Interesting facts about a challenging dog breed

Interesting facts about a challenging dog breed

The Louisiana Catahoula – a dog for experienced owners

The Lousiana Catahoula Leopard Dog is often multi-colored brindled, many animals have striking blue eyes – the breed has a special look. Therefore, anyone considering buying a Catahoula should make this decision carefully. Because the farmers of the southern states in the USA have bred this breed for driving cattle and hunting wild boar. This still defines the breed characteristics and typical behavior of this dog. The Catahoula is a robust and intelligent working dog that needs physical and mental activity and clear and consistent leadership to be content and balanced. He is not a pure family dog. The following is a small guide from the European Association of Louisiana Catahoulas to help make decisions in advance of purchase.

Character and dispositions

The personality characteristics and dispositions can be very helpful when working with the Catahoula. In everyday life these characteristics often become a problem.

– Distinctive hunting instinct

– Strong enforcement power

– Stubborn and goal-oriented

– Distinctive hardness of instinct

– Strong territorial behavior

– Makes decisions independently

– Impulsive in reacting and acting

– Persistent working dog

– Very resource oriented

– One-man dog (not a family dog)

– Distrustful and reserved towards strangers

– Late developers (often still developing new character traits at the age of three)

– Pronounced expressive behavior

– Barking


Little breed history: The Louisiana Catahoula – working dog of the cowboys

The Louisiana Catahoula was bred to hunt wild boar in packs and to drive herds of cattle. In other words, the dogs selected for breeding were those that could follow scent trails very independently and persistently, and eventually keep extremely defensible game at bay. The dog independently herds cattle over wide areas and keeps them in a group. Whether at the wild boar or at the cattle – to be able to fulfill their task, the Catahoula must be able to decide and act independently. And they like to do that in everyday life as well.

The Catahoula should be fearless. Backup is usually not an option for the Catahoula. When he meets resistance, he usually goes forward. He does this not only on cattle, but also in everyday situations such as dog or human encounters when he is not confidently led. The hardness, assertiveness and independence of the Catahoula needs clarity and consistency in leadership, so that the education of the young dog can succeed. Because the Catahoula first puts to the test what is demanded of him: He questions whether the command makes sense from his point of view. The Catahoula demands more perseverance and consequence from its owner than most other dog breeds. He is sensitive and also reacts to unfair treatment – which is why he is often considered stubborn or obstinate.


Typical and common problem behavior

If the Louisiana Catahoula is not kept and managed according to his disposition, problematic behavior often occurs. The following difficulties are regularly reported to us:

– Uncontrolled hunting instinct

– Low frustration tolerance

– Leash aggression

– Excessive territorial behavior towards other dogs and people

– In adult age often incompatible with other dogs – activities with dog groups mostly not  possible (playgroup or similar)

– Defends resources such as food, toys, sofa place – takes thereby also conflicts with its owner in purchase

– If the Catahoula is pushed into the corner, he attacks – with excessive hardness possibly also his owner

– The often pronounced expressive behavior of the Catahoula (growling, barking, hair ruffling) often

misjudge conspecifics and people, which can lead to accidents.

One should always be one step ahead of the Catahoula during training, because, typical for the breed, he independently searches for a solution to the tasks set. He then decides for himself what his priorities are – and he only gives up when he has reached his goal. If he has a scent in his nose and the owner does not notice it on the spot, then the dog is gone faster than you can pronounce his name. In practice, this means that walking the Catahoula while you are lost in thought is risky. If the Catahoula notices that you are not attentive or are distracted, he will make his own decisions.


The Catahoula is not known for social compatibility.

The Catahoula will not be found in dog play areas because he is not known for social compatibility. In adulthood, he usually does not get along with other dogs of his same species. However, with clear leadership, he can learn to ignore strange dogs and tolerate them in his environment.

