Catahoula Lab Mix – Introducing The Labahoula

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catahoula lab mix

In this article we are going to help you to decide whether the Catahoula Lab mix dog is the right pet for your family. And if so, how to raise them to be a happy, healthy, well behaved companion.

Also known as a Labahoula, the Catahoula Lab mix combines the relaxed Labrador Retriever with the spotty herding breed, the Louisiana Catahoula Leopard dog.  Labahoula dogs can vary in temperament, appearance, and health. So, be prepared for any blend of the parents. And they can prove something of a handful in non-active households or to novice owners. In this article, we take a look at the pros and cons of the Catahoula Lab mix, and whether you’re ready to take one on.

Catahoula Lab Mix FAQ

Labs and Catahoulas might seem like an unlikely match. So it’s not surprising that dog lovers have lots of questions about them. Click the links if you’re impatient for answers, or sit back and enjoy our entire guide!

What’s In This Guide

Interest in mixed breed dogs is a relatively recent phenomenon. Let’s get started with some headlines about the Lab Catahoula hybrid.

Catahoula Lab Mix: Breed At A Glance

  • Popularity: Ascending
  • Purpose: Retrieving, hunting, herding, and companionship
  • Weight: Highly variable – from 40lbs, to over 100lbs!
  • Temperament: Clever, confident, and always on the go.

Clearly, Labahoulas have some exciting qualities. Let’s dig deeper to find out where they came from in the first place.

Origin Of The Catahoula Lab Mix

The Catahoula Lab mix is an all-American cross. Labrador Retrievers may have started out in Canada and made their way to North America via Britain. But, they have long reigned at the top of the American Kennel Club’s most popular breeds table. In fact, the Labrador even comes in distinctly English and American types now, although they both belong to the same breed. Originally the quintessential gundog breed, Labs today are just as likely to be found working as service dogs or living as pets and companion animals.

Meanwhile, Louisiana Catahoula Leopard dogs as we know them today started out in (surprise, surprise) Louisiana. Breeders wanted a dog which was talented at herding sheep and hunting wild boar, but also calm around the home and good with children. Since Catahoulas are relatively rare outside the southern states of the U.S. most Catahoula Lab mix dogs are likely to be born there too.

What To Expect From A Catahoula Lab Mix

Catahoula Lab puppies might be the result of an accidental pregnancy, or a deliberate decision to mix the breeds. When breeders cross them on purpose, they might be hoping the puppies inherit particular traits from each parent. Such as the Catahoula’s striking spots and the Lab’s easy going friendliness.

However, genetics don’t work like this. Mixed breed puppies can have all the ‘best’ traits of each parent, or all the worst! For some characteristics, like adult size, and temperament, you won’t know which parent they most take after until they’re fully grown. Which is why it’s important to get to know both parent breeds really well, before choosing a mixed breed pup.

Catahoula Lab Mix Appearance

Unlike mixing breeds of very different size (such as a Labrador Chihuahua mix!) or with very different coats (like the famous Labradoodle), it’s easy to imagine the general outline of a Labahoula, and you’re unlikely to be far off.

Labradors grow 21.5-24.5 inches tall at the shoulder, and typically weigh 55-80lbs. Their thick double coat is short, and traditionally either black, chocolate, or yellow. Catahoulas grow 20-26 inches tall, and weigh anything from 40-110lbs. Their single coat is short or medium in length, and comes in a wide range of colors and patterns. Unsurprisingly coats with a clear spotted pattern are particularly desirable.

Predictable Purebred Appearances

So as you can see, Labradors are much more uniform in appearance than Catahoulas! Uniform appearance tends to be the result of breeding dogs to meet a written breed standard for show. But whilst Labs have been fully eligible for AKC shows since 1917, Catahoulas only joined the AKC Foundation Service in 1996, and still don’t have full recognition in shows. This means that Catahoulas’ working ability is still a greater priority for most breeders than their exact size, or coat.
catahoula lab mix

What About The Labahoula?

When Catahoula Lab puppies are born, they could take very much after one parent, or take on a mix of Lab and Catahoula features. Everything from their color, their silhouette, and furrow of their brow could be very much like one breed, or somewhere on a spectrum between the two. Even within a single litter, there can be a lot of physical differences between one puppy and the next.

How Big Does a Catahoula Lab Mix Get?

Labahoulas can be as petite as the smallest Catahoula (40lbs) or as big as the biggest Catahoula (110lbs). The most accurate way to predict how much puppies will grow is to take a look at their parents.

