If you remember Freeway from the popular 1980s television series "Hart To Hart," you’ve seen a Lowchen, albeit one without the breed’s distinctive lion trim. It’s not surprising that one of these charismatic little dogs became a TV star. They have a clownish personality and love to be the center of attention. The name comes from German words meaning "little lion," and the breed’s history dates to the Renaissance, as evidenced by paintings and woodcuts from the era depicting the breed. Here’s what you need to know if you’re considering life with one of these entertaining little dogs.

Traits, Personality and Behavior

Curious and smart, but sometimes stubborn, the Lowchen is playful, fast on his feet, and enjoys the outdoors. Despite his small size, approximately 15 pounds at maturity, he lives up to his name and won't back down from anything or anyone. That seems cute, but it means you have to protect the dog from himself. He won't fare well if he tries to take on a bigger dog and isn't restrained.

He's alert to everything going on around him and must learn early on to temper his desire to bark. He learns quickly and can do well in agility and obedience trials. He has a happy, cheerful personality, and gets along well with children and other pets.

The Lowchen has a long, dense coat that's soft to the touch. He stands out for the lion trim he wears: basically a mane of hair extending to the last rib, a bare rear end and a bare tail with a plume at the tip. Expect to spend 10 minutes a night removing tangles and mats, and give him a more thorough brushing at least weekly. Take him to a professional groomer for his lion trim every two months. If the lion trim doesn't appeal, keep him in a cute and simple short puppy cut.

You may hear from breeders that the Lowchen is a hypoallergenic breed, but that's not true. It's not a dog's hair that triggers allergies, but dander (dead skin flakes), saliva and urine. There's no escaping any of those when you live with a dog, no matter what breed it is. Meet and interact with as many Lowchen as possible to find out if you react to the breed.

Exercise is good for every dog, so make sure the Lowchen gets some activity daily. While it's tempting to carry this little dog everywhere you go, resist the impulse and let him walk on his own four feet. He'll be happier and better-behaved for it.

Lowchen were bred exclusively as companion dogs. They need to live in the house and never outdoors.

Lowchen puppies are adorable, and it's one of the reasons they are so popular. Cute puppies sell, and that makes the Lowchen a favorite of puppy mills and greedy, irresponsible breeders. Do your homework before buying one of these little dogs, and you'll be well rewarded with a charming and affectionate dog. The Lowchen is an uncommon breed. You may have to wait several months or even a year or more before a puppy is available for you to take home.

Health Issues Common to Lowchen

All purebred dogs have the potential to develop genetic health problems, just as all people have the potential to inherit a particular disease. Run, don't walk, from any breeder who does not offer a health guarantee on puppies, who tells you that the breed is 100 percent healthy and has no known problems, or who tells you that her puppies are isolated from the main part of the household for health reasons. A reputable breeder will be honest and open about health problems in the breed and the incidence with which they occur in her lines.

Lowchen have some health conditions that can be a concern, especially if you aren't cautious about whom you buy from. They include luxating patellas and eye problems such as cataracts and progressive retinal atrophy.

At a minimum, ask the breeder for evidence that both of a puppy's parents have OFA patella certifications and are certified free of eye disease by the Canine Eye Registry Foundation.

Condition Risk Profile Cost to Diagnose and Treat
Patellar Luxation Medium $1,500-$3,000

6 Tips to Bring Home a Healthy Lowchen Puppy

Don't ever, ever, ever buy a puppy from a pet store. You're more likely to get an unhealthy, unsocialized and difficult to housetrain puppy and will be supporting the cruelty of high-volume puppy mills.

Find a good breeder who will match you with the right puppy, and will without question have done all the health certifications necessary to screen out health problems as much as possible. To get a referral to a breeder, visit the website of the Lowchen Club of America.

Do not purchase a puppy from a breeder who cannot provide you with written documentation that the parents were cleared of health problems that affect the breed. Having the dogs "vet checked" is not a substitute for genetic health testing.

Consider an adult dog from a shelter or a rescue group. Many of the health and behavior problems in Lowchen aren't apparent in puppyhood, but by adopting an older dog, most of them can be ruled out. In addition, Lowchen can live as long as 17 years, so an adult dog will still be a part of your family for a long time to come.

Puppy or adult, take your Lowchen to your veterinarian soon after adoption. Your veterinarian will be able to spot visible problems, and will work with you to set up a preventive regimen that will help you avoid many health issues. Ask specifically about dental care, as most toy breeds suffer from dental problems, as well as tips on dealing with tear staining.

Make sure you have a good contract with the seller, shelter or rescue group that spells out responsibilities on both sides. In states with "puppy lemon laws," be sure you and the person you get the dog from both understand your rights and recourses.

Pet Insurance for Lowchen

Pet insurance for Lowchen costs more than for mixed breed dogs. This is because Lowchen are more likely than mixed breed dogs to make claims for hereditary conditions that are expensive to treat.

Embrace dog insurance plans offer full coverage for all breed-specific conditions (excluding those that are pre-existing) to which Lowchen are susceptible. The best time to get pet insurance for your Lowchen is when he's a healthy puppy. You can't predict what will happen in the future, and pet insurance is the one thing you can't get when you need it the most.