Dr Tracy Douglas
Your guide to this article today is by veterinarian Dr Tracy Douglas
Published 14:13 pm

The distinctive-looking and hard-working Catahoula Leopard Dog is the official canine of Louisiana and thought to be the only pooch that has originated in the state. Originally, they were bred to drive livestock to market, and they still largely remain working dogs rather than pets. They are known for their versatility, athleticism, and intelligence. When around their families, they are known for their loyal, gentle, and affectionate natures. While they can adapt to indoor or outdoor living, they need to be kept in a securely fenced area and have sufficient human companionship.

Whether you are thinking of adding one of these canines to your household or you would simply like to know more about the one you have already, this is a complete guide to the Catahoula.

Catahoula Leopard dog on the snow

History of the Catahoula

When settlers first arrived in Louisiana, they found that the woods were overrun with wild hogs and cows. To deal with this problem, they bred herding dogs with those belonging to Native Americans, which were described to look like wolves but bark like dogs.

The resulting dogs were found to be tough creatures, capable of dealing with fierce livestock. The Catahoula Leopard Dog or Louisiana Catahoula Leopard Dog was the result. They were celebrated for the unique way that they herded wild animals, creating a ‘canine fence’ around them, which could be directed by the dog’s master.

For a long time, they were still known as curs. It wasn’t until 1979 when the breed started to gain recognition. This was the year that it was named as the official state dog of Louisiana. In 1995, the United Kennel Club acknowledged the breed. In 2010, the American Kennel Club (AKC) started allowing this breed to compete in companion events.

Who Are the Parents?

We aren’t entirely certain of the ancestry of the Catahoula Leopard Dog, but there are several canines that may have played a part in its development including sighthounds, mastiffs, Beaucerons, and possibly even red wolves.

Quick Facts

  • Catahoula Leopard Dogs have striking appearances that are largely catergorised by their short to medium coats that can appear spotted, patched, brindle, or solid.
  • These canines also have distinctive eyes, which can vary in colors such as amber, brown, green, and blue. Some can even have eyes of different colors.
  • Depending on whether they are male or female, the Catahoula Leopard Dog size tends to range between 50 and 90 pounds in weight.
  • The word ‘Catahoula’ is from the Native American Choctaw language that is thought to have meant sacred lake. They have also been known as the Louisiana Catahoula Leopard Dog, Catahoula Cur, Catahoula Hot Dog, and Catahoula Hound.
  • They are used in numerous different roles including as tree dogs, watchdogs, and guard dogs.
  • Catahoula Leopard Dogs are so well known for their abilities that they have even been taken to Venezuela to gather up wild cattle on enormous ranches.
  • In Canada, these dogs have successfully competed in sled dog racing!

Catahoula Leopard puppies

Things You Should Know

Training

Your dog should be properly trained to prevent nuisance behavior from becoming a problem. They are known for their high levels of independence and territorial behavior, so ensuring that they are properly socialized as part of your family is entirely essential. If this is done right, they can become both affectionate and gentle. Catahoulas don’t reach full maturity until they are two years old, but they can start working like an adult at 10 months. Making all their jobs and exercises fun can help to prevent them from suffering burnout.

Feeding

High-quality dog food is important for Catahoulas. Some owners decide that commercially prepared food is best, while others go down the route of home preparation with the support of a vet or pet nutritionist. Whatever diet you choose, it should match your dog’s age – whether this is a puppy, adult, or senior pooch. You need to keep an eye on the number of calories that your dog is consuming as this is a breed that is known to suffer from obesity if they are allowed to overeat. While treats are a useful training aid, you need to be careful not to overuse. As a rule of thumb, they should make up no more than 10 percent of your doggy’s diet. Some human food is safe for canines, but it is always better to be sure rather than offering your pooch something that is potentially poisonous to them. And at all times, fresh water should be made available so your dog can hydrate themselves.

Grooming

As they have short to medium coats, grooming shouldn’t present too much of a major problem when you own a Catahoula Leopard Dog. A good habit of weekly grooming is worth getting into to keep up with Catahoula Leopard Dog shedding. These dogs shed lightly throughout the course of the year, but you will keep a lot of it from getting all over your home with regular brushing. Plus, you will keep their coat shiny and in the best condition.

Giving them a bath from time to time also helps. While some owners treat grooming as a chore, it can actually be a fantastic bonding experience between you and your pup. Start the grooming early and keep it consistent to ensure that your dog gets used to it and doesn’t put up any major objections.

One task that you need to keep up with is clipping your dog’s nails as these can grow at quite a rapid rate. Use a nail clipper or grinder. If you overlook this task, it is much more likely that they are going to overgrow, split or crack. When you are grooming your dog, you should get into the habit of giving their ears an inspection. Look out for a waxy buildup or debris as these things need to be cleared away to prevent any infections. You should also brush your dog’s teeth on a regular basis to prevent dental and gum issues from arising. If you are unsure of how to do this, you should consult with your vet. If plaque has already started to build up, you may need to take them in to have a professional cleaning session.

