The Catahoula leopard dog is a true working dog, bred to herd stock and hunt game. He’s an original American breed, originating in the area around Catahoula Lake in northern Louisiana. You might be considering this dog for his unusual coat patterns and gorgeous eyes, but this loyal and protective breed requires certain living conditions and a family that can meet his working-dog needs.
Your Catahoula needs a lot of exercise. If you live in the city or the suburbs, be prepared to take this dog somewhere he can run free for an hour each day. He’s great at vigorous hiking and jogging with you, but a leisurely trek around the neighborhood is not going to be enough. If he gets bored and can’t burn off his energy, he might develop destructive behaviors such as chewing, barking or digging. Play plenty of fetch and give this working dog tasks to perform to engage him mentally.
This independent herding dog can be a challenge to train. Start training early, and be confident and consistent. One of the attributes bred into him was the ability to manage other animals, so he can be dominant with other pets. He’s intelligent, though, and a quick learner, which is why he is often given the job of police search-and-rescue dog. Give him tasks to perform, such as herding balls in the back yard, to keep his mind stimulated and help him fulfill his workaholic tendencies. Catahoulas are not always a good choice for multi-pet households.
He’s an excellent watch dog naturally, so expose your Catahoula to lots of friendly people so they learn to recognize “good guys.” Otherwise they might be suspicious of everyone. These dogs are also prone to chasing cats or other small creatures, so always leash him when he’s outside your yard. With proper training and socialization, he will be well-behaved, but not likely to be over-friendly with humans outside his immediate family.
Health and Grooming
You can expect your Catahoula to live about 13 years. A healthy breed overall, be on the lookout for hip dysplasia, especially in later years. Catahoulas with a white face or lots of white on their coats can have eye problems or deafness.
The short, smooth coat has minimal grooming requirements and needs only occasional bathing. Brush just once or twice a week to keep his coat shiny, and regular nail trimming keeps his nails from overgrowth. You will also need to clean his ears regularly.
Leslie Darling has been a writer since 2003, writing regularly for "Mississippi Magazine" and "South Mississippi Living," specializing in food and wine, animals and pets, and all things Southern. She is a graduate of the University of New Orleans.