Precisely because of his disposition to independence and self-reliance, the Catahoula needs consistent leadership. If he accepts his owner as a sovereign leader, the Catahoula can be led well by this person. This requires the owner to make clear decisions for his dog and to enforce them in a friendly and consistent manner. You will not achieve anything with unnecessary harshness. Pressure often creates counter-pressure with this dog. The Catahoula needs a human being who is easy for him to assess. If the human cannot give him security, he will take care of his own security.

Important: Already in the puppy age the breed characteristics take in the view

The start in life is especially important for Catahoula puppies. Already in the puppy age the owner should have the breed characteristics in the view and make himself consciously, how he promotes later characteristics, restricts or steers. Those who do not pay attention to impulse control from the beginning will most likely raise an uncontrollable hunter. Those who don’t teach their little Catahoula to handle frustration early and through play may end up with a dog that can’t stay alone and is constantly destroying furniture, car seats and door sticks.

To suit the breed of Catahoula, it is best to decide how you want to keep your dog busy before purchasing. He is suitable, for example, as a hunting dog, for tracking work, depending on the stature and character also in the train dog sport (canicross, bikejöring). He is often successful in rescue dog work – he can also be led as a riding companion dog. As a pure family, house or yard dog, the Catahoula is not suitable.





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Interview with the NALC judge of EALC & NALC Catahoula Event 2017

Winston Beavert, NALC judge and Catahoula breeder from Oklahoma/USA

was the Judge for the Cow Dog Trial and Conformation Show at the big EALC & NALC Catahoula event in October 2017 at the  Mitrov Farm.

Winston is a farmer and experienced Catahoula breeder in the third generation – Diamond B Catahoulas. He works daily with his dogs on the farm and has a great deal of experience with this breed.

Our EALC member Stephanie Lang von Langen took the opportunity to ask our guest some questions:

EALC: Winston I have some questions while I have you here. What impressed you most on this EALC & NALC gathering here in Mitrov?

WINSTON: First of all would be the dedication of the people to their animals. I was really impressed with the condition of the animals and how much they are part of the families of the people that were here.

EALC: What do you think is the right work for Catahoula if people don’t have cows or a farm.

WINSTON: I think the Europeans are pretty much spot on with your trial here, the biking, the search and rescue/SAR, the bloodtrailing. The stuff that keeps the dog active and, you know they are working dogs, and it’s something that keeps their minds and their bodies working. Which they are made for.

EALC: Do you think a Catahoula could do “Schutzhund”-work?

WINSTON: I’ve given much thought to that. The way the breed is… They could be very aggressive, they are working dogs. I don’t have very much experience with “Schutzhund” but I think the dogs… they would need to be evaluated very strongly if you want to use one as “Schutzhund”. And I guess other breeds are too, but it’s something I would monitor very closely, if I was going to do something like that.

EALC: What is the difference between the Catahoula in the U.S. and in Europe?

WINSTON: I think the size… The dogs over here are larger, but that may be climate also, you know the heat and the humidity in Louisiana and some of the other areas, their environment makes a little differential. It might be that this could be the differential in size of the dogs. But other than that the overall appearance of the dogs are very similar. And it seems that the dogs have retained the traits that they were bred for and their instinct to work and herd are still on the dogs over here.

EALC: As a experienced breeder of Catahoula, what character do you prefer?

WINSTON: In my personal experience we breed for a strong dog, very intelligent dog, and we want a dog that represents the standard well, but the character that dog has…. I want a dog has a lot of heart, a lot of drive. That is what the breed is all about, so that is, what we like.

Thank you for the Interview.

(7th of October 2017)

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(Deutsch) Zwei Catahoularüden unter einem Dach – geht das?

Sorry, this entry is only available in German.

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Unchallenged and overchallenged Catahoulas

Activity and work in various stages of Catahoula’s life

Amber Middaughs Catahoulas – hard work at the cattles

The Louisiana Catahoula Leopard Dog is a working dog. Ranchers in the southern states of the USA bred this breed specifically to hunt, primarily boar and raccoons, to herd cattle, and to guard a farm as well as for other roles. Catahoula is a multifaceted breed. Breeding selection was based and indeed it is still driven by working needs of breeders. For this reason, the working traits of this breed are still present in today studs. The Catahoula wants and needs to work and not just physically. However, one must be aware of  requirements of each dog, whose needs are dependent upon its age.

