A Dog This Large Must Take a Daily Walk To Preserve Optimal Health and Comportment
The Neapolitan Mastiff dog, known as the Mastino Napoletano in Italian, is an ancient breed of the Molosser type. This gentle, patient, extremely loving "giant" makes an excellent family dog for the right owner.
Dog breeds like the Neapolitan Mastiff were popular centuries ago in Europe, but became nearly extinct after World War II. At that time, painter Piero Scanziani of Italy sought to reestablish the breed. He set up his own breeding kennel to produce Italian Mastiff-type dogs; these dogs were christened Neapolitan Mastiffs, with English Mastiffs contributing to the process.
Originally, the Neapolitan Mastiff was used as an estate guard dog and by the Roman Army as a dog of war. Having been in existence for at least two millennia, this dog may predate Christ by as much as 3000 years. Called the "big dog of the little man," this imposing and impressive dog has been a favorite of ordinary people throughout the centuries.
A modern standard was written in 1948, and then rewritten in 1971. Today, Neapolitan Mastiffs remain formidable competitors on the show circuit, and are favorite family dogs. This pet also makes an excellent guard dog who is extremely devoted and protective of loved ones. Although Neapolitan Mastiffs benefit from some training and socialization for other desired behaviors, the instinct to protect is entirely natural and does not need to be instilled.
The Neapolitan Mastiff is massively ominous in size, with large bones and a solid, hefty build. Adults can reach 110 pounds (females) or 165 pounds or greater for males, and can stand 26 to 31 inches at the shoulder. The head is large and the face has extensive wrinkles and folds.
Perhaps most endearing about the Neapolitan Mastiff are its expressions. Although it takes on an alert and even fierce look while in protective mode, your pet has a wistful, dreamy expression when at rest. Eyes are usually varying shades of brown depending on coat color, which can be black, blue (gray), tawny, or mahogany.
The Neapolitan Mastiff is uniquely kind and gentle – yet has a mind of its own. Because of its huge size, it can be "dangerous," especially to small children. This is because it may not know its own strength and size, not because it is a particularly dangerous breed. Adults can reach 200 pounds or more, so this is not a breed to adopt if you are not up to the task of managing such a large dog.
Beginning in puppyhood, socialize your little one to be very obedient to you. This won't be hard while your pet is still young as he or she will generally be very affable and obedient, but he or she won't be "little" for long. Neapolitan Mastiffs grow at a very rapid rate reaching their full adult size usually within two years. Discipline should be done through voice and firm control, as well as plenty of positive praise. Never harshly discipline your gentle pet with physical punishment.
Perhaps not surprisingly, the Neapolitan Mastiff's massive size means that he or she will not be particularly enamored of exercise. Although your dog can have short and very intense bursts of energy, you'll need to take very special care to make sure your pet gets enough exercise by giving him or her a daily walk, and engaging in daily play.
Unfortunately, because Neapolitan Mastiffs are so large, their lifespans are also relatively short. You can expect your pet to live up to 10 years, on average.
These large canines are also prone to several health problems, including the most common, called "cherry eye," an informal term for a condition called canine nictitans gland prolapse. This is a congenital eye defect where the "third eyelid" prolapses so that it becomes visible. It looks like a red bump in the corner of the eye and can appear to be a tumor. The prolapse causes chronic inflammation of the eye and can eventually lead to chronic dryness. It is most commonly surgically corrected.
Bloat is also a significant problem with the Neapolitan Mastiff, and can be fatal within an hour of onset. If you notice that your pet is acting depressed, uncomfortable, has a hard or distended belly, or is trying to vomit without success, get him or her to a vet immediately. The most common correction for this condition is surgery. To minimize the risk of bloat occurring, feed your pet small meals throughout the day and avoid vigorous exercise right after eating.
Special Cautions On Exercise
Although Neapolitan Mastiffs require daily exercise, it should be noted that you should not exercise very intensely or roughly. Because of their very large size, this can cause joint problems during their rapid growth process. Joint pain called pano-ostiosis, which comes about as a result of rapid growth, may make it difficult for young dogs to exercise, so care should be taken to be gentle and avoid overexertion.
Because the Neapolitan Mastiff grows so rapidly, he or she needs to be fed a good high-quality diet. Not just any dog food will do. Neapolitan Mastiffs experience explosive growth within the first two years of life and can gain as much as 50 pounds just within the first six months of puppyhood, so a quality diet is absolutely essential.
Many owners are fans of the so-called "BARF" diet, which stands for "Bones and Raw Foods.” Information on the BARF diet can be found online, and/or you can consult your vet to ensure your pet gets proper nutrition.
Your pet is very easy to groom, but can shed his or her fur in an odd way. It may look like he or she is molting which can be alarming, since it can be mistaken for a serious condition like mange to the uninitiated. However, this "molting" is normal; regular brushing with a rubber brush should usually be all that's necessary for proper maintenance.