Neapolitan Mastiff

Neopolitan Mastiff dog breed
John Walton
Written by John Walton

The Neapolitan Mastiff’s massive size and steady gaze might intimidate most people, but those who are familiar with the breed know they are truly the biggest cuddle bug out there. However, misunderstanding their gentle side would be a grave mistake as they are not a suitable for the novice or the beginner owner. Their protective instinct runs deep and they will protect their property fearlessly, stopping at nothing to make sure their humans and home are safe and secure.

Despite their size, they make a suitable apartment dog as long as the housing is big enough to accommodate their lounging habits and allows them to sprawl out comfortably. A home with a fenced yard is ideal but they also need less exercise compared with other breeds and will find daily walks sufficient. Instead of running around, they prefer to relax and cuddle with or on their humans.

Breed characteristics

AdaptabilityBelow Average
TrainabilityAbove Average
Health and GroomingHigh
All Around FriendlinessAbove Average
Exercise NeedsBelow Average

Dog breed group: Working dogs
Height: 24-31 inches tall at the shoulder
Weight:110-200 lb.
Life span:8-10 years.

As the name says, they originated in Italy in the region of Naples and the breed is also referred to as Mastino or Mastini. Just to get an idea, the word “Mastiff” is derived from Latin where it means massive.

The breed is very intelligent and it’s known to have a mind of their own, coupled with their size, making them a strong minded dog. They will need a confident owner who has a natural air of authority and is familiar with the breed as well as plenty of patience. They will need clear boundaries that are set since puppy-hood and are consistently reinforced.

They don’t do well as a back yard dog and prefer to be with their families. However, they make excellent guard dogs and are a fairly quiet breed. The Mastiffs don’t bark without a good reason and when a good reason is given, they are known to sneak up on an unwelcome intruder prior to alerting the owner.

With proper socialization, they will get along with children and other pets, but are naturally vary of strangers.

Main Highlights
  • One of the most ancient dog breeds in the world, they are believed to be around since 5000 BCE.
  • Known as gentle giants, they are very loving and affectionate and are lap dogs in essence. Slightly unaware of their size.
  • The Neapolitan Mastiffs are known for their less than elegant habits such as snorting, sneezing, drooling, slobbering and passing gas.
  • The breed is famous for their guarding instincts. They are not naturally aggressive but intimidating enough to prevent anyone trespassing on their properties.
  • The Neapolitan Mastiff makes a great apartment dog due to its low energy level and quietness, as long as they have enough room for their huge frame.
  • The breed is more prone to bloat and obesity and can become quite lazy. They require proper diet for their size and daily walks.
  • Their wrinkles require frequent upkeep to prevent dirt collecting in them or moisture being trapped, causing skin infections.
  • They love all members of their family but tend to form a special bond with their favourite person.
  • They need to be properly socialized as they can become aggressive toward strangers without early socialization and loving guidance.
Breed History

This ancient breed was thought to be descendant from the Tibetan Mastiff, one of the oldest canine species in the world. The Tibetan Mastiffs are thought to be around since 5000 BCE and it is believed that the Mastiffs were brought from Asia to Europe by Alexander the Great around 300 BC.

The Neapolitan Mastiff originated in Italy in the area of Naples from which they derive their name. They were developed to be big dogs with a strong protective instincts to protects and guard their territory and people. The coat was designed to be loose to protect their vital organs in case of an attack or while they are on guard duty.

The breed was introduced in the United States in 1973, although some of the Italian immigrants might have brought them over as early as 1880.

They are especially famous for their protective instincts and are used extensively by the Italian police and army as well as farmers and other businesses to provide protection of their property and people.


This huge breed measures at 24-31 inches tall at the shoulder and weighs in at 110-200 lb. The females are generally smaller.

Personality and Character

The Neapolitan Mastiffs are big soft heart cuddle bugs and they do no bark or get aggressive without a good reason. They rather lounge around and love being with their families than running around. Although they love all the members of their families, they tend to form a special bond with their favourite human and follow them around everywhere they go. If you happen to be that person, prepare to have a 200 lb. shadow accompanying you around the house.

