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Neapolitan Mastiffs: What's Good About 'Em, What's Bad About 'Em

Neapolitan Mastiff temperament, personality, training, behavior, pros and cons, advice, and information, by Michele Welton, Dog Trainer, Behavioral Consultant, Author of 15 Dog Books

Neapolitan Mastiff dog breed

The Neapolitan Mastiff Standard says: "The essence of the Neapolitan Mastiff is his beastial appearance, astounding head and imposing size and attitude."

Once you're past the shock of your first impression, you'll be able to better appreciate how quiet, calm, and relaxed this Mastiff is. Just don't mistake his bulk and ambling gait for laziness or clumsiness, for he can shift into his fierce protector's role on a moment's notice.

The Neapolitan Mastiff is not an apartment dog – to stay fit, he needs some space and moderate exercise. But more than anything else, he requires ongoing personal attention. He often attaches himself, shadow-like, to his favorite person.

Neapolitan Mastiff puppies should be friendly and trusting, and with proper socialization, become more reserved and discriminating as they mature. As with all mastiffs, socialization is an absolute requirement to avoid either aggression or shyness.

Dog aggression can be a real problem; though many "Neos" will not start fights, they will surely finish them.

This massive, stubborn breed is inclined to do things his own way. But he does respond to early, consistent training that includes leadership (YOU!), cheerful praise, and food rewards.

Neapolitan Mastiffs perform admirably in drooling, slobbering, and snoring competitions.

If you want a dog who...

  • Is massive and powerful, probably the most "beastial-looking" breed in existence, with an enormous head, loose wrinkled skin, and heavy, hanging jowls
  • Has a sleek 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

A Neapolitan Mastiff 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
  • Destructiveness when bored or left alone too much
  • Potential aggression or fearfulness toward people in some lines, or when not socialized enough
  • Potential 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
  • High price tag
  • Legal liabilities (public perception, future breed bans, insurance problems, increased chance of lawsuits)

A Neapolitan Mastiff may not be right for you.


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In this brand new series, I'll help you decide which dog breed traits would best suit you and your family, your home and yard, and your lifestyle, so you can choose the best dog breed for your family.

Keep in mind that the inheritance of temperament  is less predictable than the inheritance of physical  traits such as size or shedding. Temperament and behavior are also shaped by raising and training.

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dog icon"Respect Training for Puppies"  and "Teach Your Dog 100 English Words"  are free step by step guides to teaching your pup to be calm and well-behaved.

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More traits and characteristics of the Neapolitan Mastiff

If I was considering an Neapolitan Mastiff, I would be most concerned about...

  1. Providing the proper balance of exercise. Young Neapolitan Mastiffs 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. Similarly, adult Neos need enough exercise to keep them in shape, but definitely not running or jogging, and not in hot or humid weather for fear of overheating. The proper amount of exercise can be difficult to regulate in giant breeds.
  2. Providing enough socialization. Most adult Neapolitan Mastiffs are a little standoffish with strangers (puppies should be friendly). Some individuals have protective instincts. It's essential to socialize your Neapolitan Mastiff very thoroughly when he is young, so that he learns to recognize the normal behaviors of "good guys." Then he can recognize the difference when someone acts abnormally.

    Without careful socialization, a Mastiff may be suspicious of everyone. This can lead to either aggression or shyness, and both attitudes are dangerous in a giant breed. Fearful Neapolitan Mastiffs can bite defensively if they feel cornered. And it's no fun trying to drag a huge frightened dog along by the leash in public.

  3. Potential animal aggression. I would not risk keeping a Neapolitan Mastiff with another dog of the same sex. And be aware that some Neapolitan Mastiffs display predatory behavior toward cats and other animals that run. Obviously a dog of this size and power is capable of seriously injuring or killing other animals.
  4. The strong temperament. Neapolitan Mastiffs are usually easygoing and good-natured, but they're not pushovers to raise and train. Some are passively stubborn, while others are willful or dominant (they want to be the boss). You must show them, through absolute consistency, that you mean what you say.

    To teach your Mastiff to listen to you, "Respect Training" is mandatory. Follow my free online training programs.

  5. Mastiff "sounds." Neapolitan Mastiffs snort, grunt, and snore loudly. These sounds are endearing to some people, nerve-wracking to others.
  6. Slobbering. Most people are not prepared for how much Neapolitan Mastiffs slobber and drool, especially after eating or drinking. When they shake their heads, you will be toweling saliva off your clothes and furnishings.
  7. Gassiness (flatulence). All short-faced breeds gulp air when they eat, and that air has to go somewhere, after all. However, commercial diets make flatulence worse by including fibrous or hard-to-digest ingredients. Neapolitan Mastiffs who are fed a heavily meat-based diet have much less trouble with gassiness.
  8. Serious health problems. The lifespan of an Neapolitan Mastiff is very short – less than 10 years. And an alarming number of Neapolitan Mastiffs are crippled by bone and joint diseases and/or succumb to cancer at only 6 or 7 years old. Read more about Neapolitan Mastiff Health
  9. Legal liabilities. Some insurance companies may cancel your homeowner's policy if you own a Mastiff. Your friends and neighbors may be uncomfortable around this breed. In this day and age, the legal liabilities of owning a giant breed that looks intimidating and has a history as a war dog should be considered. People are quicker to sue if such a dog does anything even remotely questionable.

    In summary, the Neapolitan Mastiff is definitely "too much dog" for the average household. This is a breed for experienced owners only, who want a specific type of dog and who can handle that dog.

Michele Welton with BuffyAbout the author: Michele Welton has over 40 years of experience as a Dog Trainer, Dog Breed Consultant, and founder of three Dog Training Centers. An expert researcher and author of 15 books about dogs, she loves helping people choose, train, and care for their dogs.

My best-selling books – now available  FREE  on my website

book coverRespect Training For Puppies: 30 seconds to a calm, polite, well-behaved puppy is for puppies 2 to 18 months old. Your puppy will learn the 21 skills that all family dogs need to know. Click here to read for free.
book coverTeach Your Dog 100 English Words is a unique Vocabulary and Respect Training Program that will teach your adult dog to listen to you and do what you say. Click here to read for free.
book cover11 Things You Must Do Right To Keep Your Dog Healthy and Happy helps your dog live a longer, healthier life. Get my honest advice about all 11 Things before you bring home your new puppy, because some mistakes with early health care cannot be undone. Click here to read for free.

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