Lowchen dog breed
John Walton
Written by John Walton

Despite the Lowchen breed’s small statue they have a big personality. This little dog was developed to be a companion dog for the rich and noble of the time period, but they were also used as small watch dogs and vermin hunters on farms. Still, for the most part they were kept by the ladies of the court.

They were nearly extinct after World War I and World War II and even though they are no longer in danger they still remain fairly rare and hard to find so, even if you managed to find a breeder, prepare to be placed on a long waiting list.

The Lowchens make a delightful companion to everyone they meet: families, children, seniors, dogs and cats. They thrive on human interaction and don’t like to be left alone for extended periods of time and are more prone to separation anxiety than other breeds.

The breed is considered by some to be hypoallergenic and perhaps makes a better choice for people with asthma and allergies. They are suitable for apartment dwelling and due to their eagerness to please and ease of training they make the perfect breed for the novice or inexperienced owners. They require mental and physical stimulation and excel at agility and obedience events. The breed is sweet, gentle, affectionate and extremely intelligent.

Breed characteristics

Health and GroomingHigh
All Around FriendlinessHighest
Exercise NeedsAbove Average

Dog Breed Group:Companion Dog
Height:11-14 inches tall at the shoulders
Weight:9-18 lb.
Life Span:12 to 15 years
Main Highlights
  • Lowchen translates to lion dog in German.
  • The breed can be vocal, which is something to consider for people living in the city. But generally speaking they don’t bark without reason unless they are bored.
  • They are considered light shedders and even hypoallergenic. They are perhaps the better choice for people with allergies or asthma, but it is important to remember that there is no such thing as a truly hypoallergenic breed.
  • The breed is eager to please and easy to train and they make a great choice for novice or inexperienced owners.
  • They thrive on people interaction and form a deep attachment to their people. However they are also more prone to separation anxiety than other breeds.
  • The breed is suitable for both country living and apartment dwelling as long as they are sufficiently exercised.
  • They are considered to be fairly rare and hard to find but are no longer in danger of extinction.
  • Not much is known about their origin or ancestry but it is speculated that they originated in Germany or France. Opinions vary on the subject without definite proof.
  • As with many other small dogs, the breed is prone to small dog syndrome. A behavioral human induced syndrome that occurs when the dog is allowed to get away with leader-of-the-pack behavior.
  • They are not a high energy breed and find daily walks or jogs as well as play in the yard sufficient.
  • In early 1960 they were named the rarest breed in the world by the Guinness Book of World Records.
Breed History

The opinions on the origin of the breed are largely divided. Many believe that the breed originated in Germany as Lowchen translates to lion dog in German. Some believe that the breed originated in France, and some claim Russia, Mediterranean and even Tibet as the country of origin.

Some claim that they are related to the Bichon breeds as they closely resemble them and some people claim that they are one of the founding breeds that helped develop the toy Poodle. All agree though that the Lowchen is a fairly old breed and can be traced back as far as 1442 in art and literature.

They were kept by the rich and noble of the period as companion dogs and living, breathing, heating pads for the ladies of the court. It is also suggested that they were used as a little guard dog and a rodent hunter.

As with many other breeds, World War I and World War II almost brought the Lowchens to extinction if it wasn’t for the efforts of Medelaine Bennert and Dr. Hans Rickert who set up a program designed to save the breed from extinction and educate people on the Lowchens.

In 1973 there were only 65 Lowchens registered, they were also named as the rarest breed in the world according to the Guinness Book of World Records. The breed is still considered to be fairly rare today and is still hard to find but they are no longer in danger of extinction. The breed was first introduced in the United States in 1971 and officially recognized by the AKC in 1996. Today they rank 166th most popular breed according to the AKC.


The Lowchen males measure 12-14 inches tall at the shoulders and weigh 12-18 lb. The females are generally smaller and measure 11-13 inches tall at the shoulders, weighing 9-15 lb.

Personality and Character

Don’t be fooled by the Lowchen small frame, they have a big spirit and a big personality. The breed is excellent with children and other pets and makes a great addition to any family or individual who has the time to spend with them. They don’t like to be left alone and might not be the best choice for people who are out of the house for the longer part of the day.

They enjoy going on walks and playing games but don’t require excessive exercise. They adapt quickly to any living arrangement and can easily be satisfied with living in the country as well as in the city. The breed has a lot of love and affection to give and they develop a deep bond with their people. They are lively, happy go lucky, a gentle and playful breed who loves everything and everyone.

Health and Potential Problems

The Lowechens are generally a healthy breed as they haven’t been exposed to excessive breeding, being fairly rare and hard to come by. As with every other breed, some dogs are more prone to certain problems than others.

Most reputable breeders and shelters make sure the dog or puppy has received a clean bill of health from the vet prior to adoption or purchase by testing their dogs for any genetic or hereditary problems prior to breeding. They also test the litters for any issues.

Be aware of backyard breeders as most of them don’t have the necessary knowledge and understanding of the breed and may cause problems and behavioral issues as a result. It is highly recommended to conduct extensive research on the breeders and prior litter before purchasing a puppy.

Never purchase a puppy from a puppy mill as those organizations are more concerned with financial gain than the well-being of the animals in their care.

Here are the main health problems that may threaten your Lowechen’s happiness:

  • Cataracts: An eye condition found in both dogs and humans, it usually occurs in advanced age and causes opacity on the eye lens. The condition may result in limited vision or blindness and can be surgically corrected in severe cases.
  • Slipped stifles: A common condition among small and toy breeds. It occurs when the calf, knee cap and thigh bone are not properly aligned. The condition may cause discomfort, lameness, arthritis in advanced age and knee dislocation. It can be surgically corrected in severe cases.
  • Progressive Retinal Atrophy: An eye condition that causes a gradual deterioration of the retina leading to limited vision or blindness.
Care Features

As with all other breeds, early socialization is key for a well-rounded, emotionally balanced adult dog. Some Lowchens tend to be shy and reserved with strangers so the introduction to new people, children, dogs, cats, other animals, different scenarios and various environments should begin as soon as possible.

