Big dogs take a lot of time and investment, not to mention space, but they can also give you plenty back in return. This is certainly true of the Presa Canario, which is a Molosser-type dog breed. You might know this dog as a Canary Mastiff (or Perro de Presa Canario or Dogo Canario) due to where they originated in the Canary Islands which are part of Spain.
But would a Canary dog be the right mastiff dog for you? This guide is designed to answer some of the questions you might have surrounding this large dog breed, so you can figure out whether it’ll be the ideal addition to your household. Read on to discover more on this dog’s temperament, size, appetite and more.
What is a Presa Canario?
If you are looking for a “proper dog”, then a Presa Canario might be the right choice for you. They’re large, protective, and definitely won’t be just a lap dog in your household. It’s not by chance that this breed has gained a reputation for being just like a guard dog, although don’t be fooled into thinking that the temperament of each individual canine is exactly the same.
These mastiff type dogs are study and hardworking, but a well-bred pup of this breed can also be trained to be calm and loving in the family home, provided they do not live with other pets. In some parts of the United States, this breed has been used for dog fighting, which is why they are often a misrepresented dog.
The History of the Canary Mastiff
The Perro de Presa Canario has grown in popularity further than its country (or islands) of origin, but how did it become a well-loved (although sometimes misunderstood) big dog in households in North America, Europe, and elsewhere around the world? Sadly, the exact origins are not fully known, but there have been some educated guesses made which provide a good indication at the very least.
The origin of the Presa Canario dog
We know that the Presa Canario was an export from the Canary Islands, which is why they are sometimes described as Spanish guard dogs. What isn’t fully understood is how they actually came to be there in the first place. It remains unsolved as to whether they were always found in the Canary Islands, or whether they were brought there by explorers to the Spanish isles. Either way, we know that their appeal stretched much further than the Canaries as they went international.
As a large working dog, you can certainly see some of the fiery and volcanic nature of the Canary Islands in their personality and characteristics. As the original parent breeds of the Presa Canario are not fully known, it can be easier to think of the islands and their beautiful but dominating features when relating it to the dog breed.
However, one of the educated guesses about the parent breeds is that they were likely both working Spanish dog breeds, like the Perro Majorero and the Spanish Bulldog. As it can’t be confirmed, it makes it difficult to say exactly which characteristics of the Presa Canario would come from each parent breed.
Presa Canario Characteristics
Now you know a little bit more about these large Molosser-type dogs, we can delve more deeply into some of the characteristics of the Presa Canario. Aside from the fact that they are large dogs, what else can be said for their appearance, such as their coloring? What is their temperament like? Do they have any common health issues as a breed?
You will find all of the answers to these questions, and other related queries in the section below.
Presa Canario physical features
We’ve said it before, but it’s definitely worth mentioning it again: Presa Canario dogs are a large breed. If you want to know what “large” means in terms of numbers, they range from approximately 22 to 26 inches in height, and 80 to 130 pounds in weight, depending on the sex of the dog.
For lack of any more fitting words, they are sturdy and strong dogs. This is a powerful breed that you will want to respect, and train with care. As with other Molosser-type breeds, the Presa Canario has a wide chest, a large skull, and muscular limbs.
The Canary Mastiff dog may not have the same cutesy physical features as a Labradoodle, but there is a certain charm about its dark (brown or black) oval eyes, and well defined jaw. This dog will have one of two ear shapes; either cropped or uncropped. When they are uncropped, the rose-petal shaped ears will sit closely to their head.
The lifespan of a Presa Canario
Whilst you may not consider lifespan as an essential point in your hunt for the perfect canine companion, it’s always worth knowing the average life expectancy for any breed. This particular Molosser-type dog has an expected lifespan of nine to 11 years, which would be a sizable chunk of time for you to spend together.
Of course, there are factors that can affect this, such as the quality of the dog that has been bred, and whether the individual avoids some of the more common health conditions in large dogs. More information on these conditions can be found later on in this section.
Presa Canario coloring
The Presa Canario has a short coat, which is either a fawn or brindle tone. The coat feels coarse to the touch, but the advantage is that it makes this breed a low shedding dog, meaning you won’t spend forever cleaning up excessive shedded fur.
The American Kennel Club has set “accepted” color variations for this breed, which are fawn (including silver fawn and red fawn) or brindle (including red brindle). This association also accepts a black coat variation, but this is not recognised by the World Canine Organization. Any white spots on the coat should also be limited to a maximum of 20 percent coverage of the coat.
Away from the rest of its body, there is an additional standard accepted for the face of the Presa Canario. This breed standard involves their muzzle area which must be black, however this black mask must not extend above their eyes.
