Catahoula Leopard Dog: Dog Breed Characteristics & Care

History, Care Tips, and Helpful Information for Pet Owners

Standing side profile of a Catahoula Leopard Dog

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The catahoula leopard dog is a medium-large herding dog breed from the United States whose trademark is its short, smooth coat that comes in an array of eye-catching colors and patterns. Many catahoulas have distinctive blue eyes and a spotted coat that’s similar to a leopard pattern—hence the breed’s name. These dogs tend to be serious about their work—whether it be farm work or hunting—and companionable with their family. They require an owner who is firm and consistent with training and who can provide them with lots of exercise.

Breed Overview

GROUP: Herding

HEIGHT: 22 to 24 inches

WEIGHT: 50 to 95 pounds

COAT: Short, smooth

COAT COLOR: Black, blue, blue merle, brindle, chocolate, red, yellow, red merle, white merle, or yellow merle with/without tan markings and/or white trim

LIFE SPAN: 10 to 14 years

TEMPERAMENT: Energetic, protective, independent


ORIGIN: United States

Characteristics of the Catahoula Leopard Dog

Catahoula leopard dogs generally have an energetic and alert temperament. And with their family they have fairly affectionate and playful personalities. They don't always get along with other household pets, including dogs, due to their territorial nature and prey drive. But they sometimes can coexist with dogs when raised together from a young age.

Affection Level Medium
Friendliness Medium
Kid-Friendly Medium
Pet-Friendly Medium
Exercise Needs High
Playfulness Medium
Energy Level High
Trainability Medium
Intelligence Medium
Tendency to Bark Low
Amount of Shedding Medium

History of the Catahoula Leopard Dog

Opinions vary on the exact origin of the catahoula leopard dog. One working theory is the domesticated dogs of Native Americans interbred with dogs that Spanish explorers brought to North America. Some possible breeds in the mix include bloodhounds, greyhounds, and mastiffs. Later, the resulting dogs bred with the hounds that accompanied French immigrants arriving in Louisiana in the 1700s. The Beauceron, a French herding breed, is speculated to be part of the catahoula leopard dog's ancestry. 

Early catahoula leopard dogs were valued as exceptional hunting companions. They were also used to herd wild cattle and hogs that were prevalent in Louisiana. People who bred the dogs prioritized their working abilities over appearance.

The catahoula leopard dog is still a rare breed today. It's recognized by the United Kennel Club (where it is known as the Louisiana catahoula leopard dog). And it's part of the American Kennel Club’s Foundation Stock Service, which is the first step in the process toward full breed recognition. 

Catahoula Leopard Dog Care

Catahoula leopard dogs need lots of exercise to be happy and healthy. They also require consistent training and socialization from an early age. Fortunately, their grooming needs are fairly straightforward.


Catahoula leopard dogs need both ample exercise and mental stimulation to be content and well-behaved at home. They're prone to becoming destructive if they don't get their energy out in a constructive manner. Aim for at least two hours a day of activity via walks, running, cycling, swimming, hiking, and vigorous playtime. Dog sports, such as agility and rally, also are ideal to challenge a catahoula both mentally and physically. And puzzle toys can keep your dog busy when you need a break.


Grooming is relatively easy for a catahoula. The short coat only requires a weekly brushing to remove loose fur and dirt and to distribute skin oils. Plan on a bath roughly every month, depending on how dirty your dog gets. 

Check your catahoula’s nails about every month to see whether they need a trim. This breed’s nails tend to grow quickly. Check your dog’s ears at least weekly for wax buildup and abnormalities, and make sure to dry them thoroughly after baths and swimming. Also, aim to brush your dog's teeth every day.


Start training and socialization from as young of an age as possible. Catahoulas tend to be independent and territorial, and this can result in bad habits forming if you don’t guide your dog. Use positive training methods, and aim to keep training sessions fun. But always be consistent in your commands, so your dog knows it can’t get away with bad behavior. 

Moreover, expose your catahoula to different people, other dogs, and various locations from an early age to boost its comfort and confidence. Having positive experiences in different situations can help to quell its territorial nature.

Catahoula Leopard Dog

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Catahoula Leopard Dog in full sprint

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Common Health Problems

Catahoula leopard dogs are overall a healthy breed, but they still are prone to some hereditary health issues, including:

Catahoula Leopard Dogs as Pets

The Spruce / Kelly Miller

Diet and Nutrition

Always have fresh water available for your dog. And feed a high-quality canine diet that is nutritionally balanced. It’s typical to give two measured meals per day to avoid overfeeding. But you should always discuss both the amount and type of diet with a vet. Likewise, be mindful of treats and other extra food to prevent excess weight gain. 

How to Adopt or Buy a Catahoula Leopard Dog

While catahoulas are a relatively rare breed, it's still worth checking animal shelters and breed-specific rescue groups for a dog in need of a home. If you're looking for a puppy from a reputable breeder, expect to pay around $600 to $2,000 on average.

For further information to connect you with a catahoula, check out:

Catahoula Leopard Dog Overview

  • Loyal to family

  • Good watchdog

  • Interesting coat coloring and patterns

  • Can be territorial

  • Needs lots of exercise and mental stimulation

  • Typically not a good choice for city life or apartments

More Dog Breeds and Further Research

Before bringing home a catahoula leopard dog, be sure to do plenty of research to determine whether the breed is right for your lifestyle. Talk to breed owners, vets, rescue groups, and reputable breeders. Spend some time around catahoulas too if possible.

If you’re interested in similar breeds, check out: 

There’s a whole world of potential dog breeds out there—with a little research, you can find the right one to bring home!

  • Are catahoula leopard dogs good family dogs?

    Catahoulas are moderately tolerant of children when well trained and socialized. They are best around older children who understand how to respectfully treat a dog.

  • Are catahoula leopard dogs aggressive?

    Catahoula leopard dogs have a protective nature and can be territorial. They will defend against perceived threats, but early and consistent training and socialization can help to prevent aggression.

  • Are catahoula leopard dogs rare?

    Catahoula leopard dogs are a rare dog breed. They are not yet recognized by the American Kennel Club, though they do have  United Kennel Club recognition.

The Spruce Pets uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Catahoula Leopard Dog. American Kennel Club.

  2. Catahoula Leopard Dog Puppies and Dogs. Adopt a Pet.