Though the Neapolitan Mastiff is intimidating and somewhat domineering, the supersized breed is also loving and devoted to their families. Neapolitan Mastiffs are the descendants of ancient dogs who originated in Tibet thousands of years ago, and later became war dogs of the Roman Empire. Neos will do what it takes to keep intruders out of their territory and away from their people.
Neapolitan Mastiffs draw attention with their massive size, the loose skin over their entire bodies, deep wrinkles on their faces, and pendulous jowls. Also commonly known as Mastinos, the breed moves with a lumbering stride that can be surprisingly quick when needed. They require a few long walks each day to stay healthy, but their favorite activity is relaxing with their family at home or out in the yard.
Neapolitan Mastiffs are also known as Mastino and Mastino Napoletano. Their name is often shortened to Neo.
Neapolitan Mastiffs have a short, smooth, dense coat that is uniform and no longer than one inch, over their entire body. Coat colors are gray, black, tawny and mahogany. There may be brindling mixed in with all the colors, as well as minimal solid white markings.
Average Height: 24-31 inches
Male: 150 pounds
Female: 110 pounds
Breed Standard & History
Neos are large, stocky dogs with loose skin over their entire body, and deep, abundant wrinkles on their massive head. Their facial folds always include a wrinkle from the outer corner of their eyes to their heavy dewlap, and from their lower lids to the outside of their lips. Neapolitan Mastiffs have short, thick-set necks, and they are well muscled through their chest and legs. Their colossal frame has a distinctly rectangular silhouette and leaves the overall impression of great strength. The Neo’s demeanor is calm and watchful, and the breed is always at the ready to protect their people.
The ancestors of Neapolitan Mastiffs date back thousands of years. Prized as protectors and war dogs, the large canines developed into different breeds across Asia and Europe. Neos originated in Naples, Italy, where they were bred as devoted companions and powerful guard dogs. Through crossbreeding, they developed the thick, loose skin that served to protect them during attacks. Neapolitan Mastiffs drew attention beyond the Naples region in the mid-20th century. They likely first landed on American soil alongside Italian immigrants, but the first club for the breed wasn't established in the US until 1973. The American Kennel Club (AKC) officially recognized Neos in 2004.
AKC Breed Category
Neapolitan Mastiffs are two very big dogs in one. With strangers they are wary and forbidding. But with family and those with whom they’re familiar, they are gentle, calm, and even-tempered. They are devoted to the people they consider part of their pack. Though they are highly protective and watchful, they don’t go on the attack unless there is a clear threat. Because Neos are also stubborn and independent, training from an early age is important so they don’t appoint themselves Canine in Chief.
Are Neapolitan Mastiffs Good with Kids? Neapolitan Mastiffs love all members of their family, large and small. However, he is such a massive dog, he shouldn't live with young kids whom he may knock over or step on unintentionally.
(Note: Every dog has a unique personality and distinct life experiences that affect his disposition. As a rule, adults should always supervise playdates between kids and their four-legged friends.)
Are Neapolitan Mastiffs Good with Other Pets? When socialized with other pets from an early age, most Neapolitan Mastiffs will accept them as part of the family. However, some Neos won’t be able to live peaceably with other dogs because they are too domineering.
Neapolitan Mastiffs are known for being highly protective of their people and their territory.
Are Neapolitan Mastiffs Good Guard Dogs? Neos make excellent guard dogs and watchdogs. Their size and deep bark is enough to make most wrongdoers reconsider their nefarious plans. This dog does not go on the offensive without just cause, but will protect his family and property when the situation demands it.
Neapolitan Mastiffs are low-energy dogs and will slip towards laziness if allowed.
- This is a large breed that needs room to stretch in the house and the yard.
- They are ungainly, especially as puppies.
- Strong-willed and independent, Neos need consistent training so they are manageable.
- Neos may be aggressive towards dogs they don't know; socialization with other dogs from an early age helps correct this problem.
- They require experienced owners who set firm, consistent boundaries.
- They don't like being left alone and are prone to separation anxiety.
- Neos tend to be lazy, which can lead to canine obesity.
- Messy and noisy, Neos are known to drool, snort, and grunt, and make other unpleasant noises.
- They're not suitable for houses with young children.
