2022 End of Year President's Report

Good day all,

We took in or actively assisted in placing 11 dogs in 2022. Three of those were known purebred Leos, the rest were known or suspected mixes. Some people have asked us why we take in dogs that turn out not to be Leonbergers or Leo mixes. The reason is that it is very difficult to determine this. Let me try to explain:

Several of the suspected mixes were DNA tested, and most were shown to have 1, 2, or 3 of the 3 component breeds that make up Leonbergers (Newfoundland, Great Pyrenees, St. Bernard). DNA testing is a well-established science, however the accuracy of breed identification is less precise, as it relies on interpretation of data gathered over many dogs. This is greatly complicated by the fact that breeds such as the Leonberger originate from other breeds. So we have to consider, if a dog test results show Newfoundland, Great Pyrenees, and St. Bernard, is it a purebred Leonberger or a mix of those 3 breeds? I do not think DNA tests can definitively answer this.

There have also been some informal surveys on the accuracy of DNA breed identification, where samples from the same dogs were sent to more than one testing company. The results sometimes yielded wildly different results. These had very small sample size and were done without proper scientific process, so the results should be taken with the proverbial grain of salt—however, it does cast suspicion as to the accuracy of the tests. That said, there was generally a lot of consistency with the primary breeds detected, so that gives some confidence in the results.

We do not DNA test all dogs and cannot test any before deciding whether we should take them into LRP or not, as the tests take weeks to complete, and we usually have only days to get a dog to safety. So, we must rely on our experience and evaluation. Unfortunately, it is very difficult to identify breed makeup. Most people use visual traits—color and such. In general, those are poor indicators of breed. We also consider general behavior and other, more specific traits such as build, shape of head and ears, as well as anything we may know of the dog’s past (some, for example, were from a known breeding environment where they were intentionally breeding Leo mixes). Regardless of what we find, once we take a dog into LRP we are committed to that dog. Most of the time the dogs that we do take in that are suspect as to being a Leo mix either do not cost LRP funds (only our volunteers’ time) or are fully or mostly offset but specific donations for that dog, often by the person that ends up adopting the dog.

We have had at least 35 people contact us about dogs they suspected of being Leos. Some of these were the owners of the dog, many were reports of dogs in shelters or other Rescues. Several ended up being rehomed by the owner or the owner decided to keep the dog. We always try to assist people in keeping their dog if the problem is something they can, and are willing to, deal with. For example, often training or a different technique can be used for many behavior issues. We determined most of the dogs not to have Leo at all, and either referred them to another Rescue or informed facility (such as a city animal control) that we would not be able to take in the dog.

We get numerous contacts about “possible Leos” via our Facebook page. Almost none are likely Leos or Leo mixes, but we use our Facebook page to cross post dogs that at least resemble a Leo in appearance. These dogs do not come officially into LRP.

There have been a few dogs that had reported behavior issues. One was only with other dogs, and one we took in did not appear to actually have any issues at all. Unfortunately, on rare occasions we have Leos come in with more serious issues, but the vast majority are simply I a bad situation—often with no fault of the owner. The reasons we have had dogs come into LRP are pretty much the same as any rescue: allergy issues that had not shown earlier, illness in the family, or unexpected life changes.

We greatly appreciate the support of the Leo community, as well as all the non-Leo folks that notify us of possible Leos and help us with identification, transport, foster, and other logistics—and of course for the wonderful folks that give our Rescues a loving home!

Best wishes to everyone, stay well, keep your dogs happy, and have a great year!

Andrew Patterson

President, Leonberger Rescue Pals

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