Stephanie Lang von Langen, Animal psychologist and Dog trainer

As any other dog the Catahoula needs to rest for twelve to sixteen hours a day. Dogs that get to rest less become nervous and agitated. This often leads to an owner’s misconception that the dog requires more exercise. This is dangerous as the stress hormone levels rise in the bloodstream and the dog can become aggressive or loose concentration. The dogs with increased stress hormones cannot interact and/or learn from their environment. Therefore the rest is relative to the age important.

The Catahoula as a pup:

Catahoula girl Nandi Besavej

Pups usually enter their new home at eight weeks of age. At this point in a pup’s life, it is primarily important to discover their new environment and home. In regards to walking a dog, the rule of thumb is five minutes per a month of age; too much or too little can lead to behavioral/medical issues.

In this stage of development, it is important to socialize a dog. Generally, the Catahoula tends to be wary of strangers and in certain situations it can become cautious and attentive in a defensive manner. It is critical for the pup to be subjected to positive socialization during this stage. The pup should be exposed to a variety of other breeds in dog school groups. The pup should be also introduced to various people.

It is important to note that these stimuli should be imposed moderately. If the pup is exposed to an inordinate amount of stimuli, it can have an unnerving effect. The pup should be able to cope with these stimuli and it requires time and rest. If this space and freedom is not given there is the risk that the pup grows to become too nervous and exited.

The cardio, skeletal, and muscular systems must be also worked out moderately. If the pup is exposed too much to physical effort it can lead to permanent damage later in life. Playing with other pups and dogs is seen as the most healthy movement. During play with other dogs, the pup is developing mentally as well as physically.

A common problem is that the owner believes the dog is uneasy and exited due to a lack of work. As a result they exercise the pup more, whether that be by walking or playing. The problem is that an overworked dog appears also uneasy and exited and there is the risk that the dog will become hyperactive and never comes to rest.

It is suggested that in cases, when the dog cannot come to rest of its own accord, a transport box should be purchased and the dog should be allowed to rest in the box. It also helps training a selfcontrol.

The growing Catahoula

Topisaws Ace

The Catahoula should not be exposed to dog sports, such as agility, carnicross, etc., too early in life. Although Catahoulas have a tremendous working drive, they should not work too hard until they are about twelve months of age. If the Catahoula is subjected to such a workload too early, it can have a negative impact upon his heart and skeletal system.

It is suggested that Catahoulas should be allowed to experience such activities in a playful situation and in moderation. The Catahoula’s temperament, speed, at which they become excited, as well as their pronounced ability to learn at this age, make them suited to such workload. It is suggested that Catahoulas should be trained and allowed to practice from the early age in situations, where concentration is required; in doing so the young dog will be more obedient in exciting situations.

The adult Catahoula

Catahoula female Ashanti has fun with Dummy work

Once the Catahoula is fully grown there are no more limits. Only the exception is that the trainer gradually increases the strength and conditioning of the dog over time and employs a suitable training programme.

Continuing and regular training will result in a healthy and fit dog. It is not desirable to let enter the dog in repeated competitions or working situations without the rest required to recuperate from such an event. Overworking the Catahoula is irresponsible. The Catahoula requires work and exercise but it must be relative to the age and condition of the individual dog. The dogs should not be driven to their limits unless the situation does not allow for a compromise.

The question is then, how do you employ your Catahoula? Movement alone is not enough for them; a grown Catahoula can run forever.

Our suggestion is to work the Catahoula in a manner befitting their natural design. They should receive balanced work, which requires use of both brain and nose, such as search or learning games.

Over and under working dogs

To keep the Catahoula balanced they require movement and activity. Especially in the early phase, the line between under- working and over-working is a thin one.

