Fila Brasileiro Temperament
What's Good About 'Em,
What's Bad About 'Em
Fila Brasileiro Temperament, Personality, Behavior, Traits, and Characteristics, by Michele Welton. Copyright © 2000-2015
"Faithful as a Fila dog" is an old Brazilian proverb.
The Fila Brasileiro has a temperament unlike that of any other breed.
Docile with his own family and immensely loyal, the Fila has an extreme distrust of and aversion to strangers and detests being touched by outsiders.
One might take his massive bulk for laziness or clumsiness -- and one would be terribly mistaken. Like all Old World mastiffs, the Fila Brasileiro is calm and quiet, until aroused. Then he shifts into his fierce protector's role in an instant, moving with tremendous speed and athletic agility. With his hindquarters raised slightly above his forequarters, the Fila Brasileiro moves like a great feline, with a long, low, stalking stride. He tends to amble or pace and there is a rolling motion to his gait.
Fila puppies should be friendly and trusting, and with proper socialization become more discriminating as they mature. Their eventual degree of aggressiveness depends on genetics (parents and grandparents) and environment (socialization and training).
Though this breed was not used for dogfighting (indeed, they often hunted in packs and got along fine), dog-to-dog aggression can be a problem in modern lines. The Fila Brasileiro may live peacefully with other pets in his own family, but won't back down from a challenge by a strange dog.
This strong-willed breed is inclined to trust his own judgment, but will defer to confident leadership that includes consistent rules and cheerful praise.
Still, because most people are not experienced enough at "reading" and responding properly to canine body language, the Fila Brasileiro is "too much dog" for the vast majority of households. This is a serious working dog with tremendous strength. Very few people really have the knowledge or skills necessary to manage this breed.
If you want a dog who...
- Is massive and powerful
- Has a short easy-care coat
- Is calm and quiet indoors (as an adult)
- Needs only moderate exercise
- Makes an imposing watchdog, being serious and self-assured with strangers, yet generally mild-mannered unless aroused
A Fila Brasileiro may be right for you.
If you don't want to deal with...
- A huge dog who takes up a lot of space in your house and car
- A heavy dog who wants to sit on your feet and lean his weight against your leg
- Rowdiness and exuberant jumping when young
- Destructiveness when bored or left alone too much
- Extreme distrust of strangers to the point where he detests being touched by anyone outside his family
- Providing tons of socialization to avoid indiscriminate aggression
- Aggression toward other animals
- Strong-willed mind of his own, requiring a confident owner who can take charge
- Snorting, snuffling, wheezing, grunting, loud snoring
- Slobbering and drooling
- Gassiness (flatulence)
- Serious health problems and a short lifespan
- Legal liabilities (public perception, future breed bans, insurance problems, increased chance of lawsuits)
A Fila Brasileiro may not be right for you.
- choosing the RIGHT breeder and the RIGHT puppy
- or choosing an ADULT dog from your animal shelter or rescue group – a dog who has already proven that he doesn't have negative traits
- training your dog to respect you
- avoiding health problems by following my daily care program in 11 Things You Must Do Right To Keep Your Dog Healthy and Happy
More traits and characteristics of the Fila Brasileiro
If I was considering a Fila Brasileiro, I would be most concerned about...
- Providing the proper balance of exercise. Young Filas need enough exercise to keep them lean and healthy, but not so much that their soft growing bones, joints, and ligaments become over-stressed and damaged. Adults need more exercise to keep them in shape, but not in hot or humid weather for fear of overheating. The proper amount of exercise can be difficult to regulate in giant breeds.
Since you have to minimize their exercise, young Filas can be very rambunctious. They will romp with uncoordinated gawkiness all over your house. You need to substitute extra quantities of companionship and supervision. Otherwise, left alone, youngsters become bored and destructive -- and their powerful jaws can literally destroy your living room.
- Providing enough socialization. Of all breeds, the Fila Brasileiro has the most extreme aversion to strangers. These dogs need extensive exposure to friendly people so they learn to recognize the normal behaviors of "good guys." Then they can recognize the difference when someone acts abnormally. Without extensive socialization, they may be suspicious of everyone, and in such a powerful and determined dog, this can be dangerous. Some Filas go in the opposite direction -- without enough socialization, they become fearful of strangers, which can lead to defensive biting.
- Animal aggression. Some Filas will not tolerate another dog of the same sex. Some have strong instincts to chase and seize cats and other fleeing creatures. If anything goes wrong in the breeding, socializing, training, handling, or management of this breed, it is capable of seriously injuring or killing other animals.
- The strong temperament. The Fila Brasileiro has an independent mind of his own. Some individuals are willful, obstinate, and dominant (they want to be the boss) and will make you prove that you can make them do things. You must show them, through absolute consistency, that you mean what you say.
To teach your Fila to listen to you, "Respect Training" is mandatory. My Fila Brasileiro Training Page discusses the program you need.
- Fila Brasileiro sounds. Many Filas snort, grunt, and snore loudly.
- Slobbering. Most people are not prepared for how much the Fila slobbers and drools, especially after eating or drinking. When they shake their heads, you will be toweling saliva and slime off your clothes, furniture, and walls.
- Gassiness (flatulence) that can send you running for cover. Fortunately, dogs who are fed a natural diet of real meat and other fresh foods have much less trouble with gassiness. See my Fila Brasileiro Health Page for more information.
- Serious health problems. The lifespan of the Fila is Brasileiro is short, and an alarming number are crippled by bone and joint diseases and/or succumb to cancer in middle age. To keep this breed healthy, I strongly recommend following all of the advice on my Fila Brasileiro Health Page.
- Legal liabilities. The Fila Brasileiro may be targeted for "banning" in certain areas, or refusal of homeowner insurance policies. Your friends and neighbors may be uncomfortable around this breed. In this day and age, the legal liabilities of owning any breed that looks intimidating and has a history as a guard dog should be seriously considered. People are quicker to sue if such a dog does anything even remotely questionable.
To learn more about training the Fila Brasileiro to be calm and well-behaved, consider my dog training book, Teach Your Dog 100 English Words.
It's a unique Vocabulary and Respect Training Program that will make your Fila Brasileiro the smartest, most well-behaved companion you've ever had.
Teaches your dog to listen to you, to pay attention to you, and to do whatever you ask him to do.
My dog buying guide, Dog Quest: Find The Dog Of Your Dreams, will teach you everything you need to know about finding a healthy Fila Brasileiro. Health problems have become so widespread in dogs today that this book is required reading for ANYONE who is thinking of getting a purebred, crossbred, or mixed breed dog.
If you'd like to consult with me personally about whether the Fila Brasileiro might be a good dog breed for your family, I offer a Dog Breed Consulting Service.
Once you have your Fila Brasileiro home, you need to KEEP him healthy -- or if he's having any current health problems, you need to get him back on the road to good health.
My dog health care book, 11 Things You Must Do Right To Keep Your Dog Healthy and Happy is the book you need.
Raise your dog the right way and you will be helping him live a longer, healthier life while avoiding health problems and unnecessary veterinary expenses.
Please consider adopting an ADULT Fila Brasileiro...
When you're acquiring a Fila Brasileiro PUPPY, you're acquiring potential -- what he one day will be. So "typical breed characteristics" are very important.
But when you acquire an adult dog, you're acquiring what he already IS and you can decide whether he is the right dog for you based on that reality. There are plenty of adult Filas who have already proven themselves NOT to have negative characteristics that are "typical" for their breed. If you find such an adult dog, don't let "typical breed negatives" worry you. Just be happy that you found an atypical individual -- and enjoy!
Save a life. Adopt a dog.
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