ALL DOG BREED PROFILES

Catahoula Leopard Dog

Catahoula Leopard Dogs
John Walton
Written by John Walton

The Catahoula leopard dog breed is a herding, working dog that has a remarkable appearance. They are tough dogs that need a strong leader with a lot of time, to teach them the right way. Very protective and dedicated to the owner and the family, they will take your heart away with their stunning appearance.

Breed Characteristics

AdaptabilityBelow Average
TrainabilityAbove Average
Health and GroomingAbove Average
All Around FriendlinessAbove Average
Exercise NeedsHigh

Dog Breed Group:Herding Dogs
Height:1 foot, 8 inches to 2 feet, 2 inches tall at the shoulder
Weight:Generally 50 to 90 pounds
Life Span:10 to 14 years

The “hog dog” of Louisiana, originating from Native American dogs, Greyhounds and Spanish Mastiffs, was created to track and herd wild hogs and cattle. They have an aggressive nature that is needed in this kind of work.

Their appearance is stunning! They can have different colors, spots, patches and solid colors, but regardless of that, they look beautiful. Some of them have different colored eyes or even two different colors on the same eye which makes them even more special.

They are good swimmers, because of their feet and eyes and good workers in soft, marshy areas. Also, they are very good judges of character, and because of that, they are vary of strangers. They are protective and loving towards families.

If you get this breed, make sure you make time for at least an hour a day to do some exercise and training with your dog.

Main Highlights
  • They are a strong breed, but they shouldn’t be left to live outside alone. They are companion dogs and they do poorly if isolated.
  • Never walk off leash! They may be aggressive towards strangers and unknown dogs.
  • Intelligent breed that needs patient, consistent and firm training.
  • Catahoulas need daily training for at least an hour, to spend all that energy they have.
  • They shed all through the year, and they need weekly brushing to keep their coat shiny and remove all the dead hair.
  • Early socialization is needed, if you want your dog to be friendly to others and not aggressive.
  • Not recommended for first time owners! They need a strong leader character, confident trainer who they will obey and love at the same time.
  • Puppies from this breed are also very tough and they need tough toys too! The toys need to be durable otherwise you’ll end up buying a toy every day.
  • A big yard and opportunity for herding and tracking- a perfect environment for this breed! Remember that the yard needs to be fenced.
  • Protective of children and family members, but they still need some supervision while they are interacting with small children.
  • Most of the Catahoulas, if raised properly, will do good with other pets. However, this is not valid for all the individuals of this breed and some of them may have to live alone.
  • Male Catahoulas can be aggressive toward other male dogs.
  • They are fantastic watchdogs that alert you of strangers!
Breed History

Even though the name sounds a bit weird, it can be easily explained with the area around the Catahoula Lake in Louisiana. This is the place of origin for this dog. The Spanish explorers brought Bloodhounds, Mastiffs and Greyhounds to the mentioned area and the product of breeding between them and the local dogs is the Catahoula leopard dog.

Also known as, Catahoula curs, Catahoula hounds, the official name of this breed is Louisiana Catahoula Leopard Dog, because they became the state dog of Louisiana. The dogs were used for tracking and rounding up wild hogs, so sometimes they are called hog dogs.

After the Louisiana Catahoula Cur Association was formed in 1976, the National Association of Louisiana Catahoulas in 1977 was formed and also other organizations that promote and preserve the breed’s conformation and working ability. They do this trough shows, trials, clinics and certified testing.

The first national dog registry that recognized this breed was the United Kennel Club, in 1995. Since it is a rare breed, it entered the American Kennel Club’s Foundation Stock Service in 1996. However, it is not recognized by the AKC and cannot participate in AKC events.

The Catahoula dog is not a family dog. It is recognized by its strong working ability and fascinating heritage, and, if you decide to keep a dog from this breed, you will have a dedicated protector and companion for life.

Size

Males reach about 22 to 26 inches at the shoulder and 65 to 90 pounds while females only reach 20 to 24 inches at the shoulder and usually weight 50 to 65 pounds.

Personality and Character

Catahoulas are not supposed to be aggressive toward people. However, they are suspicious and mistrustful of strangers. On the other hand, they are loveable and protective with family members.

You should keep in mind that males from this breed are aggressive toward other male dogs. As they are rounding dog, it is a necessity for them to work aggressively while rounding up cattle and hogs. They have an instinct for doing this and if they cannot, you need to find some other occupation for them to waste their energy.

They are excellent watchdogs and barking at strangers for warning is nothing new for them.

Regarding training, you need to be firm and fair to them and never mistreat or abuse them. Because sometimes they can be aggressive, you need to choose your puppy carefully. Dog’s temperament depends on many factors, such as heredity, socialization and training. As far as heredity goes, be sure to meet at least one of the puppy’s parents (usually the mom is more available) and see what kind of temperament it has. Also, it would be a good idea if you meet other siblings or relatives of the parents, to evaluate the character of the puppy you choose.

