Even after regular “tweaking” the Kennel Club Breed Standard for the Löwchen is still not totally descriptive (it would need to go on for pages) but ultimately any standard is dependent upon personal interpretation. It is only after spending time talking to specialists in any breed that one begins to understand the basic requirements and the finer points.
Given that the Löwchen is a very eye-catching, and sometimes glamorous, breed, one of the biggest mistakes one can make is to judge from the ringside. There are lots of things happening (or not happening for that matter) under those coats! It is not until one has the hands-on experience that some surprises can emerge, both positive and negative. In the early days of exhibiting the breed, the coat (mane) was brushed forwards towards the head being clipped from the last rib exposing the whole of the rear end of the dog (warts and all).
Coats today are more profuse than in the early exhibits and are not brushed forward. Nowadays, the untrained judge, and novice breeder who reward glamour over basic conformation and breed type, do the breed no favours at all and would be well-advised to attend, and indeed would be welcomed at, one of our Club Seminars. Please take time to question several of the long established breeders who will be only too delighted to help those who wish to learn.
There should be nothing exaggerated about the Löwchen. It should be basically a well-balance, square, compact, sturdy and substantial little dog. Although it is in the Toy Group it is one of the more robust breeds when it comes down to basic bone structure. The bone should not be at all coarse but it will not be as fine as many other members in the Toy Group. The Löwchen should always be presented for exhibition in the ‘lion trim’. A description of the presentation of the exhibit is given in detail in another section of this feature so I will not dwell on this subject. Some of the descriptions in the standard are self-explanatory but I will expand on some of the more important points.
Characteristics & Temperament
“Gay, lively, alert, intelligent and affectionate”, the standard says. They left out one of the more annoying traits that I have encountered – stubbornness! Anyone who has not experienced the exuberance, sense of humour, and general joie de vivre of the Löwchen has not had a typical Löwchen, and has missed out on one of the great pleasures of life! There is nothing more efficient at removing makeup than a frantic Löwchen tongue. Judges who do not understand the Breed can sadly misinterpret this lively characteristic and general attitude. I never ever penalize over-animation and, as long as four legs stay on the floor long enough to be able to assess movement (which can sometimes appear erratic even if they are constructed properly), I’m happy. They are clowns by nature and their great intelligence predisposes them to boredom and ring-tiredness if their natural exuberance is stifled. Trying to train out this appealing part of their nature is akin to requesting the Border Collie not to herd sheep! Some Löwchens, of course, will naturally stand like statues (and be happy to do so), but please, when showing AND judging, allow for their naturally extrovert nature. I always advise pet people to choose another breed if they expect their pup to lie in a corner and behave itself. Löwchens are naturally nosy and like to be involved in everything. Their purpose in life is that of companion.
Head, Skull & Eyes
Although not officially classed a “head breed” in contrast to say, the Boxer, the Löwchen head is of very great importance indeed. The skull should be short, fairly broad, flat between the ears with a well-defined stop and a short strong muzzle. The measurement for the muzzle is approximately 1/3 muzzle, 2/3 skull. Long snipey muzzles are incorrect, spoil expression and can often indicate, or forecast for the future, incomplete dentition. Pigmentation on the nose and eye rims should be unbroken and in accordance with the coat colour. The eyes should be large, round, and as dark as possible. The standard asks for intelligence in the eyes though I have to admit to having owned one such laid-back Löwchen, she always looked as though her light was on but there was no-one in! The expression should be soft but I do like to see a difference between doggy and bitchy heads and their mischievous character is often mirrored in the eyes.
The ears are described as “Pendant, of moderate length with long fringing”. In addition to that and in order to avoid a terrier head, the ears should be set on level with the eye but not lower as on the spaniel head. The mouth should be scissor bite with teeth set squarely to the jaw.
Necks should be “Good length, proudly arched”. Nothing gives a show dog more ring presence, in my opinion, than an elegant neck. One of the problems we still have in Löwchens at times is “stuffy” necks in some exhibits. Good length of neck is difficult to achieve in this breed as short coupling is also required and the two seldom go hand in hand. Short necks of course can also accompany upright shoulders, though it has been my pleasant experience lately to discover that shoulders are improving in the breed. Conversely, long necks often appear with long backs and generally narrow specimens. Life can be very difficult for Löwchen breeders at times, but then no-one said it was easy.
Forequarters, Body & Hindquarters
Two of the worst faults we have had in Löwchens over the years are short legs and long backs and, unfortunately, we still have them. How can a Löwchen be well balanced with this construction? It is totally incorrect and should be penalized severely.
