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Eva Maria Kramer, Animal Photography
The hard-working Catahoula Leopard Dog, the official canine of Louisiana, was developed to catch and drive wild hogs and cattle to market. When he’s off-duty, the Catahoula Leopard Dog is an excellent family dog who’s both protective and affectionate.
The Louisiana-bred Catahoula Leopard Dog sports webbed feet — so he can swamp crawl.
The Catahoula Leopard Dog, short for Louisiana Catahoula Leopard Dog, is believed to have originated in northern Louisiana. The job of these rugged but beautiful “hog dogs” was to drive livestock to slaughter. Today, he’s still more of a working dog than a pet, but he’s undoubtedly versatile. If you don’t have hogs for him to boss around, he’s eligible to compete in American Kennel Club companion events, such as agility, obedience, and rally. Considering his smarts and athleticism, he’ll likely beat out all the competition.
You can also count on the Catahoula Leopard Dog to watch over you and your home. Although he’s aloof toward people he doesn’t know, the Catahoula Leopard Dog should never be shy or aggressive. When he’s around his family, he is gentle, loyal, always affectionate—not to mention a clown at heart.
The Catahoula Leopard Dog is a strong, independent canine who requires firm leadership. The breed’s activity level varies from individual to individual, but it’s wise to assume that he’s going to demand a great deal of exercise. Always walk him on a leash, so he doesn’t practice his aggressive driving skills on other animals. The Catahoula Leopard Dog can adapt to living indoors or outdoors, but he needs a securely fenced yard—along with plenty of human companionship.
When the first settlers arrived in Louisiana, they discovered that the state’s woods were overrun with wild hogs, so they bred their own herding dogs with canines belonging to local Native Americans. The result was a tough and savvy dog capable of taking on ferocious wild hogs, as well as other fierce livestock. Additional dogs who may have figured into his ancestry: mastiffs, sighthounds, Beaucerons, and even red wolves.
For many years, the dogs were known as Catahoula Leopard Dog curs. In 1979, they were formally named Louisiana Catahoula Leopard Dogs, when they were chosen to be the state canine of Louisiana. In 1995, the United Kennel Club recognized the breed. The following year, the Catahoula Leopard Dog joined the American Kennel Club’s Foundation Stock Service, the first step toward AKC recognition.
If you want a dog who will work hard and hunt hard, the Catahoula Leopard Dog is the breed for you. If you prefer a dog who’s strictly a family companion, well, he can do that, too. The Catahoula Leopard Dog is first and foremost a working dog, but if those instincts are fulfilled through stock work, hunting big game or some other task, he’s happy to spend the rest of his time at home as a loving family dog. He’s also an excellent watchdog—if he doesn’t like someone, value his opinion.
The Catahoula Leopard Dog is a good playmate for older children, but a puppy might be too rambunctious around toddlers. If he’s raised with cats, he can get along with them—but he may chase outdoor cats. And if you’re entertaining the idea of adding another dog to your household, opt for one of the opposite sex.
Start training your puppy the day you bring him home. Even at eight weeks old, he is capable of soaking up everything you can teach him. Don’t wait until he is 6 months old to begin training or you will have a more headstrong dog to deal with. If possible, get him into puppy kindergarten class by the time he is 10 to 12 weeks old, and socialize, socialize, socialize. However, be aware that many puppy training classes require certain vaccines (like kennel cough) to be up to date, and many veterinarians recommend limited exposure to other dogs and public places until puppy vaccines (including rabies, distemper and parvovirus) have been completed. In lieu of formal training, you can begin training your puppy at home and socializing him among family and friends until puppy vaccines are completed.
A Catahoula Leopard Dog needs plenty of companionship and activity to be happy—the equivalent of at least one hour of strenuous exercise daily. Otherwise, he can turn destructive, not to mention vocal. If you don’t have livestock or game for him to herd or track, and you don’t take him hunting on a regular basis, a couple of long walks or runs should do the trick. He’s also a great hiking companion, with a high level of endurance and the ability to navigate any terrain. The phrase to remember if you own a Catahoula Leopard Dog: A tired dog is a good dog.
The Catahoula Leopard Dog is generally healthy, but the breed is susceptible to hip dysplasia and deafness. At a minimum, ask the breeder to show evidence that your puppy’s parents have hip evaluations from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA), as well as a BAER (brainstem auditory evoked response) evaluation for deafness from the OFA.
Careful breeders screen their dogs for genetic disease, and only breed the best-looking specimens, but sometimes Mother Nature has other ideas and a puppy can develop one of these conditions. In most cases, he can still live a good life, thanks to advances in veterinary medicine. But it’s still important to choose a reputable breeder, and insist upon seeing independent certification that a puppy’s parents have been screened for common defects and deemed healthy for breeding.
And remember that you have the power to protect your Catahoula Leopard Dog from one of the most common health problems: obesity. Keeping him at an appropriate weight is a simple way to extend your dog’s life.
The Catahoula Leopard Dog’s coat, which sheds moderately, ranges from short and sleek to medium in length and coarse, with a little feathering on the hind legs, tail, and belly. In either case, brush him weekly to keep his coat gleaming, and give him a bath once or twice a year. The rest is routine care: regular nail trimming and ear cleaning, as well as tooth brushing with a vet-approved pet toothpaste for good overall health and fresh breath.
