The Presa Canario is a large, loyal dog bred to guard livestock. They have a short and easy to groom coat, with a powerful, strong body.
Originally from Spain, this gorgeous, owner-focussed dog is rather rare and hard to get hold of, but still holds a lot of appeal for some potential owners.
But what are they really like?
And which families would this breed suit?
Getting to know the Presa Canario
After all, deciding to buy a puppy means more than bringing home a bundle of cute fluff.
It also means providing care, training, and love throughout the lifetime of your dog.
Matching the needs of your family with the best breed to suit you is a tough decision.
Take the time to research breeds. Think about how the puppy will fit into your lifestyle.
Presa Canario popularity
The Presa Canario dog breed is rare in the US and many other countries.
This breed goes by a few different names:
- Perro de Presa Canario
- Dogo Canario
- Canary Catch Dog
- Canarian Molosser
- Canary Mastiff
Some of these names give us a clue as to where this breed originates from.
Let’s take a look at a brief history of the Presa Canario dog, and find out more.
Where does the Presa Canario come from?
The Presa Canario originates from the Canary Islands, a group of seven islands belonging to Spain.
It’s the animal symbol for Gran Canaria, one of the larger islands.
The exact origin of the breed is unclear.
Some reports suggest there have always been large dogs on the islands.
Others suggest the Spanish Conquistadors brought the foundation stock of the breed with them.
The breed certainly has some Mastiff influence in its lineage.
The first Presa Canarios
What is clear is that the Presa Canario origin involved guarding.
And as a breed they kept watch over farms and their cattle.
They fiercely protected these from both wild dogs and strangers.
Unfortunately, their reputation as dedicated guard dogs meant use in dog fights.
The 1940s saw a ban on dog fighting. Thereafter, the breed almost died out.
In the 1970s, however, it went through a recovery.
Dedicated breeders set about improving the population.
1982 saw the formation of the Spanish Perro de Presa Canario club.
In 1996, the Presa Canario was recorded in the Foundation Stock Service of the American Kennel Club.
What do Presa Canarios look like?
Presa Canarios are impressively sized dogs. Their bodies are broad and muscular, and their heads are powerful and square.
The breed standard states that an important feature of this breed is that the body is longer than it is high.
Many Presa Canarios in the USA have had their ears surgically cropped, but this procedure, while still relatively common, is controversial.
To crop, or not to crop?
A study carried out in 2016 also found that a dog with cropped ears is more likely to be seen as “more aggressive, more dominant, less playful and less attractive.”
Historically, cropped ears prevented damage when rounding up cattle or fighting.
Nowadays, cropped ears accentuate the powerful appearance of this breed.
However, many dog owners have mixed feelings about putting their dogs through painful and unnecessary surgical procedures.
Average Presa Canario size, height, and weight
Presa Canarios are definitely large and imposing dogs.
Males tend to stand around 23 – 26 inches at the withers.
The male Presa Canario weight is between 110 – 145 lbs.
A Presa Canario female is smaller in both weigh and height, but not considerably.
While giant Presa Canario dogs have been known, you’re more likely to find your puppy growing into simply a large Presa Canario.
Coat color and type
The coat of the Presa Canario comes in a variety:
- silver fawn
- red fawn
- red brindle
- brown brindle
- fawn brindle
- reverse brindle
Some breed organizations accept a black coat as an official color, while others do not.
Presa Canarios of any color have a black mask that doesn’t reach above their eyes.
Some dogs will have white markings, most commonly seen on the chest, feet, and muzzle.
The United Kennel Club breed standard allows this.
The white must not exceed 20% coverage.
They have a single coat which sheds minimally.
The coat is coarse to the touch, rather than soft.
Grooming and general care
Due to their short, single coat, the Presa Canario only needs a weekly brushing to look sleek and shiny.
A bath once a month or so is a good idea.
Nails must be trimmed regularly, as with any other dog. Presa Canarios can be prone to a build-up of wax in the ears.
Therefore, owners should check regularly to avoid this.
Regular tooth-brushing is also recommended, in order to avoid dental problems.
Temperament and behavior
Presa Canarios are known for their intelligence, which can be combined with a gentle and affectionate nature towards their families.
When a Presa Canario family dog is within their home, they will be loyal and devoted.
However, owners should be aware: if there is any sign that their family is in danger, they will not hesitate to protect them.
A high degree of training is therefore necessary, so the owner is in full control. Care should be taken when introducing strangers.