A large Lab and a large Catahoula will have hefty puppies, and of course the opposite is true of two small individuals. Labs and Catahoulas are also both sexually dimorphic. That means female puppies in a litter are usually smaller when they’re fully grown than the males.

Catahoula Lab Mix Temperament

Labradors owe much of their fame to their winning personalities – they’re easy going with strangers, attentive to their owners, fun to hang out with, and clever enough to respond easily to training.

Catahoula Leopard dogs are a bit more complex. They were originally bred for hunting, herding, and guarding. So they have a high prey drive, and a more deeply ingrained instinct to be wary of unfamiliar people.

Herding dogs also need to work at a distance from their owner. So they tend to be confident making their own choices and less likely to look to their owner for cues about what to do next. Outside of a herding setting, this can feel more like resistance to training.

On the other hand, it was important for early Catahoula breeders that their dogs could come home with them in the evening, and interact safely with their families. So they do tend to have very even temperaments, and be patient with children.

Labahoula Personality

What does all this mean for the Labahoula? Perhaps the most notable unknown, is that there’s no way of predicting whether a Catahoula Lab mix puppy will grow up to be outgoing and friendly like the Lab, or reserved and cautious of strangers, like a Catahoula.

It’s also impossible to guarantee that, for example, puppies will inherit the Lab’s natural attentiveness and aptitude for training. Even their personality as a puppy is not a reliable predictor of their grown up temperament.

With so many aspects of Labahoula temperament that can’t be predicted, the most reliable way of establishing whether you’ll get on with one is to spend plenty of time with both parent breeds. Then ask yourself, would you be happy with a puppy that has any mix of these traits?

Catahoula Lab Mix Socialization

Socialization describes the process of introducing puppies under 12 weeks old to all the sights, sounds, places and people they’re likely to encounter when they grow up. As puppies, it’s much easier for them to form positive associations with new things, and gain confidence around them. Socialization is important for all dogs – even Labs, who we think of as being naturally confident anyway.

Socializing a Catahoula Lab mix is especially important because Catahoulas are not naturally receptive to meeting strangers. Inadequate socialization can result in a Labahoula who reacts with fear-based aggression to unfamiliar people, dogs or sounds.

Training And Exercising Your Catahoula Lab Mix

Labradors were originally sporting dogs, and due to years of selective breeding, most modern Labs are highly motivated to work closely alongside people. This means they typically respond very well to force free training techniques. It also means they can get bored and destructive if their human family don’t have the time or inclination to interact and engage with them as much as they need.

What About Catahoulas?

Meanwhile, Catahoulas have been traditionally prized as herding dogs. Herding isn’t so much a taught skill, as a natural instinct which livestock farmers harness to their advantage. Catahoula dogs can also learn from force free, positive reinforcement training. But they aren’t as easy to train as Labradors, and some people think they’re best left to confident trainers with previous experience.

Catahoulas can also get bored and destructive if they don’t have an outlet for their natural instincts. So all Catahoula Lab mix dogs will benefit from opportunities to take part in activities which work their brains – like gundog training, scent work or herding trials.

Labahoula Puppy Training

Before all that though, puppies have to start with the basics of behaving correctly in a human home. For example, potty training, and crate training. Since they’re likely to be large enough to knock people over when they grow up, they also need to learn how to greet people politely without jumping up.

Labahoula Exercise

If there’s one thing Labradors and Catahoula Leopard dogs have in common, it’s a love of physical activity! Both of these breeds have bags of stamina, so that they can work all day long without flagging. So Labahoulas will also need at least two hours of exercise a day. In this respect they make great companions for cyclists, joggers, runners, and hikers.

Don’t try to achieve too much while your Labahoula is still a puppy though. It’s important to let their joints mature before testing their endurance, to protect them from diseases like hip dysplasia and arthritis in later life.

Catahoula Lab Mix Health And Care

Like their other qualities, Labahoulas’ health can take heavily after one parent, or draw aspects from both. Labradors and Catahoulas, like all purebred dogs, are particularly vulnerable to some hereditary diseases which have become fixed at a high frequency in their pedigree.

Labrador Health

Labradors are prone to:

  • hip dysplasia
  • elbow dysplasia
  • progressive retinal atrophy
  • and excessive appetite, leading to obesity.

Breeding Labs should be screened for these diseases, to protect the next generation.

