Congratulations on adopting a Lexington Kennels puppy! You are well on your way to owning a beautiful Neapolitan Mastiff. These majestic dogs are truly a companion that brings you the best of both worlds from the active, young dog to the quiet older dog.
It is an exciting time but before you bring your Neapolitan Mastiff home, it is important to really look at the temperament of the breed and what you should expect. If you haven’t already, I recommend that you take the time to read the breed standard of the Neapolitan Mastiff. You can learn more about the breed at the AKC or CKC website:
- AKC: http://www.akc.org/dog-breeds/neapolitan-mastiff/
- CKC: http://www.ckc.ca/en/Choosing-a-Dog/Choosing-a-Breed/Working-Dogs/Neapolitan-Mastiff
In a short summary, the Neapolitan Mastiff is a giant sized breed that is known for their ambling gait, calm and quiet nature and imposing size, attitude and intelligence. They are a breed with a unique appearance from their enormous head to their hanging jowls with a short, sleek coat and plenty of wrinkles. The Neo is a confident dog that fits well into any household and, yes, they can do very well with families who have children of all ages (I have four children of my own). In truth, the Neapolitan Mastiff is known for their mild-mannered temperament that is only aroused when they feel the need to protect their family.
Sounds wonderful, doesn’t it? I agree and I love the breed with all their quirks and traits… But are you ready for your Neapolitan Mastiff?
While the Neo is an exceptional dog breed, they, like all dog breeds, have negative traits that can occur when they are not properly trained or socialized. In fact, one of the most common reasons for rehoming a Neapolitan Mastiff is the lack of training and socialization.
At the heart of it, that is the reason that I wrote this article—to make you aware of the obstacles that you can face as a Neapolitan Mastiff owner if you do not properly train and socialize your puppy. As much as I can tout all the positives of the breed, there are simple facts about the Neapolitan Mastiff that every owner should be aware of. If you ignore these facts, you could end up with a very dangerous situation or you may have to rehome your Neapolitan Mastiff…something that I try very hard to avoid when I am choosing homes for my puppies.
Truth Number One: They are considered a hard breed.
This is often a confusing statement but when we say that a Neo is a hard breed, what it means is that they are independent and often think on their own. This is a breed that will train as they are intelligent and love to please their master but sometimes they will take longer to train. In addition, they are likely to act on their own, even after training, much to their owner’s frustration but this is easily solved by regular and on-going training that is made fun for them. A 6 week puppy course at PetSmart at 3 months of age is not going to cut it.
If they see the need to move, or not move, then they will do what they choose…which makes them a harder breed. They are strong willed and they do need an owner who is confident and willing to match their stubbornness.
Truth Number Two: They can be dominant.
Neapolitan Mastiffs are known as being a strong, dominant dog. This is a breed that will take charge if they have to and they are confident enough to protect their family and home. Remember, the breed was developed to protect estates in Italy.
Before we move forward, there is some confusion about the word dominant. Many people think of dominant as the alpha only but there are many middle of the road Neos and they should have an even temperament. However, they will take charge if their owners don’t…but so will a Chihuahua so it is important to be the head of your home. It is important that your dog (of any breed) respect all family members.
The flip side of dominance, however, is aggression. A dominant dog that is not properly trained or socialized can become aggressive; and for that matter, any dog not properly trained or socialized can become aggressive and it is not always linked to dominance. For more information on aggression, I recommend you read these articles found on this list http://k9aggression.com/dog-aggression-overview/types-of-dog-aggression.
I hate to use this term aggression since every dog breed can be aggressive. In fact, there are several small dog breeds that are more aggressive than a Neapolitan Mastiff. However, they are also not 150 pounds of aggressive dog.
Aggressiveness can become a facctor in Neapolitan Mastiffs that are not properly socialized and it can be directed towards people, situations and other animals. I begin socializing puppies right at birth and make sure that they have a range of stimulation during key developmental periods; however, that is not enough socialization for any dog, let alone a Neo.
It is imperative that socialization begin and continue from the time your puppy arrives home until your Neo is a senior. Daily socialization is imperative and will help prevent aggression if it is done properly.