Louisiana Catahoula dog lying down on a beach

Health

There are a few common health concerns amongst Catahoula Leopard Dogs. These include hip dysplasia, eye problems, and deafness. However, in general, these are healthy dogs who do not suffer from many of the genetic issues that can affect other pooches. If you are going to get your dog from a breeder, you should make sure that they are reputable. They often use genetic testing of their breeding stock to ensure that the likelihood of diseases is reduced.

Regular exercise is an important part of owning a dog of this breed. They will need plenty of space to stretch their legs and engage in the kind of high-energy workouts that are so important in canines. This is more of a countryside dog than one who should be cooped up in an apartment. You should at least have a yard for them to exercise in. If your dog does not get enough exercise, it is much more likely that they are going to start engaging in problem behavior such as digging, chewing, and nuisance barking. Ideally, when you take them out, this should be in a secure fenced area where they are not at risk of disappearing.

Taking your dog for walks on a regular basis can form the cornerstone of their exercise routine, but you can also engage in jogging, hiking, and playing games of fetch. These dogs are also excellent at swimming, and this is a great option that is not going to cause too many issues to their joints. You could also enroll them in training activities such as agility sessions or obedience lessons, which can also have a beneficial effect on their behavior. Before you get one of these dogs, you need to accept that they are going to be at the upper end of the exercise requirement scale.

Temperament

If you are looking for a hard-working dog, you will struggle to find one who does more than a Catahoula. But they can also make excellent companions to the whole family. Most people get these dogs as workers, but as long as they have the opportunity to take care of these instincts, they can happily spend the rest of the time with their families. But the fact that they are naturally suspicious of strangers makes them a good option as watchdogs. While they may be great playing with older children, the Catahoula Leopard Dog temperament may be too rough for toddlers and younger kids. They can get on with other pets like cats if they are raised with them but may chase after them if not.

You can start training your new puppy from as young as eight weeks old. If you wait until they are a few months old, they are likely to become more stubborn. You will need to socialize your pup to get them used to being around other dogs. As they are highly intelligent canines, you are going to need to be especially consistent and patient with your training techniques. Remember that many puppy kindergartens require vaccines to be kept up with. Keep your dog away if they have not yet been inoculated.

The Catahoula dog breed is known for needing constant companionship to keep them happy. They do not do well in isolation and should not be left to live outside. They also need plenty of strenuous exercise. Expect at least an hour a day to keep them satisfied. Otherwise, they can start engaging in destructive behavior and noisy yowling. If you aren’t keeping them as a working dog and don’t have anything for them to hunt, you are likely to need to take them out for longer walks or runs. This is also a great dog to take out on longer hikes. Keep your dog tired and they are much more likely to behave well!

When taking this dog out for a walk, you need to be careful to keep them on the leash as they can become aggressive to other canines. Since they are naturally wary of strangers, this makes them great watchdogs. However, this wariness doesn’t mean that they are shy creatures. They are much more likely to bark out a warning or simply stay on alert whenever strangers are around. However, when they trust someone, they are likely to be a lot more friendly. A firm but fair approach is a good one to take.

Catahoula Leopard dog on the beach

Final Thoughts

Catahoula Leopard Dogs make excellent additions to the right family. Since they still possess these strong working instincts, it makes sense that they are introduced into farming households or other ones which can make use of them. If they are unable to work off their natural instincts, they are more likely to engage in problematic destructive behavior. As this is a high-energy dog, you will need to ensure that they get plenty of physical and mental stimulation on a daily basis. You also need to make sure that they are properly trained and socialized from a young age. But if all of this is taken care of successfully, you should find yourself with an affectionate and loving companion who forms close bonds with its owners.

If you are a first-time owner, this may not be the best choice of pooch as they are comparatively high maintenance. You should also bear in mind that some Catahoulas are always going to be better in single pet households, while others are able to co-exist with other animals as long as they are properly socialized. You should never buy one of these dogs from a breeder who is unwilling or unable to provide the proper health clearances or guarantees. You want to ensure that they are free of the kind of genetic diseases that can be passed down to their Catahoula puppies.

Dr Tracy Douglas
General Practice Veterinarian, currently working at the Glenwood Veterinary Clinic, Glenwood Springs, Colorado. Dr. Douglas began her veterinary career as a Veterinary Nurse in Highton Veterinary Clinic, Highton Victoria, and then as an Emergency Veterinarian in Uintah Pet Emergency, Colorado Springs, Colorado. Tracy is particularly interested in surgery, neurology and internal medicine, which gives her a well-rounded knowledge on animal health and well-being. She received her Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine from the University of Melbourne, while her undergraduate bachelor of science is from the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your name here
Please enter your comment!