They are famous for their protective instincts and will guard their property and humans with their lives if it comes down to it. Their intimidating demeanour and deep bark will deter any unwelcome intruders.

They do need extensive socialization as puppies as they are naturally suspicious of strange people and dogs.

The breed is very intelligent and each individual has a mind of his own. They learn very quickly but the trainer needs to prove worthy to learn from. They don’t accept meek or unsure handlers and need a handler that can set clear and concise boundaries and reinforce them with a natural air of authority.

Obedience training is highly recommended but their training needs to be kept interesting as they become destructive when bored. Also, they are known for their slob manners such as drooling, slobbering, snorting, and flatulence.

Keep in mind that they are not aware of their size and essentially believe they are lap dogs, which might be cute when they are young but is potentially hazardous when they are fully grown for small children and pets.

Health and Potential Problems

The Neapolitan Mastiffs are known to be a sturdy breed. Like most large breeds, their life span is on the shorter scale and irresponsible breeding left the Neapolitan Mastiff vulnerable to health and temperament issues.

That’s why it is highly recommended to make sure the breeder or shelter understand and love the breed before getting a puppy. Reputable breeders or shelters usually make sure the puppy or dog receive a clean bill of health from the vet prior to the adoption or purchase.

Another thing to consider is that, due to their breeding and disposition, the Neapolitan Mastiff generally has a high pain tolerance. Sometimes the only way to tell something is amiss is behavioural changes. That’s why being in tune and knowing your dog or puppy will ensure the prompt diagnosis and treatment and might be even lifesaving at times.

Here are the health problems you should be aware of:

Progressive Retinal Atrophy- An eye condition that cause slow deterioration of the retina and results in limited vision or blindness.

  • Obesity- Due to their large size and low activity level, they are in risk of getting obese. It is important for them to have regular daily walks and proper dog food formulated especially for a large size breed.
  • Hip Dysplasia- Common issue among dogs, a condition in which the thigh bone doesn’t fit properly into the hip joint. It can be managed with medication for pain or surgery in severe cases.
  • Elbow Dysplasia- Common issue in large breeds. It is a hereditary condition which is caused by several different growth rates of the 3 bones that make up the elbow, resulting in lameness and discomfort. Can be treated by dietary adjustment for weight management or medication to manage pain, severe cases could be corrected with a surgery.
  • Cherry Eye- An eye condition which occurs when the gland in the 3rd eyelid bulges out. It can be repaired with a surgery.
  • Entropion- An eye disorder that causes the eyelid to roll inward, sometimes injuring or irritating the eye ball. May affect one or both eyes. Severe cases may be surgically corrected.
  • Ectropion- An eye disorder that causes the eyelid to sag or roll out, leaving the eye exposed. May cause infection or irritation of the eyeball. Severe cases may be surgically corrected.
  • Hypothyroidism- A condition which occurs because of the body’s inability to maintain proper thyroid hormone levels. Symptoms may be baldness, weight gain or dry skin. The condition can be managed with medication.
  • Bloat- A condition that is caused by trapped gas or air in the stomach, potentially making it twist on itself. The condition occurs when the dog or puppy drinks or eats too fast or is exercised extensively right after a meal. Bloat could be potentially life threatening without immediate vet intervention.
  • Fold Dermatitis- A skin condition that is caused by trapped moisture or friction in the skin folds. Symptoms may be sores, foul odour or redness. The condition is typically treated with antibiotics and ointments. Severe cases may be treated surgically. However, the condition can be avoided by proper care and maintenance of the coat.
  • Cardiomyopathy- A heart condition in which the heart muscle becomes thin and doesn’t function properly, eventually becoming enlarged. Symptoms may be weight loss, difficulty breathing, and weakness. Unfortunately, there is no known cure but diet, medication and rest can help managing the condition.
  • Demodicosis- A condition that occurs when a dog’s immune system is compromised or weaken and responds to the demodex mite that is passed down to puppies from their mother. It is thought of as a puppy disease and usually passes on its own, but might require vet intervention to prevent the condition from becoming severe. Symptoms may be red scaly skin and hair loss.

