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Neapolitan Mastiff Temperament – The Good and the Not So Good Revealed

Some of the Neapolitan Mastiff temperament traits and personality is not for the faint of heart.

You should probably hold off on owning this dog breed if you’re new to the game.

The main reason is that you have to be willing to put a lot of work into her. You’ll essentially be domesticating her from the get-go.

The Neapolitan Mastiff protective temperament makes her naturally distrustful of strangers.

Other dogs may be more willing to accept strangers or to drop their defenses.

Not the Neapolitan Mastiff.

When it comes to protecting their owners, the Neapolitan is not a dog to mess around.

He takes guard duty very seriously and will do whatever it takes to keep his owners safe from harm. That's great to know and any owner will want those characteristics, but it comes with significant responsibility.

According to the  American Kennel Club Neos are “working dogs”. Other dogs that fit into the “working” category are the Anatolian Shepherd Dog, the Doberman Pinscher, and the Rottweiler.

Let’s take a look at some of the qualities that make up the Neapolitan Mastiff temperament. You’ll see why an extraordinary amount of patience and dedication goes into training this dog.

Importantly, you’ll see why most of their good qualities come, unfortunately, with a negative twist.

Neapolitan Mastiff Temperament Traits

1. The Protective Neapolitan Mastiff Temperament

Above all else, the Neo is extremely protective.  She is a fearless dog, and she prefers to be inside the home, keeping a watchful eye on her family. Though she would probably do just as well outside, guarding the exterior of the house.

Something to be aware of is the importance of training your Neo to be around children. If the Neo is not familiar with small children, she may see them as a threat to her family. It is crucial that you socialize her with children as early and as often as possible.

Some folks make the mistake of thinking they’re in the clear because they trained their Neapolitan to be good with their own kids. However, this is not enough. If your child has a friend over for a visit, this could be all it takes to ramp up the Neapolitan’s threat senses all over again.

The best way to combat this is to have your Neapolitan around as many different people, children, and animals as possible – and as early as possible. Do this regularly over the course of the dog’s entire life. This is an ongoing process that you must not neglect.

2. The Obedient Neapolitan Mastiff Temperament

Because of the Neo’s intense sense of protection, you don’t have to worry as much about getting her to listen to you. She is willing to do whatever she has to do to please you. This includes laying her own life on the line, if it means keeping her family safe and happy.

3. The Stubborn Neapolitan Mastiff Temperament

The Neo is a very smart dog. Unfortunately, this personality trait can also lead to stubbornness, since she has more of a tendency to think for herself. 

 For example, her intense drive to protect her family can make her stubborn to any commands that suggest she do anything otherwise.

4. The Fearless Neapolitan Mastiff Temperament

The Neo is not a barker.  He will not bark just because a stray leaf blows next to him or a car honks outside. He’ll save his barks for when he feels it really matters or for when he’s provoked.

Fierce Neapolitan Mastiff Charging in Snow| DogTemperament.com

In fact, the Neapolitan would rather sneak up on an intruder than give the intruder any inclination that she’s onto him. And, considering the size of this dog, she is definitely not one you want sneaking up on you anytime soon.

Just to put into perspective the size of this dog:

  • Adult males typically measure between 26 and 31 inches tall, and weigh between 130 and 155 lbs.
  • Female Neos are, on average, 24 to 29 inches tall and weigh between 110 and 130 lbs.

Another interesting fact is that the Neo has a high tolerance for pain. This is because of the fighting background from which she comes, as well as the fact that her skin is loose on her body.

For this reason, you’ll want to check her routinely for any potential health problems. The Neapolitan may not necessarily behave differently if she’s ill or in pain.

5. The Dominant Neapolitan Mastiff Temperament

With some breeds, you can use “dominance” training, or assert yourself in the “alpha” role. However, this won’t work with the Neapolitan. 

The Neapolitan is a smart dog, and she fully comprehends that you are all bark and no bite; that is, you can’t physically dominate her, and she knows it. That’s the problem with trying to train a dog that is as tall as an adult human!

Black Neapolitan Mastiff in the Woods| DogTemperament.com

6. The Trainable Neapolitan Mastiff Temperament

The Neapolitan is very easy to train because she learns quickly. This, however, can be both a blessing and a curse. Mentioned earlier, in order to properly accept strangers, you must socialize the Neapolitan as often as possible. The problem with this, of course, is the idea of meeting strangers to begin with. She won’t exactly be accepting of them at first.

Not socializing your Neapolitan is more serious than just having a shy dog on your hands. You could actually turn her into a more aggressive dog this way, and that goes for both human strangers and other animals.

As noted above, a common training strategy is to start socializing your Neapolitan early and continue socializing her throughout the entirety of her life.

And while we’re on the topic of training, you definitely want to get plenty of quality training in while the dog is still young. This is because once the Neo reaches the age of 3 or 4 years old, she is already set in her ways and laid back. You might still be able to “teach this old dog new tricks,” but it will be a lot harder.

Think Twice Before Settling on a Neapolitan Mastiff

You must be an experienced dog owner and have a passion for Neapolitans before taking home one of these dogs. The Neapolitan Mastiff temperament can make her simultaneously the best and worst dog you will ever own.

