Neo's are large, powerful dogs, with a significantly wrinkled head, and a serious demeanor. The most important image evoked by the Neapolitan Mastiff is massiveness -- massive head, massive bone, massive body. A typical male is 26-29 inches at the shoulder and weighs 140-170 pounds. A female is somewhat smaller. While not as tall as the English Mastiff, the body often appears to be more massive.
Accepted colors are Blue (light or dark gray), Black, Tawny, and Mahogany, all with or without brindling. Small white marks are allowed on the chest and on the feet. Puppies have blue eyes which must change to a darker color by the time the dogs are 3 months old or so.
The ears are often cropped short and the tail cropped by 1/3. This practice was begun in ancient times when the dog was used in war. The cropped ear does change the expression. While not required for show dogs, many people simply prefer the traditional cropped ear.
The Neapolitan is a guard dog and is protective by nature. Even though they have a fierce appearance, they are generally peaceful, steady dogs with even temperaments. They are usually wonderful with their own families but wary of strangers. If they have a personality flaw, it is that, like many mastiffs, they can be stubborn and can be shy. It is important to socialize the Neapolitan and to get it accustomed to different people and places. It is also critical that owners never forget the instinctive nature of the dog. Raising a Neo requires an awareness of how dogs think and behave, and a consistent sensible discipline.
Most Neo's are good with the children they know and would never hurt them purposely. At the same time, it is vital to remember that these are large dogs and they often forget how big they are. This can result in a Neapolitan unintentionally knocking a child down and stepping on tender bodies. They often instinctively chase people running or bicycling past and playfully knock them down. Their size and natural exuberance means they should never be unsupervised around small children even in play.
With Other Animals
Most Neapolitans are tolerant and good natured. If they are raised with other animals they are often best friends. However -- two adult dogs of the same sex cannot always be expected to get along. Most will chase cats.
Most adult Neo's are calm animals who sleep a lot. While these dogs were bred to run loose and protect house and estate from intruders, judging by today's Neo's, this must have entailed a lot of lying around in the shade of trees. They can be roused in an instant to investigate a sound or movement, but they don't seem to waste a lot of energy bouncing about and patrolling the areas.
On the other hand, most Neo puppies are active, curious, cute and cuddly as the most winsome Cocker Spaniel puppy. And many people find that the adolescent Neapolitan, when awake, is an energetic, powerful animal. It is important to train the Neo when it is young, so that when dealing with the strong, stubborn teen-age personality stage, the appropriate ruling structure is already in place. By the age of three or four, most Neo's do achieve more desirable adult-type behavior.
In The House
A pristine house with many precious or breakable items is not the ideal environment for a young Neo and anyone in such a house should think twice before getting this breed. If crystal and other breakables are safely out of the way, then yes, a Neapolitan can be a great house dog and an endearing family member.
Any dog can be trained to behave in a house, and a Neapolitan is no exception. Puppies need to be housebroken. All young dogs need to be taught what is permissible and what is forbidden. Dogs, especially puppies, chew, and Neo's are no different. Crate-training a dog can be a great benefit to both the owner and the dog.
Neo's respond well to steady, consistent training. In most ways, a Neapolitan is like other dogs -- except that one can never forget that it is a large dog and problems or challenges will be correspondingly bigger. For instance, the crate for a Neapolitan is bigger than many dining room tables! And knocking furniture over can be common. Finally, Neapolitans snore, some quite loudly. It is important to keep these factors in mind when making your decision regarding a dog.
One endearing trait of the Neapolitan is that he or she wants to be right next to the owner. The dog will follow you from room to room, upstairs, downstairs indoors, outdoors. They must be within touching or leaning distance of companionship.
Did you see the movie "Turner and Hooch"? Or another movie "Beethoven"? Well, they did exaggerate the drool in those movies...but not much! Yes, Neo's drool. But not all of the time. The usual times are when they are hot, nervous, or after eating. They are especially prone to copious drooling after drinking water. Most Neo owners carry towels and learn to be deft in mopping doggy chins.
Neapolitans are not always the tidiest of eaters. Those big loose lips seem to scatter kibble all over. They have big feet too, so a dog outside in the mud can bring a large amount in. Pound for pound they are no messier than other dogs, but they are big dogs, and any mess they make is correspondingly bigger!
The Neapolitan Mastiff is a member of the Working Group. This Italian Mastiff is a direct descendent of the dogs used to fight in the Roman Coliseum. Over the past 2000 years it was refined to its present form as a guardian of the family and estates in northern Italy. (Note that we use the abbreviation Neo, yet the name for the breed is Neapolitan, not Neopolitan. The common misspelling is a pet peeve for true Neo-folk.)