ALL DOG BREED PROFILES

Fila Brasileiro: Warning! Beware of Dog!

Fila Brasileiro standing in the field
John Walton
Written by John Walton

We often see signs put up on fences that denote “Warning! Beware of Dog!” If you decide to adopt a Fila Brasileiro, then you will definitely want to put up one of those signs. The Fila Brasileiro act like cuddly teddy bears toward their family, but when it comes to strangers, no amount of socialization will open them up. Want to know what other traits this excellent guard dog exhibits? Read on.

The Fila Brasileiro is a dog who is worth your time. These dogs are known for their loyalty and over-protectiveness of their family and territory. You will love them for their intense loyalty and extreme bravery. This massive Brazilian breed is beloved across its native country for its loyalty and courage.

We have summarized all that you need to know about this dog. By first learning about the Fila’s personality, history, health concerns, and care features among other essential information, you will be able to make an informed decision about whether or not to adopt a Fila.

Breed Characteristics

two Fila Brasileiro dogs standing together

  • Adaptability: Good; the dog can withstand different conditions, and he/she will be comfortable outdoors with a proper shelter

  • Trainability: Moderate; this dog requires the trainer to establish leadership at an early age. However, the dog will respond well to treats and praises

  • Health and Grooming: Moderate; the dog is prone to gassiness and joint problems; shedding is average

  • All Around Friendliness: Good; a very loyal dog to the family; however, this dog is intolerant of strangers

  • Exercise Needs: High; the Fila needs plenty of exercises; although some do appear to be lazy, they need to be taken for long daily walks

Dog Breed GroupWorking Dogs
Height Males: 26-30 inches
Females: 24-28 inches
WeightMales: 90-110 pounds
Females: 88-90 pounds
Lifespan10 - 12 years

The Fila Brasileiro is usually simply known as the Fila. It is a breed known for its loyalty especially toward its owner and family. The Brazilians have even coined a saying after the dog’s loyalty that says “as loyal as a Fila.” The Fila is also known for its dislike toward strangers.

The Fila is a large dog. They can weigh a massive 100 pounds or more. Some of them are powerful enough to fight a jaguar. The dog most likely originated in the Azores Islands and was used as a watchdog for large cattle ranches and as a hunter for large game.

These dogs’ coats come in different colors including fawn, black and brindled; most of them have white patches. Their coat is smooth, and since they are average shedders, they require minimal brushing—maybe once every week—with a bristle brush to keep the coat looking healthy.

This is not the best dog for apartments or busy homes. They require a big open space where they can run and play around, and they need to get out for exercises to prevent aggression and frustrations. They also need to be kept busy as they are known to be big chewers when bored.

The Fila needs proper socialization at an early age to avoid aggression later in life. They also need an experienced and authoritative owner. The owner should be aware of pack dynamics as the dog has dominance issues and can be aggressive unless handled by a confident and consistence owner.

Additionally, they have a mind of their own and require a firm and consistence trainer. The trainer should never be harsh on them as they will not hesitate to bite in case they feel threatened. Praises and treats work best for the dog during training.

See Also: The Most Friendly Dogs

These dogs tend to have a problem with bloating. To avoid gassiness, it is best to give the dog two or three meals a day rather than one big meal. A natural, raw diet can also reduce the gassiness. The dog is also known to suffer from large breed health problems including hip dysplasia and elbow dysplasia.

Main Highlights

Fila Brasileiro puppy

  • Also known as the Brazilian Mastiff, Brazilian Molosser, or Cão de Fila.

  • This Brazilian breed is known for its loyalty to owners and family.

  • These dogs are known for their intolerance toward strangers. No amount of socialization will make them friendly toward strangers.

  • An intelligent and headstrong dog, the Fila requires a trainer who can guide him/her with consistency and firmness. Praises or the use of treats to teach the dog are effective.

  • The dog can do a whole lot of damage when left idle for too long. They are known to chew, dig, and perform other destructive behaviors. They, therefore, need to be kept busy with exercise and play.

  • Not the best apartment dog as the Fila requires an active lifestyle and an open space to run.