- They tend towards destructive behaviors when they get bored, so a chew-proof dog bed is recommended.
- They may want to crawl into your lap—set boundaries so no one gets smooshed.
Neapolitan Mastiffs should live indoors as members of the family. Large and a bit clumsy, they wreak less havoc when they have some room to move around. Still, they can adjust to a big apartment if they are taken out frequently for exercise. Neos are moderate shedders, so fur around the house is not a major issue. They do produce a significant volume of slobber and drool, so keep a towel handy to wipe their jowls throughout the day.
Neos are hearty and comfortable outdoors in most weather conditions. They shouldn't be left outside on their own for long, however, because they will get into mischief when bored. Make playtime and lengthy walks a part of their daily schedule; Neos will gladly become sedentary if given the chance, and are prone to obesity.
To keep your Neo fit and healthy, make exercising, playing, and walking for an hour or more part of his daily routine. They won't be gung ho about dog sports, but it's a good idea to sign them up to counteract their couch potato leanings.
Neapolitan Mastiffs have the energy for long walks and some cavorting in the yard. They will often choose to lay in the shade instead, however, so don't let that be an option for the entire day.
Activity distance rating
- Running Miles: This lumbering dog is not a good distance running companion. Neos may jog with you for half a mile or so, but they'll balk if you try to go farther.
- Hiking Miles: A bit wary of strange people and dogs, Neapolitan Mastiffs are not always peaceful hiking buddies. If you want to hike with your Neo, train him on the trail from an early age. If he adjusts well to passing other hikers and the sights and sounds of the woods, he can hike for a few miles.
Generally, this breed requires about four to six cups of good quality dry dog food each day, given in two meals. This amount will vary, however, based upon your Neo's activity level and age. Talk with your veterinarian about the optimal diet and quantity of food for your Neapolitan Mastiff.
Neos need company. They do not enjoy spending time alone and may develop separation anxiety. Don’t get a Neapolitan Mastiff if you must leave him on his own for hours on end. You can, however, leave him alone for short stretches of time, ideally crated with a favorite dog toy or a puzzle toy to keep him occupied.
Health and Grooming
The short-coated Neo benefits from brushing once or twice a week, and bathing once a month or when he gets dirty. The folds on his face and body need daily care, however. Wash and dry his wrinkles at least once a day to prevent dirt buildup that can lead to skin fold dermatitis and infection. Wash your Neo's ears weekly with a gentle, dog-friendly cleanser to prevent dirt buildup. Brush his teeth several times a week, and trim his nails every month or so to prevent cracking.
Common Health Issues
In addition to a shorter life span, Neapolitan Mastiffs may have some breed-specific health concerns, including:
- Hip and elbow dysplasia
- Cherry eye, a condition in which the gland in the eye bulges
- Gastric torsion
- Demodectic mange, a skin condition caused by mites
- Fold dermatitis
You can minimize serious health concerns in a Neapolitan Mastiff by purchasing from a reputable breeder who engages in responsible breeding practices, and through screening for common diseases and conditions.
Neapolitan Mastiffs are smart, but they are also a bit lazy and stubborn, which makes training a challenge. Neos require a consistent and firm approach to training that incorporates an abundance of positive reinforcement and dog treats.
Advanced obedience training and dog sports training are advisable for Neos. Continuing education and activity will ensure they don't forget their manners and indulge their slugabed side.
Sporting Dog Training
Neapolitan Mastiffs are not natural prospects for field training.
Here are a few commonly asked questions about Neapolitan Mastiffs.
No. While Neapolitan Mastiffs don't shed heavily, this gigantic breed has a lot of fur and they create plenty of pet dander—the primary cause of pet-related allergies. Daily brushing can help manage the issue but won't result in a hypoallergenic dog.
Neapolitan Mastiffs are more standoffish than they are aggressive with people they don't know. If they weren't properly socialized as pups, they can be aggressive towards other dogs. But for the most part, Neos stand their ground and won't go on the offensive unless clearly provoked or they sense immediate danger to themselves or their family.
Neapolitan Mastiffs are not strong swimmers. They may be able to doggy paddle for a minute, but they are so stout and heavy that swimming can be a struggle. Neos do enjoy playing in water where they can comfortably stand. Always supervise your Neapolitan Mastiff closely when you're near water.