad for her and returned. That was his personality.

Bronco our Leonberger was strong enough to drag a less heavy person. Drawing by Naomi Rosenblatt.
Bronco was strong enough to drag a less heavy person. Drawing by Naomi Rosenblatt.

One time, when Claudia was walking Bronco at White Rock Lake Park, just outside Dallas, Bronco saw a dog whom, for whatever reason, he did not like. He started running toward the dog and its owner. Claudia, taken by surprise, had a hard time controlling the situation. Bronco pulled her along as she tried to keep her balance. The man with the other dog saw that a potential confrontation was developing, and he loudly screamed, “Noooooo,” at Bronco. Then Bronco just stopped. He understood, and it all ended well.

Adolescent Bronco, still a gangly not yet proportional Leonberger
Adolescent Bronco, still a gangly not yet proportional Leonberger

It was incidents like these that prompted us to hire a professional dog trainer from Bark Busters and buy a Gentle Leader harness, which has a loop that fits around your dog’s nose. When your dog pulls forward, the motion gently moves his head to the side, redirecting his attention back to you. It may be a little bit uncomfortable for the dog, but it is certainly infinitely better than a shock collar, which is something you should never use.

One day I was standing in our living room, talking to the Bark Busters trainer. Bronco was standing behind me, and he kept poking my leg with his paw. I ignored him because I was in the middle of a conversation. Suddenly Bronco bit me on the rear end. It was not an aggressive bite, but it was a big one, and it hurt. He could easily have bitten me much harder, of course.

Our Leonberger Bronco and his confident look
Bronco’s confident look

I turned around, and there stood Bronco, looking at me with his happy eyes and wagging his tail as if he were completely innocent. I forgave him instantly.

I asked the trainer, “Why did he do that?” She said, “He was trying to get your attention, but you were ignoring him, so he bit you.” She continued, “He should know that he is not the one in charge, and he shouldn’t do that.” She knew what she was talking about. I should add that this was the only time Bronco bit anyone.