- Activity Level: high
- Grooming Level: moderate
- Trainability: moderate
- Adaptability: low
- Kid/Pet Friendly: often
- Average Size: Medium
- Average Lifespan: 10-15 years
- Prey Drive: moderate
- Watchdog: very alert
- Registered?: aca
Catahoula Leopard Dog Breed Profile
The Catahoula Leopard Dog is an American-bred herding dog that, like many Americans, comes from a mixed and uncertain lineage. Competing theories as to the Catahoula’s precise origins have opened the way for Louisiana to claim it as their own. It is the official state dog of Louisiana. Some speculate that they were bred by Native Americans to become the superb hunters, trackers, and herders that they are.
The dog breed goes by several different names, including Leopard Dog, Catahoula Hound, and Catahoula Hog Dog. The name is derived from Catahoula Parish (pronounced coot-ha-oo-goo-la) in Louisiana and the “leopard” part is a call to their remarkable spotted coat. The appearance of the Catahoula Leopard Dog – which includes a wide variety of coat patterns and colors and “marbled glass” eyes – was an afterthought for this classic working dog. They are considered a rare breed by the AKC, which has not yet recognized them for conformation events.
The Catahoula Leopard Dog is a highly intelligent and serious working dog with an even disposition. Because they are naturally curious and bred to be useful, these dogs do not fare well on their own. They are excellent watchdogs, as they are protective and instinctively alert. They are said to be good judges of character because they are discerning with who they like.
Due to their energetic nature, Catahoula’s are playful and need to be kept reasonably stimulated. This unique breed makes for a fine family pet, so long as these dogs are given the care they need to be happy. They are great with children, but their high energy should be supervised around small children.
The Catahoula Leopard Dog is not the most adaptable dog breed. They are not good apartment-dwelling dogs. Their energy, temperament, and breeding history dictates that they have lots of space to explore their world for stimulation. Even though they are outdoor dogs, they do not thrive where it is too hot or too cold. Their sturdy coat and webbed feet make them especially adaptable in water and woodland areas.
They are not friendly with people they don’t know or with other dogs they don’t know. The Catahoula is capable of being very well-trained, but this requires a strong trainer who understands the capabilities and limits of the breed. Simply put, the Catahoula is no pushover; they tend to insist on having things their own way. Their love and loyalty will be readily given to an appropriately attentive family.
The Catahoula is very sturdy and has not been “over-bred” like many other breeds. There are, however, a couple of typical health problems that should be watched out for. Hip dysplasia, a condition whereby the thighbone doesn’t fit properly into the hip joint, is common for dogs in general. The Catahoula is not particularly susceptible, but it is worth noting as a common genetic health problem.
Deafness, on the other hand, is a serious concern with the Catahoula Leopard Dog. This health condition especially affects dogs that are excessively white. Their coloring – or lack of it in the form of melanocytes – determines the dog’s vulnerability to deafness. A Catahoula that is predominantly white has an 80% chance of being born or becoming deaf. One in four “double merle” puppies – where both parents of any dog breed have the merle coat – are born deaf. Checking the genetic history of the parents and asking to see any available health clearances can help allay some concern for genetic health conditions.
The Catahoula Leopard Dog is not for everyone, but they make exceptional companions for the active family who can attend to their needs. They are loving, affectionate, and high-spirited. Although these good-natured dogs have a pleasant temperament, they are not recommended for the novice dog owner. This is simply because they require careful attention to their need to exert energy and to be useful. They are eager to please and need to be a useful member of the family.
Their herding tendencies can pose a challenge if this proclivity is not well-managed with good training and patience. Owners who enjoy the process of training their dogs will experience a terrific bond in the process with their Catahoula. Catahoulas may get on well with other dogs and cats in the family, but an individual Catahoula may express displeasure when sharing their space and your attention. It is best to have a Catahoula with another dog of the opposite sex to avoid competitive aggression. Socializing the Catahoula early and often is very important to establish healthy interactions between the dog and other animals and people.
The coat of the Catahoula Leopard Dog is a marvel to behold and a breeze to maintain. A weekly brushing to help mitigate the light shedding of the fur is all that is required. As with all dogs, the nails should be trimmed regularly and the ears should be checked for irritants or parasites. It’s almost important to brush your dog’s teeth regularly to help prevent dental problems.
The Catahoula’s energy level is pretty high. They are classified by the AKC as a herding breed and, as such, they tend to seek out jobs like herding children or other animals. They have also been bred to track and hunt. So, their senses are quite keen, making them continually ready for action. Their sporty bodies are muscular and need to be exercised consistently. A Catahoula should be walked for at least an hour per day. They certainly won’t decline more activity beyond that, especially if the extra activity relates to a job that makes them feel useful.
The Catahoula Leopard Dog is considered a large dog breed. Males weigh between 65 and 90 pounds, while females weigh between 50 and 65 pounds. There is usually about a one-to-two-inch difference between males and females, where the range in height is from 20 to 26 inches.
Catahoula Leopard Dogs generally live for 10-15 years. As a large dog breed, their life span is usually shorter, but some have been known to live for up to 18 years!
President Theodore Roosevelt would use a Catahoula Leopard Dog to assist him on his beloved hunting excursions in the wild west of the early 1900s United States.