Once your puppy is fully vaccinated, taking them to dog parks, car rides and running errands as well as encouraging friends and family to stop by for a visit will help your Lowchen get used to the new big world without anxiety or fear. Enrolling them in puppy kindergarten is also recommended as it helps deepen the bond between the handler and the dog and introduce them to new things under professional support and guidance.

Crate training is also a highly recommended training tool. It helps with a variety of issues, both in addressing them and also preventing them. Being a sensitive breed and forming a deep attachment to their people also makes the Lowchens more prone to separation anxiety than other breeds.

Crate training helps alleviate the stress levels when the owner is gone. Start training for just a few hours at the time while the owner is still around to reassure them that they will always come back for them. The crate helps build confidence and ease their anxiety.

Crate training also helps with house training, something that owners report the Lowchens are slower to achieve than other dogs. The crate acts as their den which they are less likely to soil as long as they are provided with consistent bathrooms breaks in the same place at the same time, followed by lots of praise and treats. It has been proven that crate training minimized the house training time by almost a half.

The crate also acts as the dog’s special spot they can retreat to when tired or needing space. The crate is a highly recommended training tool that should never be used for punishment.

The breed thrives on human companionship and the fastest way to make them miserable is stick them outside or in a kennel for extended periods of time. They need to be with their people and enjoy going on walks or jogs. They are up for whatever as long they are doing it with their people. They form a deep bond with their people and get along wonderfully with children and other pets. Sometimes they tend to forget their size and may attempt to challenge larger dogs, a behavior that should be discouraged for their own safety.

As with many other smaller breeds, the Lowchens are also prone to small dog syndrome. It is a human induced behavioral condition and occurs when humans let the smaller dog get away with behaviors that larger breeds are not allowed to get away with such as jumping up and pulling on walks. Without proper training the dog may develop behavioral issues, display aggression and develop ill manners.

The breed is easily trained and is very eager to please which makes them suitable for the novice or inexperienced owner. They require a handler who can establish themselves as leader of the pack and set up rules and boundaries from early on, reinforcing them with treats and plenty of praise.

They require firm, a consistent and calm handler who can keep the training sessions short and interesting. The breed doesn’t respond well to any harsh treatment or training which will only make them fearful.

Many of the breed individuals excel in agility and obedience events and it is highly recommended to enroll them in competitions as it gives them the mental stimulation they require to be the happy go lucky dogs they are.

Feeding Schedule

The recommended daily amount for the Lowchen breed is 0.5-1 cup of high-quality dog food. However, each dog’s nutritional needs are different and depend on their age, size and activity levels. Puppies for example consume more food than adult dogs to accommodate their rapid growth and development. Active dogs also consume more food than their couch potato counterparts.

A diet should be formulated specifically for your dog’s needs and divided into a few meals instead of leaving it available all day.

Coat, Color and Grooming

The breed’s coat is generally long, soft, wavy and dense. The coat is usually cut in a Lion’s Trim and comes in all colors, although brown, black, white and lemon are more common than most. The coat requires regular maintenance to keep it mat and tangle free.

They shed very little and are considered by some to be hypoallergenic. It is very important to note that there is no such thing as a truly hypoallergenic breed because the allergens are commonly found in the dog’s coat and saliva.

Allergies can also build up over time and the only way to truly tell if one is allergic to a specific breed is spend a lot of time with the breed. That being said, the Lowchen is perhaps one of the better choices for people with allergies or asthma.

Children And Other Pets Compatibility

The Lowchens make fantastic companions to children. They are gentle, sweet, affectionate, and will rarely refuse a game of fetch in the yard. They enjoy the company of the younger members of the family and make a great four legged pal in return. They tolerate a lot but their patience shouldn’t be taken advantage of. The mutual foundation of love and respect should be laid even before bringing the Lowchen home.

A frightening number of dogs are being surrendered to the shelter, put down and abandoned simply due to the adult’s failure on educating the younger members of the family on proper dog handling etiquette. Any tail or ear pulling as well as any other teasing should be discouraged immediately. Play time between animals and children should be supervised by an adult at all times.

The breed loves everybody and gets along with other dogs, cats and any other furry members of the family. Sometimes they forget their size and may want to challenge larger strange dogs, a behavior that should be discouraged for their own safety.

Although there are similar traits in every breed, each dog should be treated as an individual. The dog’s character and behavior depend heavily on their breeding, socialization, training, environment and handler.

If you managed to find a Lowchen, consider yourself lucky. The breed is a great companion to anyone and everyone. They enjoy the company of humans and other animals. The breed makes great companions for children. The Lowchens are kind and gentle with everyone, although they have the tendency of challenging larger dogs.

They are a very adaptable breed and are suitable for both apartment dwelling and country living. They don’t require much exercise and are content with long daily walks and play in the yard. They may be aloof and shy with strangers and require plenty of early socialization. The lion dog is a friendly, happy and cheerful companion to anyone and is sure to bring many years of joy and laughter into their owners’ lives.

About the author
John Walton
John Walton

John Walton lives in Somerville, MA, with his two dogs, two sons, and very understanding mate. He is a Certified Pet Dog Trainer, a member of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants, a mentor trainer for the Animal Behavior College, an AKC Certified CGC Evaluator, and the Training Director for the New England Dog Training Club.