The following table shows the symptoms of both of these conditions:

Symptoms of Over-work  Symptoms of Under-work
• Nervous  • Nervous
• Destructive behavior  • Destructive behavior
• Quick to excite   • Quick to excite
• Excessive Panting (Stress release)  • Lethargic
• Lack of concentration  • Lack of concentration
• Explosive and aggressive behavior   • Aggressive behavior

As it can be seen, the symptoms are similar. Without looking at the whole situation, it is extremely difficult to say whether the Catahoula is receiving too much or too little work.


Playing is important both for pups and grown Catahoulas. Dogs playing with their owners are much more balanced and are more obedient according to field studies.

It has also a vital function in the pack, playing promotes bonding within the pack. As such, it is part of daily life. It is important to note that playing does not involve a hierarchy; each play partner is allowed to and is subjected to being barreled over and pushed around.

The trainer must be aware of the outcome of playing. If one partner is always winning, then the game can quickly escalate to a conflict. It is important to keep an eye on playing dogs, especially, those that are not a part of each other daily lives, in order to be able to intervene and prevent such escalation.

Careful note: the Ball

Playing with a ball can pose a risk. Many trainers note the amount of fun their dogs have with a ball, in particular, when they are chasing it; and now you are throwing it endlessly, believing that you are doing a favor to your dog.

Unfortunately, the effect on such a playful dog can be just the opposite. By chasing (stalking) the ball, the dog releases dopamine. Dopamine is a hormone, which makes you feel good about what you are doing, a kind of chemical reward. So the dogs get a natural high and they are not aware of being physically exhausted. This chemical compound allows the dog to transpire the natural limitations of their conditioning by mobilizing further energy reserves. This makes sense when a wild dog is actually hunting a prey. Unlike the hunt, where the dog is able to dissect and consume the prey and which is followed by a deserved rest, the ball junkie’s hunt never ends and never gets enough.

For that guy it is an relaxation ball

The trainer continues throwing the ball and the game spirals out of control. The dog is after the dopamine high and looses interest in other pursuits. The trainer, other dogs, and further training is no longer of interest. Only the ball game is important and eventually, the social skills start degrading.

It is suggested that ball games should be limited. It is also suggested that the dog does not only fetch but other skills are also learned, such as sit/stay and/or search. It is suggested that the sequence should be altered every three throws and then they should move on to another activity.

The path of a Ball Junkie

1. After extensive ball play the dog looses interest in their environment and other dogs.

2. The dog becomes agitated and attempts to convince the trainer to throw the ball. It is typical that the dog places all manner of items at the feet of the trainer.

3. Other dogs are barked at until they are engaged in a chase game, at which point they realize they are serving as a prey substitute.

4. The developing ball junkie reacts quickly to any moving object. Anything that moves simulates a prey.

5. The dog has become addicted. It is possible to recover the dog; however, it requires time and focus.


The working drive of the Catahoula is invigorating, though it is important that the dog receives a balanced plan of movement, work, play, and rest. Those that pay attention to those balanced requirements will be rewarded with a content dog, which relaxes in the downtime and is able to be a relaxed partner for any activity.

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The question of the Merle gene

A typical merle coat color, i.e. coat with patches of diluted pigment irregularly spread over body and intermingled with undiluted melanin, is known in several breeds, such as Australian Sphepard, Collie, Border Collie, Cardigan Welsh Corgi, Shetland Sheepdog, Dachshund, etc. However, individuals with such a merle coat coloring are not a majority in those breeds. It is probably due to breeding regulations valid for those breeds that prevent combinations of both merle colored parents. The main reason for an existence of such breeding rules is a fact that offsprings of predominantly white color (called double merle) are born from such merle parents and they are known to suffer often from a variety of serious health defects.

However, there is one breed that is famous for its merle colors and leopard patterns – Louisiana Catahoula (LC). It seems that for many breeders from country of its origin, USA, solid colored LC are not so popular. Thus, a combination of both merle carrying parents is done on purpose to obtain merle carrying offsprings of leopard colors in spite of possible health defects. No surprice then that most dogs of this breed are the merle gene carriers and true solid colored (not carrying the merle gene) are rather rare. Nevertheless, it seems that the breed itself is not endangered by this fact seriously and the occurrence of the merle caused defects is not higher than in other merle carrying breeds.

