CATAHOLULA LEOPARD DOG 101! Everything You Need To Know About the Cataholula Leopard Dog


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Where does the Catahoula Leopard Dog come from? The Catahoula Leopard Dog is the official state dog of its native Louisiana and was named after the Catahoula Lake. It started out as a mixed breed: a cross between dogs used by First Generation Americans for hunting, and breeds introduced by Spanish explorers in the 16th century – for example, Spanish Mastiffs and Sighthounds. These dogs later were crossbred with the hounds brought in by the French settlers. And the offspring from these matches were used by the early settlers of Central Louisiana to catch and control wild hogs and cows. Smart and adaptable, this “Louisiana Catahoula Leopard Dog” actually developed its very own style of working livestock, which sets it apart from other herding breeds. For example, true to their original role as “bay dogs” for hunting, Catahoulas use their voice whilst working with cattle, and quickly rein in any stragglers.  The Catahoula Today Over the centuries, the breed has remained fairly unchanged, and serves as farmers’ and ranchers’ multi-purpose dog of choice until the present day. It is impossible not to acknowledge the extraordinary appearance of the Catahoula Leopard Dog. With its elegant, yet well-muscled body, long, thin tail and short, shiny coat, the Catahoula resembles classical hunting breeds like the German Shorthaired Pointer or the English Foxhound. But it’s really its coat-colour that sets it apart from any other breed: Whilst there are black, brindle as well as black-and-tan dogs, most of them have very individual coats displaying the intriguing Leopard- or merle, pattern: Breed standards permit blue, yellow, white or red merle. The merle gene is not only responsible for their intriguing coat-colours, but also  for their unusual eyes that can come in hazel, brown, blue or marble (which means the eyes are both brown and blue). The Catahoula is a medium to large dog whose webbed feet enable it to effortlessly swim and navigate the swamps of its native Louisiana.   What is their temperament like? These beautiful dogs come with an immensely high prey instinct and working drive. However, they also make superb guard dogs who are not overly aggressive, but quite determined to keep perceived threats at bay. In the hands of an experienced handler, Catahoulas can make great family pets: They are amazing active companions, and playmates for slightly older children. But they are not the best choice for families with very young children, as they can accidentally knock over smaller humans due to their boisterous temperament. Curious and playful, Catahoulas are always up for action, but can develop dog aggression. They are quite confident and will not tolerate other dogs approaching them in “unpolite” ways, such as jumping on them or even attacking them. Which makes the beautiful Leopard dog not well-suited for visits to the dog park.  Catahoulas are quite attached to their humans and want to be near them all the time. When exercised enough, they are very calm in the house and can be easily trained to adhere to house rules. Therefore, even if you are working your Catahoula as a farm dog or hunting companion, you should allow them to live with you in the house.  How intelligent and trainable are Catahoula Leopard Dogs? These dogs are quite easy to train, extremely intelligent and keen to please their owner.  If you yourself are a passionate hunter, rancher or farmer, and you need a highly trainable and versatile dog to assist you, the Catahoula is an excellent choice. Their extremely high levels of energy and endurance make them capable to keep going pretty much all day. So much so that getting them to relax and chill out can be difficult. The ultimate working dogs, Catahoulas are enthusiastic, reliable, and highly driven. But Catahoula Leopard Dogs can do more than “just” herd, hunt and guard: Many of them excel in Conformation trials and seem to have a natural liking for being in the show-ring. Also, these smart canines make excellent service dogs who assist people with physical and mental disabilities in their day-to-day lives. Are Catahoulas healthy dogs? Catahoula Leopard Dogs are very healthy and robust, which can be attributed to them being a rare breed: Contrary to more popular gundog breeds such as the Golden Retriever, they are not overbred and have next to no breed-specific health issues. Of course, being a medium- to large breed, they can still develop hip dysplasia, which is why breeders are highly recommended to test for this, as well as for issues with the hearing and the eyesight of their stock: The merle gene can cause puppies to be born deaf – especially if they have excessive white markings and white ears. Eye issues are another potential problem in the breed, but these troubles mainly occur by doubling up the merle-gene. Which is why two merle-coloured dogs should never been bred together. Catahoulas can easily live up to 14 years.  The Catahoula Leopard Dog’s Exercise and Grooming Needs As Catahoula Leopard Dogs are serious working dogs, they need several hours of vigorous exercise on a daily basis. If you are a nature lover yourself, this extremely active breed could well be the perfect choice for you. These dogs will absolutely enjoy exploring nature along with you. Because they are so easy to train, you can teach them to run next to your bicycle or mountain bike. Also, they thrive as companion dogs for trail runners, joggers and hikers.  If you like camping and you want a dog who will guard your tent at nigh – perfect: These watchful dogs adapt quickly to new situations and requirements. Thanks to their webbed feet, Catahoulas are excellent swimmers and will gladly jump into the water with you, or retrieve sticks and toys for you.  Catahoula Leopard Dogs have very short, smooth and naturally shiny coats, designed to keep them cool in the hot and humid climate of their native Louisiana. A welcome side-effect of this is that Catahoulas hardly get dirty, which makes these beautiful dogs extremely easy to groom. They shed moderately, but brushing them twice or three a week with a firm bristle brush is enough to keep them clean and remove any lose hairs.  Overview Catahoulas are absolutely amazing dogs – stunning to look at, keen and sharp on the job, yet loving and quite attached to their family. Unless worked as a hunting- or farm dog, these energetic athletes need quite a bit of time and dedication to thrive - but this one-of-a-kind breed from Louisiana is are well worth the effort. 

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