Catahoula leopard dogs were bred for work, so they need a lot of exercise. Some problems with the breed start right there: Their owners don't comprehend the tremendous need for stimulation these dogs require. The state dog of Louisiana, the breed also goes by the names catahoula cur, catahoula hound and catahoula hog dog.
Catahoula-type dogs predate the arrival of the first European settlers in Louisiana, descending from Native American breeds. The Native Americans' "wolf dog" according to petMD, crossed with French canines to create the catahoula. These dogs created living fences around cattle and pigs, driving them as instructed by a herder. Also used as a hunting dog, these brave, medium-size dogs still serve in the South for taking down feral hogs.
Since one of his original purposes was driving cattle and pigs to market, as well as hunting wild hogs, it's no surprise that the catahoula requires a great deal of exercise. If you don't have the time to take this dog for extensive exercise every day, it's best to find another breed. As Catahoula Rescue puts it, "One to two hours daily of running or hard play is just the beginning." All that pent-up energy needs unleashing, so it's common for the under-exercised catahoula to exhibit seriously destructive behavior.
If raised with cats from puppyhood, your catahoula might get on just fine with the household kitties, although strange cats are ripe for chasing. However, these dogs don't necessarily play well with other canines. Because dog aggression often occurs in the breed, be careful when encountering other canines while out on walks. It's probably best to avoid the dog park, unless your muzzle your pet. If you want to keep another dog in your home with your catahoula, it should be the opposite sex. That's true even if both are spayed or neutered.
Since the catahoula needs so much exercise, it's the rare member of the breed who does well in an apartment or townhouse. He can do well in the country or suburbs, as long as you have a large, fenced-in area for him. You'll need a high fence, at least 5 feet, to contain this agile animal.
It takes a tough dog to control cattle or bring down hogs. Catahoulas are a dominant breed, not a good choice for the timid or novice dog owner. Your dog must respect you as the pack leader, or he'll be calling the shots in your household. Obedience training is a must. Be firm but gentle when disciplining your catahoula. Because of his dominant nature, if he feels threatened by your discipline, he might become aggressive.
Overall, the catahoula doesn't suffer from many genetic health issues. Possible problems include hip dysplasia, resulting from a congenital malformed hip joint. Without surgical repair, it can lead to early arthritis in the dog. While less active dogs can do well without surgery for the condition, that's might not be true of the catahoulas. The breed appears in various colors, but be wary of white catahoulas, as they're prone to deafness.
By Jane Meggitt
About the Author
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.