The Merle gene was identified by Clark et al. (PNAS 103 (5): 1376-81, 2006) in 2006. It opened the era of possible genetical testing of entire dog populations from this point of view. Clark et al. demonstrated that the gene in question is SILV (Silver locus, Pmel17). Its function is not fully understood, but it is known as one of pigment dilution genes and its significant expression is localized exclusively to the skin and eye. They proved that genetical modifications (mutations) in SILV gene affect its normal function and it results in a coat pattern where a diluted pigment is mixed with patches of normal, undiluted melanin. Non-modified SILV gene is marked as m, while modified versions are marked as M, i.e. the merle gene. Modifications in SILV gene are caused by an insertion of a mobile gene element, called retrotransposon (SINE), which can be of various length, as we know now. It seems that the length of this SINE insertion affects the way how the merle gene manifests itself in dog phenotype.

There were two modification of SILV gene described in the original article of Clark et al. The normal M gene includes the insertion of the length of 259-262 bp. It causes the typical merle/leopard coat pattern in dogs, heterozygous for it (mM), and the typical double merle phenotype with predominant white coloring in dogs homozygous (MM).

Another modification referred by Clark et al. contains a shorter insertion of the length of 220-225 bp. This modification of SILV gene is called cryptic (phantom) merle, Mc, and it seemes to have no apparent effect on coat coloring. Both heterozygous (mMc) and homozygous (McMc) individuals appear to be of solid

Cataloochee´s Ari Kara, black and brindle with white chest

coat color, similarly as homozygous dogs with non-modified SILV gene, i.e. mm. As far as we know now, there is only one way to differentiate them from non-merle gene carriers – by genetical testing.

Both above mentioned modifications of SILV gene were recognized in all breeds, studied then. The merle gene seems to be inherited in an autosomal, incompletely dominant way. Offspring gets one allel of this gene from both parents and resulting genotypes are divided according to Mendel′s rules.

„Catahoula“ Merle Gene was identified by wide-spread testing for the merle gene presence in LC population. It is another modification of SILV gene, i.e. the insertion of medium length containing 243 -249 bp, which seems to be specific for LC breed. To distinguish it from above, I called it Ma as working name. The length of this insertion is medium to M and Mc and it affects phenotype less than M, but more than Mc. Dogs heterozygous for Ma (i.e. mMa) are born with solid colored phenotype, which seems to change more or less to the merle pattern during ageing.

Dogs homozygous for this gene, i.e. MaMa, show the merle pattern since a birth, but it is usually all in diluted colors such as blue. There is no or only a little white color present usually, even if they are double merle, too.

A combined genotype for M and Ma, i.e. MaM, seems to be a typical for patchwork phenotype, which is specific by larger areas of undiluted, leopard and white colors.

Heterozygous dogs for McMa are born as solid colored, showing most probably some merle pattern later as above mentioned (mMa).

“patchwork” – Genotyp MaM

The presence of LC specific modification of SILV gene, i.e. Ma, is probably a point missing until now. It explains well those examples, where the merle phenotypes were born out of „solid“ colored parents.

At this moment and our present knowledge, it seems that no additional modifiers of the merle gene are needed to explain differences that make the merle gene behave in LC different from other breeds. However, any regulation, modification or cooperation with other genes cannot be excluded fully until we have more information about the merle gene expression mechanisms and a presence, effects and cooperation with e.g. piebald gene, which is surely present in genome of some LC.

Determination of the Merle gene, which is used in Biofocus laboratories, originates from the methods of Clark et al., i.e. PCR analyses of gene products using specific primers. The analyse itself starts with an isolation of DNA from samples taken from dogs. Our practical experience proved that blood is more reliable starting material for DNA isolation.