Catahoula Health

A happy result of being bred predominantly for working ability rather than looks is that many Catahoulas enjoy robust good health. However, they are still predisposed to:

  • hip dysplasia
  • neurological disease
  • degenerative myelopathy

Individuals should be screened for these before joining a breeding programme.

Catahoula Lab Mix Health

To secure the happiest, healthiest life for your Labahoula puppy, always choose them from a reputable breeder who pays for health checks on their stud and dam. Feed them the best quality diet you can afford, and keep and eye on calorie intake to make sure your dog stays at a healthy weight.

Catahoula Lab Mix Life Expectancy

Labradors live for 10-14.5 years, on average. There aren’t any specific survey of Catahoula longevity that we’re aware of, but owners seem to agree that their lifespan is about the same as a Lab.

The good news for Labahoulas is that mixed breed dogs tend to live longer than purebred dogs, thanks to a phenomenon known as hybrid vigor. Which means that with a bit of luck and good care, your Labahoula should comfortably reach the top the 10-14.5 year range.

Do Catahoula Lab Mix Dogs Make Good Family Pets?

Both the Labrador and Catahoula have been selectively bred in favor of individuals who are patient and good natured with kids. However, it’s worth pointing out that the National Association of Louisiana Catahoulas’ own motto is “not everyone needs a Catahoula”.

These smart, athletic dogs need a lot of exercise and mental stimulation. And they do best serving their original purpose as working dogs. If you’re already juggling the demands of a young family, think hard about whether you can spend several hours a day meeting the needs of a Catahoula mix dog too!

Similar Breeds

If you decide that now isn’t the right time to take on a Labahoula dog, don’t despair, there are lots of other Lab mix dogs which you can consider. For example:

Rescuing A Catahoula Lab Mix

If you decide that you are ready for a Labahoula, perhaps you’d like to consider rescuing one. The advantage of rescuing an older Catahoula Lab mix dog is that the shelter will be able to tell you which traits they have inherited from each parent, and exactly what you’re letting yourself in for.

At the time of writing, we’re not aware of any Labahoula specific rescue shelters. However, you can approach Labrador and Catahoula rescues, and ask if they ever take in mixed breed dogs. You might also have success at your local all-breed rescue, especially if you live in Louisiana. And if you do know of a Labahoula specific rescue operating near you, please let us know in the comments!

The Labrador Handbook by Pippa Mattinson

Finding A Catahoula Lab Mix Puppy

Of course, the alternative to adopting an older dog is to buy a puppy. You can find lots of advice for taking this journey in our Puppy Search guide. Bear in mind that the recent interest in mixed breed dogs means that lots of puppies with cute portmanteau names like Labahoula are being sold by puppy mills and pet stores.

These puppies are often born and reared in terrible conditions, and have a significantly higher risk of displaying problematic behaviors in later life. So, check out these tips for avoiding them, and make sure you buy from a reputable breeder instead!

Choosing A Labahoula Breeders

To help you commit to a puppy with confidence, take a look at our article about choosing a good breeder. A good breeder will understand the nuances of creating Labrador Catahoula mix dogs, and be keen to make sure that you’re ready for the commitment. They’re likely to have lots of questions for you too, which is a good sign!

Is A Catahoula Lab mix Right For Me?

Realistically, due to their Catahoula heritage, a Labahoula probably isn’t the right dog for most households. Here’s a summary of the pros and cons of choosing one:

Cons

  • They need a lot of mental and physical stimulation.
  • Lots of their traits won’t become apparent until they’re grown up, and the different possibilities are unlikely to be equally well suited to your lifestyle.
  • They are probably best left to experienced trainers.

Pros

  • Affectionate and gentle with their human family.
  • Likely to excel as a working dog, if that’s what you need.
  • Likely to be protected from some of the genetic diseases that trouble Labradors.

Your Catahoula Lab Mix

Do you already have a Catahoula Lab mix? We’d love to hear all about them in the comments below!

Further Reading

References

Resources

The Labrador Site Founder

Pippa Mattinson is the best selling author of The Happy Puppy Handbook, the Labrador Handbook, Choosing The Perfect Puppy, and Total Recall.

She is also the founder of the Gundog Trust and the Dogsnet Online Training Program 

Pippa's online training courses were launched in 2019 and you can find the latest course dates on the Dogsnet website

18 COMMENTS

  1. My catahoula female is about 6 years old, her names milkshake, not a first time owner I usually have rottweilers, but I got to say she was probably the easiest dog to train I’ve ever had, i dont even have to say anything shes trained to the snap of my fingers..your description of catahoula fits her to the tee, she is an inside family dog such a baby in the house and one hell of a protector inside my property line.