  • The Fila is known to droll and slobber a lot especially after a meal or a drink.

  • Prone to most large breed problems such as bloating, hip dysplasia (38%), and elbow dysplasia (32%).

  • The Fila requires an experienced owner who understands pack dynamics.

  • The Fila is an average shedder with a smooth coat that requires a brush once a week to get rid of dead hair.

  • The Fila has an average litter size of 4 to 10 puppies.

  • The dog has a large prey drive and needs to leashed or enclosed in a fenced area when alone.

Breed History

Fila Brasileiro walking near water

The Fila is a breed which originated in Brazil more than 400 years ago. The dog’s name came from the Portuguese word filar which means “to hold secure.” The Fila is the national dog of Brazil.

The Fila was developed to work in large, isolated, and dangerous cattle ranches. They were also used as hunting dogs. The dog would guard the European estates, hunt big game, and also guard livestock. The dog was also used to track slaves who ran away from their plantation owners.

Some breeders believe that the breed is a descendant of the European colonialists’ dogs that came to herd the European cattle in their colonies. The dog is said to have Bloodhound, Press Cairo from Azore Islands, and English Mastiff ancestors.

Their Bloodhound ancestry can be seen from the Fila’s great tracking skill and loose skin. The dog’s courage, compact body, and alertness can be said to have originated from their Mastiff ancestors. They are known to grab their victim by the neck without hurting until the owner arrives.

The breed standard of the dog was developed in Brazil in the 1960s. The dog is recognized by the United Kennel Club and also by the American Kennel Club. The American Fila Brasileiro Club was formed in 1984, and the Fila Brasileiro Association in Texas was established in 1992.

These dogs are, however, banned in several countries including Australia, United Kingdom, Norway, Denmark, and New Zealand because of their size and their aggression toward strangers. Insurances in the United States can also cancel the homeowner’s policy of an owner who owns this dog.

Size

Fila Brasileiro standing

The Fila has strong bones and a rectangular body structure. This dog has a long muzzle and an unrivaled tracking ability just like other Bloodhounds. The pendulous upper lip gives the Fila a Mastiff appearance.

The dog has a thick neck that has a dewlap. The thick loose skin also forms notable dewlaps that can be seen on the abdomen and the chest. The back of the dog is straight and strong and rises to the dog’s hindquarters.

Female dogs are easy to differentiate from the males as they are much smaller—weighing 90 pounds or less compared to the males who weigh 100 or more pounds.

The Fila has a notable gait. They move their two legs on one side first followed by the movement of the other two legs when pacing. This causes a lateral movement of the hindquarters and the throat as the dog moves. When walking, the back end will be higher than the shoulders and the head, which results in a movement that has a rolling motion.

Most people mistake the Fila’s large size for laziness or clumsiness. However, this dog will be fierce when provoked and can attack without warning when feeling threatened. The Fila can move with great agility and speed.

Personality and Character

Fila Brasileiro playing with a shoe on grass

The Fila is a courageous and strong dog. They make the most loyal companions. A Fila will protect his/her owner without hesitation, and this trait is something inbuilt in the dog. Once the owner and family bond with the dog, a Fila will dedicate his/her life to the family.

They make excellent guard dogs due to their intolerance toward strangers and their natural characteristic to be protective of their owners. The Portuguese call the dog’s intolerance of strangers ojeriza, which means “distrust or dislike.”

The Fila is also a self-confident dog. These adaptable dogs will not feel distraught in a new environment and will always remain alert to strange noises. Additionally, this dog is always seeking his/her master’s company. The Fila needs a lot of attention from his/her family and isolating the dog can lead to destructive and aggressive behavior.

See Also: Separation Anxiety in Dogs

The dog can be calm and quite, but you should not mistake this calmness for weakness as the dog can turn into an aggressive protector in an instant.

These are working dogs and so require a lot of space to run around in. They are not recommended for those who live in apartments as their large size, activity levels, and noise are not ideal characteristics for apartment owners. They are also not recommended for families that have frequent visitors.

Health and Potential Problems

Fila Brasileiro lying on grass

This massive dog is prone to most health problems that frequently affect large dog breeds. If you want to take better care of your Fila, it is best if you know what can ail him or her. Below are a few health problems that are common in this breed.