Recent results also showed that LC is a „merle gene grown through“ breed. It was proved that 80 % of all tested LC were merle gene carriers. There were more than 30 % of double merles and more than 30 % of those carriers that looked as solid ones.

Written by: RNDr. Helena Synková

Explanation of basic terms:

A phenotype is an organism’s observable characteristics or traits: such as its morphology, development, biochemical or physiological properties, behavior. Phenotypes result from the expression of an organism’s genes as well as the influence of environmental factors and the interactions between the two.

The genotype of an organism is the inherited instructions it carries within its genetic code. Not all organisms with the same genotype look or act the same way because appearance and behavior are modified by environmental and developmental conditions. Similarly, not all organisms that look alike necessarily have the same genotype.

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Show me your teeth, Catahoula

There was no much attention paid until now to bite and teeth quality of Louisiana Catahoula. The reason is that Catahoula is the American breed and there is generally only a little attention focused on this matter. Both NALC standard, valid since 1977 (last revision in 1994) and UKC standard (2008) say that: „A scissors bite is preferred, but a level bite is acceptable. Full dentition is greatly desired, but dogs are not to be penalized for worn or broken teeth. Overshot or undershot bite are serious faults, but not disqualifying“. Catahoula is working breed and working qualities have been always more demanded than an ideal conformation and a superior bite. This is also the heritage we must deal with now.

Evaluation of European breeds and breeding was always more strict in this point of view and more focused on correct bite and full dentition, namely in breeds that preserve more or less normal skull parameters. Thus, scissor bite and full dentition is what most of breed standards demand and faults are more penalized. There is a good reason for it, because an efficient function needs a proper skull and jaw structure and teeth position. However, some anomalies were found also in wild living wolves and some faults are fairly common among various dog breeds even if not wanted.

Adult dogs should have a total of 42 of permanent teeth.  Pups have 28 of deciduous teeth.

Full dentition with all adult teeth fully erupted consist of incisors (Incisives – I), canines (Caninus – C), premolars (Praemolares – P), and molares (Molares – M). Upper and lower jaw differ in a number of molars. The teeth pattern is following:

Maxilla – upper jaw       M2,M1,P4,P3,P2,P1,C,I3,I2,I1-I1,I2,I3,C,P1,P2,P3,P4,M1,M2
Mandible – bottom jaw M3,M2,M1,P4,P3,P2,P1,C,I3,I2,I1-I1,I2,I3,C,P1,P2,P3,P4,M1,M2,M3

Bite and teeth development lasts quite a long time. Table shows certain steps of this development:

Age Deciduous teeth – 28 Adult teeth – 42 Jaws
3-6 weeks Canines erupted    
4-6 weeks Incisors erupted    
6 weeks Premolares erupted    
3rd -4th month Deciduous teeth start falling out = Teething Level incisors erupted  
4th-5th month   Central and edge incisors erupted  
4th-6th month   Canines erupted  
4th-5th month   Premolares and molares erupt  
7th month   Molars erupted, full dentition should be fully erupted  
9th-11th month     Upper and bottom jaws grow independently until this time
1th-2nd year   Lower level incisors settling down  
2nd-3th year   Settling lower central incisors  
3th-4th year   Settling upper level incisors  
5th year   Settling upper central incisors  

In order to understand severity of dental faults it is good to know what is correct and why. A way how a wolf uses its teeth would be the best example to explain this matter. Concerning Catahoula, it a good example, too, because this breed has got most probably a red wolf among its ancestors.  It could also support one of explanations of Schutzhund as a not very suitable activity for this breed that was mentioned by Anke Boysen elsewhere (

In training and performing Schutzhund the preferred grip is a „full mouth bite“. The dog should grasp subject’s arm or leg well into its mouth, between its molars and premolars and behind the canines. This is not the way a wolf does it. A wolf grips with the front of his mouth. The four canine teeth puncture the prey and their overlapping structure combined with jaw strength prevents the prey from pulling free. Once the prey is down, the premolars are used for biting off chunk of meat. The upper P4 and the lower M1 on each side are especially developed for this task. The carnasals are the most massive teeth in the canine jaw. They are very sharp and their location mid-way down the length of the jaw puts them at the point where jaw pressure is greatest. The incisors located at the front of the mouth are specialized for delicate work. They nibble the last bits of meat off bones and are also handy for scratching an itch or pulling something bothersome out of the coat or from between the pads. Molars, other than mentioned, are flat for grinding plant matter. Wolves eat also some fruits, grasses and other plant matter and this type of food must be chewed a little to start digestive process.

