Jay is the proud owner of a Catahoula Leopard Dog and shares his experiences with the breed with others.
Is a Catahoula Right For You?
We found our Catahoula, Owly, as a pup at our local Humane Society, when her name was Valentine. I renamed her Owly one night soon after this when I realized all I could see in my dark kitchen were her two little eyes peering out. I was reminded of those spooky woods scenes in movies, in which an owl's eyes might be the only thing seen in the dark, scary woods.
Let me just say, I love our Owly and would not trade her for anything, but had I read up on her breed prior to acquiring her, I may have thought twice about owning a Catahoula. I wouldn't have felt I was prepared for her personality. Almost every webpage speaks the energetic, stubborn, and willful nature of this breed. I can't argue.
She is the most persistent dog I've ever met. If she was a telemarketer, I'd buy two dozen of whatever she was selling just to get her off the phone. Our dog uses every loophole to her advantage (I finally have taught her that barking will get her nowhere, although the moment I give in the cycle begins again). You cannot give in!
Catahoulas are a great family pet, however. She is wonderful with kids, and we did introduce her early on, so this might be a factor. She is never aggressive, only playful, and is friendly with all strangers.
I read somewhere that a Catahoula often behaves as if they themselves are the owner. I would like to say two things on this matter.
The Catahoula is a special dog to own and once bonded with, you are under their spell. So in a sense, yes, the Catahoula has mysterious ways of which I know not. In fact, in a recent visit to the vet, a doctor who was not assisting us "just had to come over" to see the "part angel/part demon Catahoula" that keeps her so spellbound.
However, I also disagree. I have found that our dog is strong-willed, yes, but is ever so dependent upon feeling a part of the pack. She sleeps at our feet if we let her in the bed (this is a submissive position), she waits up with me until I've finished my work and then follows me to bed. She rarely pulls on the leash, and she even lets us brush her teeth (her daddy is a dentist).
Our dog has always been great with us crating her when necessary. She has even made it her own home. However, we do take her to daycare on weekdays from 7 am-6 pm as we both work, so she gets to run herself worn. However, she hates being left at home when she knows we're off on an adventure. She loves car rides to the dog park, which is where she imagines we are going to have fun without her. She has stamina and can outrun almost every dog there!
At home, she is okay with lounging around generally, but at times I have to keep her entertained, or she will sniff out trouble. She loves eating everything: fuzz, paper, gum, rocks—you name it. She also loves to chew through every toy we give her. It's gotten to the point that we can't give her anything with stuffing and certainly nothing that can be torn. When she was younger, she ate the stuffing and backed up her intestinal tract. Hello, vet bill! The brand of toys Kong manufacturers has generally been okay for her.
This brings us to her diet. We have tried many foods for our dog. She began to lose a patch of fur near her muzzle, and we realized she was allergic to something we were feeding her. The vet recommended we put her on a hypoallergenic diet, but I couldn't bear feeding her cardboard if it wasn't 100% necessary. We have had much success with a limited diet food by Natural Balance. We believe the problem was caused by either Fromm or Fuel, two of the foods which gave her very loose stools.
Our dog responds to one thing more than anything: treats! She loves treats and has learned many tricks from the doling out of these goodies. Besides this magic ingredient, consistency and repetition are key.
Training your dog many times throughout the day to do the trick you want. Also, be sure to praise at the exact moment the dog is listening and to object at the very moment the dog is misbehaving. If you wait, the dog will be confused as to what behavior you are referring to. We took our dog to training sessions, and they were lifesaving. Our dog learned very quickly with steady training, and she remembers the tricks even when time has passed without practice.
Our Catahoula Is a Great Family Pet
Well, in short, I can admit I am glad I did not know of the willful way of the Catahoula. Our dog's sweet nature (she gives hugs daily), intelligence, and energy are just what I needed to keep me on my toes. And that's a place you'll learn to love if you find yourself the owner of a Catahoula. Great luck and best wishes.
Melissa on February 26, 2020:
I agree with most all of your descriptions...I have 3 catahoula /Ridgeback mixes. I had rescued their mom from the street not knowing she was pregnant, and she was actually Vizsla/ridgeback mix and dad was catahoula. Found homes for mom and 5 puppies but have 3 of the siblings. They keep me on my toes, wide awake, and exhausted but so absolutley sweet and adorable that I can never stay mad at them, absolutley in love with them all! But I have learned never break your authority and never show weakness or dance in their presence!!!
