The Canary Islands are an archipelago that tectonically lies in Africa but is part of the European Union, specifically Spain. While many may think of the little yellow bird when hearing the name of this area of the world, the name comes from the Latin for “dog.” And for good reason! Pliny the Elder talked of the significant number of large dogs on the island. These dogs are called Presa Canario and many believe them to be dangerous. Are they? We’ll break that down today.
Meet the Presa Canarios
Standing at an average height of two feet and almost an inch, Presa Canarios weigh in at an impressive 120 pounds. These mastiffs are solid dogs with an imposing look but are actually quite docile with their owners when trained properly. Presa Canario have rather complex personalities for mastiffs. Like many large-breed dogs used for farming and guarding they are wary of strangers however they can be trained to be downright friendly.
On the islands the dogs are recorded back through the 1600s and have served their human masters guarding livestock and homes. They are territorial, alert and strong. Presa Canarios can withstand heat, which makes them a great working dog since they do not wither easily.
Unfortunately, because the dog is large and imposing with huge jaws, it has been victimized as a fighting dog. It’s strong prey drive also adds to this. The Presa Canario will go after anything smaller than itself making it a dangerous fighting dog when used in such a way.
Are Presa Canario Dogs Dangerous?
Presa Canario dogs are predisposed to be aggressive. They are prey driven and alert. These natural guard dogs are constantly on the lookout for strangers and dangers which means that without appropriate training and handling, they can react to a situation with aggression.
Of course, experienced handlers can train these dogs to not react aggressively but this takes significant work and education. Experts advise against walking these dogs and rather exercising them in other ways and also making sure they are never left alone where they can allow their guarding abilities to take over. This is not a dog to tie up or leave in a fenced yard all day.
Presa Canario are loyal and will view any risk to their pack as a reason to get aggressive. Children must understand that play-fighting is not acceptable at any time and guests should be sure to never enter a home without proper introduction, even if they have met the dog. It takes quite some time for a Presa Canarios to warm up to those from outside of the home.
When it comes to human fatalities and serious injuries from Presa Canario they ranked fourth in a major study. Many of the fatalities and injuries were to children. While much of what happens with dogs and aggression comes down to a lack of proper training, it is important to keep stats like this in mind. Do you have what it takes to keep and train a Presa Canario so that it is not a risk to your family, property and community? This means having the time, experience and space. These dogs require a substantial amount of exercise and training so that they do not act out aggressively.
The Presa Canario as a Household Pet
All dogs can have trouble getting along with other dogs and this is definitely problematic with large, strong dogs like the Presa Canario. This doesn’t make the Presa Canario a dangerous pet but it does raise concerns. With proper socialization and strict adherence to pack rules, Presa Canario can have dog siblings but again, it takes time and consistency. Dog-on-dog aggression is more likely with dogs of the same gender but can happen no matter what. While a puppy of this breed might be easy going with another dog, when they reach nine months to a year they can start to show significant aggression especially around food and kennel areas.
These dogs are fiercely loyal and affectionate but can be dangerous to owners who don’t know how to handle them. As we’ve mentioned, a huge component of owning dogs bred to guard is a strict training regimen that starts early and is completely consistent. The dog must, at all times and under all circumstances, understand who its master is. Letting the dog “get away with” certain behaviors early on can lead to problems down the line. Did you know that allowing dogs to sleep on the same level as you signals equality to them? This can lead to behavioral problems because a dog allowed to nap or sleep with its humans as a puppy won’t understand later why it’s not equally in charge.
Presa Canarios love children but their happy tails can knock a small child right off their feet. Well-behaved children who understand and enforce good dog ownership skills with dogs can have amazing, life-long relationships with this breed but other children (play dates, visiting family) must understand how to behave around these dogs in order to avoid aggression.
While not good for first-time dog owners or families that don’t have the time and discipline to devote to round-the-clock training, these dogs are a great choice for those who understand large breeds with strong prey drives and territorial attitudes.