Known health issues
There are some health issues that you might want to be aware of before bringing a Presa Canario puppy home. The potential problems that can affect this breed are much the same as the conditions that can be commonly seen in large dogs, including Molosser-types.
It is worth a thorough investigation into some of the conditions in more detail so you can get all of the details that you may need, but we’ve covered some of them for you here too. Large breeds of dogs may suffer from hip dysplasia, or gastric dilation volvulus.
If you haven’t heard of these health issues before, the former is a degenerative joint problem which can sadly lead to severe arthritis when left undiagnosed. As suggested in the name of the condition, it is an issue that is centred on the hip joint. The other health issue, gastric dilation volvulus is a severe and life threatening condition which happens when the stomach twists. When this happens, the stomach stretches more than it should, and also fills with air. This bloat requires immediate medical intervention from a vet.
When choosing a Presa Canario puppy, try and seek as much information from the breeders as you can, such as understanding whether any previous litters or ancestors had any common (or rare) health problems.
Presa Canario dogs and their temperament
A Presa Canario is a dog that would be a much better fit with someone who is experienced at training and handling, rather than someone looking for a first pet. This is because they are a breed with a strong prey drive based on their working dog past.
These mastiffs haven’t been bred to sit around the house all day long, and have a fiery side that you can’t ignore. But these may be the exact traits that you are looking for in your big dog; a canine that will love and cherish you, whilst being on guard to protect you.
To others outside the household, a Presa Canario may seem a bit unfriendly or fierce, but this is natural temperament doing what it should be. Yet there is a fine line between strong and protective, and aggressive, which is why training and early socialization is so important, as well as selecting a puppy from reputable breeders.
There is no denying that this large breed of dog is a hard worker. It has natural abilities when it comes to work, as the breed used to help banish other animals before it eventually became a household pet. These instincts remain, and without proper training and socialisation, it can be difficult to have your dog around other animals.
Due to these natural characteristics, it is often recommended that Presa Canario dogs are the only pet in a household so they can maintain a more calm and stable existence, and display more of their affectionate qualities.
Training your Canary Mastiff
It might take a bit of hard work to train these big dogs, but it is almost a certainty that you and your pooch will benefit from your efforts in the long term. Based on their nature, a Presa Canario will show you that they are both strong-minded and confident, so you have to be just as stubborn to establish consistent training.
Teaching your dog how to behave, and how to coexist with others, means that you will have much more of a chance of living with a well-mannered pet. During your training sessions, you can use positive reinforcement techniques such as giving praise and rewards, such as treats or toys. You’ll also need to be patient, which is never a bad skill for us humans to practice either.
Make training as exciting as you can, without confusing your dog of course. New experiences are helpful, but this breed will also be receptive to trick training, which can be both fun and helpful.
But you may still be wondering what daily life might be like with a Presa Canario. Will this breed eat you out of house and home? Will you ever be able to have your family or friends over for socialising? We can help to answer some of these questions, so you can weigh up the compromises you may need to make in order to give a Canary Mastiff a home.
Presa Canario meal time
It probably won’t surprise you to learn that a Presa Canario can have a big appetite, just like other big dogs. Depending on your dog’s exact weight and size, it is likely to need somewhere between 2,500 and 3,000 calories every day. This can all be in one meal, or can be spread across two meals. At puppy age, this should be more frequently, either three or four times a day.
A high quality dry kibble is a popular choice for breeds like the Presa Canario as it can ensure that your dog is getting the nutrients it needs, including protein, fats, carbohydrates and those all-important vitamins and minerals.
Other owners have success with a raw-based diet, but this can be a little harder to get right, so it is always advisable to speak to a veterinarian before rolling this out for your pet.
Your Presa Canario and exercise
Despite its origins as a working dog breed, these Canary Mastiffs may not need as much exercise as you would expect. That said, they benefit from exercise both physically and mentally, and enjoy accomplishing tasks through play time. Essentially, this dog just wants to be busy and helpful, which is why game-based exercise can be a fun experience for you both.
In total, you will probably want to give your dog around 45 minutes of daily exercise to keep the boredom away. A walk in the morning and evening would be a great way for you to bond with your dog, as well as having an excuse to get some fresh air yourself too! This should be sufficient in terms of your dog’s exercise needs.
Is a Presa Canario your perfect match?
Your perfect pup pal may be exactly like you, or you might even be looking for the polar opposite. Remember that a Presa Canario is a big, strong dog with decent energy levels, but they are still loyal and loveable.
They are more suitable for experienced dog owners, based on the fact that they’ll take some time to train and have those natural catch dog working breed characteristics that you’ll need to manage. This dog may be suitable for families, but only where suitable training takes place, and also in a household without other pets. For this reason, it can be sensible to consider any kids in the family home too, as older children may be a better family members for this dog.