A Shaggy-oops, Wrinkly Dog Story

Animal Scene - - COVER STORY - Text by CLIFF SAWIT Pho­tos by JEF­FREY C. LIM

Say hello to An­i­mal Scene’s new­est cover model, a gen­tle gi­ant known as the Neapoli­tan Mas­tiff. It’s easy to spot the Neapoli­tan Mas­tiff in a crowd, be­cause your eyes will be drawn im­me­di­ately to its im­pos­ing size and loose, wrinkly skin. This proud, an­cient breed be­longs to the cat­e­gory of large, mus­cu­lar ca­nines known as Molossers, which all come from the same com­mon an­ces­tor. Their bod­ies are cov­ered by loose skin, with a short-haired coat of ei­ther black, blue, ma­hogany, brindle, or tawny.

Neapoli­tan Mas­tiffs are pow­er­ful dogs that most com­monly serve as guard dogs. Male Neapoli­tan Mas­tiffs grow to about 63-77 cen­time­ters (cm) in height, while fe­males av­er­age about 5870 cm. They are fiercely pro­tec­tive of their hu­man fam­i­lies, and may be wary of strangers and un­fa­mil­iar dogs. They are pretty laid-back de­spite this, and Neapoli­tan Mas­tiffs are typ­i­cally not as ac­tive as other dog breeds, even as pup­pies! To learn more about this un­usual and un­com­mon breed, we sat down with Alvin Tan, who has been breed­ing Neapoli­tan Mas­tiffs since the 1990s, and who also raises other breeds such as the Ti­betan Mas­tiff, Chi­nese Crested dog, Chi­nese Sharpei, Shih Tzu, and Cau­casian.

“Neapoli­tan Mas­tiffs are very gen­tle, friendly,” Alvin ex­plains. “They are a great com­pan­ion for kids. They’re not ag­gres­sive dogs. Like other large breed dogs, they eat a lot, but they aren’t very ac­tive be­cause of their ex­ces­sive skin and wrin­kles. But they do need daily ex­er­cise.”

When se­lect­ing a Neapoli­tan Mas­tiff, Alvin says the cri­te­ria are very sim­ple. “It’s easy to choose a Neapoli­tan Mas­tiff. Just look for the best and most wrin­kles! The more wrin­kles a Neapoli­tan Mas­tiff has, the bet­ter. The skin must have wrin­kled, shaggy folds…from the mouth to the neck. Some world class Neapoli­tan Mas­tiffs even have wrin­kles at the legs down to their feet. Some

breed­ers crop the ears, but I pre­fer not to, be­cause I think [the dog] looks so much pret­tier with the ears.”

De­spite be­ing one of the old­est dog breeds in the world, not many Filipinos out­side dog fancier cir­cles have heard of it. How­ever, the Neapoli­tan Mas­tiff has adapted well to the Philip­pine cli­mate. “They have adapted quickly be­cause of their short hair, I think,” says Alvin. “Not like other breeds with long coat hair, which have a much harder time adapt­ing here, in the Philip­pines’ much warmer cli­mate.”

For the sum­mer months, Alvin rec­om­mends us­ing an elec­tric fan and pro­vid­ing ice cold wa­ter to drink, in case you find your Neapoli­tan Mas­tiff feel­ing hot.

Healthy Neapoli­tan Mas­tiffs are healthy eaters, and Alvin feeds his own dogs Beef­pro Dog Foods mixed with “saw­dust.” (No, saw­dust does not re­fer to wood chips and shav­ings—which you should never feed your beloved pooch— but to the small pieces of meat that fall off the meat cut­ter ma­chines in butcher shops, which are ground up and sold as dog food.)

“Just like any other breed, you have to de­worm and vac­ci­nate reg­u­larly,” Alvin says. “Give them a bath twice a week, and clean their ears on a reg­u­lar ba­sis. They need a clean en­vi­ron­ment and room to walk and ex­er­cise.”

He cau­tions city dwellers who might be in­ter­ested in the breed. “I think they are not suit­able for liv­ing in con­dos, be­cause they are prone to hip dys­pla­sia, which re­quires ex­er­cise to pre­vent. A walk once a day should be suf­fi­cient.”

Although some sources state that Neapoli­tan Mas­tiffs do not bark as much as some other breeds, Alvin as­sures us that this is not the case. “Our Neapoli­tan Mas­tiffs bark a lot. When we have guests over, they will bark un­til they can’t see the guest any­more. Be­cause of this bark­ing, they are very good guard dogs, although they don’t bite.”

Neapoli­tan Mas­tiffs are smart dogs, and they re­quire in­tel­lec­tual stim­u­la­tion. Alvin says, “Like other breeds, Neapoli­tan Mas­tiffs need at­ten­tion from their own­ers. So we al­ways walk and play with our dogs, at least once a day. They are very happy when we play with them.”

It’s this sweet, lov­ing dis­po­si­tion that makes the Neapoli­tan Mas­tiff a good fam­ily dog, suit­able for all ages, ac­cord­ing to Alvin. “The Neapoli­tan Mas­tiff is well-suited to any fam­ily. Even my grand­par­ents and young neph­ews love the Neapoli­tan Mas­tiff.”

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