5 Things to Know About Neapolitan Mastiffs

As one of the biggest dog breeds in the world, Neapolitan mastiffs are affectionate, calm and loving — but they're not recommended for first-timers.

Neapolitan mastiffs, like many large dogs, can drool quite a bit.
Neapolitan mastiffs, like many large dogs, drool quite a bit.

1. Key Characteristics

  • AKC Group: Working
  • Height: 24–30 inches
  • Weight: 165–200 pounds
  • Life expectancy: 8–10 years

Neapolitan mastiffs are among the biggest dog breeds in the world and are easily identified by their facial wrinkles and skin folds.

These powerful dogs have rectangular-shaped bodies. Their eyes are blue when they are born but later darken to amber or brown. They carry their tail up and over the back.

Neapolitan mastiffs have large, round feet and a short, dense coat. Coat colors include black, blue, mahogany and tawny and may have brindle markings.

2. Where They Came From

One theory suggests that Alexander the Great brought mastiffs to Greece around 300 BC. The Romans discovered the dogs when they later conquered Greece and took some to cross with other large dogs. They used them for protection and entertainment, usually making them fight against people and other animals for sport.

Another theory asserts that the mastiffs arrived in Britain in 500 BC and later spread throughout Europe. Both theories agree, though, that the ancestor of the Neapolitan mastiff was the Roman molossus.

The first exhibition of the mastiffs was in 1946 in Italy. The breed standard was written in 1948 and edited in 1971, and the American Kennel Club recognized the breed in 2004.

3. How Friendly Are They?

Despite their intimidating appearance, Neapolitan mastiffs are affectionate, calm, loving dogs who are smart and naturally protective. They don’t bark excessively and are wary or protective around strangers.

Neopolitan mastiffs should be trained and socialized starting at around 4 months of age. Imagine trying to teach a large, adult mastiff to start learning commands at 165 pounds! That’s not saying it can’t be done, but you’ll get better results if you train the dog at a young age instead of trying to instill or correct behaviors later.

You should properly introduce a Neapolitan mastiff to other pets. Without training or socialization, these mastiffs can become aggressive or destructive.

Neapolitan mastiffs generally need only a single daily walk to meet their exercise needs. By: Tim Dawson
Neapolitan mastiffs generally need only a single daily walk to meet their exercise needs. By: Tim Dawson

According to Carol Paulsen, author of Neapolitan Mastiff: A Comprehensive Owner’s Guide, these dogs are not for first-time dog caretakers; you should have experience with dominant dogs. Neapolitan mastiffs are also not recommended for homes with young children.

This breed should never be an outside-only dog. According to Paulsen, they need human companionship, discipline and attention.

4. Is This the Right Dog for You?

Exercise Needs

LOW: A daily walk is sufficient. When your Neapolitan mastiff is young, you should monitor the exercise so the puppy doesn’t tire out excessively while his fast-growing bones develop.

Grooming Needs

LOW: Neapolitan mastiffs shed an average amount. You can keep the short coat clean easily with a weekly brushing and bathing when necessary.

Be warned — this breed drools, so keep small towels or cloths on hand. If you don’t want to deal with drool, choose another dog to become part of your family. Most large breeds, such as Newfoundlands and Great Danes, tend to drool.

The nails grow quickly, so trim them every 2 weeks or as needed. The ears accumulate wax and debris, which may lead to infections, so make ear cleaning a part of your routine when trimming the nails. Brush your dog’s teeth more frequently, however.

Health Problems

LOW: Potential health problems in this breed include:

5. Where to Adopt One

A recent search for Neapolitan mastiffs found only a few purebreeds in the United States. There were plenty of mixed breeds, though. Check with the closest breed club.

Watch this hilarious video of Neapolitan mastiff pups playing hide-and-seek:

Before selecting a dog or puppy, ask for the health clearances on the dog’s parents to ensure the breeder is reputable. Ask for hip, elbow, eye and heart clearances, if available. Any responsible breeder will have had these clearances done to ensure no defects or diseases are passed down to puppies.

Checking out the breeder’s location is always a great idea. You’ll be able to see if the dogs are all well cared for and not suffering in a puppy mill.

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