Neapolitan Mastiff

How to Train a Neapolitan Mastiff

The Neapolitan Mastiff is a huge, powerful guarder whose astounding appearance has intimidated intruders since the days of ancient Rome. Wary with strangers, the profusely wrinkled Mastino is sweet, placid, and steady among loved ones. Unless you’ve been to Jurassic Park, you’ve never seen anything like a Mastino. These majestic guardians of startling appearance are massive, powerful dogs. The U.S. Neapolitan Mastiff Club describes their dog’s head as ‘astounding”and give them credit for hitting upon just the right adjective. The profuse hanging wrinkles and folds, and pendulous lips, make a Mastino look like a marzipan Mastiff that’s been out in the sun too long. And yet, the breed’s inner dignity and nobility can only be described as beautiful.


If Mastinos look like strange visitors from antiquity, it’s because that’s exactly what they are. The breed might go back as far as 700 b.c., with artifacts from several ancient civilizations depicting Mastino-like canines. In the Roman Empire, they found employment as war dogs, gladiators, and guardians whose bestial looks and huge frame were calculated to throw the fear of Jove into their adversaries. Today, those attributes are still terrifying enough to send an ill-willed intruder running for the hills.


Neapolitans are generally hardy dogs. One minor problem that often occurs is “cherry eye,” where tissue in the corner of the eye becomes red and inflamed. In the vast majority of cases, there is no permanent damage. Despite the breed’s impressive wrinkles and loose skin, most do not have skin problems. There are health problems that are common in giant dogs to which the breed is not immune. Bloat is a sudden, life-threatening condition that can affect all deep-chested dogs. Its causes are not fully understood, but owners should learn the signs that bloat is occurring and know what action to take. As with all breeds, the Mastino can also develop hip dysplasia. It is important to discuss any health concerns with the dog’s breeder and veterinarian.


The Neapolitan Mastiff is a short-coated breed, so in general a bath now and again is about all you need. The eyes and ears should be checked and gently cleaned whenever necessary with a damp cloth or paper towel. You will find that you will need to keep a towel handy to dry the face and lips (and yourself!), especially after the dog eats or drinks. Nails should be kept short.


Every dog should have the opportunity to run and romp often, but don’t emphasize the running and quick turning, as joints can be easily damaged. This is a big, heavily built breed that overheats easily, so be careful in warm weather. The Neo puppy may want to play beyond when he should, so it is up to the owner to stop before the puppy gets too tired. Be careful about letting him go up and down stairs’many an exuberant puppy’s knee has been injured by a leap off a porch or a jump down those last few stairs. Breed experts do not recommend lots of tug-of-war games or violent wrestling, since the growing Mastino will quickly learn he is stronger than his smaller human friend and think that he no longer needs to listen.


While most adults of the breed are calm animals who sleep a lot, Neapolitan puppies are as active, curious, cute, and cuddly as the most winsome toy puppy. And many people find that the adolescent Neapolitan, when awake, is an energetic, powerful animal. It is important to train the Mastino when he is young, so that when dealing with the strong, stubborn teenage personality stage, the appropriate hierarchy is already in place. By the age of 3 or 4, most Neapolitans demonstrate desirable laidback adult-type behavior. Neapolitans do not respond well to harsh training, and need an encouraging and rewarding atmosphere. Be patient and consistent.


The Neapolitan Mastiff should do well on a high-quality dog food, whether commercially manufactured or home-prepared with your veterinarian’s supervision and approval. Any diet should be appropriate to the dog’s age (puppy, adult, or senior). Experienced Neapolitan Mastiff breeders recommend food that is slightly higher in fat and lower in protein, especially when the dog is young, as they grow so fast. Do not supplement with calcium.  Check with your vet if you have any concerns about your dog’s weight or diet. Clean, fresh water should be available at all times.


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