Forelegs should be straight. The standard also states “fine” but perhaps more correctly that should read sturdy (I referred to bone quality earlier in this article). Shortness in upper arm is also a fault sometimes seen in the breed, which can cause inadequate front movement and should be penalized.
Body: “Short, strong, well-proportioned, level topline, ribs well sprung, strong loin with moderate tuck-up, almost says it all. It is of the utmost importance to understand that the shortness of the Löwchen back is in the loin and not the ribs. Historically, front assembly has not been the Löwchen’s forte. I would also like to add that the depth of the rib cage is also critical in the overall basic correct shape and balance of the Löwchen. Ideal depth of chest should extend to the elbows, with the spring of rib not being overdone so as to push out the elbows. The Löwchen bottom is also a very important characteristic of the breed, it should be well rounded and muscled with a straight croup. A breed specialist once wrote in her critique “a biteable bottom”. No accounting for taste I suppose. Seriously though she hit the nail on the head. A Löwchen, which starts with a narrow head usually follows through with a slab-sided body and “pinched” bottom. This is totally untypical and is often disguised from ringside view by a profuse coat clipped too far down the back
Hindlegs: “Well muscled with good turn of stifle, straight when viewed from the rear”. Over-angulation is not typical or desirable, although obviously, sufficient is required to give the dog ability to drive around the ring with unstilted movement.
Feet: “Small, round”. I have been in the breed for 20 odd years and have never yet achieved round cat feet. Some breeders have and I congratulate them. Provided the feet are not the hare variety I can but accept what I get for the time being and endeavour to improve with the passage of time (and sufficiently typey stud dogs from which to choose that happen to have round feet).
Tail: “Medium length, clipped with a tuft of hair to resemble a plume. Carried gaily on the move”. We have a variety of tail sets in the breed currently. They range from correct versions: high set, rising and falling correctly over the back, to low set on a sloping croup (totally incorrect), to clamped too tightly to one side (which is also incorrect).
Gait/Movement: “Free, parallel movement fore and aft, no hackneyed action”. We still have some bad movement in the breed mainly due to the basic constructional faults in the front as described earlier. Worryingly, bad rear movement has been appearing lately. Many of the early
Löwchens moved very wide at the back (almost giving the appearance that they had filled their nappies), today we have the opposite – there are dogs presented in ring that are too close at the back indicating incorrect conformation in the rear assembly. Be careful when this appears, it may indicate that the pelvis in insufficiently wide to accommodate the natural delivery of whelps. It is also a bad fault, which should not be put into a breeding programme.
Coat: “Fairly long, wavy, never curly. Single coat of soft texture”. In reality we seldom see curly or, in fact, wavy coats these days as most of us blow-dry the coats before showing which tends to straighten them anyway. Do not penalize a wavy coat if you see one therefore – it is correct. The texture of coats can vary with colour. The white on the parti-coloured coats can sometimes be harsher and can have a woolly feel (and we are not talking cashmere here). In general, coats are heavier now than in the early exhibits and can be very glamorous but should never be considered of greater importance than the overall construction and conformation of the dog. All coat colours are acceptable in this country, however, the FCI currently do not now allow brown pigmentation to be shown. From conversations I have had in Scandinavia recently it is apparent that some breeders will not now entertain any browns in their programmes. This exclusion by the FCI, in my opinion, is very sad and I hope it does not creep into our standard here. Not only does this action deplete an already small gene pool, but also excludes some potentially typical, well-constructed animals from which to further our breeding programmes. Nor does it logically follow that one will automatically get browns from brown dogs. For example, I once mated two black and silver Löwchens together and got four puppies, one cream, one chocolate and cream, one black and white parti-colour and one red and white parti-colour. All, I can confirm, with correct pigmentation. I always equate basic genetic laws with the English language – there are always exceptions, especially in the Löwchen breed.
Size: “Height at withers 25-33 cm (10-13 ins)”. Originally the standard allowed them to be 10-14” which was an even greater variance than now. In my opinion, as they are in the Toy Group, they should be within the standard, ideally at around 12”. Having said that, I would not penalize a dog for being half an inch above standard if it was overall a better, more typey, well-balanced exhibit, than a smaller one in the same class.
This article, written by Sandy Steward of Pridesden Löwchens, Scotland, appeared in the November 6, 1998 issue of Our Dogs published in the U.K.