#1: Bloat

Bloat, also referred to as volvulus or gastric dilatation, is usually very common among dogs that have deep narrow chests such as the Fila. Bloating causes the dog’s stomach to twist and to fill with gas. This twisting reduces the blood supply to your pet’s spleen and the stomach. The disease is fatal, and your dog can pass away in less than half an hour

The main symptoms in your dog may include heaving, an enlarged stomach, restlessness, or the dog may lie with his/her front feet down and the rear feet up like he/she is praying.

Take your dog to the vet immediately in case your dog shows such signs. Treatment might be in the form of surgery where the vet will treat the dog’s stomach to prevent future twisting.

See Also: Bloat in Dogs: What, Why, and How to Prevent

#2: Elbow and Hip Dysplasia

Your Fila runs a high risk of developing these conditions as they are some of the most common conditions in large dogs. Both the hip and the elbow may be affected by dysplasia. The joints in these areas develop improperly—leading to a painful condition that later results in arthritis.

You may notice your dog having difficulty getting up or lying down. Other symptoms include lameness, reluctance to exercise, and joint pain among others.

The vet will perform X-rays on your dog’s bones to prevent this condition early. However, in case your dog is already affected, surgery may be necessary to reduce the discomfort and pain.

Your vet might also recommend some form of therapy or medications if the case is not severe. However, it is essential to note that dogs that are overweight are more likely to suffer from this condition compared to slimmer dogs. It is important to keep your dog’s weight in check by giving him/her the right diet and taking the dog for his/her daily walks.

See Also: Best Joint Supplement for Dogs

#3: Lip-Fold Pyoderma

This is a skin condition that occurs in your Fila’s skin folds, especially along the lower jaw, because of the moisture from the skin folds. The infection is characterized by a reddened, smelly area due to bacteria or yeast buildup in the skin folds.

Your vet will give the dog some antibiotics, but in severe cases, surgery might be necessary to remove some of the skin folds.

#4: Dilated Cardiomyopathy

This is a life-threatening heart problem where your Fila’s heart will enlarge and become very weak—such that it is unable to pump blood to other body parts. This is a serious condition, and it should be treated early. Some symptoms include tiredness or weakness in your dog, fainting, coughs, and labored breathing.

The problem can be detected early if you take your dog for annual electric heart screening (ECG). The examinations should be done annually and should start as early as when your dog turns one year old.

The ECG or echocardiogram will detect any abnormal heart rhythms. If the condition is detected, it can be treated with medications or a diet supplement.

#5: Progressive Retinal Atrophy

This genetic disease is similar to retinitis pigmentosa in humans. The early symptoms include dilated pupils or night blindness that can start at three years of age. You can take your dog for screening using a genetic test that can detect if your dog carried the gene.

#6: Wobbler Syndrome

This is a genetic neurological problem that will cause a wobbly drunken gait in your dog. The condition is caused by the narrowing of your dog’s vertebrae that is found in the neck.

This vertebra pinches the dog’s spinal cord and nerves in the area. The nerves are unable to send the right signals to the dog’s brain, which causes him/her to not feel his/her feet.

Early signs include instability in the dog’s hind legs, falling, or stumbling. The problem can be treated using medication, exercises, neck braces, or even surgery.

Care Features

two Fila Brasileiro standing on road

This is a working dog that is ideal for an owner with an open space or a yard for the dog to play and run in. These dogs need physical and mental stimulation on a daily basis, and long walks can be very good for them. If left in isolation, they can become destructive—taking on chewing and digging when bored.

The dog needs socialization and training at an early age. Socialization should start within the first six months. This will encourage the dog to be calm in public. However, it is important to note that for a Fila, socialization will not make him/her friendly toward everyone although lack of socialization can lead to a very antisocial dog.

It is best to never leave your Fila alone with strangers. The dog should always be on a leash when outside the house and the owner should have a high fence and put up a warning of an aggressive dog for all passerby’s benefit.

Training will teach the Fila obedience. The training should be provided while the dog is still young. The trainer should understand the breed’s instinct and should never allow the dog to feel superior.