  2. I did a DNA test on my rescue dog that came from Houston to PA. This dog has the speed of a greyhound but no greyhound in dna but 15% Catahoula. She seems to strongly have characteristics of a Catahoula overall too, a breed I had never heard of. Are they typically fast runners??

  3. So happy to find this article. I saved my boy,Finn, from going to the pound at 6 weeks. Mom was yellow lab and her owner guessed the sire could have been australian, but definitely not the litter or spotted pup he wanted. My vet informed me the little guy was Catahoula and would be very large. We are 7 months in and I love this big boy. A little ADHD, but so loving and smart. He’s been exceptionally easy to train. He lives inside and has a doggie door to access backyard. Always had lab’s on our farm growing up, but this guy’s personality is beyond. Very protective, but fine with strangers if I tell him it’s okay. Everyone LOVES this dog. Now I know my wonder mutt is a labahoula. Thank you

  4. Very informative article. We just lost our black lab/ catahoula girl. She passed on 14 March at 12 1/2 years old and I miss her every second of every day. My girl Honey was the smartest, most loyal companion I could ever have. She went everywhere with me and actually trained out husky,and bicchon. They were grieving for about 2 months after she moved on. During my renovation of our house she was a great assistant. She actually got under the sink I was installing and pushed her back up so I could tighten the drain. She had skin allergies and some arthritis at the desk but the vets say she actually passed from an enlarged heart. Went from perfectly fine to gone in 72 hours. Sorry for rambling on.
    We are actively looking for another cat/lab mix female puppy.
    No luck so far

  5. I have a catahoula lab mix dog. We got her from the pound when she was a couple months old and now she’s about 10. This is interesting finding this now haha

  6. I adopted a Catahoula over three years ago she is incredibly intelligent, loves the water.
    Don’t dumb down this breed. If you want a dog to play fetch with get the lab,if you want a dog that will challenge your intelligence get the catahoula. These dog will watch you and than pick up on your actions and its like they know what you’re doing before you do it.

  7. I adopted a Catahoula over three years ago she is incredibly intelligent, loves the water.
    Don’t dumb down this breed. If you want a dog to play fetch with get the lab,if you want a dog that will challenge your intelligence get the catahoula.

  8. A friend of mine rescued and fostered some Catahoula Lab puppies last fall and I adopted one of them when she was 9 weeks old. Most of my dogs have been Australian Shepherd and/or Blue Heeler crosses so this one has been a huge change in training and type of intelligence. Her energy has actually helped my older dog to move and play more, which has helped her arthritis. The Catahoula Lab puppy is harder to train than my Aussie was but I love her inquisitive nature and how quickly she picks up on things. Even when I am not working on training, she often watches me work and then mimics (like when I was putting food in the pantry, she watched for about 5 minutes, picked up her ball, set it in the shelf, and nestled it among the jars).
    My family likes to dove hunt in the fall so I am hoping to work with her enough that I can take her hunting this year. She already retrieves fairly well.

  9. Why would you want to water down a Catahoula’s drive and work ethic with that of a Labrador? I’ve had both. The Catahoula will outwork any Labrador every day of the week and twice on Sunday. The Labrador will be fat and unathletic by age six while the Catahoula will be going strong at ten years old. The Labrador is good at fetching. Not much else. The Catahoula is the first true American-bred dog and it’s spirit shows. Don’t water down your Catahoula’s. They’re far more special dogs than any Labrador will ever be in terms of intelligence, temperament, work drive, hunting skill, endurance, aesthetics, agility, etc.

    And, to the psychopath above that claims people who breed dogs are sociopaths…if you actually used any of your dogs for what they were bred to do you would realize how unimpressive watered down genes can be in a dog. But, you don’t. Your dogs sit around the house and eat table scraps. Real working dogs need to be purebred to keep the desirable traits in the bloodline and keep out the undesirable traits that come with crossbreeding. It’s okay to love your rescue mutt—I love mine! But, it’s also okay to keep purebreds, too. Keep your craziness to yourself. The world will be better for it.

  10. I have a Catahoula lab mix and agree with your assessment. But it does a disservice to this unique breed to bastardize their name with the lazy moniker “labahoula.” They are Catahoulas first. Otherwise you’ve just got a lab mix. Give them the honor they deserve.

