How would you describe the Catahoula Leopard in a sentence? Here it is – a well-muscled, large dog with a glorious personality, affectionate at home and devoted and serious at work. It’s an out-and-out American breed that acquired its name after Louisiana’s Catahoula Parish. It was declared Louisiana’s state dog in 1979. The United Kennel Club recognizes it as the Louisiana Catahoula Leopard Dog. In contrast, the Foundation Stock Service (FSS) of the AKC recognizes it as the Catahoula Leopard Dog.[wpdatatable id=96]
History of the Catahoula Leopard Dog
The exact lineage of the Catahoula Leopard Dog has yet to be discovered. However, there are several theories regarding the same. Hernando de Soto, a Spanish explorer, came to Florida in 1539. He toured the southeastern United States and noted North America had just one domestic animal species. That was the dog of the Native Americans. Soto described these dogs uniquely. They were half wolf and half dog – wolf in how they looked and dog in how they barked.
During the mid-18th century, they migrated to the region that became present-day Louisiana. They also brought along their dogs, which they crossed with the wolfdogs. The attempt was to develop efficient working dogs. In the 19th century, the breeding process was modified further. This time the goal was to create a more versatile breed. It would excel as an efficient working dog with good hunting and guarding skills. At the time, the species would even be ideal for kids. These efforts finally led to the development of the modern-day Catahoula Leopard.
However, there is another story regarding the breed attaining its working instincts. The settlers around the Catahoula Lake region used the crossbred dogs to catch cows, and wild hogs were on the rise in that area.
The Catahoula had a unique way of working while tending to herds. They would protect the herds by creating a canine fence around them. It is inside this fence that the dog’s master would stand and control the herd. The United Kennel Club recognized this breed on the 1st of January 1995. It was included in the AKC’s Foundation Stock Service in 1996.
At present, they have a multi-purpose use. They are bay dogs and tree dogs used for hunting several kinds of games – the smaller ones, like squirrels and raccoons, and bigger games, such as bear, deer, and mountain lions. These dogs are even employed in search-and-rescue work and scent trails.
More About the Catahoula Leopard Dog
The Catahoula Leopard dog may not be among the most popular dogs. Yet, with their appealing looks and unique temperament, they are one of the best dogs to live with. Read on to get a detailed insight into their personality traits and physical characteristics.
They are a well-muscled and powerful breed with an agile nature. Their size ranges from medium to large, and these dogs are characterized by their short coat. A highlighting feature that makes them look distinctly apart is their mottled coat. Because of this, they have the name ‘leopard’ associated with them. Their big head fits proportionately to their rectangular-shaped body. Their small or medium-sized drop ears make them appear all the more unique. Their neck is thick and muscular, while their tail appears long and curved.
The Catahoula Leopard has round, medium-sized eyes that are set well apart. According to the breed standards set by the United Kennel Club, their eyes could be of any color. They may even be a combination of many colors. Brown is the most common eye coloration seen in this breed. However, the unique shade is the glass eyes. Here, the eyes are pale blue, which makes them appear nearly white.
Their size varies from medium to large. The Catahoula Leopard dog measures around 22-24 inches, weighing between 50 and 95 pounds.
Personality and Temperament
To analyze their temperament, these dogs are loyal, protective, and affectionate towards their family. But these dogs aren’t aggressive toward people. When it comes to strangers, they are reserved and wary.
One must remember that these dogs were bred as working dogs. So it is natural that they would have traits like protectiveness, territoriality, and a sense of independence inherent in them. If not trained on aggression and socialization from the start, these traits could aggravate with age, affecting your dog’s overall well-being. They even excelled in the stature of a good guard and watchdogs. They are even called Catahoula Hog dogs because they were used for hunting hogs.
Overall, the Catahoula Leopard dog is a healthy breed. However, individual dogs may have certain health concerns. Below are some health conditions the Catahoula Leopard is more prone to suffer from.
The merle color is a part of the Catahoula Leopard’s coat coloration. Since the merle gene is associated with deafness, it goes without saying that this breed (especially the ones with a mere coat) can suffer from hearing impairment. Around 38.8% of the Catahoula Leopards can be completely deaf. They could even be deaf in one (unilateral) or both ears (bilateral). Breeders should screen the puppies well.
Test a puppy’s deafness by standing behind it and clapping or making other noises. If it responds, then things are fine. However, if it doesn’t respond, something could be wrong. More evaluation is needed in this regard. Vets recommend the Brainstem Auditory Evoked Response (BAER) to check for your dog’s deafness
NOTE: If both parents have a merle coat, there is a chance of around 25% for the resultant puppies to be either deaf or blind or both deaf and blind. Such puppies are called ‘double merles.’ It is also said that incidences of blindness and deafness from double-merle puppies are lesser in the Catahoula Leopard than in other breeds.