Wayne Ashby on February 21, 2020:
Totally get it...and agree. Our boy gator is a full breed Catahoula
Suzanne on September 21, 2019:
I rescued my Phoebe when she was about 8 weeks old while I had been volunteering at a rescue in Shreveport, LA. I was told to read about the breed after asking, "Cata what?". But unlike you, I didn't read about the breed until after I got her home. My initial thought was, "What have I gotten myself into?" She will be 6 in Nov and she has been a beast and a lifesaver, and after many threats to take her back (I never said them seriously) she lets me pretend I run the house. Every time I read stories about people's experiences with Catahoulas I bust out laughing because they are all true!
We've done lots of obedient training as well as nine months of daily physical therapy (she jumped out of a car and had a partial ACL tear). I take her everywhere I can get away with it. She hates being left home when I think she knows I'm going hiking without her. Phoebe is a true adventurer. There is no mountain too high or beach too salty (though she has learned the salt water is not good). She loves water and if there is water, or mud, nearby she never fails to find it. And the snuggles! She loves to bury under the covers or a blanket. LOL
Catahoulas have such a unique personality, maybe all dogs do, but she is my first dog (my parents dogs growing up don't count) and I laugh everyday. Thank you all for your stories.
Stephanie on April 03, 2019:
I rescued a Catahoula that had been returned by two prior families that didn't understand this high energy, strong-willed bred. Her previous names were Priscilla and Lemonade, she was neither so I shortened the Lemonade to Adde, my boys called her Adegail. The hunting instinct is strong and many a neighbor bunny that tried to venture into my garden learned to STAY AWAY. The only animal she actually killed was the racoon she ran up the tree to obtain. Yes, they can actually climb trees.
If you were on the other side of the gate her bark would keep you away, but once you were on her side, you were best friends and received all kinds of love and attention. I have enjoyed many different breeds and mixes over my lifetime and my Adegail was one of the most loving, loyal, bright and fun dogs. She absolutley took a piece of my heart with her over the rainbow bridge.
Tiara on December 26, 2018:
I have a 18 month old little girl named Sawyer. I got her at 8 weeks. Even from an early age she has been a handful. LOVE HER TO PIECES, plus she picked me. Her name is Sawyer because she is extremely adventurous. She can dig up anything in the yard that you may or may not knew was berried. She will find it. She wouldn't crate train she hated it. She cried so loud out neighbors were worried what we were doing to her. She was playpen trained until she discovered she could climb out of it, along with baby gates. Her young puppy stage was tough as we were in a rental house till about 14 weeks. Loves being outside and loves attention. She has to be near someone at all times. Another pet or person. Very high energy, except around 7:00pm when she is ready for bed. She lays on the couch till we go to bed and then gets on her bed. We rescued a second dog a husky mix who is the complete opposite of her. He is well mannered, calm, quiet, and listens. She hasn't had a lot of training as she doesn't listen or remains calm for any time frame. I think she has anxiety because she doesn't like car rides, or going to the vet or pet stores. We have to carry her like a baby or she will pull her self out of her harness. I need to spend more time with him but it scares me to take her places that aren't enclosed since she can get out of her collar or harness. there are very few people she hasn't liked but most everyone hse loves. She acts tough but is a sweet heart. She talks back good and bad. You can have a full on conversation with her if she's in the mood. Or she will just sass you too. The bad thing is she's very cute and rocks the puppy eyes so it's hard to punish her. She knows when she's in trouble and will pout till you give her positive attention. She was supposed to be a lab but that didn't happen. Love her anyways. She's my girl!
Wayne ashby on October 29, 2018:
Loved reading your story. Our catahoula son, gator, is 4. Your story took me back to his early years. Allow me to share a precaution. Due to genetics, gator blew out both his knees, and required TPLO reconstruction. And he enjoys bully sticks as treats. Catahoula sure are special.
