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All About Catahoula Leopard Dogs

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brown catahoula leopard dog with a striped teal collar on a walk

Catahoula Leopard Dogs are a fascinating and beautiful breed. They are intelligent, energetic, loyal, and playful pups. Before adopting a Catahoula, it’s essential that you first understand all that goes into taking care of these canines.

About the Breed

What is a Catahoula Leopard Dog? Catahoula Leopard Dogs are a complex breed that is not the best choice for every family, but these dogs are amazing companions in the proper household. Due to their strong personalities and tendency to be independent, it’s recommended that Catahoulas be adopted by experienced dog parents—they can be overwhelming if this is your first dog. This breed is also not compatible with living in an apartment.

Catahoula Leopard Dogs are part of the herding group. These hard-working dogs enjoy having a job, completing tasks, and getting the chance to stretch their legs. These canines are hardy and strong-willed.

Though dogs of this breed are a force of nature outside, they nearly do a 180 when they go inside after a long, hard day of working. These pups can be playful and cuddly and make for a wonderful watchdog. They are naturally protective of their family and have an amazing judge of character with new people.

Catahoulas don’t mind meeting new friends, but it’s not unusual for them to, at first, be reserved. These dogs can do well with older children, but it’s important that they know how to interact with the dog correctly. Since Catahoulas are large, herding dogs with plenty of energy, they may be too rambunctious for younger children. No matter the kids’ age, it’s recommended that you always supervise interactions between your dog and kids. When it comes to dogs of this breed, socialization is implemental to raising a well-tempered dog.

Since each dog is an individual, it’s important to remember that not all Catahoulas will be open to having other pets in the home. That said, other pups of this breed will welcome the extra company, though often, Catahoulas typically get along better with a dog of the opposite gender. Though it is not unheard of for these canines to live in the house with a cat, caution should be taken since the Catahoula’s prey drive may not be the most compatible with smaller pets.

Breed History

There are a handful of various theories and stories behind the Catahoula Leopard Dog’s history, all equally as intriguing. The most likely of them is that around the 1700s, when people were settling the Louisiana area, they noticed that the nearby woods were overrun with wild hogs.

As a solution to this issue, settlers bred their dogs with those of the local Native Americans. The result was a hardy and quick-thinking canine that could herd tough livestock and also protect against various wild animals.

Due to their unique appearance, many people often wonder, “What breeds are in a Catahoula Leopard Dog?” It is believed that many breeds exist in this dog’s ancestry, including Mastiffs, Greyhounds, Bloodhounds, Beaucerons, and red wolves.

Dogs of this breed have proven ten-fold why they are so special. After centuries, this breed continues to be a valuable hunting, herding, working, guarding, and family dog. Recognizing the importance of the Catahoula, in 1979, it was named the official state dog of Louisiana.

Over the years, Catahoula Leopard Dogs have also been referred to as Louisiana Catahoula Leopard Dogs, Catahoula Cur, and Catahoula hog dogs.

Attributes

Catahoulas are large, muscular dogs with floppy ears and a long, slightly curved tail. These dogs’ coats can be short to medium in length, with short coats typically having a sleek appearance. Catahoulas can be found with spotted, solid, brindle, merle, or patched coat patterns and various colors, including white, tan, red, blue, chocolate, grey, and black.

Catahoulas additionally have striking eyes. Their colors can consist of blue, green, brown, or amber. Not only can this breed have heterochromia (different colored eyes), but some even have “cracked” eyes—when one iris has two different colors.

Before bringing a Catahoula Leopard Dog into the home, dog parents typically have some questions they first want to be answered. Common questions include:

Are Catahoula Leopard Dogs Rare?

Catahoula Leopard Dogs are relatively rare. They can easily be found in the Louisiana and Gulf Coast areas but are much more difficult to come across in other parts of the United States. Outside of the U.S., this breed is nearly impossible to find.

Do Catahoula Leopard Dogs Shed?

Catahoulas shed a medium amount. Your home won’t be covered in tufts of hair as if a Samoyed or Saint Bernard lives there, but you can expect hair to begin piling up if you don’t keep up with brushing or vacuuming.

Do Catahoula Leopard Dogs Bark a Lot?

Being a guardian of their family, these dogs like to alert their humans anytime there’s something suspicious. Although this breed’s vocal tendencies can vary per dog, overall, Catahoulas are known to bark quite a bit, though still not quite as much as other breeds.

How Big Do Catahoula Leopard Dogs Get?

Catahoula Leopards are large dogs that typically weigh between 50-95 pounds. Height-wise, these canines usually stand at 20-26 inches.

What’s An Average Lifespan for Catahoula Leopard Dogs?

The average life expectancy for Catahoula dogs is 10-14 years. With that in mind, a dog’s lifespan can be affected by numerous factors, including their diet, exercise plan, health, and living environment.

black catahoula leopard dog resting in the yard

How to Train a Catahoula Leopard Dog

An essential part of being a Catahoula parent is to train your dog properly. These dogs require leadership and a firm hand to teach them plenty of commands and keep them physically and mentally active.

