Neapolitan Mastiff Dog Breed information and care

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Neapolitan Mastiff
Neapolitan Mastiff

Though their large size can be intimidating, the Neapolitan mastiff dog breed is a gentle giant that makes an excellent family pet. These dogs love their families unconditionally but are wary of strangers. There is no doubt these dogs will protect you from an intruder, as their fearless and protective attitude is sure to frighten any unwanted visitors.

In general, Neapolitan mastiffs are quite low-maintenance, easy-going pets. Like all pets, these huge dogs have their quirks.

Breed Overview




24 to 31 inches


110 to 150 pounds

Coat and Color

Neapolitan mastiffs can appear black, blue, mahogany, and tawny in color. They may also have a brindle pattern on their short coat.

Life Expectancy

7 to 9 years

Characteristics of the Neapolitan Mastiff

Affection LevelHigh
Exercise NeedsMedium
Energy LevelLow
Tendency to BarkLow
Amount of SheddingMedium
Neapolitan Mastiff

History of the Neapolitan Mastiff

Tales and images of the Neapolitan mastiff date back as early as 700 B.C. In fact, you can thank Alexander the Great for their great reverence and good looks. In the fourth century B.C., he crossed his famous giant war dogs with short-haired Indian dogs to create a breed known as the molossus, which he used in battle.

black and tan short coat medium sized dog
black and tan short coat medium sized dog

The Romans took note and later adopted the molossus breed for their own use in combat and hunting and eventually crossed them with other large breeds to create an even bigger and intimidating canine: the mastino.

The mastino was selectively bred by farmers in southern Italy to develop a breed large in size with loose, saggy skin and a smooth coat. In their selective breeding, they also aimed to develop a dog that was more family-friendly than the mastino, while still being a top-notch guard dog and protector. This breed became known as the Neapolitan mastiff, named after its origin city of Naples.

The dog soon became a national treasure in Italy and six of them were reportedly shown in the first dog show in Naples in 1946. Italian painter Piero Scanziani drafted the breed standard in 1948 and the Italian Kennel Club officially recognized the breed the following year.

The breed spread throughout Europe in the 1970s and soon made its way to America. The United States Neapolitan Mastiff Club became the primary register for the breed in the 1990s and the American Kennel Club officially accepted the Neapolitan mastiff into the Working Group in 2004.

brown white and black beagle on green grass during daytime
brown white and black beagle on green grass during daytime

Neapolitan Mastiff Care

While Neapolitan mastiffs can be couch potatoes, you should still walk yours at least twice daily. They do not require a lot of exercise, but regular walks are crucial for managing weight and joint health.

As puppies, this big breed is a different story. Neapolitan mastiff puppies are generally energetic and playful, but it is up to you to know when enough is enough. Because their bones are so big, joints can be easily damaged. To prevent this, limit your puppy’s running and jumping activity and make sure they do not climb up stairs too quickly. Keep an eye on them, especially in warm weather as they are prone to overheating, and stop play before your pup gets too tired.

Training your Neapolitan mastiff should begin as soon as possible, preferably during puppyhood. As they get older, individuals can become stubborn and difficult to train, so it is important to get on top of things at an early age.

Because they are wary of strangers and naturally suspicious of outsiders, socialization training is key. Take your Neapolitan mastiff to public spaces like the park or a neighborhood cafe on a regular basis, so he or she can learn how to welcome guests appropriately and distinguish between friend and foe.

siberian husky puppy lying on the ground
siberian husky puppy lying on the ground

Neapolitan mastiffs are not responsive to negative reinforcement or punishment. Instead, they respond well to lots of love and treats to reward any good behavior during training. The same is true during grooming—treat them with love when they resist bath time.

Enormous, muscular, and wrinkly, the Neapolitan mastiff seems like a challenge to keep clean. Weekly brushing will make things easier by keeping their coat clean and managing shedding. With regular brushing, you can keep baths on an as-needed basis. Just make sure to wipe their wrinkles down—and dry them completely—on a daily basis to remove any dirt or other unwanted debris.

Regular nail trimming, ear cleaning, and teeth brushing will also enhance your Neapolitan mastiff’s overall health and wellbeing. And do not forget to keep a slobber rag handy.

Neapolitan Mastiff puppy
Neapolitan Mastiff Puppy
Neapolitan Mastiff
Neapolitan Mastiff

Common Health Problems

The Neopolitan mastiff is susceptible to several ailments:

long-coated brown dog
long-coated brown dog

Joint health is a concern for Neapolitan mastiffs due to their large size. With all of their extra skin and big muscles, their joints are carrying a lot of weight. When assessing your dog’s health, make sure to ask your vet for a hip and elbow evaluation.

Also, deep-chested dogs are prone to getting a condition called bloat, which happens when they eat or drink too quickly. Their stomach can twist and fill with gas, which can sometimes rupture their stomach or cause damage to other organs. Bloat can be prevented by keeping feeding portions small and frequent or using a “slow feed” food bowl.

neapolitan mastiffs as pets illustration
Neapolitan Mastiffs As Pets Illustration

Diet and Nutrition

The nutrition requirements of a Neapolitan mastiff are not very different than those of other pets. They should be fed a high-quality diet and provided fresh water at all times.
To find a quality dog food, check the first ingredient. The healthiest foods list a protein source, like chicken or beef, first. Avoid foods with lots of fillers like animal by-products and pulp that lack essential nutrients. Natural, whole ingredients are best for your dog’s digestive system.

According to the American Kennel Club, experienced Neapolitan mastiff breeders recommend food that is slightly higher in fat and lower in protein, especially for younger dogs who grow rapidly. Discuss any diet and nutrition concerns with your veterinarian.

Best Giant Dog Breeds for People Who Want Impressive Pets
grayscale photo of short coated dog
grayscale photo of short coated dog
  • Loyal, protective guard dog

  • Mellow, gentle with its family

  • Does not require too much exercise

  • Prone to joint disease due to its large size

  • May become stubborn and difficult to train with age

  • Wrinkles need regular cleaning of dirt and debris

Where to Buy or Adopt a Neopolitan Mastiff

After reading up on the Neopolitan mastiff, and you feel that your lifestyle correlates with this breed’s traits, then start your search. Your best bet is to look up the national breed club for Neopolitan mastiffs or your local breed club. Resources to explore:

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