Whether you want to go with a breeder or get your dog from a shelter or rescue, here are some things to keep in mind.
Selecting a respected breeder is the key to finding the right puppy. Reputable breeders will welcome questions about temperament and health clearances, as well as explain the history of the breed and what kind of puppy makes for a good pet. Don’t be shy about describing exactly what you’re looking for in a dog — breeders interact with their puppies daily and can make accurate recommendations once they know something about your lifestyle and personality.
Lots of breeders have websites, so how can you tell who’s good and who’s not? Red flags to look out for: multiple litters on the premises, puppies always being available, having your choice of any puppy, and being offered the option to pay online with a credit card. Breeders who sell puppies at a lower price “without papers” are unethical. You should also bear in mind that buying a puppy from websites that offer to ship your dog to you immediately can be a risky venture, as it leaves you no recourse if what you get isn’t exactly what you expected. Put at least as much effort into researching your puppy as you would into choosing a new car or expensive appliance. It will save you money in the long run.
To start your search, check out the website of the Catahoula Owners, Breeders and Research Association (COBRA) and select a breeder who has agreed to abide by COBRA’s code of ethics, which specifies that members not place puppies prior to 12 weeks of age, prohibits the sale of puppies through pet stores, and calls for the breeder to obtain recommended health clearances before breeding.
Whether you’re planning to get your new best friend from a breeder, a pet store, or another source, don’t forget that old adage “let the buyer beware”. Disreputable breeders and facilities that deal with puppy mills can be hard to distinguish from reliable operations. There’s no 100% guaranteed way to make sure you’ll never purchase a sick puppy, but researching the breed (so you know what to expect), checking out the facility (to identify unhealthy conditions or sick animals), and asking the right questions can reduce the chances of heading into a disastrous situation. And don’t forget to ask your veterinarian, who can often refer you to a reputable breeder, breed rescue organization, or other reliable source for healthy puppies.
The cost of a Catahoula Leopard Dog puppy varies depending on the breeder’s locale, the sex of the puppy, the titles that the puppy’s parents have, and whether the puppy is best suited for the show ring or a pet home. Puppies should be temperament tested, vetted, dewormed, and socialized to give them a healthy, confident start in life. If you put as much effort into researching your puppy as you would when buying a new car, it will save you money in the long run.
Before you decide to buy a puppy, consider whether an adult Catahoula Leopard Dog may better suit your lifestyle. Puppies are loads of fun, but they require a good deal of time and effort before they grow up to be the dog of your dreams. An adult may already have some training, and he’ll probably be less active, destructive, and demanding than a puppy. With an adult, you know more about what you’re getting in terms of personality and health and you can find adults through breeders or shelters. If you are interested in acquiring an older dog through breeders, ask them about purchasing a retired show dog or if they know of an adult dog who needs a new home. If you want to adopt a dog, read the advice below on how to do that.
There are many great options available if you want to adopt a dog from an animal shelter or breed rescue organization. Here is how to get started.
1. Use the Web
Sites like Petfinder.com and Adopt-a-Pet.com can have you searching for a Catahoula Leopard Dog in your area in no time flat. The site allows you to be very specific in your requests (housetraining status, for example) or very general (all the Catahoulas available on Petfinder across the country). AnimalShelter can help you find animal rescue groups in your area. Also some local newspapers have “pets looking for homes” sections you can review.
Social media is another great way to find a dog. Post on your Facebook page that you are looking for a specific breed so that your entire community can be your eyes and ears.
2. Reach Out to Local Experts
Start talking with all the pet pros in your area about your desire for a Catahoula. That includes vets, dog walkers, and groomers. When someone has to make the tough decision to give up a dog, that person will often ask her own trusted network for recommendations.
3. Talk to Breed Rescue
Most people who love Catahoulas love all Catahoulas. That’s why breed clubs have rescue organizations devoted to taking care of homeless dogs. The American Catahoula Association’s rescue network can help you find a dog that may be the perfect companion for your family. You can also search online for other Bulldog rescues in your area.
The great thing about breed rescue groups is that they tend to be very upfront about any health conditions the dogs may have and are a valuable resource for advice. They also often offer fostering opportunities so, with training, you could bring a Catahoula Leopard Dog home with you to see what the experience is like.
4. Key Questions to Ask
You now know the things to discuss with a breeder, but there are also questions you should discuss with shelter or rescue group staff or volunteers before you bring home a dog. These include:
What is his energy level?
How is he around other animals?
How does he respond to shelter workers, visitors and children?
What is his personality like?
What is his age?
Is he housetrained?
Has he ever bitten or hurt anyone that they know of?
Are there any known health issues?
Wherever you acquire your Catahoula Leopard Dog, make sure you have a good contract with the seller, shelter or rescue group that spells out responsibilities on both sides. Petfinder offers an Adopters Bill of Rights that helps you understand what you can consider normal and appropriate when you get a dog from a shelter. In states with “puppy lemon laws,” be sure you and the person you get the dog from both understand your rights and recourses.
Puppy or adult, take your Catahoula Leopard Dog to your veterinarian soon after adoption. Your veterinarian will be able to spot problems, and will work with you to set up a preventive regimen that will help you avoid many health issues.
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