The Perro de Presa Canario: Is this a good family dog?

The confident Perro de Presa Canario, otherwise known as the Canary Mastiff or Canary Dog of Prey, is a large Molosser-type breed known for its strong-willed temperament and muscular body.

While they may appear intimidating and are considered dangerous by some, these loveable giants also have a calm, loyal side.

Meet the The Perro de Presa Canario
Meet the The Perro de Presa Canario

Find out all about the pros and cons of the Presa Canario in this owner’s guide.

Origin of the Presa Canario breed

Presa Canario breed

The history of the Presa Canario dates back to the 15th century. These dogs are thought to have been brought to the Canary Islands by Spanish Conquistadors. They appear in myths and funeral ceremonies of the local Canarian people, even appearing to them as demons.

Although now considered its own breed, the Canary Mastiff has its origins in the Iberian Presa, a cattle dog, and another large variety of mastiffs.

At some point, the Bardino Majorero sheepdog, which hailed from the Spanish island of Fuerteventura, was also introduced for its courage, physicality, and intelligence.

In addition, the Presa Espanol and a variety of bulldogs all probably contributed to the history of what is today known as the Presa Canario.

Presa Canario dogs were originally used in the Canary Islands for guarding and herding tasks on farms. Unfortunately, they were also given the task of exterminating smaller stray dogs and were even used in dogfighting.

After almost becoming extinct, the Canary Dog was rebred in the 1970s with a group of Tenerife breeders forming an association in 1982.

The Perro de Presa Canario, the national animal of Gran Canaria, was recognized by the FCI in 2011 as the Dogo Canario, which stands for “Canarian Molosser.”

Today’s breeders look for hardy dogs with good guarding instincts that are confident and territorial but still exhibit a calm demeanor towards their owners.

Due to their perception as a dangerous breed, the Presa Canario is blacklisted in several cities around the United States, so selling and importing this canine is against the law in New Zealand and Australia.

The robust and well-proportioned Canary Mastiff

According to its breed standard, this Presa Canario is characterized by its sizeable and brawny appearance.

The robust and well-proportioned Canary Mastiff

As part of the Molosser group of breeds, this dog is known for its wide chest, massive size, and muscular legs.

They have a rectilinear profile with a sloping topline, broad, deep chest, raised rump, and staunch, muscled posture.

Another interesting fact about the Perro de Presa Canario is that they have paws similar to felines, which gives them a cat-like movement.

The face of the Canary Mastiff is confident and commanding with a broad head, square jawline, and black mask.

The large, thickset neck size of the Presa Canario is also characteristic of this breed.

Although the Presa Canario’s ears are typically cropped, causing them to stand upright, giving the face a formidable expression, this practice is outlawed in some countries.

When not cropped, the Presa Canario’s ears sit close to the head, are pendant-shaped, and hang down.

How big are Presa Canario dogs?

A full-grown male Perro de Presa Canario can weigh more than 100 pounds (45 kg). In fact, they can have a maximum weight of 155 pounds (70 kg) and can stand 24 to 26 inches (61 to 66 cm) tall.

Females are slightly smaller, with a height of 22.5 to 24.5 inches (57 to 62 cm) and a weight of 88 to 130 pounds (40 to 59 kg).

Presa Canario puppies can reach these measurements and are considered adults by the time they’re two years old.

Despite their enormous size, this fido can be suited to smaller apartments or houses without a big garden, provided they are exercised regularly.

In this video, you can see a Canary Mastiff, named Juice, growing up. It even shows us how he is and what he’s like with other people and dogs:

The Presa Canario’s coat & colors

The coat of the Canary Dog is a point of contention when it comes to breeding standards. According to the AKC, a Presa Canario can have a black coat.

This is also allowed by the FSS, UKC, and UPPCC breed standards, however, a black coat is not allowed by the FCI.

However, the dog can have a black face mask that doesn’t cover the eyes.

Typically, the Presa Canario coat comes in a variety of colors from fawn to brindle and short and coarse with no undercoat.

White on the coat is also allowed, and this is typically found on the dog’s chest and feet and should not exceed 20% of the body.

The Presa Canario’s coat & colors

Is the Presa Canario a good family dog?

Although known for their low, deep bark and suitability as a guard dog, the Canary Mastiff has a balanced temperament when around its family members. This self-confident and attentive dog can be calm when properly trained.

They are both wonderful companions and protectors.

The Presa Canario will be devoted to his master and their dominant streak can lead them to assert aggression. If this aggression is not channeled correctly through the correct obedience training this could lead to problems later on. 

This breed will need a confident owner who can establish themselves as the alpha while reward-based training will lead to the best results.

Are Presa Canarios dangerous?

As mentioned, if not trained correctly the Perro de Presa Canario’s natural tendency to be combative can lead to them showing aggression towards other dogs or strangers.