Truth Number Three: They go through a difficult teen stage.
Dogs, like children, go through a stage in development when they become difficult to deal with. This usually occurs between 7 to 18 months and a dog that was perfectly behaved can quickly become a “demon” dog…seemingly overnight. This occurs with all breeds and it can often be overwhelming…however, when you have a Neo, you have to be prepared for this teen stage to occur when you have a 100 to 120 pound puppy.
Although it can’t make you avoid the teen stage, training and socialization before your Neo puppy becomes a 120-pound nuisance can help you avoid some of the pitfalls and can help prevent habits from occurring during that stage. It can also help you be prepared for the teen stage and all the highs and lows of that age.
Trust me, you will go through the teen stage and with a firm adherence to rules and a training and socializing schedule, you will get through it and find that your Neapolitan Mastiff has gone back to his amazing self.
Now that I have highlighted some of the challenges of the breed, I want to look at the importance of training your Neapolitan Mastiff right from 8 weeks, when you bring him home, and on. Training is important, so important that I have a training clause in my contract and it is for one simple reason…any dog, whether he is 5 pounds of 150 pounds, can be a problem for society if his is not trained or supervised. Any dog that is known for being dominant, aggressive or hard/stubborn can be dangerous if he is not taught how to function through training.
However, when it comes to training and socialization, many people have some misconceptions with training a Neapolitan Mastiff
Misconception #1: My Neo will want to please me.
While all dogs love praise and a Neo is no different, they aren’t really trying to please you. In fact, they are trying to gain the praise that you are giving, whether it is verbal praise or a treat. Neos can be quite stubborn but are also quite intelligent and loyal to you therefore very trainable.
The main thing to remember is that you need to find a motivator for your Neapolitan Mastiff. Some will work harder for food-based rewards and others will work hard for play-based rewards or praise-based rewards. Find out what your dog is motivated by and use that…also, don’t be afraid to change it up if he gets bored.
Misconception #2: Once my Neo knows the command, he will know it forever.
This is a big misconception that I often hear and it is false. A dog may learn a command, such as sit, very quickly but it doesn’t mean he will retain it. Sure, he will have the basis but like it is with people, if you don’t use it, you lose it. And your Neo will lose his training if it is not exercised on a regular basis.
Even after training your Neo, it is important to train him on a day-to-day basis. Also, socialization is important to do on a regular basis.
Neapolitan Mastiffs, especially during the teen years, can easily break a command. What this means is that when you give the command and the dog doesn’t listen, he learns that he doesn’t have to. It is best if you don’t allow the command to be broken by making sure you follow through and make your Neo listen.
Misconception Number Three: Growling is a warning I should give in to.
While growling is something that you should listen to, it is important not to simply give in and give the dog whatever he is growling for. All dogs, including Neos, will growl in puppyhood while they are trying to assert their role in the pack. Letting the dog growl, or praising the dog when he growls can lead the dog to believe that this behavior is okay. However, punishing the dog immediately for growling can lead to other problems including fear aggression.
When your Neapolitan Mastiff growls, you should do the following:
1) Stop and look at what is happening when there is growling. Is he stressed? Hurt? Or is he guarding something from you?
2) Decide if it is safe to correct. If it is, give a firm, yet gentle correction. You can also take what he is growling over as long as it won’t escalate the situation.
3) If the dog seems ill, or stressed, step back and contact your vet to see if there is a reason.
4) Desensitize your dog to the stimulation that caused the episode. What this means is that if he is growling because he is eating, start running exercises before meals and feed him by rewarding him with his food. Don’t put the food down but instead, hand feed him his meal as you hold his dish up. If he growls while you are hand feeding, remove yourself and the food from the area. Your Neo will learn that growling is bad and will result in something (his food) being taken away. Return to feeding when he is relaxed.
There is a new belief that when a dog growls, you give ground and give the dog whatever he wants; however, this can lead to a lot of problems and the dog will learn that growling works. My belief is that you look at each situation individually. If it can be corrected safely for both you and the dog, correct. If it can’t, stop and problem solve how to fix the growling. And you need to fix it before it leads to aggression.
