Catahoula Leopard Dogs are an exotic-sounding breed with muddled ancestry, but most believe they’re descended from Bloodhounds, Greyhounds, Wolfhounds, and possibly Mastiffs. With a serious demeanor and work ethic, Catahoula Leopard Dogs require serious training to manage. Without it, they can run roughshod over unprepared or novice dog owners! Let’s break down a step-by-step approach to tackling the key areas when training your Catahoula Leopard Dog below.
The 6 Tips for Training a Catahoula Leopard Dog
1. Prioritize Early Socialization
Catahoula Leopard Dogs generally get along well with other animals, but they can have a domineering streak. This makes ample socialization from puppyhood essential to help them get exposed to all sorts of unfamiliar sights, sounds, people, and animals in a controlled way. Get started by leashing up and going on a walk outside. If your Catahoula Leopard Dog barks at people or other animals, immediately stop what you’re doing and ignore them until they stop barking.
Rather, try building positive associations by rewarding calm behavior. If your dog likes to bark at birds, take them near some birds and wait for them to stop barking. When they do, even for a few seconds, reward them with a high-value treat. This will take many repetitions, but over time your dog will be able to be calm for longer than before. Socialization is immensely beneficial to helping your dog navigate new experiences without being unduly afraid.
2. Give Them a Job
Catahoulas were originally bred to work in unforgiving Louisiana swamps as scent hounds, so they thrive and are happiest with a strenuous job. Otherwise, they can get frustrated and anxious, leading to destructive behavior like chewing or digging. Leopard Dogs are great at not just scent work but agility and hunting too. Even if these aren’t possible, you can help tucker your dog out by providing them with enough quality exercise, which we talk about a little later.
3. Use Consistent Positive Reinforcement
As the foundation for any successful dog training, positive reinforcement means building positive associations with desirable behavior. For example, you can help your Catahoula Leopard Dog learn a command by giving them a treat after they perform the command. They learn and positively reinforce the behavior through repetition when they notice a pattern. “Sit = treat,” for example, or “Go potty = treat.” Treats are gradually lessened over time, but the positive associations remain.
Conversely, bad or unwanted behavior should be ignored and not punished or reprimanded. Scolding your dog has no effect and, in fact, increases their anxiety and fear. For instance, scolding a dog that pees in the house can make them hide to pee inside in the future. Not only is so-called negative reinforcement ineffective, but it’s just plain cruel.
4. Adopt an Exercise Routine
Catahoula Leopard Dogs are highly active dogs that need at least an hour of vigorous exercise per day. Some more energetic dogs may need up to 2 hours per day. You can break this into two 30-minute walks, three 20-minute walks, or whatever you desire so long as your dog is performing physical exercise. A brisk walk is better than a leisurely stroll, for reference.
You can also play games to break things up and provide variety. Leopard Dogs are great at games with clear-cut rules like fetch or tug-of-war. More advanced dogs can try their paw at agility courses or hunting exercises, both of which the breed has a knack for.
5. Leash Train Early
This breed has a strong prey drive from years of hunting, so you’ll want to leash train them early. Most Catahoula Leopard Dogs are very trainable if you’re firm with them, but some can have a devilish stubborn streak. To start, leash your dog up and take them on a walk outside. It’s OK if they don’t walk on the leash well yet.
When your dog pulls on the leash, stand still and wait for them to stop pulling. This sends the message that tugging doesn’t get them any farther, but it bears repeating. Your Leopard Dog will test you a lot in the beginning, especially when they notice an intriguing new scent trail with their superbly sharp sniffer. Keep your composure—your dog will notice any agitation.
6. Housebreak Your Catahoula Leopard Dog
Housebreaking is imperative early on to keep your Leopard Dog from developing bad potty habits. You can liberally plaster puppy pads inside at first, but the real work happens outside. Every 20–30 minutes after your dog eats and drinks, take them outside on the leash to your desired potty zone. Use a trigger phrase like “Go potty,” and let them do their thing.
If your dog’s a clown that jumps for your attention or stares at you, ignore them. They’ll get bored and sniff around to do their business if they need to go, given time. We suggest waiting for 15 minutes before giving up and taking your dog inside. Leash yourself to your Catahoula Leopard Dog and take them outside every 15 minutes afterward until they go.
Here’s the important part: When they go outside, feel free to jump up and down, clap, and praise them as the bestest boy or girl ever. Then give them a delicious high-value treat to seal the deal. This helps positively reinforce your dog going potty outside and not indoors.
Catahoula Leopard Dogs may look exotic and difficult, but they’re anything but! Affectionate and goofy, these dogs just need early socialization and a firm hand to help them work through basics like housetraining. Oh, and plenty of strenuous exercise too! This is definitely a breed for active people, so keep that in mind before bringing one home.
Featured Image Credit: Mary Swift, Shutterstock