All those specialized teeth have their proper position in the jaw, which is determined by their function, and they require a properly formed skull and lower jaw to function efficiently. The muzzle must be long enough and broad enough to accommodate the teeth in their proper locations. Jaw strength comes not only from the muscles, but the shape of the skull (1).

Most working breeds with normal skull mantained generally above mentioned dental structure, because it is the most efficient also for their work such as herding, hunting, etc. Nevertheless, missing teeth and malocclusions are typical dental faults in these breeds.

Research among wild wolves showed that the most frequent anomaly was the absence of the last molar in the lower jaw, M3. As it does not change the function, the absence of M3 should not be considered breeding deficiency also in dogs (2).

Missing teeth (hypodontia) is the fault observed often also in Catahoula breed. This fact and the degree of the fault should be evaluated according to which teeth and how many are missing. Some of premolars (P1, P2 or P3) and some of molars (M2, and most probably also M3) are most frequently among missing teeth. If the first premolar (P1), one of the smallest teeth, is missing, it is much less a problem than missing the upper P4 or M1 which belong to the most important teeth (see above). The more teeth that are missing, the more faulty and less functional the bite becomes.

As missing teeth like to appear in certain families and lines, it is important to take this into account when choosing breeding partners and to avoid those affected the same way. Inheritance of hypodontia is not possible to describe by a simple model and its analysis  indicated heterogenous genetic control of different forms. Whereas the absence of P2 can be described by the recessive major-gene model, the absence of P4 have more complex genetic mechanism (3).

Faults of bite concern also Catahoula breed. Dog’s bite is the way his teeth fit when his upper and lower jaws are closed. The standard type is a scissor bite, in which the upper incisors just overlap and touch the lower incisors and all premolars and molars fully fit. Another possible variation is a tight scissor bite, when upper and lower incisors touch each other more then above or lower incisors are outwards of longitudinal line of bottom jaw. Catahoula has also a level (even) bite permitted by the breed standard. It is when the upper and lower incisors meet exactly, surface to surface. This means that teeth can be worn down much faster, but it does not affect actually the function and both jaws are of the same length as in previous cases. Level bite is considered normal in some breeds, including Catahoula, nevertheless,  some consider this type of bite as an expression of underbite. On the other hand, research among wild wolves showed that fully a third of animals had even bites. No structural fault is tolerated to this degree in a natural species, particularly in a feature so critical to the survival of that species.

More serious bite faults are those caused by uneveness of both jaws.

Undershot bite is when the upper jaw is perceptibly shorter than the lower jaw and the lower incisors are located in front of the upper ones. This is typical for some breeds such as Boxer, Bulldog, Pug, Pekinese, etc. that have a shorter foreface and longer lower jaw.

However, it is considered a serious fault in breeds with normal skull parameters. This fault is inherited trait.

 Overshot bite is caused by physically longer upper jaw than the lower one and the uneveness between them is larger than 2 mm. This fault occurs more often among dog breeds nowadays. Contrary to undershot, this fault can be controlled by genetics, nutrition, environment and by mechanical forces generated by the interlock of the upper and lower teeth. Overshot  can affect the mouth’s function more than undershot and indicates usually weakness in the lower jaw.

