BREED SPOTLIGHT

Breed Spotlight: Catahoula Leopard Dog

3 min read Dec 13, 2022

Catahoula leopard dogs are a rare dog breed that can make great pets, especially if you have the patience to train, socialize, and exercise them. Let's take a look at everything you may want to know about this breed.

Catahoula Leopard Dog Quick Stats

Lifespan: 10 – 14 years

Weight: 50 – 95 lbs.

Height: 22 – 24 inches

Do I shed?: Yes

Personality: Independent, intelligent, loyal, energetic

Common health problems: Hip dysplasia, deafness, eye problems

Catahoula: How Do I Look?

The Catahoula leopard dog’s size ranges up to 24 inches in height. They are muscular, strong, and have unique coats and eye colorings.3 The quintessential Catahoula look consists of leopard spotting with “cracked glass” or “glass” eyes.4 These dogs are shorthaired, and while most other breeds have standard coat markings or colors, each Catahoula looks different. Many also have two different colored eyes!

Coat type and colors

Catahoulas have a single short coat that is smooth and varies in color and markings. They can also come in a range of coat colors and patterns, from red merle and brindle to solid blue and chocolate.3 They can also come with tan markings and white trim.

Shedding and grooming

Catahoula leopard dogs are low maintenance when it comes to grooming, as they don’t have any special needs or requirements. A Catahoula’s coat sheds regularly so weekly brushing and occasional baths are all that’s needed to help keep your dog looking and feeling their best.3

However, if your Catahoula loves to play outside, they may get dirty more often and need more frequent bathing. Remember to keep their nails trimmed, teeth brushed, and ears cleaned for optimal comfort and health.

Ears

The Catahoula leopard dog’s ears are triangular shaped and drop, similar to other hound breeds and Labs.

Drooling level

Catahoulas aren’t known for excessive drooling.5 You most likely won’t have to worry about them slobbering all over everything, maybe just their toys.

Catahoula Leopard Dog: Personality Traits

What My Adoption Bio Would Say:

I’m loyal to those I trust and incredibly hard working. Boy, do I love to chase, herd, and go on adventures of all kinds! If you love to camp, hike, swim, or run, I’m your pal for life. Don’t let my high energy, stubbornness, and love for independence fool you — I can be very affectionate and gentle, too.

Behavior

Catahoulas are extremely loyal. If you make a Catahoula leopard dog part of your family, they will be highly loving and devoted to everyone who lives in your home. However, they can be protective and independent, and will stand up for themselves if they feel they’ve been mistreated.3 Socializing Catahoulas early and providing them with firm positive training can help mitigate unwanted behavior.

While Catahoulas have such strong personalities, they aren’t typically aggressive. They can make good guard dogs because they’re reserved around strangers and can appear intimidating.6

Trainability

Catahoula leopard dogs are known for their independence, tending toward stubbornness, and are commonly high-energy. Because of these personality traits, they can be somewhat difficult to train if you don’t have the patience and consistency required.5 This is why Catahoulas are recommended for experienced pet parents.

It’s important to assert yourself as the person in charge. A professional dog trainer can help if you don’t feel up to the job. Catahoulas are also very intelligent, so they’ll catch on quickly during your training sessions as long as they’re willing to focus and cooperate. Positive reinforcement will go much farther than discipline.

Exercise needs

Make sure to give your Catahoula plenty of physical and mental stimulation. Catahoulas were bred to herd livestock and work — they need to have something to occupy them so they don’t become destructive.3 They also need lots of exercise!

Catahoulas shouldn’t be kept indoors or in small spaces for long periods of time, and typically won’t be content sitting at home without something to do while you’re away.5 They’re usually better suited for homes with a big fenced-in space to run around in, as this breed’s chase instinct could make them travel too far from home. But if you can take them on lots of walks throughout the day, they might be okay living in an apartment.

Catahoula leopard dogs are also strong swimmers and likely to excel in organized sports like agility courses.3

Good with kids?

The Catahoula leopard dog’s temperament of affection and loyalty makes them generally good with kids. Overall, Catahoulas are protective, and can be a good family dog if you and your children love to do outdoor activities you can bring them along on. But this breed has a lot of energy and can be very independent. So they may be too much for quiet children, children with little patience, or small children that can be easily knocked over.

Good with other pets?

While Catahoulas are generally good with children, they may not always be good with other dogs, and usually do well in a single-dog household. You may be able to train them to live with another dog or possibly a cat if they’re socialized with them as a puppy.5

Keep in mind that, due to their hunting dog nature, Catahoulas may find smaller animals more fun to chase than to live with.

Barking level

Catahoulas don’t bark a lot, and will usually only do so to alert their owners when a stranger is approaching.5

Catahoulas: A History

It’s clear that Catahoulas are a unique and special breed of dog. Originally bred in Louisiana, Catahoulas were named the official state dog in 1979.5 While the exact origin of the Catahoula is unknown, some people speculate that Spanish settlers in the Southeastern United States bred mastiffs, bloodhounds, and greyhounds with the Native Americans’ wolf-like dogs.3 The name Catahoula actually has Choctaw roots and means “sacred lake.”3 They were crossbred again when the French arrived with their Beaucerons to get the Louisiana Catahoula leopard dog we know today.5

In Central Louisiana, around Catahoula Lake, Catahoula dogs were bred and used to help wrangle wild hogs and cattle.3 They worked differently than other herding breeds by creating a canine fence around the herds using their bodies, and waiting for their master to tell them where to drive the herd. This working dog instinct is still found in today’s Catahoulas, which is why they always need a job to do.

