The Neapolitan Mastiff, or Mastino Napoletano, is a native of Southern Italy. Of ancient lineage these dogs were used by the Romans as guard dogs, war dogs, and fighting dogs in the amphitheatres and have changed little in appearance since those times. The breed faced extinction after World War II but was saved by the dedicated efforts of Piero Scanziani who, recognizing the breed’s predicament, established a breeding program in 1946 and ensured the survival of the Neo. These majestic and formidable dogs are still widely used in Italy for guarding and have almost no peer in this role.
The rather forbidding exterior of the Neapolitan Mastiff conceals a dog who is totally devoted, loyal, and affectionate to his owners and tolerant of children if raised and correctly socialized with them. It should be remembered however that this is a true guard and protector of the highest calibre. These dogs have been bred for this purpose for hundreds of years and, although careful breeding has produced a more equable temperament, the instinct to protect is still strong. The Neo will defend his people and their property to the utmost of his ability, which means that he will attack if sufficiently provoked. Usually he will just keep a watchful eye on what is going on and alert to potential trouble by barking, but never underestimate his inherent tendency to make good his warning. The Neo’s love of family means that the kennel or long periods alone do not suit him. He does best as a house dog where he can enjoy comfort and human company. Be aware that this breed drools a great deal, that they eat a great deal, and routine veterinary treatment will cost a great deal, and you may even need to purchase a larger car. As with many of the ‘sentry’ breeds the inclination to hunt and roam is not very powerful. Male Neapolitans can be very intolerant of other male dogs. This breed tends towards dominance and requires a firm, calm, experienced, confident owner. It is not recommended for the first time or novice owner.
Neapolitans love their creature comforts and are not enthusiasts when it comes to exercise, much preferring the sofa, the bed, or a comfortable place in the garden. They are certainly not runners or joggers, but they do need a regular short walk in the cooler part of the day to keep them fit and to give them interest. It is of vital importance that Neo puppies are not over-exercised. Running, jumping, negotiating stairs, playing roughly with other dogs, sliding on slippery floors, all can cause irreversible damage to developing bones and joints. Other than very short walks to accustom the pup to a collar and lead formal exercising should not commence until the pup is around nine months of age, and then distance should be built up gradually.
Basic obedience training is important in order that you have control over your Neo and that he learns to focus on you and comply with your commands. Pulling on the lead and jumping up to greet people are unacceptable, and may be dangerous, in such a large breed. Neos are rather intelligent, quick to learn, and willing to please so training should not be difficult for handler or dog. The best results will be achieved with firm, kind, and consistent methods using praise and treats to reward good behaviour. A Neo will not respond well to harsh verbal or physical methods, which are unnecessary and counter-productive. Early and constant socialization is vital in order that the puppy develops into a calm, self-assured, adult who is neither fearful nor aggressive and is able to distinguish between welcome guests and unwelcome intruders.
- Hip dysplasia
- elbow dysplasia
- cherry eye
- skin problems
- thyroid abnormalities
- susceptible to bloat
Some photographs of the Neapolitan Mastiff...