When it comes to training your dog, it’s crucial that you begin as soon as possible—even the very day you bring your pup home. Whether you adopt a few-month-old puppy or a full-grown dog, it’s never too early or too late to begin working on commands.

With your Catahoula, though they are brilliant and will likely catch onto new tricks quickly, be prepared for some push-back. Remember to stay consistent and patient with your pup and to make training a positive and fun experience.

As any dog parent will tell you, it’s also a game-changer whenever you can figure out what motivates your pup. Some dogs are food motivated, while others are motivated by certain toys. In addition to the obvious training benefit of having a well-behaved dog, training is also a perfect opportunity to spend time with and create a stronger bond with your best pal.

Part of training your Catahoula includes socializing them. Socialization is incredibly valuable to raising a dog that will behave appropriately with other people and animals. It is recommended that you begin socializing your pup as early as possible, though, with puppies, it’s essential to wait until after they have had their necessary shots.

One of the best parts of socialization is that the opportunities are nearly endless. Great places to take your dog include pet stores, dog-friendly stores, dog-friendly restaurants, parks, and other peoples’ houses. It can also be incredibly helpful to have friends and family over at your home.

Though socialization may sound overwhelming for some dog parents, in the end, it boils down to just one thing—exposing your dog to new sights, sounds, people, and places. Just like training, it’s essential that you keep socialization outings a positive experience and be sure to reward your pup with plenty of treats, head pats, and ear scratches after a successful outing.

Since Catahoulas are herding dogs, socialization for this breed can also include introducing them to various farm animals.

Grooming

Catahoula Leopard Dogs are fairly easy to groom. They require at least one brushing per week, which can help keep their coat healthy and free of dead hair. They only require a bath every few months, though if yours is prone to rolling in mud puddles, they may need a good scrubbing more frequently.

Weekly teeth brushings are recommended to reduce the chances of periodontal disease and keep that dog breath smelling fresh.

On a weekly basis, you should also do a quick check of your pup’s ears. If they appear dirty, use a dog-safe ear cleaning solution and a cotton ball to wipe out you’re their outer ear gently. Never use a cotton swab or clean down into your dog’s ears, as this could accidentally cause pain or injury. While checking your dog’s ears, if they ever appear to be unusually red or there’s a bad odor, schedule a veterinary appointment, as this could be an indication that your dog has an ear infection. Don’t forget to make sure those big, floppy Catahoula ears dry out properly after a bath or swim.

On about a monthly basis (though it varies per dog), your Catahoula’s nails will need to be trimmed. If you are trimming your dog’s nails, be sure that you first know how to recognize where their nail’s quick is. For dog parents that don’t feel comfortable doing this part of the grooming routine, you can schedule an appointment with your local veterinarian or dog groomer who offers this service.

Be sure to begin introducing each grooming item to your dog beginning from a young age. Grooming should also be a positive experience, and patience is necessary until your pal becomes comfortable with their routine. A great way to help your Catahoula become desensitized to being groomed is to gently play with their feet, tail, and ears.

Care

Caring for a Catahoula Leopard Dog can be a demanding but rewarding job. These dogs require at least one hour of vigorous exercise every day. Otherwise, you may have a bored and destructive dog on your hands.

Ideally, your Catahoula will be able to spend a large portion of their day outside. When it comes to this breed, a fenced-in yard or property is necessary—electric fences or simply trusting your dog off-leash will not do. Though these dogs prefer to spend their time outdoors, that does not mean that they should be tied up or left outside in harsh weather.

Catahoulas enjoy spending quality time with their family and still require play and cuddle time.

Besides providing your pal with plenty of physical and mental exercise, all Catahoula Leopard Dogs require a nutritious, age-appropriate diet. Dogs should be fed multiple smaller meals a day instead of one large meal. Be sure to keep an eye on when your dog is eating and drinking in relation to exercising—large breed dogs need time to digest to avoid bloat.

Common Health Issues

Catahoula Leopard Dogs are a relatively healthy breed. Just like any dog, though, they are still susceptible to developing some health issues. According to our claims data,** the top issues that affect this breed include,

  1. Allergies*
  2. Cancer
  3. Diarrhea
  4. Ear infections
  5. Intervertebral disc disease

Although these conditions are more common for this breed, there is no guarantee that your dog will develop any of them. However, since Catahoulas are more prone to developing these health issues, it doesn’t hurt to familiarize yourself with the most common signs for each. You can hopefully stay a step ahead with your dog’s health by knowing what to keep an eye out for.

True for any dog breed: a healthy dog is a happy dog. One of the best ways to prioritize your pet’s health is to schedule annual appointments with their veterinarian. Even if the time for their appointment arrives and your dog appears to be in perfect health, it’s crucial that you never skip these check-ups.

Your veterinarian can also be a valuable resource to bring up any questions or concerns you may have about your dog.

**Internal Claims Data, 2015-20

The information presented in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute or substitute for the advice of your veterinarian.

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