With a bite force of 540 PSI, these dogs are known for their attack-drive, which is what makes them particularly effective guarding dogs.

Unfortunately, these dogs have been known to launch deadly attacks on occasion, leading to the death of lacrosse coach, Diane Whipple, when she was attacked by two Presa Canarios in 2001 and the death of a mother in 2017 in County Galway when she was attacked by her son’s three Canary Dogs.

Watch this video to see the Presa Canarios’ impressive bite in an action fuelled attack:

Keeping him clean and looking at his best

The Presa Canario is known for its minimal shedding and as a result, little maintenance is needed to keep this breed looking great.

The occasional bath is enough while a damn towel can be used to wipe down the coat to clean or get rid of extra hair.

The short coat can be brushed with a firm bristle brush on occasion as needed.

Ear cleaning, however, should be done regularly to prevent debris and waxy build-up while the Canary Dog’s fast-growing nails will need to be trimmed often.

You will also want to get this dog’s teeth checked and brushed regularly to prevent decay.

Feeding the Canary Dog

This large breed needs a good amount of food to stay sustained and about 5 pounds (2.2 kg) should be sufficient each day, split into two or three meals to sustain energy levels.

Although an energetic breed, the Presa Canario is prone to weight gain so be sure to keep a close eye on your dog’s calorie consumption.

Expending excess energy in your dog

Used to working outdoors and on farms, the Canary Mastiff is happiest when performing a task. These dogs will love to exercise and if they have a purpose, such as agility, rally or obedience training, they will thrive. 

Due to their love of farm-life, these dogs are also well-suited to active families who enjoy a lot of time spent outdoors where your dog can come along for a good game of frisbee, a long hike, or even a swim.

Be sure to keep up a regular exercise routine with the Presa Canario breed to keep them trim and entertained. Daily pack walks must be done with the dominant human in the front and the dog on a lead behind to establish hierarchy.

A muzzle for your Presa Canario or a harness may be a necessity when walking to keep control of your dog.

The playful Presa Canario dogs

Are Presa Canario dogs healthy?

With a life span of around 10 years, these large dogs are predominantly healthy. Like a lot of other super-sized breeds, the Presa Canario can be predisposed to hip dysplasia, affecting the joints, particularly as your dog ages.

Other diseases that can affect your dog’s mobility include Patellar Luxation, Patellar Avulsions, or Osteochondrodysplasias.

Some other health ailments that typically affect the Canary Mastiff include heart problems, such as Dilated Cardiomyopathy, and mast-cell tumors or cancers, as well as skin cysts, demodectic mange or even epilepsy. 

How much does a Presa Canario puppy cost?

Meet Queenie, the Presa Canario puppy
Meet Queenie, the Presa Canario puppy – Image source

Definitely not for the budget-conscious, a well-bred Presa Canario puppy can be priced up to $2000, with each litter consisting of around 8 puppies.

Presa Canario breeders

If you have decided the Presa Canario is the dog for you and you are ready to invest in a puppy, be sure to look for a reputable breeder that will stick to the breed standards.

Also, be sure to ask to see the parent dogs and request any health certificates or breeding history.

Here are some breeders to set you on your search for a puppy Perro de Presa Canario:

  1. D&G Kennels
  2. Presa Canario of Palm Beach
  3. Conquistador Puppies

Rehoming a Presa Canario 

Due to their large size, energy levels, and need for intensive training, it is not uncommon to find the Presa Canario at rescue centers.

Here are a few places where you can look for a Presa Canario in need of adoption:

  1. The Bullpen
  2. Diamond Rescue
  3. Southern States Mastiff Rescue

Similar breeds to the Perro de Presa Canario

There is a variety of other Mastiff or Molosser-type dog breeds that show similarities to the Canary Mastiff. The Alano Espanol, which was used for hunting and for the abhorrent practice of bear-baiting, has a lot in common with the Presa Canario, including its size, coloring, and body structure.

The South African Boerboel also bears a striking resemblance and to has been used as a working guard dog, particularly for the protection of livestock, even bravely facing up to hyenas and lions.

Another impressive guard dog, the Kangal Shepherd Dog is also a livestock protector and fierce loyalist, however, their light-colored coat gives them a different appearance to the Presa Canario.

The Italian Cane Corso is also very smart and renowned for its hunting and guarding prowess. This massive dog is also one of the strongest breeds in the world.

Other similar breeds include:

Are you ready for the Perro de Presa Canario?

Canary Mastiff dog

Getting any dog is not a decision to be taken lightly, never more so than with the Presa Canario. Although this breed can exhibit some aggressive tendencies they can be a gentle, dependable dog with popper socialization and training. 

The Perro de Presa Canario needs a strong owner who can show dominance and so this breed is not recommended for first-time dog owners. You cannot be uncomfortable around this dog and must demonstrate that you are the boss.

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