This mix of the Louisiana Catahoula Leopard Dog and the Labrador Retriever has produced an intense, high-energy but well-balanced dog that suits families with children and an active outdoor lifestyle. The female is significantly lighter and smaller than the male, and you should see both before you make your choice.
The Labahoula is a designer dog, the first-generation hybrid of a true Catahoula and Labrador, referred to as “a match made in heaven.” It will be striking in appearance. It will be athletic, but not over-muscled, with a distinctive thick tail tapering to the tip, probably carried gaily.
Weight & Height
Females are usually lighter and shorter. Expect her to weigh 50 to 65 pounds (23 to 29 kg). He could be 65 to 90 pounds (29 to 41 kg.) She should stand 21 to 24 inches (53 to 61 cm) and he, 22 to 29 inches (56 to 74 cm).
The Labahoula’s gait is strongly forward bound, effortless and smooth, with the piercing eyes ever watchful of fun to be had. The Labahoula’s gait has been likened to a horse about to break into a trot. It is ready to break out into a full chase.
The Labahoula can have a full range of coats, perhaps solid, tricolor, spotted, or patchwork. It could be red, black, brown, blue, yellow, or brindle. Avoid a dog with a great deal of white, as white is considered an indicator of deafness. The nose can be black or brown.
Coat Length & Thickness
The Labahoula’s coat will be short, thick, fairly dense, and with a straight texture. It will probably be a double coat, water repellent, and close to the skin. A single coat may occur. Your Labahoula will be hypoallergenic, meaning it is not likely to cause an allergic reaction in humans.
The Labahoula’s eyes are set widely apart and can be hazel, brown, amber, or blue. The blue gene comes from the Catahoula parent. The eyes can also be different colors in one animal or even have different colors in the same eye. The gaze is intense.
The charismatic Catahoula Labrador mix is achieved by coupling the assertive, working drive of the Catahoula with the calm, even temperament of the Labrador. This, with the many traits the parents share like intelligence, athleticism, enthusiasm for life, and gentleness with children, makes it a valuable addition to your life.
Does Not Like Being Alone
The Labahoula wants to be an integral part of the family and will not tolerate being left alone. It is prone to “separation anxiety” and will become destructive and vocal and may try to find you. Be sure that it is microchipped. Never leave it outside or tied up alone.
Alpha Personality and Needs Training for Certain Behaviors
Many owners make the mistake of thinking “well balanced” dogs need no training. Your Labahoula needs training and work. Start channeling this energy immediately by attending socialization classes and then formal training. Use gentle methods and positive reinforcement. From 10 months, start tracking, air scenting, hunting, and herding activities.
Not Aggressive but Unruly if Untrained
Your Labahoula will be eager to please, but it is large and boisterous. Both parents are protective, and the Catahoula is territorial, so you must train your dog to not jump on strangers and to move out of the way of them. Also, be cautious when introducing new dogs.
Preferred Climate Is Colder Weather
Your Labahoula will probably be more comfortable in a cold climate. It probably has a double coat, and both parents have strong water genes and can tolerate cold water. It is also “a workaholic,” and you must tell it when to stop, as exertion can trigger over-heating and a collapse.
Companion or Suitability Factor
The first Labahoula was bred in 1980, so there is not yet much history. It seems to be a successful crossbreed as it has produced a relatively healthy, cheerful dog with a sunny disposition. It may have a stubborn streak, but will quickly become protectively attached to its family.
Kid-Friendly with Caution
Your Labahoula is likely to be extremely gentle and affectionate with children of all ages. It will be playful, but it is also large and exuberant. It could inadvertently cause an injury, and children must be taught how to interact with their Labahoula. Play with children must be supervised.
Is Not Apartment Friendly
The Labahoula is most suitable for life on a farm, preferably near the water. In an urban setting, it must have a significant yard to run. It is possible to keep it in an apartment, but it would have to have rigorous exercise, like horse riding or marathon training, daily.
Is a Doubtful Watchdog
If it is important to have a watchdog or guard dog, you must find a Labahoula at a rescue or shelter. It must be over two years old with a behavioral history. If Catahoula genes came through strongly, it might suit you. If the Labrador genes predominate, it would not.
Not Suitable for Senior Citizens
Although very affectionate, the Labahoula is not suitable for an older or frail person, even an adult dog. It simply needs too much strenuous exercise and too much space. It’s also expensive to feed and needs brushing, preferably every day.
A Great Service Dog
Your dog should make an excellent service, therapy, or support dog, as the Labrador parent is the poster dog for this work. Both parents have a strong work ethic and are happiest with a task to do. Search and rescue work would be ideal for burning off that excess energy.
Tends to Get Along with Other Pets If Trained Properly
The Labahoula might be initially suspicious of strange dogs and other pets, but, if introduced properly, preferably on neutral territory, it will soon settle down to play. Early socialization classes will lay the correct foundation, but you need to be watchful for the Catahoula prey instinct with smaller pets.
Comfortable Around Water
Your Labahoula will be an excellent swimmer and safe in the water. Both parents even have webbed feet! Labrador Retrievers carry the genes of the extinct St. John’s water dog; it worked in Newfoundland as a fisherman’s mate, pulling in the huge nets and retrieving fish that slipped the nets.
Intelligence & Training
The Labahoula is highly intelligent. It has “instinctive” intelligence like retrieving, and “adaptive” intelligence because it solves problems for itself. It likes to be the alpha, but this does not manifest into open aggression. Stanley Coren, dog intelligence expert, rates the Labrador Retriever parent as the 7th most intelligent dog.