Common Catahoula Leopard Dog Mixes

Although you can breed Catahoulas with pretty much any other dog breed (seriously, there are even Chihuahua mixes!), here are some common mixes you may see:

3 Catahoula Leopard Dog Health Problems

For the most part, Catahoula leopard dogs are pretty healthy. However, there are a few health conditions that are common for this breed3:

  • Deafness (due to merle genes)
  • Various eye problems (due to merle genes)
  • Hip dysplasia: This is a skeletal condition where hip joints develop abnormally, and, if bad enough, can cause arthritis or lameness.7

How Pet Insurance Can Help Catahoulas

Merle gene anomalies

Some Catahoulas have merle genes responsible for the unique color and dappling effect in their coat and eyes.8 But this beautiful pattern can come with some health problems — namely hearing loss and microphthalmia — especially if a dog is a double merle (aka has two merle genes instead of just one).

Full or partial deafness may occur in one or both ears. Microphthalmia, an ocular disease where one or both eyes are abnormally small or do not function properly, may result in partial or total blindness.9 A veterinarian will be able to properly diagnose and put together a treatment or management plan.

These genetic anomalies are virtually incurable and tend to be present at birth or noticed shortly after. Most treatment plans are focused on lifestyle adjustments to protect the dog from accidentally harming themselves due to not being able to fully see or hear their surroundings. In the case of microphthalmia, there may be some secondary eye problems, like cataracts or glaucoma, that will need to be monitored and treated accordingly.9 You may be sent to a canine ophthalmologist for additional diagnostics and treatment.

Getting a dog insurance policy for your Catahoula puppy as soon as possible may help cover some of the costs related to specialist visits, diagnostic tests, surgeries, and lifelong monitoring.

Hip dysplasia

Catahoula leopard dogs, along with other large and giant breed dogs, can be prone to hip dysplasia.7 Canine hip dysplasia (CHD) is a genetically inherited condition where the hip ball and socket don’t develop correctly — causing grinding and rubbing instead of smooth motion. Over time, joint deterioration can occur and may lead to a loss of normal joint use and osteoarthritis.7

Dogs that grow too quickly, have improper nutrition, are over-exercised, or are overweight may experience a faster progression of hip dysplasia if they are genetically predisposed to it.7

Your Catahoula may show signs of hip dysplasia (such as decreased activity, limping, or difficulty moving around) at just a few months old, or they may not until old age when deterioration has started. Veterinarians can diagnose hip dysplasia through a physical exam with x-rays.7 Treatment may include medications, lifestyle changes, or surgery.7 It depends on the age of your pup, their weight, and the severity of dysplasia, among other things.

A dog insurance policy may help cover some of the costs for things like lifelong pain management, X-rays, larger surgeries, and special diet food.2 So if you’re thinking of bringing a Catahoula puppy home, consider protecting them by signing up for a dog insurance policy from MetLife Pet Insurance1 before something becomes a preexisting condition. Our policies can provide the coverage and care your furry family member deserves. Get your free quote today.

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Nothing in this article should be construed as financial, legal, or veterinary advice. Please consult your own advisors for questions relating to your and your pet’s specific circumstances.

1 Pet Insurance offered by MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC is underwritten by Independence American Insurance Company (“IAIC”), a Delaware insurance company, headquartered at 485 Madison Avenue, NY, NY 10022, and Metropolitan General Insurance Company (“MetGen”), a Rhode Island insurance company, headquartered at 700 Quaker Lane, Warwick, RI 02886, in those states where MetGen’s policies are available. MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC is the policy administrator authorized by IAIC and MetGen to offer and administer pet insurance policies. MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC was previously known as PetFirst Healthcare, LLC and in some states continues to operate under that name pending approval of its application for a name change. The entity may operate under an alternate, assumed, and/or fictitious name in certain jurisdictions as approved, including MetLife Pet Insurance Services LLC (New York and Minnesota), MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions Agency LLC (Illinois), and such other alternate, assumed, or fictitious names approved by certain jurisdictions.

2 Provided all terms of the policy are met. Application is subject to underwriting review and approval. Like most insurance policies, insurance policies issued by IAIC and MetGen contain certain deductibles, co-insurance, exclusions, exceptions, reductions, limitations, and terms for keeping them in force. For costs, complete details of coverage and exclusions, and a listing of approved states, please contact MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC.

3 “Catahoula Leopard Dog,” American Kennel Club

4 “Eye Color Examples,” National Association of Louisiana Catahoulas, Inc.

5 “Catahoula Leopard Dog,” Daily Paws

6 “Louisiana Catahoula Leopard Dog,” Petfinder

7 “Hip Dysplasia In Dogs,” American Kennel Club

8 “What Makes the Merle in Dog Coats? The Science Behind the Pattern,” American Kennel Club

9 “Microphthalmia and Ocular Dysgenesis in Dogs,” Wag!

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