Lowchens were first depicted in art dating back to the early medieval period, when they likely emerged as a separate breed. There is some debate as to whether they originated in Germany or Italy, but it seems they were common in European courts by the 15th century.
It is believed they gained their traditional styling in the Florentine court where a fascination with "The Orient" caused them to have them shorn up to look like little Chinese lions.
Their docile manner and loyalty to human owners is legendary. There is an apocryphal story that has a Lowchen known to history as Bijou jumping out the top tower of a German castle when his mater went out on hunt without him. True or not, Lowchen developed a reputation as a good dog for the wealthy to keep as a constant companion.
More recently, the breed was popular with well-off European men and women of the 18th and 19th centuries, with particular popularity among the emerging middle class of Central Europe. However, in the 20th century, the popularity of the animal declined as modern ideas were adopted in all aspects of human life. During World War Two the breed was nearly exterminated, with only a few individual dogs remaining. Lowchens were even listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the World's Rarest Breed of Dog in the 1960s.
Through concerted efforts of breeders and Lowchen fanciers worldwide, they are again popular, mainly in urban areas and with those who suffer allergies.
Once the favoured companion of European nobility, a few dedicated people have saved the Lowchen from extinction after World War Two. These little dogs are very well suited to modern apartment living, just as they were perfect for cramped and droughty castle apartments.
They are especially gaining in popularity because people who are normally allergic to animal dander can be around them without problem. They are thought to be native to Italy or Germany, though the first records of the breed come from paintings depicting them in the classic "lion cut" that all Lowchen kept for show must have.
Since medieval times, Lowchen have been known as fiercely loyal dogs that are heartbroken when their masters leave. This is reasonable, as they've been selected for the most affectionate and friendly types. As such, they make terrible guard dogs, excitedly licking your would-be robbers.
Unlike many other small dogs, Lowchens are noted for their friendliness to strangers unless poorly socialized when young. Though they may excitedly bark when one approaches, they will very likely begin demanding attention from anyone they meet.
These dogs are, above all else, loving and affectionate. They are also clever and cautious. Lowchens are usually relaxed, even around other dogs-able to perk up and play when the opportunity presents itself. However, the poorly socialized dog differs from the well-socialized one by being snappy and yipping with a piddling problem.
They've been selected for several centuries as the companions of ladies at court and in that environment of constant care and attention, are almost always docile unless playing around. Since they are also tough and proud (for their size), Lowchen males tend to be alpha dogs, even in a house with other large dogs.
With affection being so paramount in the mind of most Lowchen, they are far less interested in protecting you from strangers as getting attention from them, in the hopes you'll all become friends and decide to pet the dog. Be careful with young pups to minimize separation anxiety. They are best suited to people who work at home or can take them to work with them.
They are good with older children and parties, though young children should not be left alone with the dog, since they're so small and could be hurt easily. Be careful of situations with people who think your dog is a toy and treat it as such-he or she is still a dog. Lowchens will defend themselves if the danger seems mortal. If you were less than a foot tall, you'd be nervous, too.
Though they're not usually hyperactive, they can present some trouble with barking and digging. This is often taken care of with attention and exercise, tough a particularly headstrong specimen may take some patient training. This is especially true of the barking. Lowchen feel it's their duty to announce any activity, no matter how small.
They take readily to training and are usually quick studies with housebreaking and simple commands. They are very anxious to please their masters and make no differentiation between good and bad masters. Males can be wilful at times, though ignoring them is often the worst punishment you can dole out-use it carefully.
The Lowchen is very rarely angry and only shows aggression when trying to assert him or herself over larger dogs. Their behaviour towards humans is almost always friendly and happy.
The Lowchen tends to be a rather healthy dog, but due to such a tiny population in the mid-20th century, the population remains somewhat severely inbred. There are a few lines with specific congenital problems.
A condition that occurs when the kneecap keeps popping out of place also known as patellar luxation. Surgery is usually required to fix this. This will often occur when the dog is still young and appears as lameness and pain in one rear leg.
The Lowchen coat is very easy to take care of, in part because there's so little of it, but it is a constant small chore. When the hair is not attended to every few days, it can quickly turn into a matted and dread-locked mess. It's a good idea to get even puppies used to the idea of grooming and turn it into an activity you can both enjoy, because they'll need it.
On the other hand, they don't shed and are very often shorn in the traditional "lion cut" that is very close on the back and rear legs while remaining relatively long on the top, giving the appearance of a mane. This way, you only have to very carefully comb half the dog, with the rear half being relatively trouble free, though sometimes a bit cold.
Dogs that are not kept for show are most often given a puppy cut that tends to be about an inch long, all the way around. Either way, they will need attention every few days since their hair is so finely textured. The bill at the groomer's can be expensive since their fur grows just as fast as that of a large dog's. You can expect to visit every month or two at least to maintain even the puppy cut.
It is very important to keep Lowchen nails well trimmed, especially if they don't get very regular exercise on cement or concrete. Very often owners will just take them in for regular visits to the groomer rather than bother with the inherent danger of trimming claws, especially the occasional black nail where you can't see the quick.
Since they have floppy ears, it's also a good idea to check regularly for wax build-up. Of particular interest to those who show dogs is keeping the "tears" from staining white fur around the face. Aside from regularly removing it, there are some products on the market that may or may not be suitable for your dog-check with your vet before you use any product around your dog's eyes.
Keeping your dogs teeth clean is relatively simple if you give them large beef knucklebones to chew on (never chicken or pork!) or dental toys. However, even with regular chewing, you dog may require some tooth brushing. If your dog is a good chewer, this could be as long as every few months, though for most dogs, this should be done every week or so.
There are special finger toothbrushes and poultry flavoured toothpaste to use on your dog. Do not try using human toothpaste-they won't like the taste and there may be exposed to toxic levels of fluoride if they swallow it. You can even use a piece of gauze wrapped around your finger and just gently rub. Either way, your Lowchen should have his or her teeth at least examined with each and every grooming.
Though they don't often require much, most Lowchen will happily take all the exercise you can provide, being especially fond of long walks. Never one to back down from a challenge, they've even been known to go along on very strenuous hikes and runs with their human pack. As long as they're with people, they don't seem to care how tired they may be.
Regular walks and visits to the park are usually enough to keep a typical Lowchen healthy and happy. They may be taken off leach, as they usually mind well when properly trained, but may be in danger from some larger dogs.
Like many other small dogs, they don't seem to realize how small they are and, will attack even very large dogs for no apparent reason other than to prove they're real dogs and not wind-up toys. It might be best to be careful at dog parks where there are a lot of big dogs for your Lowchen to pick a fight with.
The key with the Lowchen is to keep it under your constant gaze while a puppy. When you see a behaviour you don't like, you must let him or her know immediately that you don't like it. Because the bond that develops is so close, this can be as little as a stern look or whatever word you choose to mean you're not happy.
Punitive measures are not necessary for the most part and they should feel bad enough when you let them know they've been spotted, as long as you do it every single time and within moments.
Consistency is paramount. Though the dog can escape and piddle on the floor anywhere in the house and not get punished for it, you'll need to make sure your Lowchen doesn't have the chance to do so. Most trainers recommend using a crate for the first few months of life to make sure the housebreaking never becomes an issue.
In fact, it's best you use positive reinforcement with your dog if at all possible. They are usually gentle creatures themselves and really want to be happy as much as possible. Their love of a good time makes them particularly easy to manipulate into a well-rounded companion you can take with you just about anywhere.
Meeting other dogs and people will not only get them accustomed to contact, but also exposes them to new ideas and situations that stimulate intelligence in the growing puppy brain.