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The Catahoula Leopard Dog is Louisiana's official canine and was bred as a working dog to help herd cattle and wild hogs. However, these attractive and proud dogs also make wonderful family pets being extremely loyal, affectionate and protective characters by nature. The Catahoula Leopard Dog is classed as a herding dog and is still considered as a very valuable working dog, they are smart, athletic and very dedicated to their owners and the jobs they are asked to do. As pets they are great but need to be kept busy, they enjoy competing in agility which they are extremely good at. They are also very good at watching over their owner's property and can be quite aloof toward people they do not know but never aggressive. There is a legend that tells the name Catahoula comes from a Muskogee word that means Choctaw which is the name of a Native American Indian tribe.
The history of how the Catahoula Leopard Dog was developed is a bit blurred but what is known is that it was the first settlers who arrived in Louisiana who are responsible for creating this lovely looking and hard-working dog. They did so because the woods around the region were full of wild hogs and they needed herding dogs strong enough and with the courageous to round them up. The settlers used local Native American dogs to develop the breed and the result was a huge success producing tough and clever dogs that were more than happy to take on a wild hog or two and other fierce wild animals they were asked to herd. It is thought the Catahoula may boast an ancestry that includes Beaucerons, Mastiffs, sighthounds with some people believing that red wolves played a part in developing the breed too.
For a long time, the breed was referred to as Catahoula Leopard Dog curs but then in 1979, they were officially called Louisiana Catahoula Leopard Dogs and the breed became the state's recognised canine. It was not until 1995 that the United Kennel Club decided to recognise them and the following year, they were accepted into the American Kennel Club’s Foundation Stock Service.
Catahoulas are medium in size weighing in at anything between 50 to 95 lbs. They stand at around 20 to 26" at the shoulder and the breed boasts a very striking coat that can be spotted, patched, brindle or solid in colour. Their hair can be short right through to medium in length. They have extremely beautiful eyes which really do stand out and can be blue, green, amber or brown with some Catahoulas boasting odd colour eyes or two "cracked" eyes with each eye having two colours. Their coats are coarse with just a little feathering on their hind legs, bellies and tails.
Strong, independent, loving and affectionate, the Catahoula Leopard Dog is also incredibly loyal and protective. However, they are extremely intelligent dogs and as such they do to know who is the boss which means they are not the ideal choice as a family pet for first time owners. Being originally bred as working dogs, these lovely looking canines need to be kept busy so they need a lot of physical exercise and mental stimulation to stay happy, healthy and fit. As long as they are kept active and therefore happily "tired", they will kick-back and relax with the people they love. Because of their strong herding instinct, it is advisable to walk your pet on a lead or you might find them rounding up a few other animals they come across when out on a walk.
These beautiful dogs are also very protective of the people they love which means they make wonderful guard dogs and will soon let their owners know when there are strangers about. When it comes to children and other family pets, the Catahoula is a great playmate for older kits but they might be a bit too boisterous around toddlers. As long as they are bought up with other family pets, like cats, they will get on well with them. However, if they spot a strange cat in your garden, the chances are they will chase them.
If you are thinking about getting a second dog, you should get a female because the Catahoula might object to having another male dog in the home. Their training and socialising has to start as early as possible for them to grow up to be well balanced and happy dogs. Socialising a Catahoula is really important and you might even want to take your pet along to some "puppy classes" once they have had all their vaccinations.
Catahoula Leopard Dogs are generally robust and healthy. However, there are certain health issues they are susceptible to which includes the following:
If you are getting your pet from a breeder, you need to make certain they can show you proof that their breeding stock does not suffer from either of these conditions because responsible breeders always screen their breeding dogs for any genetic diseases to reduce the chances of any puppies developing an inherited disorder. However, this does not always guarantee that a puppy would not develop the condition, it just reduces the chance of it happening.
On the grooming side of things, Catahoulas are easy maintenance because they only shed moderately. Their coats are coarse with just a little feathering on their hind legs, bellies and tails which means they just need a weekly brush and then a bath when the weather is warmer. They are such happy dogs that they are a real pleasure to have around and being real clowns at heart will enjoy all the attention they get when they are being groomed. Being active canines by nature they do need plenty of daily exercise and they need lots of mental stimulation too. If you are looking for a jogging companion, a Catahoula could be the perfect choice because they will be right there with you all the way because they have an incredible amount of stamina.
When it comes to diet, a Catahoula Leopard Dog needs to be fed a good quality and nutritious well balanced diet because they do burn up a lot of calories being such energetic characters by nature. You would also need to check their claws and ears on a regular basis and if you have got a puppy, make sure you teach them to let you clean their teeth making sure you use a pet-friendly toothpaste. This will reduce the chance of your pet developing any dental issues.
Regular visits to the vet are a good idea especially as your dog grows older and to keep up their vaccinations. The other thing you need to watch out for is one of the most common health issues that affects many dogs these days which is "obesity". If you are worried your pet might be overweight you should discuss your concerns with a vet or dog nutritionist. If well cared for a Catahoula Leopard Dog will be a valued member of your family boasting a life-span of anything from 10 to 12 years.
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