The Neapolitan Mastiff is a Mastiff from Italy, and not to be confused with the Italian Mastiff (aka, the Cane Corso). But with those uniquely endless skin folds and low swinging jowls of his, it’s hard to mix him up with any other pup.
This giant breed dog is a powerful and formidable guard dog. And not many people have got the experience or knowledge to welcome this dog into their home. They are quite headstrong, but can also make wonderful family companions for the right owners.
Do you totally adore these handsome hounds but find yourself wondering whether you’d make a good pairing? You’ve come to the right place! Here in this Neapolitan Mastiff breed guide, we will take you through absolutely everything you need to know about the Neapolitan Mastiff. So, let’s get started!
The Neapolitan Mastiff goes back a long way! Mastiff-type dogs date back some 5,000 years ago, so this pup might be as old as that! Over the years, travelers with their large guarding Mastiff by their side spread the Mastiff goodness across Europe, like the English Mastiff or the French Mastiff.
For the history enthusiasts out there, this pooch resembles the Mastiffs of Epirus, who accompanied the Roman consul Paulo Emilio. It is believed that he is a descendant of these dogs.
Many breed fanciers call this chap Neo or Mastino for short. This guy was developed in southern Italy, specifically in the area of Naples. He was developed to be a large farmhand, capable of pulling heavy carts to give their master a helping paw.
They were also created to be courageous estate and family protectors. Their loose skin was specifically bred into the breed to protect them from serious injury in an attack. He really isn’t just a pretty face!
The isolated farmers kept their pups an unintentional secret from the rest of the world until the 1940s. A dog-loving journalist named Piere Scanziana stumbled across this regal pup in a dog show in Naples. He made it his mission in life to share the Neo with the rest of the world. With local breed lovers, he standardized the breed and created an official breed standard.
The journalist’s hard work and dedication to this doggo meant that the rest of the world eventually got to enjoy his company. Officially, the first Neos came to America in 1973 with a lady named Jane Pampalone. But historians believe that Italian immigrants might have brought over their Mastinos as early as the 1880s.
The Neapolitan Mastiff Club of America was established in 1973, but they were not accepted into the American Kennel Club’s official ranks until 2004. Out of 197 dog breeds, the Neo currently finds himself between 100th and 110th place in popularity. This rare pup was thrown into the spotlight thanks to the Harry Potter film series when he was cast as Hagrid’s dog, Fang.
The Neapolitan Mastiff looks scary, right? Well, those who don’t know him would probably say that. But we’re going to let you into a secret. This pup is a true gentle giant who is super sweet and loving with his people. So if you’re looking for a huge cuddle bug who you can also use as a blanket (really, his skin is that loose!), this is your pooch. With strangers, he is aloof and unbothered, just as long as they behave.
Of course, he has it in his genes to protect his family in the face of danger. He was created to be a guard dog, after all. But rarely will he need to defend his family or home. People and creatures alike do not dare take him on! He doesn’t bark that much either because, again, he doesn’t need to. This guy likes the easy life, and his formidable appearance graces him with this.
With that being said, this canine is a dominant dog breed. This is why he should only be taken on by an experienced dog owner. He will not get up off his lazy butt if he doesn’t want to. This can make training difficult, but we’ll get into that in a bit. Without training, he can become an obnoxious and unruly canine. And at a minimum of 110 pounds, that is not fun for anyone!
This guy is full of sweet character, and he’s also comically dopey. But his love of resting means that he isn’t the best pick for those looking for an exercise partner or regular yard game player. Nap or fetch? He’ll always choose nap time. This is great for families who are looking for a docile doggo for the family home.
Size & Appearance
The Neapolitan Mastiff is a giant dog breed. Females weigh a minimum of 110 pounds, and males weigh a minimum of 150 pounds. They often top the scales at 200 pounds! Females measure up to 29 inches, from paw to shoulder (not including their impressively large head!) and males measure up to 31 inches. So, it’s safe to say that he needs plenty of room both upwards and sideways.
