To anyone seriously considering acquiring a Neapolitan mastiff, no sales job is needed. Their devotion is unmatched, and if you like the look, nothing else will do! However, as a group dedicated to finding forever homes for this breed, we have an obligation to point out some characteristics that when not understood and properly managed, frequently lead to these dogs needing re-homing. Although of course, as in any breed, there is variation in temperament, the following issues come up frequently enough to warrant mentioning. We strongly encourage all prospective homes to read The Official Book of the Neapolitan Mastiff by Dr. Sherilyn Allen, and The Ultimate Book of Mastiff Breeds by Douglas Oliff for further information.
Neapolitans, as well as other giant breeds, are frequently referred to as “gentle giants”. While accurate to some extent, this description can be misleading, as a 150 lb dog can wreak havoc even without meaning to. Neapolitans are not to be confused with the breed known to the AKC as mastiff, often called English or Old English mastiffs by fanciers. Most people familiar with both breeds would agree that the English is, as a generality, a more mellow and easygoing (although larger) dog. Neapolitans frequently show traits of dominance, territoriality, and jealousy (the latter due to their intense bonding with “their” people).
Although they typically present a droopy, lazy appearance, they react with startling suddeness when they feel something is awry. It is not unusual for them to have difficulty getting along with a dog of the same gender, and it is our general policy not to place dogs into such a situation. While many do very well with other dogs, they would probably not be the first choice as a companion for another dog, their top priority again being “their” people. Oftimes the abovementioned traits are not fully evident until age 2 or 3, when the dog reaches emotional maturity.
Neapolitans are generally good with, and protective of, children. However, in a household with children, there are several issues to consider. The most obvious is that a dog of this size can knock a young child over without meaning to. Second, although these dogs again usually do well with “their” children, many households with children have a lot of visitors coming and going, which can take some getting used to for a Neapolitan. Third, Neapolitans are sometimes jealous of attention given a child by an adult. If you’ve read this far, you’re getting the idea that Neapolitans are generally very big on the concept of “mine” – “my” house, “my” toys, and especially “my” people. This intense bonding can lead to separation anxiety.
Some medical issues that occur more frequently in Neapolitans than in the general dog population are bloat, cardiac disorders, bone cancer, eye problems, and various orthopedic problems. Some of these are life- threatening. All can quickly start a nice college fund for your vet’s children. Neapolitans are also very sensitive to heat, and can and do die from heat stroke.
If you are not up to the possibility of the challenges listed above, we have done our job if we have caused you to rethink making a Neapolitan mastiff a member of your family. If you are willing to work with these issues, get ready for your efforts to be rewarded with the devotion and rewards that only a mastino can give!!
**Copied from the United States Neapolitan Mastiff club**