Key Breed Facts
Intelligence / Trainability
Children and Other Pets
Caring for a Neapolitan Mastiff
Average Cost to keep/care for a Neapolitan Mastiff
The Neapolitan Mastiff is one of the oldest breeds around and native to Italy. Although, their appearance might be a little imposing and they do make impressive watchdogs, they are known for their kind and affectionate natures. They are very large and heavy dogs and they boast a tremendous amount of loose skin around their faces and necks which combined to their ultra-droopy lips adds to the Neapolitan's overall forbidding appearance. With this said, in the right environment and given the right amount of socialisation and training, it would be hard to find a more loyal and loving dog than the Neapolitan Mastiff.
It is thought the Neapolitan Mastiff is a descendant of one of the most ancient of breeds namely the Molossus which were fighting dogs the Romans used in the arena. The Romans took these dogs with them when they invaded Europe and England leaving them behind once they left the country. The dogs were then used on farms to protect and guard livestock against predators which included wolves and bears. They were also known as Bandogs at the time and were often used as fighting dogs. However, by the 1800's bull baiting was on the decline and as a result the numbers of their fell into decline which saw the breed virtually vanish altogether.
Thanks to the efforts of one man, Commissioner Thompson, the breed survived with the majority of Mastinos we see today being able to trace their ancestry back to one of the dogs he bred. The first dogs to be shown was in 1946 and when they were spotted by Piero Scanziani who was soon to become another breed enthusiast starting his own breeding programme a few years later. His breeding endeavours were so successful, these magnificent dogs were soon accepted by the Italian Kennel Club.
Today, these magnificent dogs are still highly prized by many people the world over and puppies still command a high price thanks to their charming natures and quite unique looks.
Height at the withers: Males 66 - 78 cm, Females 60 - 73 cm
Average weight: Males up to 70 kg, Females up to 60 kg
The Neapolitan Mastiff is an imposing, impressive dog that has a tremendous amount of loose skin around their faces and necks. Their heads are large with dogs boasting a broad skull and a well-defined stop. Their muzzles are large, deep and square with their upper lips forming a definite inverted "v" when seen from the front. Eyes are set well forward and nicely apart being slightly rounded and the rims match the tone of a dog's nose colour.
Their ears are quite small in relation to the size of a dog's head and set well apart and high. They are triangular in shape and hang flat against the cheek. The Neapolitan Mastiff has a strong jaw with a perfect scissor bite where their upper teeth neatly overlap their lower ones. They have quite short, stocky necks that are extremely well-muscled and shoulders are long, well-muscled and sloping. Front legs are strong and well-muscled.
Their bodies are longer than they are tall at the withers with dogs boasting a well-muscled, broad chest and long well sprung ribcage. Their toplines are straight, but slope from the withers slightly with the line of a dog's belly being parallel to their topline. Loins are broad and slightly rounded boasting lots of muscle. Croups are muscular, broad and slightly sloping. Their back legs are strong, with long, powerful thighs. Feet are oval in shape with arched toes and thick, dark, hard pads. Their nails are curved and extremely strong with a dog's back feet being slightly smaller than their front ones. Their tails are thicker at the base and set high on a dog's topline but tapers to the tip. Dogs carry their tails level with their backs when on the move which adds to their overall balanced appearance.
When it comes to their coat, the Neapolitan Mastiff has a dense, short, fine coat that's hard to the touch and which boasts a lovely natural sheen. The accepted breed colours are as follows:
Although extremely large and imposing, the Neapolitan Mastiff is known to be a real gentle giant and a dog that craves human contact, liking nothing more than to be in a home environment and being part of the loving family. However, due to their extra-large size, they are not the best of choices for first time owners. They are however, a very good choice for people who are familiar with this type of very large dog and who have ultra large, secure gardens where their dogs can roam as they please whenever possible.
It goes without saying that a Neapolitan Mastiff makes for a very good watchdog, their size and looks alone are intimidating especially to anyone who is not familiar with the breed. They are incredibly loyal to their owners, but their socialisation and training has to start as early as possible because these large dogs need to know their place in the pack and who is alpha dog in a household for them to be well-rounded, obedient characters.
A Neapolitan Mastiff thrives on human contact and are known to be real "people" dogs. As such they are a good choice for people where one person usually stays at home when everyone else is out so that their dog is never left for too long on their own. They are not a good choice for people who are out of the house for most of the day which could lead to a Neapolitan Mastiff developing some unwanted behavioural issues which includes separation anxiety.
It cannot be stressed enough the importance of socialising a Neapolitan Mastiff puppy from a young age which has to include introducing them to as many new situations, people, animals and other dogs once they have been fully vaccinated as possible so they grow up to be well-rounded, obedient mature dogs. Mastinos are highly intelligent and they learn new things extremely quickly which includes the good and the bad.
However, these large and impressive dogs often take their time to respond to a command which has to be taken into account when training them. As such, patience and understanding are of the utmost importance when their training first starts in earnest. With this in mind, their training has to be consistent and always fair. Like many other dogs, the Mastino is quite a sensitive character by nature and as such, they do not answer well to any sort of harsh correction or heavy handed training methods. They do respond well to positive reinforcement especially when they are given their commands in a firm yet gentle way from the word go.