Neapolitans are described as marzipan Mastiffs who have spent too long in the sun – they look like they’ve melted! His most distinguishable feature is his loose skin. The rolls around his face are soft and velvety and are most visible around his face and neck. And his pendulous dewlaps that swing from his jaw to his neck produce lots of doggy drool!
Their large head is described as ‘astounding’ by their breed club, which is a fair description. So, if you’re looking for a big meaty head to rest on your lap, he’s got that job covered. Many people describe their eyes as looking sad, but that’s just down to the loose skin around his eyes. Their natural ears are drop-down triangles, although many people opt to crop them. Their tails are medium in length too.
They are low-lying dogs who are beastly in overall appearance, with a lumbering gait. These guys are not elegant in any way! If you want to show your pooch in the conformation ring, he’ll have to conform to the Neapolitan breed standard. But if you’re just after a family pet, his appearance will have no bearing on anything.
Coat & Colors
On top of all those skin folds sits a short, tight, and dense coat that is straight and soft in texture. He is an average shedder, and his hair is never longer than one inch in length. However, his loose skin requires additional care that we’ll go through in the grooming section.
The Neo has four official color choices; black, blue, mahogany, and tawny. With the option of brindle markings. Some Neos have a white spot on their head, although this is not allowed in the show ring.
Like most Mastiffs, this is a low to moderate energy pup. He’ll need between 30 and 45 minutes of daily exercise for him to be healthy, happy, and stimulated. Slow and steady is the Neo’s exercise motto, no intense jogging for him, please! Not only does it not interest him, but impactive exercise can be damaging to his joints. Especially during his developmental stage.
The Neo has invisible doggy anchors that he will release if he can’t be bothered to go for a walk. Do not give in to his lazy diva-like ways because he’ll keep trying his luck if you give in. His large body needs regular exercise to stay healthy no matter how much he protests. He is prone to cardiac conditions and obesity, so exercise really is for his benefit.
In between his outdoor exercise sessions, he might want to have a little tussle in the yard every now and then. If he wants to, play with him. He won’t do it that often, and it’ll stimulate his brain and create a stronger bond between you. And when he wants to stimulate his mind without stimulating his body, a giant chew toy is ideal.
The best type of home for a Neo is a large one with ample room for his big meaty head and butt. Small or cramped apartments or homes will be uncomfortable for both man and dog. He’d prefer access to a yard for him to soak up the sun, but this is not a necessity. If he does, please make sure it’s escape-proof because of his guarding instinct.
This family-oriented guy loves to spend time with his family and has a fondness for the younger members of the pack. He’ll let the kiddos use him as a backrest in front of the TV. Unfortunately, because of his sheer size and lazy nature, he is not the best choice for families with young children. He may knock them over or lay on them without realizing it. Like you should with all dogs, always supervise this beautiful beast with children.
The Neo is not the biggest fan of dogs that he doesn’t know. Socialization as a pup is super important to ease his canine worries. If he is raised alongside another dog, he will probably do well with them. But introduce a dog into his established pack, and he might not like it. All dogs are different but don’t count on this guy to be the top candidate for multi-pet homes. The same goes for other animals.
Training the Neapolitan Mastiff can be a tricky affair, which is why he is only recommended for experienced dog owners. It is also a lifelong commitment that takes a lot of dedication and patience. But the right family will bring out the best in this pooch, just don’t ever expect him to be fully obedient. It’s all part of his unique charm that you’ll learn to love, though.
Start all aspects of his training from day one. Establish the house rules and make sure the entire family is on board. If you don’t want him to lay on your bed when he reaches 200 pounds, don’t let him as a pup. Be firm but fair with him, and positive reinforcement training is the best method to train him. Treats will be his motivation for sure, but use them sparingly to avoid weight gain or dependency.
Socialization is crucial if you want him to grow into a docile and sweet easy to handle Neo. A reputable breeder will begin the process by raising him alongside his littermates, parents, and visiting humans. It’s your job to continue this good work. Take him to doggy parks as much as you can and let him play and meet people. The crucial socialization period is 3 to 12 weeks. If he misses out on this training, there’s a high chance he’ll become overprotective and unruly.
