The Neapolitan Mastiff takes its name from Naples, a city in southern Italy where it was selectively bred from the ancient, larger and more intimidating mastino. Italian farmers sought to develop a tamer dog, suitable for a family environment, that would nevertheless retain the protective instincts of its direct ancestor.
By the mid-twentieth century, the Neapolitan mastiff, with its loose, saggy skin and droopy eyes had established itself as Italy’s sweetheart. Popularity in the rest of Europe and America soon followed. The breed was officially recognized by the Italian Kennel Club in 1949. Its affectionate nickname among fans of the breed is the Neo.
A male Neapolitan Mastiff will be anywhere from 26-31 inches tall and weigh up to 200 pounds. The slightly smaller females measure from 24 to 29 inches and weigh up to 130 pounds.
Their physique is sturdy and heavy-boned, with a massive head and a smooth coat. Standard colors are black, blue, mahogany and tawny. Due to their size and proportions, these dogs tend to have a heavy, lumbering gait.
Early socialization is crucial for raising a well-adjusted Neapolitan, as they’re ferociously protective of their family and regard all outsiders with suspicion. Proper training for these dogs should start early, be firm and include positive reinforcement techniques, such as pets and treats.
There’s a tendency toward clumsiness due to the dog’s wide frame, and there can be somewhat of a stubborn streak to them. The Neo rarely barks but is always alert. Even as puppies, these dogs have low energy levels and become increasingly more sedentary as they grow.
For an experienced owner who knows how to command the dog’s respect, the Neapolitan Mastiff is an excellent choice for a family pet. They are affectionate toward children and tolerate other animals reasonably well. A house to lounge in with a back yard they can patrol is their optimal home. Trips to dog parks should be closely monitored for signs of aggression toward other dogs.
The most common health problems the Neapolitan faces are arthritis and hip dysplasia, both owing to its stocky, disproportionate build. Fold dermatitis can present when skin hygiene is poorly kept.
Like all deep-chested dogs, they are also prone to bloat, a condition that happens when they ingest food or water too quickly This potentially dangerous condition that can cause damage to internal organs can be prevented by keeping food portions frequent, but smaller.
The greatest challenge when it comes to caring for the dog is keeping it clean. Bathing can be done as needed but wiping and drying the folds in their skin every day is a must. A weekly brush should be enough to keep their short coat from shedding uncontrollably.
Basic rules of nail and teeth care also apply. In order to remain healthy and keep excess weight off their already hefty frame, they need to be walked at least twice daily. The American Kennel Club recommends a diet with a higher proportion of fat than protein.