  11. Jill, I can’t believe that you are so blind to the fact that all species breed to survive and propagate. You are a result of this same process! Have you had children of your own? I very much agree that there is a balance and we all have the responsibility and accountability to care for all of the inhabitants of the earth. I have one dog that is a Labrahoula and I love and care for him each and every day. I’m grateful for the people who choose to breed so I can have him. I did choose to have him cut as I was not going to breed him and also didn’t want him breeding my neighbors dogs because all species have a drive to breed. That is in the nature and the strongest drive for a reason…survival. So please before you make such a drastic and judgmental statement, you should give it some thought next time. This time you simply sounded extremely uneducated.

  12. I cannot believe people are stupid enough to breed dogs !!! It’s infuriating . The humane society’s are full of puppies and older dogs that need homes . There are rescue groups that are full to capacity and you are adding more to the already overpopulated planet . They put puppies to sleep . Go to the humane society and watch them put puppies and kittens to sleep(dead). You will never breed another dog unless you are a sociopath.

    • I got my dog Brandie from an Adopt a Dog event in a park. An AC Officer had her on a leash and she was sitting tall. She was 6 months old and I fell in love with her red brown eyes and calm disposition. She had been spayed the day before so was probably sore. Learned a month earlier the poor puppy was rescued from the 10 freeway!!! When they told me she was a Catahoula leopard I thought they made up the name of breed. I obviously didn’t know anything about them but I’m so glad we adopted her. She is now 13 with limited energy but she’s still a protecting Mama dog and truly loves kids! Especially my 5 & 7 year old granddaughters and even when they are with us if she sees another child at park or on walks she stops and keeps looking at them and sometimes pulls towards them. She HAS to go smell them to make sure they’re ok and then she’s happy and will continue on with her walk. My gd’s will use her like a pillow or lay on top of her while reading, watching the screen or sleeping. She is very respectful and won’t cross over or pass by another animal even our cockatoo, and baby parrot. She’ll whine until we tell her it’s ok or if another dog we have to get the other dog to move because she won’t pass them even though she’s two – three times their size. The cockatoo use to chase her around the coffee table! She’s also a protector of smaller dogs & animals and has gotten into a fight and bit our other large dog for getting aggressive with our young shitzue. She also needs to be told it’s ok to eat her food and to get on furniture. She has had hip dysplasia surgery at 2.5 years and at 8 she had knee surgery on back leg opposite side of hip. She has mast tumors under skin and not internally but did find a mass in her left lung. She also has an epiludes tumor growing on gums that has gotten into jaw bone. It’s been removed 3x and has returned with a vengeance. She’s seeing an oncologist next month. She cant eat her greenies or anything hard so I have to mush up the food I cook up for her. She is still full of energy and is a very happy dog. She’s been the best dog I have ever owned throughout my lifetime of 64 years. She is the first Catahoula Leopard her vet has ever seen personally and says her markings are beautiful. I know now why people ask if she’s a kind of pit and it’s because of the Mastiff dog that was bred to be a part of this Catahoula breed.

  13. My Shay is absolutely the sweetest little girl! She has been through a basic obedience class and is training now as a therapy dog. Smart, clever, happy and does have a high prey drive. She was rescued from Texas and is just over a year. She loves my daughter, her pup and me and does get along with other dogs and children.

  14. I have 2 litter mates that are black lab and catahoula. One sister is black and looks like a lab and the other is black, white, brown and grey. They are so sweet and love their human pack and are very friendly with others. They interact well with other dogs. Great watch dogs but they do have a high prey drive. They play and are active intermittently but are pretty chill and like to laze around alot…1 is stubborn to train and the other one picks up things really fast and wants to please. Love em both to pieces.

    • I was just reading this article and felt the need to comment on your comment. I too, have litter mates, 2 labahoulas (love that name) Mellie and Sydney. Sydney looks like a lab and mostly acts like one, except is not friendly with anyone but the family. She is not aggressive, but super cautious. Mellie looks like a cata…very peaceful, calm, smart and alert, and super friendly with everyone. So strange how different they are, but so loving to their hoomans

  15. I’m pretty sure this is what my Leon is. Rescued him from the local shelter. He’s definitely Catahoula something. He’s the sweetest, must snuggly pup I’ve ever known. I’m guessing he’s around 2-3 years old and he wears my 8 year old Shepkita (Khaleesi) out. It’s great because she was getting a little heavy, lol.

  16. Great information, thank you. I have a “Labahoula” with some Shar-Pei mix. She’s got the sweetest personality of any dog I’ve had.

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