Are Presa Canario dogs safe?
While a well-trained Presa Canario can make a wonderful family pet, they will always require careful and intelligent handling.
Unfortunately, due to their size and loyalty, there is a history of unpredictability in Presa Canario dogs which have not been adequately trained.
It’s important to be aware that attacks have unfortunately led to fatalities.
However, any breed of dog has the potential to be aggressive – or well behaved – with the right socialization, training, and handling.
Exercise and training requirements
Despite their size, Presa Canarios require relatively little exercise, and they will be happy with a medium-length walk each day.
Importantly, Presa Canario training must begin when they are as young as possible.
Mature dogs which have yet to undergo any formal or effective training can become stubborn, and prone to taking control of situations.
This is a breed with a high level of self-confidence and assurance, so they are best handled by experiences and confident dog owners.
On a whole, this is a healthy breed.
Since the breed is rare, though, their health issues aren’t well-documented.
Problems they can be prone to include, but are not limited to:
- Elbow dysplasia
- Hip dysplasia
- Dilated cardiomyopathy
Since these problems are often hereditary, ask your breeder about the health of their litter’s parents and ancestors.
Breeding dogs should also have their joints examined before mating takes place.
And an echocardiogram to flag up cardiomyopathy which could be passed on to their puppies.
Presa Canario life expectancy
You can expect an average Presa Canario lifespan to be around 9 – 11 years.
This is normal for a larger dog.
Ideal home and suitability as a family dog
These dogs are strong-willed and independent. Owners with experience are therefore necessary.
The Presa Canario temperament can certainly lend itself to life as a family dog and companion, but they are best suited to households with older children.
Due to their extreme loyalty to their family, they are better as single dogs.
How to find and pick a Presa Canario puppy
As well as recommending that aggressive Presa Canarios should be disqualified from the breed standard the FCI also caution that overly shy dogs should not be encouraged to breed.
This is something to talk to any breeder about, especially when meeting puppies and their parents.
Insist upon meeting both of a puppy’s parents – they should, be calm, confident, and relaxed in meeting you.
If a breeder makes excuses to put you off meeting them, reconsider taking a puppy from their litter.
Talk about any health tests that the Presa Canario puppies have undergone and the results. Any reputable breeder will be happy to provide this information.
Is a Presa Canario puppy right for me?
These big dogs have a strong guarding instinct.
They need lots of socializing and positive reinforcement training to become model canine citizens.
In reward, you’ll get a loyal companion and fearless defender.
The Presa Canario might be the right dog for you if you’re already an experience dog handler.
One that is looking for an intelligent guard dog, but you doesn’t currently have any other dogs at home.
If you have a young family, the Presa Canario might not be the best fit right now.
But they’ll always be waiting for you!
Do you have experience with this breed? Or another guarding breed like the Cane Corso or Keeshond? Let us know in the comments!
References and further reading
- Mills et al. Tail Docking and Ear Cropping Dogs: Public Awareness and Perceptions. PLoS One. 2016.
- American Kennel Club. Most Popular Dog Breeds – Full Ranking List. March 2018.
- Morales et al. Dilated Cardiomyopathy in Presa Canario Dogs: ECG Findings. Journal of Veterinary Medicine. 2002.
- United Kennel Club. Perro de Presa Canario. 2003.
- Federation Cynologique Internationale. Dogo Canario. August 2011.
- Parker et al. Genetic Structure of the Purebred Domestic Dog. Science Magazine. 2004.
- Gracia, M. Perro de Presa Canario: A Special Rare Breed Edition. A Comprehensive Owner’s Guide. 2012.
Jenny G says
I have a 3 year old Presa Canario and Rocky can be aggressive with me and my husband while he’s half asleep. He has lunged at me and my husband. I know now never to wake him abruptly. Other than that he is so smart and a great guard dog. He never bites or breaks anything in the house. There’s drool all over the walls but other than that he is a great dog.
I live in Billings, Montana. I am interested in an American Pitbull Corso. I had a Staff Pitbull, who passed at 14 yrs about 2 yrs ago. I would like info on where I can get a puppy from legitimate and experienced breeders of this specific breed. I would greatly appreciate it.