Noel on September 23, 2018:
I have a 5 month old catahoula/australian kelpie. He is a tremendous dog, very loving. But can he be a handful. We are both trying to figure out who is the alpha. He can be that stubborn, and other times so obedient. I walk him daily for 1.5 hours then a half hour run off lead at the dog park. He is well socialized with other dogs and children.I have had german shepherds all my life. I picked up Chocci from the pound not knowing anything about this breed. He is going to be a constant challenge but l wouldn't change him for anything. Just wish l had heard about this breed 20 years ago. But the best thing, l am in a win win situation.....l have to get off my backside and walk him and l have a very lovable dog
Tiffany on August 19, 2018:
I have a Catahoula mix and I got her when she was 6 weeks old. I named her Rayne. She is so intelligent because she made crate training difficult. I was trying to crate train her and I told my husband. I put her in the crate and had it prepared for her. I went off to work. Less than 30 minutes later, I received a text message from my husband telling me that she cried, whined and barked the entire time I was gone. He took her out of the crate which is exactly what she wanted.
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Now she is 16 weeks old and crate training is becoming easier. She goes to a pet sitter while I am at work and plays. I am able to relax and train her at night when she is more attentive. She is a great addition to my family, even though my husband has not realized it yet.
I have her in puppy training classes and she has a great vet. I am so thankful that I take her to PetSmart because many of the employees and Banfield Pet Hospital employees are catahoula owners. I am able to get advice and tips on how to make sure that she understands that I am the leader of the pack at all times.
jose on July 19, 2018:
i recently rescued an 11 month old Catahoula mix and she is very intelligent and very very sweet. she is very fun, loving, energetic, and obedient. The only thing is she lunges and barks at dogs even from a distance. i have been watching youtube videos on things to do to "avoid" the situation but does anyone know how to train your dog how to be comfortable around other dogs?
Caryn on September 02, 2017:
My husband & I rescued Star in Jan this year from the Humane Society. She is 7 years old, very loving with the family & people that come into the house. The problem we have is when we are walking her outside & any person on a bicycle, skateboard or anything with wheels she goes into attack mode. We have tried to have her sit to telling her no but it's a problem. Does anybody have any advise? We do not know her past history.
Suzanne Farmer on June 28, 2017:
Thank you for writing this article. I felt like you were writing about my Willow. I found her as a 7 week old puppy, hiding under my porch. We live out in the country so I am not sure how she got to my house. She is mostly black with white wings on her chest, with subtle brown brindle on her sides. She is so smart and loving and very devoted to her pack.
Elaine Trovato on March 30, 2017:
I'm also a catahoula lover and owner. Bugalugs (Bugsy) has been with us for 7 years. We adopted him when he was between 18 months and 2 years old. He had been picked up off the streets and had about every parasite imaginable. We had to keep him quarantined for over a month. During that time, I walked him every morning before I went to work. It took time, patience and perseverance to get him to stop pulling on the leash. It took us about six months to train him to be polite, and it was a lot of hard work. We even had to hire a trainer, and get a collar. It was expensive but the payoff is this tremendous member of our family that will protect us from anyone and anything. He is fun, wiley, intense, intelligent, and the very best big brother our younger dog could have had. He actually helped us raise her. He is an excellent swimmer, and loves to play lifeguard! My husband says he would get another catahoula but at our age I don't think we are up to the task.
chris on November 07, 2016:
I absolutely Love and Adore my 4 yr old Catahoula- Lou. He is the second best dog i have ever owned next to my late Great Dane. I got him as a birthday gift. And i read up on them first. We started training him from minute one. If he started on a shoe he got a light tap on butt with it and has never touched another. Hes so kind and loving with the grandkids. And totally believes our 2 1/2 yr old grandson is his baby. This kid lays on him, sits on him, and he lays in floor for cartoons with him. If a stranger knocks on the door his size and bark are intimidating and most leave the porch. He will not however go across the front door threshold. Dont be mistaken, I would never leave a small child in a room with a dog. Ever. Lou is very, if not over trained. He does a have a attack word. He is very well behaved, a lover, a protector. I wouldnt give this dog up for nothing. I dont recommend a Catahoula to a lazy house. I walk him every day rain, snow or shine. He loves the snow. If its too cold for a walk he goes on the treadmill. Hes constantly Working. Give them something to do, be the alpha of your pack, and hes a great companion and protector. A Catahoula is not for the faint of heart, or lazy owner.
Jeff on March 31, 2016:
My Catahoula,Trooper, is almost 10 months, very smart and easy tempered. He is a natural bobtail and shows great signs of being a good tracker one day. I too (^^@Mary) have discovered the tire toy, it's all he hasn't destroyed, lol. My one regret is not having more time to spend with him. I feel bad that he spends 3 or 4 days a week in the backyard. He is great with my family, although his puppy pounce can be problematic with his nails.
