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!
- How big does a Catahoula Lab mix get?
- Are they easy to train?
- How long does a Labahoula live?
- Are Labahoula dogs good pets?
What’s In This Guide
- The Catahoula Lab mix at a glance
- History of the Catahoula Lab mix
- Catahoula Lab mix appearance
- Catahoula Lab mix temperament
- Training and exercising your Catahoula Lab mix
- Catahoula Lab mix health and care
- Do Catahoula Lab mix make good family pets?
- Rescuing a Catahoula Lab mix
- Finding and raising a Catahoula Lab mix puppy
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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:
- Australian Shepherd Lab Mix
- Greyhound Lab Mix
- Blue Heeler Lab Mix
- Great Dane Lab Mix
- Rottweiler Lab Mix
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!
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:
- 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.
- 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!
- Potty Training
- Crate Training
- Jumping Up
- Hip dysplasia
- Progressive Retinal Atrophy
- Overweight Labs
- How long do Labs live
- History of the Labrador
- American vs English Labs
- Service Dogs
- Black Lab
- Chocolate Lab
- Yellow Lab
- Socializing a Puppy
- Positive Reinforcement Training
- Orthopedic Foundation For Animals
- National Association Of Louisiana Catahoulas
- Gough et al. Breed Predispositions to Disease In Dogs and Cats. Wiley Blackwell. 2018.
- O’Neill et al. 2013. Longevity and Mortality of Owned Dogs In England. The Veterinary Journal. 2013.
- Raffan et al. A Deletion in the Canine POMC Gene Is Associated with Weight and Appetite in Obesity-Prone Labrador Retriever Dogs. Cell Metabolism. 2016.
- Robinson et al. Puppy Temperament Assessments Predict Breed and American Kennel Club Group but Not Adult Temperament. Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science. 2016.
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