The Neapolitan Mastiff is not the best choice for people with very young families because their sheer size could pose a problem when they are around toddlers. However, these larger than life dogs seem to have an affinity with older children and love being around them although any interaction between very young kids and dogs should always be well supervised by an adult. It is also crucial for parents to teach young children how to behave around dogs and when to stay away from them, particularly when there is food around or during playtime.
Male Mastinos have been known to be a little aggressive around other male dogs, but females tend to be fine around all dogs especially if they have been well socialised from a young age. It would be a mistake to trust a Mastino around smaller animals and pets which in short, means any contact between them should be avoided and this includes with cats. With this said, if a Mastino has grown up with a cat in the house, they generally get on well together, but they would think nothing of chasing a neighbour's cat if they dared venture into a garden.
For further advice please read our article on Keeping Children Safe around Dogs.
The average life expectancy of a Neapolitan Mastiff is between 8 and 10 years when properly cared for and fed an appropriate good quality diet to suit their ages.
Like so many other breeds, the Neopolitan Mastiff is known to suffer from a few hereditary health issues which are worth knowing about if you are planning share your home with one of these active and good looking dogs. The conditions that seem to affect the breed the most include the following:
As with any other breed, Mastinos need to be groomed on a regular basis to make sure their coats and skin are kept in top condition. They also need to be given regular daily exercise to ensure they remain fit and healthy. On top of this, dogs need to be fed good quality food that meets all their nutritional needs throughout their lives.
Although large and impressive, the Mastino is not high maintenance in the grooming department thanks to their short, close coats. With this said, the folds and wrinkles around their faces and on other parts of their body need to be regularly checked and cleaned when necessary. It's also essential to dry the folds after washing them because if left moist, it provides the perfect environment for bacteria to flourish which could lead to an infection setting in.
They shed throughout the year although like other breeds, the Mastino tends to shed more during the Spring and then again in the Autumn when more frequent grooming would be necessary to keep on top of things. Otherwise, a weekly brush and a wipe over with a chamois leather would keep a Mastino's coat looking glossy and in good condition.
It's also important to check a dog's ears on a regular basis and to clean them when necessary. If too much wax is allowed to build up in a dog's ears, it can lead to a painful infection which can be hard to clear up. In short, prevention is often easier than cure when it comes to ear infections.
Mastinos need to be given the right amount of daily exercise which ideally should be a minimum of 60 to 80 minutes a day. They do feel the heat so it's essential they be walked earlier in the morning and then later in the evening during the hotter summer months.
A shorter walk in the morning would be fine, but a longer more interesting one in the afternoon is a must. These dogs also like to be able to roam around a back garden as often as possible so they can really let off steam. However, the fencing has to be extremely secure to keep these large dogs in because if they find a weakness in the fence, they will soon escape out and get into all sorts of trouble.
With this said, Neapolitan Mastiff puppies should not be given too much exercise because their joints and bones are still growing and too much pressure on them could result in causing a dog a few problems later on in their lives. They should not be allowed to jump up or off furniture nor should they be allowed to run up and down the stairs because this puts too much pressure on their still growing joints and limbs. Exercise should not be too vigorous until a dog is around 2 years old which is when they have usually stopped growing.
If you get a Neapolitan Mastiff puppy from a breeder, they would give you a feeding schedule and it's important to stick to the same routine, feeding the same puppy food to avoid any tummy upsets. You can change a puppy's diet, but this needs to be done very gradually always making sure they don't develop any digestive upsets and if they do, it's best to put them back on their original diet and to discuss things with the vet before attempting to change it again.
Older dogs are not known to be fussy or finicky eaters, but this does not mean you can feed them a lower quality diet. It's best to feed a mature dog twice a day, once in the morning and then again in the evening, making sure it's good quality food that meets all their nutritional requirements. These dogs need to be fed a diet that contains about 24% protein. It's also important that dogs be given the right amount of exercise so they burn off any excess calories or they might gain too much weight which can lead to all sorts of health issues. Obesity can shorten a dog's life by several years so it's important to keep an eye on their waistline from the word go.
Because Mastinos are prone to suffer from bloat, it is really important that they be fed twice a day instead of giving them just one larger meal a day. It's also a good idea to invest in a stand to place their feed bowl which makes it easier for these large dogs to eat comfortably without having to stretch their necks down low to reach their food. Neapolitan Mastiff should never be fed just before or just after they have exercised either because this puts them more a risk of suffering from bloat.
If you are looking to buy a Neapolitan Mastiff, you would need to pay anything from £800 to over £2000 for a well-bred pedigree puppy. The cost of insuring a male 3-year-old Mastino in northern England would be £56.54 a month for basic cover but for a lifetime policy, this would set you back £109.10 a month (quote as of May 2016). When insurance companies calculate a pet's premium, they factor in several things which includes where you live in the UK and a dog's age and whether or not they have been neutered or spayed.
When it comes to food costs, you need to buy the best quality food whether wet or dry, to feed your dog throughout their lives making sure it suits the different stages of their lives. This would set you back between £70 - £80 a month. On top of all of this, you would need to factor in veterinary costs if you want to share your home with a Neapolitan Mastiff and this includes their initial vaccinations, their annual boosters, the cost of neutering or spaying your dog when the time is right and their yearly health checks, all of which quickly adds up to over a £1200 a year.
As a rough guide, the average cost to keep and care for a Neapolitan Mastiff would be between £130 to £190 a month depending on the level of insurance cover you opt to buy for your dog, but this does not include the initial cost of buying a pedigree puppy.
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