The Louisiana Catahoula Leopard Dog behaves lovingly with his family
and those he knows, but is reserved to the point of shy or suspicious
of those he does not know. The Catahoula’s owner must fully understand
the breed and how to be dominant and firm with this dog.
This breed needs something to do, direction, and a good deal
of attention from people he knows and loves. He also needs firm training
or he will get bored quickly and cause trouble by chewing, digging and
The Catahoula Leopard Dog has a very high energy level, so they
need a good amount of exercise to stay happy and healthy. They are noisy and rambunctious
when they play. This should be strongly considered before making him part of the family,
especially if you live where things need to be calm and quiet.
The Catahoula originated in North Central Louisiana in the
geographic area around the Catahoula Lake from which it got its name.
The word Catahoula is of Choctaw Indian origin and is translated into English
lake", just as the Choctaw word Choekahoula means "sacred home." There
is some speculation that the Catahoula Leopard dog is a descendant of the greyhounds
and mastiffs that were brought into Louisiana by Hernando de Soto in the sixteenth
century. These original dogs were also known as war dogs and are thought to
have interbred with the local red wolves.
In the next century, the French began to arrive in Louisiana
as well, bringing the Beauceron dog breed, which then mixed with the interbred
dogs that were now in the area, producing the breed as it is seen today.
Governor Edwin Edwards made the Catahoula Leopard dog the official state dog
of Louisiana in 1979.
As with most smart dog breeds, the Louisiana Catahoula Leopard needs to have
a fair amount of stimulation in order to stay energized and happy. These dogs
are highly intelligent and quick to assess situations, making them perfect helpers
in law enforcement. But at the same time, this energy can also match
perfectly with young children. The Catahoula is gentle and loving with younger
children, so unlike other sporting dogs, this breed can be a good addition to
a home setting.
Because of their high intelligence, the Catahoula Leopard will often try to
learn new things and will be curious about their environment. This creates
a sort of independent manner about them, and they will go off to wander and
explore alone if they feel compelled to do so.
Spending a lot of time with this dog is imperative for its
health and happiness. This is a dog that craves interaction with others and
wants to be a part of the family that it belongs to. If you do not have time
to interact with this type of dog breed, it may not be a good fit for your home.
What may not work for every family is the Catahoula Leopard's
tendency to be very overprotective of their family and of their territory.
This can cause problems in some situations. The Catahoula can also become
fierce when they are around other dogs, especially when the dogs are the
same sex as they are, so if you already have a canine at home, this may
be something to consider.
Though the initial protectiveness may not be seen in the first
few years of a Catahoula's life, at the age of two this breed begins
to feel it has a responsibility to protect its owners. Surprisingly
the Catahoula can become mild-mannered and timid around strangers, not
from intimidation, but from hesitation. These dogs are intolerant of strangers
and that's what makes them seem fearful in the presence of someone they
With all of these personality features in mind, some more mild-mannered dog
owners may not be a good fit for the Catahoula Leopard. The owner needs to be
someone that is ready to demonstrate leadership for the dog, as this breed wants
to be lead and trained by an authority.
This dog breed is often encouraged in homes that have a lot
of room for the dog to roam, but might feel too
caged in cities or suburbs. When trying to control your Catahoula Leopard, make
sure they attend obedience classes as well as have a place where they can be
locked up when you're not around to monitor their actions.
The breed's size ranges from 20-26" and weighs between
50-90 lbs, with a few individuals larger. Most males average 60-70 lbs in lean
working condition and are about 24" tall. As a working dog, Catahoulas
have been bred more for temperament and ability than for appearance. As a result,
the physical characteristics of the Catahoula are somewhat varied.
Catahoulas Leopards have a single, short, dense coat in a variety
of colors. These dogs are actually solid colored dogs that have been affected
by the merle gene which dilutes a normally dark coat. This merle gene combines
with solid colors to create merle patterns in patches of white and colored hairs
intermingled with patches of solid colors.
Leopards with black coats will appear with patches of blue
or gray. Likewise, Leopards with red and brown coats will appear with lighter
patches of red or liver. This occurrence is referred to as a Leopard (Merle)
colored dog. The merle gene does not normally affect the entire coat of the
dog, but dilutes the color only in areas that are randomly selected by the gene.
White coats are visually unaffected.
Though most dogs have webbing between the toes, Catahoulas'
feet have more prominent webbing which extends almost to the ends of the toes.
This foot gives the Catahoula the ability to work marshy areas and gives them
great swimming ability.
With a short and smooth coat of fur, the Catahoula Leopard dog is easy to
groom. They require bathing only a few times a year (more if they've gotten
into something messy), but their coats do not require constant brushing. Using
a curry comb, bristle brush, or horsehair mitt, you simply brush the dog outside
once or twice a week depending on how much the dog sheds. This will give the
dog a shiny coat and also keep hair from piling up around the house.
In addition to brushing your Catahoula's coat, you should also trim their
nails once a week to prevent overgrowth. This is very easy to do and you will
need a pair of animal nail clippers that can be found in most pet stores. Only
trim the top portion of the nail.
Cleaning your dog's ears may also be necessary especially if
they suffer from allergies, bacterial infection, or they have a wound
or other type of injury. Clean ears with baby oil and a cotton ball. Do
not go too far into the ear as you could damage the ear canal. Instead,
gently wipe around the outer ear. If you notice your dog is scratching
its ears often or shaking its head too often, you should take the dog
to the vet as they may have an infection or ear mites.
With proper grooming, you will always have a happy, well adjusted dog that
looks beautiful at all times.
Exercise and Training
The high activity level of the Catahoula Leopard lends itself well to the
farm or country setting, but may not work as well in the suburbs or a city dwelling.
The workaholic personality of this dog breed needs to be constantly
satisfied, or the dog may become unnecessarily aggressive. If at all possible,
this breed needs to be working during the day as a herder or in some
other capacity. They enjoy being outdoors and playing, rather than sitting
Catahoulas should be allowed to run for at least one full hour
daily, to help maintain their health as well as placate their
energetic demeanor. This dog makes an excellent on a jog or a hike,
as they can easily keep up the pace and will not tire.
It's best to take this particular dog breed to an obedience school when they
are young to begin to train them in the proper ways of acting around other dogs
as well as their family. Quick to learn, they are often the star pupils
in their training classes due to their intelligence.
As far as training goes, In most cases the Catahoula Leopard
is a quick learner and often does not require any additional training
beyond their owner. However, if the owner is not strong willed and able
to stand up to this strong dog, the training may become problematic. It
takes a forceful dog owner to handle the energy and the intelligence of
this dog, so if the owner is not confident in their abilities, it would
be better if they take some dog training themselves before bringing
this dog home.
The Catahoula Leopard needs to have someone as assertive as they are in order
to keep them under control. When an owner falters in their assertiveness, it
can cause the dog to exhibit out of control behaviors that can become harmful
General Health Concerns
While generally a very healthy dog overall, the Catahoula Leopard
can encounter some problems during their active life.
This particular dog breed is prone to hip dysplasia, which can cause pain
and problems with mobility as the condition progresses. Those Catahoulas with
a white coat or with a white face are also prone to issues with glass eyes.
These particular colored dogs can often have an 80% chance of developing Deafness
in one or both ears.
Occasionally, this dog breed will have trouble with their eyes,
leading to tunnel vision, abnormal pupil dilation, and sometimes problems with
the eye opening. This is often seen in particular breeds, like the McMillin
Catahoula Leopard Dogs can also develop cancer in their