Neapolitan Mastiff vs. Cane Corso

People often compare the Neapolitan Mastiff to the Cane Corso, and it’s easy to understand why. Both dogs are muscular dogs with hunter backgrounds, and both dogs require early and often socialization.

The Cane Corso, however, requires more exercise than the Neo. The Cane Corso also doesn’t drool, while the Neo does.

The Cane Corso is also less susceptible to heat stroke and loves the warmth, while the Neo prefers the cold.

A Brief History of the Neapolitan Mastiff Breed

After World War II, the Neapolitan Mastiff was all but extinct. After the war, Italian painter Piero Scanziani saved the breed by setting up a kennel where breeders could evolve the Mastiffs in Italy at that time into a formal breed.

Hunters then went on to use the Neapolitan Mastiff as a bait dog. Animals that the hulking Neapolitan Mastiff could successfully bait included bears, bulls, and jaguars.


Grooming the Neapolitan Mastiff is no big deal at all. Because she has a short coat, you only really need to give her the occasional bath to keep her looking her best.

Check her eyes and ears regularly and clean them when dirty with a dampened cloth or paper towel. She’s a drooler too, so be sure to keep a towel on hand to keep her – and you – dry after feeding time.

The breed standard for the Neapolitan Mastiff’s colors includes black, blue, brindle, tawny, and mahogany.


Because the Neapolitan Mastiff is such a large dog, you may think you need to go over the top with exercise, but actually, the opposite is true. She overheats easily, so don’t encourage her to overdo it.

Even more serious, though, is that she can hurt her joints if she exerts herself too much. She can also hurt herself if she overdoes it going up and down the stairs.

When she’s still a puppy, it’s up to you to call “time,” as she will want to play long after her body is telling her it’s time to stop.

You should also refrain from playing tug-of-war with her, or play-wrestling with her. She will eventually learn she is stronger than you, and she may try to use that power to overcome you.

Top Neapolitan Mastiff Mixes

Who can resist a good mixed breed dog, especially when they come with such cleverly thought-up names? Plus – bonus – you are more likely to adopt a dog sooner if you tell the shelter you are open to a mixed breed.

Here are some of the more common Neapolitan Mastiff mixes out there:

Neapolitan Mastiff: Staying Healthy

Most Neapolitan Mastiffs are healthy dogs, but that doesn’t mean you don’t need to watch your dog for potential signs of health issues. Some of the more common ones to affect the Neo include:

The Neapolitan Mastiff's life expectancy is between 8 and 10 years.

Note: Don't let the many issues above scare you. The best way to approach health problems is to prevent them in the first place. The Ultimate Guide to Dog Health is a great place to start. Get a copy to keep at home. It will help you prevent the painful health issues that can plague your lovely Canaan pet from expressing his winning personality and maximizing his life expentancy.

Finding the Perfect Neapolitan Mastiff

If you’re sure, after all you’ve read, that you’d like to add a Neapolitan Mastiff puppy to your family, then you may be wondering where to start.

You can find a Neapolitan Mastiff for sale either through a breeder or up for adoption at your local animal shelter.

Neapolitan Mastiff Puppies for Sale

The average Neapolitan Mastiff price can be anywhere from $600 to $4,000! It all depends on the dog’s lineage and how much the breeder decides to charge.

For instance, especially with this breed, if the breeder put a lot of work into socializing and training the dog, he or she may charge more. It’s kind of like the breeder gift-wrapped the Neo for you by handing you a fully-trained dog.

Neapolitan Mastiff Adoption and Rescue

If you want to adopt a Neapolitan Mastiff puppy, you may be able to find one at your local rescue organization or adoption center.

Benefits to adopting a Neapolitan Mastiff include:

  • Giving a dog a home, who might otherwise never find one.
  • Taking home a dog whom the shelter has trained to make her more adoptable.
  • Bypassing the puppy stage, thereby avoiding chewing and other destructive behavior.

However, with this breed especially, you have to be very careful if you’re adopting an older dog. Because early socialization is so important with this breed, you must be sure that the dog you are adopting has received the utmost in training and that she knows her place.

You can even spend time with the dog at the shelter before you bring her home. Volunteer to take her out for walks and play with her to get a feel for her overall personality.

Neapolitan Mastiff Breeders

If you’re buying a Neapolitan Mastiff from a breeder, it’s kind of like buying a new car. You don’t have to worry as much about the dog’s training because you are going to be doing all of that when you bring her home.

However, you can, and should, still ask about how often the breeder has socialized the dog with other people and animals. You can also inspect the breeder’s home to make sure the dog is growing up in a clean and safe environment.

Also, don’t forget to consult social media for reviews on the breeder you’ve chosen. If there’s a negative story out there, someone is bound to post about it.

Conclusion: Why the Neapolitan Mastiff?

The Neapolitan Mastiff temperament is, quite simply, not for everyone. You must be able to put the time and work into this dog to make sure she receives proper socialization and knows you as her alpha.

This is the type of dog who is smart enough to know that she overpowers you, and she will use that to her benefit if you let her. Take her for frequent walks and to the dog park to normalize her with as many people and animals as possible.

Just don’t over-exercise her, not as a puppy nor as an adult, this can do some serious damage to her limbs and joints.