When these dogs live with humans, the owner and the family become their pack. The entire pack follows one leader, and it is essential for these dogs to know that their owner and other humans are higher up in order than they are. If the dog believes he/she is more powerful than their owner, they can turn into a very dangerous dog.

The dog needs a handler who is not afraid to show his/her authority. However, the trainer should never be harsh as the Fila can be very aggressive at the slightest provocation. Treats and praises are good motivations for the dog during training. Early training will ensure that the dog is not aggressive and does not have dominance issues as he/she matures.

This Fila is not for the average dog owner and needs someone who is experienced and understands the breed’s characteristics. The Fila needs someone with the ability to control them and one who is comfortable with an anti-social dog.

If you have relatives and friends visiting all the time, then maybe you should consider getting another breed for a pet. You must also be comfortable with having a fence and secure locks in your home if you have a Fila to make sure your dog won’t harm strangers.

See Also: Best Electric Dog Fence

Feeding Schedule

Fila Brasileiro head

An active working dog, the Fila requires good and high-quality dog food. However, since they are prone to gassiness, they should not be given human food. Natural foods are best to reduce bloating. Also, ensure that you give him/her a healthy diet to prevent obesity so there will be less pressure on the joints.

Owners are also advised to give the dog 2 or 3 meals daily rather than one large meal to reduce gassiness. A lot of clean water can also help in reducing bloating.

Most dog owners are surprised by the Fila’s slobbering and drooling. They can droll a lot especially after a drink or a meal, and when they shake their heads, they will leave a lot of saliva and slime on your clothes or the furniture.

Coat, Color, and Grooming

Fila Brasileiro in autumn wood

The dog has a smooth, short coat that is soft and dense. The dog’s typical colors include black, brindle, and fawn. The markings on these colors can be found on the dog’s chest, feet, and tail tip.

The dog may seem to shed little due to their short-haired coats, but you will most likely find hair on your clothes or furniture during the shedding season. Ensure you use a brush to remove dead hair from the dog’s coat.

Clean the dog’s teeth at least twice per week, and regularly clean the ears too to prevent infections.

Children and Other Pets Compatibility

The Fila is a natural protector. They love kids in their own family and will be very gentle and protective of the children. This is one of the many reasons why the dog makes a great family pet.

The breed is a pack dog. Although these dogs were not used in dog-fighting, modern breeds do show dog-to-dog aggression, and owners are advised not to keep the Fila with another dog especially if it is a small dog. Cats and other smaller animals may also not feel safe in the presence of a Fila.

On top of that, these dogs are known for their stranger intolerance, and this trait is what makes the dog such a perfect guard dog. They will be aggressive toward strangers, and they should always be leashed when you are expecting guests.

Wrap Up

two Fila Brasileiro puppies lying together

The Fila Brasileiro—also referred to as the Brazillian Mastiff—was developed to be a hunter and also a guard dog for ranches and large plantations. Today, this dog is well known as a fearless guardian of property and persons. This is a devoted family pet that is extremely loyal to his/her owner and family but can be hostile toward strangers.

The Fila needs an experienced owner who will be able to deal with their dominance and aggression issues. The dog’s distrust of strangers can make them a dangerous pet if they are not trained, socialized, and supervised.

If you are an apartment owner, we would also advise you against keeping this dog as they need a lot of physical and mental exercises, so they need a lot of space.

However, if you are up to the task and you are sure you can tame this giant, the dog will reward you excellently. They will be your devoted and loyal friend and will not hesitate to defend you and everything that is yours.

What experience do you have with the Fila? Would you adopt this dog? Why or why not? Give us your feedback and opinion in the comment section below. If you do decide to adopt this dog, we recommend that you check out our article on big dog names to find the perfect fit for your giant.

About the author
John Walton
John Walton

John Walton lives in Somerville, MA, with his two dogs, two sons, and very understanding mate. He is a Certified Pet Dog Trainer, a member of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants, a mentor trainer for the Animal Behavior College, an AKC Certified CGC Evaluator, and the Training Director for the New England Dog Training Club.

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