Presa Canarios are not a common breed and originate from Spain on the island of Gran Canaria. Learn all about them in our latest guide.
Height: 60 – 66cm
Weight: 50 – 60kg
Lifespan: 9 – 11 years
Pedigree Breed (recognised by the Kennel Club?): No, Presa Canarios are a rare mixed breed Molosser-type Mastiff dog.
Positives and Negatives of the Breed
- Strong and extremely tough
- Sociable with proper training
- Loyal and docile
- Powerful guard dogs
- Needs to be trained strongly
- Abide by pack mentality
- Viewed controversially in some countries
Presa Canarios are not a common breed and originate from Spain on the island of Gran Canaria. The full Spanish name is Perro De Presa Canario but they are also known as Canary Mastiffs.
The dog is the symbol of the island and has a long and illustrious history as a livestock guardian and catch dog, strong enough to confront almost any other animal, including cattle, and ferocious enough to ward off any intruder.
These dogs are Molosser-type Mastiffs, which means they have ties to ancient Greek battle dogs that were bred for their physical size, power and durability.
This dog exhibits many of these characteristics today, it is tall and very thick set with a distinctive square-shaped head, large jaw and thick front quarters.
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Presa Canarios looks awesome and they’re well-known for their eye-catching brindle or Verdino coat that looks somewhat like camouflage.
The Presa Canario is clearly a complex dog with a fairly unique set of needs that does not make it an ideal choice for many owners, least of all inexperienced owners.
Presa Canarios do have an association with aggression, like many other Mastiffs, and must be trained from a young age to be respectful of all humans, not just their owners.
When trained properly, Presa Canarios are very friendly and docile and with those they trust, they are incredibly protective, subservient and attentive.
With strangers, however, the instincts of these dogs are to be suspicious and without proper training from a young age, aggression is a possibility.
Of course, this is the same with many dogs, but the size and strength of the Presa Canario make it a particularly ferocious adversary.
It goes without saying that these dogs are not to be confronted by anyone and when challenged, they will not be hesitant in asserting their physical dominance.
With all that said, the Presa Canario is a rare breed still sought after by some Mastiff enthusiasts and some are made available as rescue dogs.
Like any dog, their penchant for physicality is instinctive but in terms of actual aggression, they can be trained out of harmful behaviours relatively easily by someone who knows and understands them.
Presa Canarios resurged in popularity fairly recently and have become increasingly sought-after by big dog enthusiasts. It’s easy to see why these muscled dogs are visually impactful and impressive.
Mastiff breeds like the Presa Canario will always carry somewhat of a mottled reputation but these dogs are legal to own worldwide aside from in New Zealand and Australia, two countries with relatively harsh dog laws.
As a Molosser-type dog, the Presa Canario has an ancient history that adds to its mystique and elusive power.
Traceable origins date back to the 1600s where they first appeared on Gran Canaria, though they have likely existed in some form for thousands of years.
They are a rich component of island folklore in and around Gran Canaria and have partnered islanders for many centuries, making excellent territorial working-dogs with high awareness, prey drive and physical ability.
Their physical power and tolerance of hot environments have made this dog rather unique and it carries this same impressive aura with it today.
Presa Canario dogs were used to guard livestock, warding off theft or disruption by other dogs, hogs or other threatening animals.
They double up as guard dogs with their physically imposing size, huge jaw capacity and excellent instincts.
Presa Canarios have also been used as a dogfighting animal both traditionally in Gran Canaria until the 1950s and also in the US and other parts of the world.
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The Presa Canario temperament is complex and has an unusual depth to it particularly unusual for Mastiff-type dogs. On one hand, this dog is undoubtedly viewed as a dominant, strong and aggressive adversary for other animals and strangers it does not trust.
Any such dog must be treated and trained with extreme care and caution so as to not exacerbate its instinctive tendencies.
The Presa Canario’s past is that where it plays out a role as an attack/defence animal and it does have a high prey drive so is likely to chase down smaller animals unless trained carefully not to do so.
The Presa Canario here always benefits from a strong-armed trainer that has no issue in asserting dominance as an alpha. It does depend though, and like all dogs, it is difficult to assert this as a rule.
However, if taught properly to view humans as permanently dominant, no matter if a friend or trusted stranger, the Presa Canario can easily be taught to be friendly and docile.
After all, this pack dog enjoys the company of others, so long as he/she knows or trusts them as part of its unit.
This is similar with other Mastiff-type pack dogs, owners must be aware of their imposing size and drive to catch prey and must trust to resist these instincts if they are to teach them to live alongside others, especially in public places.
With experienced and skilled training combined with a loving and understanding hand, the Presa Canario like other dominant Mastiff dogs can become impressively docile and family-orientated.
As rescue projects, the Presa Canario is fairly easy to train out of aggressive and harmful tendencies, so long as the trainer has experience with similar dogs and is able to take necessary precautions at the start when aggression is at its highest.
The Presa Canario dog is prone to many of the same musculoskeletal issues as other large and heavy breeds. Hip problems and arthritis are the most common.
As a large dog that needs some serious nutrition to sustain itself, particularly if very active, proper feeding is required and any deficiencies in macronutrients will quickly tell in the dog’s overall health.
Presa Canarios enjoy using their jaw to chew and since they are very powerful, you will need to make sure you have a good supply of chews to keep their teeth and jaws healthy.
Presa Canarios are best kept relatively active and will like to roam around large areas akin to their former breeding grounds across the farms of Gran Canaria.
With sufficient exercise, they can live healthily in smaller areas but they are nearly always best kept by those with sufficient amounts of land.
Due to their muscle, Presa Canarios are also known to suffer from heart issues like cardiomyopathy and mitral valve prolapse. Proper diet and regular exercise should help reduce the chances of many of these issues.
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Many large dogs need surprisingly little exercise but this is not one of them. The Presa Canario enjoys its physicality and likes throwing its weight around in large spaces.
As a dog that is used to free-roaming and catching prey, it will try and demand a lot of time off the lead, though you will have to be very wary with where you allow this.
You might expect the Presa Canario to be very clunky and clumsy but actually, this dog is very precise, agile and almost feline in its slinky movements.
It’s quite impressive to watch and is unusual for Mastiff dogs. For this reason, it enjoys agility-based exercise like jumping, running through dense forests and walking over rocky terrain, etc.
By giving your Presa Canario plenty of exercises yourself, you’ll be helping ensure it’s nice and tired and more readily able to stay relaxed and docile.
Presa Canarios are hard to train. Great owners will be able to train them into exceptionally loyal and docile dogs. Poor owners will not be able to control them at all and this will be dangerous, disastrous even.
Training requires strong leadership, the owner must be the alpha without exception and all humans must be seen as higher up the pecking order than the Presa Canario itself.
Presa Canarios must not walk at the helm of the pack beyond its owner and must be kept behind or to the side. They must learn to not pull on the lead, especially not with the desire of running after other dogs or people.
Socialisation from day one is vital and the more, the better. A Presa Canario that grows up inside a wide and social family unit is much more likely to be predictable in all situations including in public.
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Presa Canario dogs are short-haired due to breeding in hot climates and require little grooming care. They shed very little and are easily looked after.
Like other big and powerful dogs, a muzzle might be a necessity to help make grooming duties safe and easy. However, Presa Canarios are tough and can be exceptionally tolerant of those they trust.
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