Just like every dog, this breed too needs early socialization. Exposing them to various people, sounds, sights and experiences is very good for socializing and helps for your puppy to grow up to be well-rounded dog. You can also enroll your puppy in a puppy kindergarten, for it to learn and become more obedient.

Health and Potential Problems

Generally, they are a healthy breed, but they can be affected by some health conditions that you need to be aware of before getting a puppy.

  • Canine Hip Dysplasia (CHD) is a hereditary condition when the thighbone doesn’t fit as it should in the hip joint. It can cause lameness and arthritis, and the dog can refuse to walk, feel pain and discomfort. Dogs with this condition mustn’t be bred. You need to ask for hip dysplasia clearances from the breeder before you get your puppy.
  • Deafness: This is a problem because Catahoulas carry the gene for merle coloration which is related to deafness. The deafness can be unilateral- on one ear or bilateral- on both ears.
Care Features

Even though this breed is a very tough one, they shouldn’t just be tied and left in the yard. They need the company of people and should also be cozy in your home.

Some people put underground electronic fences, to restrain the movement of their dog, but this breed won’t tolerate that. The Catahoula will ignore the shock and will go after another dog if it is trespassing on its territory. In addition, other dogs are able to enter the yard if there is no physical barrier, like a fence.

You need to be prepared to have at least one hour a day free, for doing exercise with a Catahoula. They need to spend the energy they have and also to have some fun and do some training.

Catahoulas are intelligent and they learn quickly, however they need a good leader. You need to start with their training the minute you get them, so you have the results more quickly. Patience, firmness, and consistency are very important in the training and forming of a strong bond with your dog. Always reward them well for the good behavior, so you’ll have to punish them less for bad behavior. Social interaction and regular training will do good for your mutual life.

Never leave your Catahoula to be bored, because they can become destructive to the environment in order to amuse themselves.

Coat, Color and Grooming

The coat length of the Catahoula is short to medium. There is only a single coat and the texture can vary from smooth to coarse.

They can be found in a lot of patterns and colors. The leopard pattern is well known by its base color with contrasting spots which can be in one or more colors. Brindle coated Catahoula can have light or dark base with contrasting stripes. When the coat is patched, there can be one prime color and the patches can be different in size, color and on different places on the body. Breeders prefer rich, deep colors to the light ones, but all colors are valued the same.

This breed sheds, so you’ll need to brush it weekly to reduce the shedding and keep the coat clean and shiny. Bathing should be done on rare occasions, 2-4 times per year.

When it comes to dental hygiene and nails, this breed needs care just like any other. Teeth need to be brushed at least 2-3 times per week to avoid tartar build up and bacteria. If you can do it more often, it’s better. Nails should be trimmed as needed, once or twice a month. If your dog is active and trims the nails by itself, you will need to do it less often.

Ears need to be checked weekly, so make sure that there is no redness, debris or some inflammation. They need to be cleaned as needed, with a cotton ball and an ear cleanser. Never use a cotton swab to clean your dog’s ears. Be careful and if you are not sure about something, contact your vet.

If you want to do all of this on a regular basis and with no problems, you need to accustom your dog to this since it is just a puppy. As all dogs are, this breed too is touchy about their paws. You need to examine them regularly, so your dog gets used to it.

Always reward your Catahoula after doing a good job, so they remember it as a positive experience and not something to run away from.

Feeding Schedule

Depending on what kind of food you are using, you need to divide the daily amount into two meals. Because they are active dogs, you shouldn’t give them food or water at least one hour after exercise, to avoid gastric dilatation volvulus.

The daily amount of food you give to your dog depends on few things: size, build, age, activity and metabolism and also the quality of the food you give to your dog. If you give your dog a high-quality food, the amount of the meals should be smaller. Also, more active dogs need more food intake.

If you want your dog to be in good condition and shape, don’t leave the food lying around. You should measure it and give the exact needed amount, so your dog doesn’t become obese or skinny.

Children And Other Pets Compatibility

Sometimes described as the babysitter for kids, the Catahoula is very suitable for a family dog. Even though they will always be protective and loyal to you and the family members, you shouldn’t leave a Catahoula unattended with young children. Especially if the kids don’t know how to interact with a dog, there will be some crying from either party. That’s why you need to teach children how to approach dogs and how to act with them.

Growing up with other cats and dogs will teach a Catahoula how to get along with them. However, an adult Catahoula may need more time to adjust to a new pet in your home. If you decide to get another dog and you already have a Catahoula, you should at least choose the opposite sex and make the introductions in a neutral area, not your home.

Now that you know a bit more about this breed, you can make a choice whether to have one of them or not. They are going to take your breath away with their beautiful colors and look and they will protect you and dedicate their whole life to you.

You might even get to do more exercise with them. Either way they will make sure they get theirs! Also don’t expect them to be friends with everyone as they are fantastic guard dogs and are not afraid to show their true potential when they don’t like someone.

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.

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