Neesie on December 11, 2015:
Well said. Welcome to the Catahoula family.
Mary on April 08, 2015:
I have a Catahoula (probably mixed with Lab) that sounds so much like your description. She is about a year and half now. Had her since 8 weeks...came from Mississippi (a Humane Society shelter there for some reason sends their puppies to South Florida). Her first year she had some significant health challenges which they never really diagnosed...the cardiologist ended up saying it was probably because she was spaded so young? He wasn't really sure. It seem to resolve but she still has exercise intolerance to an extent (but runs up a storm anyway). But she is willful and has chewed up every kind of toy and bed. Tires (dog toy, not actual size) seem to work well. She didn't like the crate--but loves the kitchen...so that is her room. Only problem, if you are on the other side of the counter and you have her in the kitchen she is unhappy about it. She is the most friendly dog towards strangers--even the mailman. Every other dog I've ever known, barks at the mailman--she doesn't, if she is in the yard when he drives up, she goes over to greet him. Absolutely loves everyone. Loves her vet. He could be giving her a shot, and she will just be wagging her tail. (Actually there are two things she does not tolerate well (1) blood withdrawals and (2) nail trims).
Dana Sanders on March 26, 2015:
That is not a catahoula
Terry on March 26, 2015:
I currently have a one-year-old purebred Catahoula and one thing I can tell you all is that they are not ALL as easy as the description above. In fact, MOST Catahoulas are bossy, stubborn and very strong-willed, which is exactly what they are supposed to be in order to hunt hogs! If you own or think you want to own a Catahoula, be sure you look up the breed standard for the correct temperament and type. These dogs are definitely NOT for someone who isn't going to absolutely be the alpha!! If you aren't going to be the alpha and show them who is boss (sometimes daily depending on age and temperament of individual dog), they will take over and you won't like it and neither will anyone else. http://www.crackercatahoulas.com/standard.html
AJ on March 23, 2015:
I own a catahoula, and reading this makes me giggle! You have the exact same struggles with yours and I do with mine! I also love her to pieces but wish i would have read about the breed more. Her instinct to hunt is insane! She will potty with her nose stuck to the ground sniffing stuff out.
Eden on March 20, 2015:
Much the same experience with our Catahoula Caya. I had never heard of a Catahoula when we adopted her. She has some issues, that we are trying to deal with, some anxiety and social issues, but I wouldn't trade her for anything!
Desiroo on July 25, 2013:
OMG this made me crack up. It is our dog to a T (1-2 year old Catahoula)! From everything, even her diet. Jewel eats LI Natural Balance due to some gatro issues. She only has one blue eye and I was just telling my husband the other day how I will be outside at night and just see this blue eye looking out the window at me. She also tears up everything that isn't a hard toy. She shreds any blankets we put in her crate, etc. She doesn't mind her crate when we are home, however; hates it when we leave. She hates being alone and follows us everywhere. She is extremely smart and can remembers everything. If she sees a bunny once on our walk, then she looks for it every day. It took less than 15 minutes to train her to shake a paw. She loves people and treats and is such a sweetheart! We love her so much. She is a hnadful, but makes us laugh and is a huge part of our family. Thanks for the story!
jaylucas (author) from Midwest, USA on January 17, 2012:
GoldenBird: I think that "frank" is an excellent descriptor. Thank you
GoldenBird on January 17, 2012:
I had two cats, but never had a dog. But I absolutely loved Owly, she is very sweet and good. I think she is a great source of joy and companionship. I loved you hub. Keep going!
jaylucas (author) from Midwest, USA on January 14, 2012:
What a joy to hear you say this! I have found that people have rarely heard of the Catahoula Leapord dog, thus my Hub. People often comment on our dog's eyes; does your dog more closely resemble a Catahoula or a Lab? Labs, too, are marvelous creatures. Where did you acquire your pack members? :)
Sarra Garrett on January 14, 2012:
What a great story. Your dog is absolutely beautiful!!! I have a lab/catahula and she is very strong willed. As I am the leader of the pack (I have 4 dogs ranging from 60 lbs to 3 lbs) I do find it a challenge to keep her in line. I wouldn't trade her in for anything!!!