With proper diet, sufficient exercise and regular vet visits your loyal companion will remain by your side for years to come.

Care Features

Perhaps the most important thing when it comes to sharing your life with a Neapolitan Mastiff is proper socialization. It is critical to start as soon as you get the puppy or dog home. The breed is naturally suspicious of strangers and might prove a problem especially in a home with children. Friends might come for a visit and if the Mastiff wasn’t socialized properly, the situation might be dangerous as the breed is generally not aware of their size, and might feel the urge to protect their young children from their friends.

They need to be introduced to many different people and animals, environments and various scenarios to grow into a well-rounded dog.

Despite their size, they are very gentle and affectionate with children and will do well with other pets as long as they have been raised with them from a tender age.

They are a very intelligent breed but can be strong willed and independent. They respond very well to positive reinforcement, praise and treats.

They are not a suitable breed for the novice or inexperienced owner. The handler needs to be firm, consistent and clear in their commands with a natural air of authority. Clear rules need to be set and followed at all times. However, any harsh treatment or handling should be avoided as the Neapolitan Mastiff doesn’t respond well to it. They require gentle and loving guidance instead.

Their coat will require almost daily attention to keep the wrinkles clean and moisture free to prevent skin infections. The puppies are generally clumsy and busy, but grow up to be very mellow almost to the point of lazy adults.

They are sensitive to humidity and heat, and are better off in the shade or inside during the hot summer months.

Feeding Schedule

The Neapolitan Mastiff will benefit from 4-6 cups of high quality dog food, divided into 2 meals a day. It is best to purchase high quality, no fillers or grain, rich in meat protein and vitamins dog food. This will go a long way in feeding and nurturing your loyal companion. Each dog’s nutritional needs vary and depend on their age, size and activity level.

It is important to keep in mind that the Neapolitan Mastiff are prone to obesity and bloat. That’s why it is important to encourage them to moderately exercise every day taking daily walks and moderate play. It’s also important to feed them with a formula that was specifically designed for their size and health requirements.

Most pet stores carry special dishes designed to help prevent bloat, which is a condition that occurs when the dog eats or drinks too fast. Most large breeds are prone to bloat, but keeping in mind the condition will help to prevent the issue.

Coat, Color and Grooming

The coat is very thick but short and dense. Also, the coat is also very loose, designed specifically to protect the dog’s vital organs in case of an attack while they are on guard duties.

The body is generally covered in wrinkles and the common colours are grey, chocolate, black, or tawny. They are average shedders but the Neapolitan Mastiff’s coat requires special attention due to the wrinkles. They need to be brushed regularly and the wrinkles need to be cleaned frequently and make sure they are moisture free to avoid any skin conditions or infections which they are more prone to.

Children And Other Pets Compatibility

The key for a smooth interaction between children, other pets and the Neapolitan Mastiff is early socialization. The Neapolitan Mastiffs are very gentle and protective with their children but may have the urge to protect them from other children, especially if they appear to be roughhousing or play wrestling.

The Neapolitan Mastiffs are not aware of how big they are and their natural protective instinct coupled with their size might become an issue.

Toddlers might find the breed slightly overwhelming based on their size.

All things considered, the younger members of the family will find a gentle, caring and protective four legged best friend in the Neapolitan Mastiff. Still, as with all other breeds, interaction between the Neapolitan Mastiff and children should be supervised by an adult at all times. Children need to be taught respect and space when approaching any animal. Any tail or ear pulling should be discouraged immediately.

The Neapolitan Mastiffs are naturally suspicious of anything or anyone they are not familiar with. So, they will get along with other cats and dogs as long as they were raised with them and don’t mind being slobbered on.

The Neapolitan Mastiffs make a very good addition to any family. They are very loving and protective and love nothing more than to be around their families. Despite their size, they make a good apartment dog as long as they have enough room to sprawl around.

They are not naturally aggressive or barkers but their looks and size are enough to intimidate anyone. Despite that, they are a gentle, loving, big hearted breed who loves their humans deeply.

They prefer to hang out and observe the world around them instead of running and playing. The breed is most famous for their protective instinct and is mainly used around the world as guard dogs.

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.