The Catahoula Leopard is susceptible to hip dysplasia. Some symptoms of the condition include lameness, a preference for sitting or lying down most of the time, and a reluctance to climb stairs.
According to the OFA (Orthopedic Foundation for Animals), dogs should be screened for elbow and hip dysplasia when they are two.
The symptoms can be visible as early as their second birthday. However, in some dogs, it could occur later in their life. They may suffer from cataracts and other eye problems like entropion, ectropion, and progressive retinal atrophy.
They are active and need ample space to channel their intense energy in a fruitful, positive way. These dogs always need a task, without which they could get bored easily. It would prompt them to resort to destructive activities like chewing or digging holes. You could take them on short walks 2-3 times a day. If that’s impossible, arrange for sufficient playtime in the backyard.
Ensure that the yard is fenced since they are escape artists. If they encounter any other canine entering their domain, they rush to defend their territory, ignoring the shock. Avoid installing electronic fences since it isn’t appropriate for this breed.
These dogs are adept swimmers, all because of their webbed feet. A stint in the pool during summertime would be a great idea. Training your dog for canine sports such as rally, agility, and obedience is also ideal for exercising them.
Maintain good dental hygiene. It would help if you brushed your dog’s teeth twice or thrice a week. It would help eliminate tartar buildup and other bacterial infections. Also, trimming their nails one or two times a month is mandatory. You must even check their ears every week to ensure that there isn’t any redness, inflammation, or debris.
Maintain a balanced diet with proper nutritional requirements because they’re prone to obesity. It would be best if you took utmost care in feeding these dogs. Give adult dogs two to three equal meals a day. Also, if they have completed their exercise regime, don’t make them eat or drink for at least an hour since then.
Coat Color and Grooming
They come in different coat colors and patterns. Solid colors include black, yellow, red, blue, and chocolate. They will have a leopard pattern as their base coloration if they appear merle. The spots would be of a contrasting pattern of one or many colors. Those with a brindle coat will have a light or dark-colored base marked with a striped pattern of contrasting colors. One could even spot color points on their cheeks, chest, the area above their eyes, and legs.
Their coat is short or medium length, lying close to their body. The texture is also varied, from smooth to coarse. They shed throughout the year, with the intensity varying from light to moderate. So brushing them once a week would help keep their coat clean and also minimize shedding. Bathe them occasionally, only at times when their coat gets dirty.
Children and Other Pets
Some breeders have raised the Catahoula to the status of excellent babysitters. True that they have a gentle and loving nature. Yet, mentioning that these dogs aren’t a good option for smaller children is essential.
At the same time, they have a rambunctious side to their personality. So they could knock the little ones down in pursuit of play. Hence, only allow the younger kids to interact with the Catahoula Leopard with parental supervision. They could get aggressive towards other dogs, especially if both are males. However, with proper training, they would share a good rapport with their family’s dogs. They will even get along well with the cats they are raised with. However, it is essential to know that not all Catahoula Leopard dogs would share a comfortable rapport with other dogs, even after training. In that case, it is advisable to watch their behavior.
They are independent and strong-willed. The earlier you train them on socialization, the better they can overcome their territorial instincts and highly independent nature. So training the Catahoula Leopard dog is challenging, not the task of a novice trainer.
Command training is also a mandate to discipline them well when they are puppies. Always keep them engaged and happy. They would never think of escaping if they were contented in their home. Crate training would aid in this regard. Suppose you teach them to live in a crate for at least some time of the day, if not throughout. Decorate the crate with his choicest belongings to give him the feeling that it is his space. However, ensure that you do not keep him in the crate throughout. Your Catahoula Leopard would enjoy bonding with its family. So keeping it in the crate all day could make your dog feel left out.
The loyal, affectionate, and gentle Catahoula Leopard would be an excellent choice for your home. But, make it a point to train it well and early in life. The outcome would be a lively, obedient dog in your home.
They are moderate barkers, neither too less nor excessively. They would mainly bark when needed, like at the sight of strangers in their homes.
The puppies bought from a registered breeder would be relatively high, between $600 and $900. Some could even be priced at $1000. In their first year, their maintenance cost would be $3000. However, that would come down the following year to $2000 on average.
They have high energy levels and do not do well as apartment dogs. The Catahoula Leopard dog suits the best in big spacious homes having a yard or a garden.
Hi, I’m Walter,
I live in Oklahoma City, USA, and have extensive dog caring and grooming expertise. In addition, I provide dog training tips and tricks through my blogs in Canine Weekly. I have a Dog Behavior and Training diploma and have previously worked as a Dog Trainer at ROC Animal Training and Behavior and Tip Top K9 of OKC Dog Training.
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