The incidence of level bites is increasing among Catahoulas beside some missing teeth. Undershot bite is one of more serious faults that occur in this breed. There is no doubt that such faults and abnormalities are inherited. Upper and lower jaws grow independently, factors influencing a size of jaw are different from those affecting the size of teeth and various genes are involved in this process. These problems are polygenic resulting from the action of many genes, thus it is difficult to eliminate them because there is no single „bad bite“ gene.  The length of the skull and the muzzle play a role and a dominant way of a shorter skull inheritance is known. Thus, this must be taken into account in case of Catahoula, too. A combination of parents with rather different length of their muzzles is not recommended, because it could increase the incidence of faults in bites and occurrence of undershot or overshot bites among offsprings. And we have proved already that Catahoulas may vary in their muzzle size in more than one third of its length.

Inheritance and elimination of severe dental faults is difficult in breeds more numerous than Catahoula. There is impossible to exclude from breeding all individuals that show any fault due to complicated, polygenic and often recessive way of inheritance in such a rare breed. However, those showing more serious faults, such as the overshot and the undershot bite and numerous and the most important teeth missing, should be surely excluded from breeding.

Nevertheless, it is not quite clear now how these faults are spread over Catahoula population in Europe. There is no statistic here or in the country of origin and the recessive way of inheritance of some anomalies means that many dogs can carry genes for such traits. The increasing incidence of level bite occurrence among young Catahoulas is warning, because it is not clear how this can affect future breeding. Although it is not possible to eradicate all faults fully, breeders can lower their incidence by selective breeding. However, it is necessary to map the problem within the breed first. Therefore thorough and wide spread check in offsprings is necessary to find some relations among particular parents and faults occurrence. It should be done both by breeding clubs and breeders themselves at least at the age of 1 or 2 years,  when all faults are visible already. Our experience shows that tight scissor bite observed at one year of age changed quite often to the level bite at two or later. The analysis and statistics should be done and published by breeding clubs, because it is beyond any breeder’s possibility, and all responsible breeders should obtain such informations for their proper decisions in breeding.

Written by RNDr. Helena Synkova

Most important references:

(1)    C.A. Sharp: So Bite Me: A Close Look at Canine Dentition, First printed in the Aussie Times, July-August 2002.

(2)    P. Hell: Gebißanomalien des westkarpatischen Wolfes und ihre Bedeutung für die Hundezucht.

Zeitschrift für Jagdwissenschaft 36/4: 266-269, 1990.

(3)    Axenovich, TI; Zorkoltseva, IV; Aulchenko, YS; et al :Inheritance of hypodontia in Kerry Blue Terrier dogs. Russian Journal of Genetics 40/5: 529-536 , 2004.

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You would like to have Catahoula?

Is the reason why you want a Catahoula Leopard Dog, the fact that he is so beautiful and has such amazing blue eyes?

That’s your first mistake!

Acquiring a Catahoula from this reason, when you are on top of inexperienced in dogs, is a disaster for you and your dog!

What you need to know before you decide for a Louisiana Catahoula:

  1. You need more dog experience and expertise!
  2. You must be ready to learn with this dog.
  3. Especially in the first 2 years  of its life, you need a lot of time and sometimes patience and nerves of steel.
  4. Be assured that the Catahoula does not give its strong energy and will only into work during a day! Even if educated and lead well, you will face it.
  5. You should be able and willing to become a sovereign leader for him  –  namely mentally, not physically.
  6. During the first 3 years  or even  for the rest of his life, he can challenge you again and again to see if you are able to lead him.
  7. The Catahoula urgently needs a suitable and regular employment, otherwise he will “destroy your house” (quote of an experienced American breeder) and develope undesirable habbits.
  8. Please do not acquire a Catahoula, when you can´t give him a suitable job.
  9. He has hunting instincts!

It is WRONG to conclude now from above facts, that the dog must be educated with a lot of hardship!

A Catahoula needs to be brought up with unconditional and also loving consistency. Any kind of pressure generates often counter-pressure in this breed.  Those, who does not have authority and balance, will lose. A solid basis is important!

A Catahoula desperately needs closeness and affection of his people.

The Louisiana Catahoula Leopard Dog is a wonderful dog AND challenge for every owner!

Author:  Anke Boysen ( )

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