Your Labahoula will have what Stanley Coren calls “work and obedience” intelligence, which allows it to learn from a human being. Coren suggests it will learn a new command in less than five repetitions and will usually obey the command the first time it is issued.
Training Could Be Challenging
Both Labahoula parental bloodlines are bright, and contrary to what most people think, the more intelligent the dog, the harder you will have to work to make training sessions challenging and fun. Only use positive reinforcement. It is wise to join a club that offers canine sports, like field trials.
This Labahoula is going to want to be physically close to you and is going to need space to roam outside because it requires a lot of energetic activity. It is ideal if the outdoor space is next to a lake. The average lifespan of a Labahoula is 10-14 years.
Adults Eat 3 to 5 Cups of Dry Food a Day
There might be a tendency for obesity from the Labrador influence. Avoid this at all costs, and buy high-quality kibble. If you have a puppy, be sure the food is age-appropriate. Check that there are fish oil, glucosamine, and chondroitin additives in the food as it grows.
Needs At Least 90 Minutes of Exercise Per Day
The Labahoula should run at least 15 miles (24 km) a week to stay healthy. Exercise must be regular and can be used as a time for bonding. Energetic walking, jogging, horse riding, etc. is ideal, and it must have at least 60 minutes off the leash daily.
Needs Moderate Regular Grooming
Your Labahoula will likely have a double coat. Brush with a medium-stiff brush three times a week. It will shed very little and remain hypoallergenic. Its teeth need cleaning twice a week. Check its ears regularly, especially if it has swum recently. Inspect the feet carefully for any injuries.
Shedding & Bathing
Unless you are showing your Labahoula, only wash it when it is dirty or smelly from a happy roll in something disgusting. Over-washing tends to remove the oils, which ensure its coat is water repellent. Neither parent sheds heavily, so the Labahoula should not irritate mildly allergic humans.
Background & Pricing for a Puppy
St. John’s water dogs, working with Fishermen in Newfoundland, hauling in the fishing nets, caught the eye of the second Earl of Malmesbury. He shipped some dogs to England in the 1830’s where he refined them for hunting and retrieving. His son, the third Earl of Malmesbury, named them Labradors.
The Catahoula parent descends from a Native American herding dog, found by the Spanish explorer, Hernando de Soto, when he landed in Louisiana, in 1539. They interbred with de Soto’s bloodhounds and mastiffs and later, with the French invaders’ Beaucerons, who carried the merle genes.
The Labahoula, as it is called, is a relatively new designer dog. It is a powerful hybrid, combining universally agreeable traits. The resulting dog is a calm, watchful dog. Interestingly, if the Labrador parent is black or yellow, rather than chocolate or red, the result will be more successful.
Price for a Puppy
It is essential you find an experienced breeder who can supply a copy of the parent’s breeding certificates. Please do not buy at a pet shop, via the internet or any source where you can’t vet the parents. Expect to pay US$800 to US$1,200. Litter size is 6 to 8.
The Labahoula is a healthy mix, suffering from ailments common to dogs of its stature, such as bloat and dysplasia. Below are a couple of other major concerns. Also, you should discuss the ideal adult weight for your specific dog with your vet and maintain that weight.
Bloat (Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus)
The Labahoula is prone to “bloat,” where air gets trapped in its stomach. Bloat usually comes on two to three hours after eating, or at any time. Key signs are dry retching, restlessness, distended abdomen, and panting. You will need a vet urgently as it can be life-threatening.
To try to prevent bloat, some suggestions are to put the food bowl on the ground (instead of higher up), slowing down your dog’s rate of eating, and serving your Labahoula several meals in small portions. Another suggestion is to reduce carbs and feed both wet and dry food.
Hip Dysplasia & Elbow Dysplasia
In a large, active dog, elbow and hip dysplasia can be a problem. Dysplasia is usually inherited and worsened by poor nutrition. It causes an abnormality in the development of the joint. Your Labahoula will become lame, have difficulty running, jumping, climbing stairs, or getting up from a lying position.
There are several things you can do to avoid this: insist that the breeder supplies the OFA (Orthopedic Foundation for Animals) test scores for both parents, feed age-appropriate food, avoid walking, and running your puppy on hard surfaces before it is two years old, and control its weight.
Acute Caudal Myopathy (AKA Cold Tail, Limber Tail, Swimmer’s Tail or Dead Tail)
This is a poorly understood condition where the tail suddenly becomes limp and hangs down sharply, stiff at the base, cold to the touch. It occurs after extreme exercise or play and frequently after swimming. It happens in large, working dogs, like Labradors, who use their tails vigorously while swimming.
Your Labahoula will experience discomfort, even pain. It should resolve itself if you can get the dog to rest a few days. If it is not wagging normally within a week, you should see the vet who will do a check-up and may prescribe anti-inflammatory medication and a pain killer.
There are hereditary concerns with crosses where the one parent carries the merle gene, as does the Catahoula. The merle gene affects not only the eye color but also the coat color. White is a strong indicator of deafness, so avoid a puppy with more than a few white spots.
A dog with a hearing problem can often become frustrated and even aggressive. It will certainly be more difficult to train. You would be well advised to ask the breeders for a BAER (Brainstem Auditory Evoked Response) response test certificate before you buy your Labahoula.
Brandon Miller has a B.A. from the University of Texas at Austin. He is a seasoned writer who has written over one hundred articles, which have been read by over 500,000 people. If you have any comments or concerns about this blog post, then please contact the Green Garage team here.