Misconception Number Four: I have to be the alpha with my Neapolitan Mastiff and physically correct him.
Every owner of a Neapolitan Mastiff should be the head of the pack…the alpha as it were…but they don’t have to be the ALPHA. Alpha training is something that is greatly debated and being the alpha is a mental state of calm confidence not a physical strength/physical correction.
However, Neapolitan Mastiffs are a breed that needs an owner who will take charge…and by taking charge, that means caring for them and properly training them. While Neos are a strong breed that needs firm training, they are a sensitive breed. Physically correcting a Neapolitan Mastiff can lead to a fear and this can lead to fear aggression. A dog that lives his life in complete fear is miserable…a dog that has to take control of his pack because the owner isn’t is also miserable. Both of the dogs can become aggressive.
For that reason, be the head of the pack but make sure that you are firm, stick to the rules you put into place in the home, and confident when you have to correct. Don’t result to physically hurting your Neo and make sure that you learn your Neapolitan Mastiff’s temperament. While they should adhere to the breed standard, every dog is unique and where a firm tone may be enough for one, you may have to use lead correction with the other.
Misconception Number Five: Neapolitan Mastiffs are dumb, hard to train and stubborn.
Yes, Neapolitan Mastiffs can be stubborn but they are not dumb, they are actually quite smart and with the proper training, about 15 minutes every day, they will learn quickly. Remember that if you are confident, stick to the training and socializing and follow the rules you have set forth for your dog, your Neo will follow you anywhere…regardless of the danger.
So now that we have gone through the misconceptions, what can you do about it as an owner. While I would love to run through every aspect of training your Neapolitan Mastiff, that would take an entire book. Instead, I want to highlight a few articles and things that you should do to get started.
Be Aware of the Key Socialization Periods
Every period has challenges and when you are faced with the challenges, you need to ramp up training and socialization. You may need to change how you are socializing and training. For more information on key socialization periods, read this article: http://dogtime.com/puppy-behavior-basics-hsus.html.
Create Rules Right from Day One
If your dog is not allowed on the couch, your puppy should not be allowed on the couch. Decide before your puppy comes home what your rules are and then stick to them. Correct your puppy when he breaks a rule and correct yourself when you break one too. For more information on setting rules, read http://www.labradortraininghq.com/labrador-puppies/set-some-house-rules-before-you-get-your-puppy-home/
Give Your Neo Some Alone Time
While your Neapolitan Mastiff will love to be with you, make sure you give him some time by himself. This will give him time to relax and will also teach him that he can be away from you. It will help prevent separation anxiety if you start it at an early age.
Attend Training Sessions
I know that this is something that not everyone agrees on, especially if you have trained a dog before, but getting out and attending training sessions is beneficial for both you and your dog. For one, it makes you train since you have to keep up with the class. For two, it provides socialization for you and your dog. For three, you can brush up on everything that you forgot.
Every dog that I have sees a professional trainer despite having years and years of experience training. And the reason is for all of the ones that I already stated.
Socialize, Socialize, Socialize
Finally, socialize your Neapolitan Mastiff. I can’t say it enough but you should socialize your puppy. Start with puppy socialization classes, getting out to parks, going to meet kids and elderly. Dog parks can be a good place to go but they can also be your worst nightmare if you happen to go to one where there are bad owners. Make sure you do your research on the dog park before you go…or better yet, have your friends get together for a puppy play date.
When you are socializing, don’t forget about socializing in the home. We often go out to socialize our dogs but it is important for you to bring stimulation, or people, into the home as well. Remember, Neapolitan Mastiffs guard naturally so you want to socialize into the home and train them to understand the difference between guarding and territorial aggression.
This checklist is a great one for making sure your Neapolitan Mastiff is properly socialized, http://www.lifewithdogs.tv/2012/01/socialize-your-puppy-our-checklist-will-help/
By knowing your breed, the challenges of your breed and understanding what you need to know about training and socializing, you can avoid having to rehome your Neapolitan Mastiff and will ensure that you have a fiercely loyal companion who will make your life wonderful each and every day.