Obedience training is important too. Do not tolerate him disobeying the rules because he’s a stubborn chap who will continue to push the boundaries. Taking him to professional puppy classes is a great idea. An obedience puppy course is not too expensive, and it can pay dividends in the long run. Plus, it doubles up as extra socialization!
Another top training tip from us is to leash train him as a puppy. He’s powerful enough as a pup as it is, but wait until he’s matured! He’ll sweep you off your feet if he tugs on the leash, so it’s important to teach him leash manners. Again, start young, and you’ll reap the benefits later on. Of course, you need to be strong and fit regardless. But it’ll make your walkies much more enjoyable. Investing in a sturdy harness is a great idea to distribute his weight safely too.
Like many giant dog breeds, the Neapolitan Mastiff is prone to various health issues exacerbated by his incredible weight. Plus, he has a relatively short life span, with an expected seven to nine-year lifetime. So, you need to take his health seriously and do all you can to keep him healthy. Keeping him fit with regular exercise, feeding the best nutrition, and keeping up to date with veterinary checks are important.
We have listed the most common Neo health concerns below. Reputable breeders will test for many of these conditions when possible. Although this list is not exhaustive, it is a great place to start your research as a Neo mom or dad. Learn about the conditions and the associated symptoms, so you know what to look out for.
Hip & Elbow Dysplasia
These joint conditions are the most common skeletal problems that affect large dog breeds. It can either be inherited from parents, so it is important to obtain good health score certificates from breeders. Or it can occur as a result of rapid and uneven bone growth as a pup. It will affect his mobility, and symptoms include painful movement, uneven gait, and struggling to sit, stand, and climb.
Eye concerns are common in many dog breeds. The most common eye conditions in the Neo are entropion, ectropion, and cherry eye. These all affect the eyelids and skin around the eye. Although it isn’t serious if treated early, it can be very painful and cause irreversible damage to his eyes. If the appearance of his eyes changes, take him to the vet for a checkup straightaway.
Like many giant breeds, the breed is susceptible to various cardiac concerns. The most common is cardiomyopathy. This occurs when the heart lining is abnormally thin and cannot contract normally. Symptoms include irregular heart rhythm, weakness, loss of appetite, depression, irregular breathing and coughing, and fainting. The earlier this is detected, the better it can be managed.
The average Neapolitan Mastiff will consume up to six cups of kibble every day. The amount you feed your Neo will be dependent on a host of factors. Including age, sex, weight, lifestyle, and the kibble that you choose. Always read the feeding instruction on the packaging to work out the optimum amount for your pooch.
This guy is prone to obesity, so it’s important to check his weight regularly using the scales. You might think your pooch is just extra rolly, but you need to know what’s going on underneath. Extra weight can lead to additional weight-related health conditions and put extra strain on his heart and joints. Be sure to switch him to a weight management kibble if you need to, and monitor his treat intake.
Always feed your Neo the best quality kibble you can afford because it’ll go a long way to keep him in the best condition. The food you feed him needs to be age-appropriate and designed for large dog breeds. This is especially important during puppyhood because it’ll control his bone growth. Which can decrease the development of skeletal problems such as joint dysplasia.
Like most large dogs, the Neo is at a higher risk of suffering from a condition known as gastric torsion. It is more commonly known as bloat, and although it doesn’t sound serious, it can be fatal in just 30 minutes. The exact causes aren’t known, but dogs who eat large meals immediately before or after exercise are at a higher risk of experiencing it. Feed him several smaller meals a day instead of one large meal.
A huge appeal of this giant breed is their relatively simple grooming regime. His short, shiny coat only needs brushing once a week throughout the year to keep him looking his best. He is also an average shedder throughout the year. The best brush to use is a rubber curry or bristle brush, and these will remove dead hair and spread his natural coat oils around.
