Neapolitan Mastiff dog breed is known for its large size and highly protective nature, which make them excellent guard dogs. They are very affectionate and devoted to their family, but these dogs are not for novices. It takes a bit of experience and a dominant personality to bring out the best in them.
The Neapolitan Mastiff dog breed has a long history going back to Molosser type war dogs. They were used in Asian and Middle Eastern countries to fight alongside lions, tigers and elephants. According to legends, Alexander the Great from Macedonia, Greece crossbred these ferocious dogs with some Indian dogs with short, smooth hair around 330 BC. It resulted in a breed referred to as the ‘Molossus’ from which many large dog breeds evolved.
When Rome invaded Greece, they took these large dogs. On conquering England in 55 BC, the Romans crossed them with English Mastiff dogs to form a war dog breed referred to as “Mastini,” which in Italian means Mastiff. They remained practically unknown outside the country until 1946 when Piere Scanziani saw this dog in a Naples dog show. His efforts led to its recognition the “Mastino Napoletano” breed. Introduced to the United States in 1970s, it was recognized by AKC in 1996.
These dogs are massive in size with a muscular body and disproportionately large head. They typically measure 25 inches to 31 inches at the withers and may weigh 130 to 155 pounds. The body is elongated, its length being nearly 15% more than the dog’s height. The large head has loose skin with wrinkles and large dewlap. The ears lie folded at the sides of the head unless cropped. The thin and long tail is usually held up arching over the back when not docked.
The smooth coat is dense, and is loosely attached to the body with wrinkles on the neck and the upper half of the body. It comes in different solid colors ranging from shades of grey to blue and black, and from tawny to mahogany and chocolate brown. Brindle coats are also seen.
Neapolitan Mastiff is highly intelligent and fearless. They are naturally protective of their family and would go to any length to defend them. These dogs are quiet workers, catching the intruders unawares by sneaking up on them rather than barking at them.
They are suspicious of all strangers including dogs, and are known to react aggressively to anyone breaching their territorial boundaries. That includes visitors to the family. Early socialization is essential to help them tolerate friends of the family who might drop in, as well as other dogs brought to the home. These dogs should not be left unsupervised with small children as they may cause unintentional injury due to their large size and extreme physical strength.
Neapolitan Mastiffs need extensive obedience training as they have a tendency to be independent. The owners should have a dominant personality for these dogs to accept them as their pack leaders.
Grooming and exercise
The short coat of Neapolitan Mastiff dog breed is relatively easy to groom as it requires only a light brushing occasionally. But the wrinkles and skin folds should be wiped clean everyday to avoid infections setting in.
The exercise needs of these large dogs are very minimal, and can be met by a long walk on the leash at a normal pace. A few hours of free run in a secure yard would do them good too. Since they have a tendency to be lazy, the owners should insist regular walks to keep them healthy. Obesity is a problem in this breed, and it may lead to several metabolic problems and heart disease.
These large dogs can live outdoors but they are happier staying indoors with their family. But they need plenty of space to move about, and are known to drool, snore, and grunt, and make a mess while eating and drinking. They are not meant for people who are fastidious about keeping the house clean.
Common health issues of Neoploitan Mastiff dog breed
Neapolitan Mastiff dog breed is generally healthy, but these dogs can have a number of health problems, many of them due to their large size. For one, the puppies have to be delivered by caesarian section. A painful musculoskeletal disorder called Panosteitismay occur in young dogs during their rapid growth phase. They are also prone to a serious condition called gastric torsion that requires immediate medical intervention.
Hip and elbow dysplasia and cardiomyopathy have a higher rate of occurrence in this breed, as do cherry eye and a mite infestation referred to as demodocosis. Their average lifespan of 6 to 10 years is not too short considering that larger dogs typically have shorter lives.