He doesn’t need that much bathing, either. Wash him once every two to three months at the most. Never any more than this because of his sensitive skin and folds. When washing him, be sure to get into all of his creases to remove any sweat, grime, or bacteria. Use a gentle doggy-specific shampoo unless he needs a medicated product prescribed by your vet. It’s just as important to rinse and dry between each fold thoroughly because dampness and suds can cause infections.
Keep his eyes and inner ears clean to prevent infection; use a damp, clean cloth several times a week. Clip his nails as and when you can hear them tapping on the floor. Brush his teeth weekly with doggy toothpaste. It’s best practice to get your Neo used to his grooming schedule from a puppy. Because it could be a mammoth task if he doesn’t enjoy it. Doggy drool is part of the Neo owning course, so wipe stations around the home are handy.
Breeders & Puppy Costs
The Neapolitan Mastiff is a rare dog breed in America. So, depending on where you live, it’s likely that you will need to travel to find a reputable breeder. It’s important to complete your research before committing to a breeder. A great place to start your search is on the AKC’s Neapolitan Mastiff breeder page. Alternatively, ask your vet as they may be able to recommend one.
Responsible breeders will do everything they can to promote the health of the breed overall. They do this by producing the healthiest pups by screening their parents for relevant health concerns. They’ll also take care of all their medical puppy needs and begin the socialization process. Giving your pup the best start in life. Always meet the pups in person, and it’s important to feel comfortable with the breeder and process.
The average starting price of a Neapolitan puppy from a responsible breeder is around $1,500. Additional puppy costs should also be considered, including puppy-proofing your home and buying all the things puppies need. Plus, this heavyweight hound needs lots of food over his lifetime and everything in XXL. He’s not the cheapest dog to care for, so you need to consider this carefully.
A poor-quality breeder or puppy mill will lure you in with low puppy prices. Then, they’ll pressure you into making a sale and refuse you to meet the pups in their home environment. Often, they’ll neglect the basic needs of a puppy, causing poor health and unsocialized pups. Sadly, pet stores often source their pups from irresponsible breeders, so avoid these too.
Rescues & Shelters
Buying a brand new puppy from a breeder is not the best option for every family, and there are many reasons for this. If you aren’t looking for a puppy, you should consider adopting rather than shopping. Sadly, many families take these guys on, not knowing how much goes into taking care of one. So, there are a few Neos about waiting for their forever homes.
You should head out to your local shelters to see if there are any Neos there. Speak to the staff too. Not only can they take you through the adoption process, but they might also be able to locate a Neo in a surrounding area. Alternatively, check out the Mastino Rescue Inc website. They have Neapolitan Mastiff dedicated rescue shelters in most states throughout the country.
As Family Pets
- The Neapolitan Mastiff is a true gentle giant in every sense of the word.
- He is a total sweetheart but a guard dog by nature.
- His appearance alone is enough to put intruders off.
- With his family, he is a big softie (literally!) who loves to snuggle.
- He is aloof with strangers but doesn’t bark all that much.
- This is a headstrong and dominant dog breed.
- Experience with stubborn breeds is a must to get the best out of your pup.
- He can live with other dogs if raised with them. Otherwise, he prefers to be a solo pup.
- This breed needs a large home, and preferably a family with older children only.
- He can be very lazy, but he must get at least 30 minutes of exercise every day.
- Neos will never be fully obedient thanks to their stubborn streak.
- He is a very drooly dog thanks to his pendulum jowls.
- Be prepared for the never-ending doggy drool!
- He is also a greedy pup and will eat anything and everything in sight.
One thing is for sure, the Neapolitan Mastiff is a huge canine. But his heart is as big as his head, which says a lot! Those who can offer the Neo everything that he needs will find the loveliest pup imaginable. He needs a dedicated and experienced owner, lots of room, and a loving family, as well as his basic doggy needs.
If you can look past his extreme petulance and doggy drool, you’ll probably never be without a Neo again! Your own taste of Italy will provide the best canine companionship, and nothing or no one will bother you ever again!