Iv just got 2female presa canario mix bull mastiff. From same litter.they only 9 week old tall already. Like a little kangaroo ha.they are very happy together cuddling up.the man who I bought them off said they would fret if I didn’t take both.so I have both.someone as said it’s very bad to take the 2on.there only baby’s yet.do you all think they will be OK together in are family home when there bigger.we love them
Sharon Hester says
My husband and I did the same thing. We bought a male and female Persa Canario and American Bulldog mix. They were 11 weeks old when we got them in August.
The only thing that I am watching about the female is, she is stubborn. She puts her nose in the air as if she has an air of superiority about her and then she ignores everyone. She will do the male pup like this as well. As if her feelings are hurt. This is the only concerning thing that I see about her.
She was the only girl in the litter and very spoiled. She was always held by the last owners and got a lot of attention. When I go to play with the boy dog, she gets very jealous as if she is the only one who is supposed to get attention. So I keep her in the cage and give them attention separately to avoid her dominating all of the affection and attention.
They get along well. But they will fight over treats. He will generally bully her a lot. He was the runt of the litter and she was the only female of the same litter of 5 pups.
I will litter the yard with treats like an easter egg hunt. When they find it and they are down to the last of the treats this is when this problem occurs. Other than that the girl is usually more docile and will give in. She surrenders to the male pup in general. But when she does not feel like being bullied, she will show her dominance.
We have a 8 month old male purebred Presa Canario who we adopted and DNA tested. He was adopted out to us as a wonderful family pet- we have 5 children all young elementary age and toddlers. He’s been fantastic with them, fantastic with us, amazing with every animal and person he’s ever met, and came into our home of 4 other dogs just fine. We’ve already got him in training and he excels at it all. Wonderful dog!
Emily Fletcher says
I have two mix. A female mix with English Mastiff. She is intelligent, graceful and protective. We have a boy mix with Cane Corso. He was a handful and didn’t get enough socialization so he can’t be in public. But he is amazing. He is my best friend. I give them little tasks to do. They are easy to train. They love the people they know. They are very gentle with my disabled mom. It was like they knew she needed special handling.
I personally think cropped ears look great. Yes , the dog will look aggressive. If you want a “ come here and pet me” dog look , buy a poodle !! Ask your vet about the right time to crop ears. And congrats on your awesome dog.
CAROL VASKO says
I love my Presa. He is the best. He is smart with a wonderful sense of humor. He gets along with our family cat. Very laid back but don’t mess with him.
I have a female Presa Canario, who is very smart and family oriented. She is so aware of our daily routines and lifes. She is friendly to people and watches my reactions to others, which effecrs her response.
When on our morning walk, I have taught her to sit and allow others to go by with smaller dogs which makes everyone more peaceful. But, when other dogs growl she becomes very attentive.
We have a fence and hotwire for her safety as well as others.
We have cows and a large fenced area around our house which these dogs need.
My son just brought home a 6 week old, absolutely gorgeous, presa female. I will have her a lot of the time. We have small children and I’m worried this breed may not be suitable. However, I do not want to give up on her without trying. I’m researching how I can train her to be a wonderful addition to our family, but some of the articles and sites have scary stories. I want the best for us all and absolutely love this dog. What is your best advice for training and socializing?
Hi ive actually just found myself in the same situation! How did this go in the end?
Honestly I’d u have kids and presa canario u brought in ur house isn’t a puppy of max 2-3 months u need to let it spend time with ur kids as much as u can let ur children play with it rough ,annoy it play freely so it gets used to them or else u will be worried about ur children but they are very loyal and protective towards ur family, but if u yell or u are having an argument in ur house they are unpredictable towards who they are going to protect or tell who to stop by grabbing there leg ,barking or even jumping on ur chest and pushing u back
Christopher Woods says
I have a very nice 2 year old Press named Bubba. He is an awesome dog and I can take him anywhere. He makes new Press fans everywhere he goes. At home is a different story. He busted out the glass in my front door because the FedEx guy was dropping a box on the front porch. When he is in something that is his, he is on guard. House, car, whatever. Outside of his domain he is cool with anybody that isn’t threatening. Strangers can come up and pet him. I tell him quite often that he is the best dog ever.
Very intrestead in these dogs . Whts the benefit am worries of owning one ?
April Herschbach says
Our new neighbor just moved in with 2 of them. The neighbor knows how dangerous they are to children and other animals, and yet he thinks he can control them. We do not have a fence yet, and the arrogant jerk doesn’t want to share the cost of one, so we will have to arrange to have it built. On Mother’s day, there were 5 of us out on our patio with a little white bichon Frise on a leash getting some sun. The neighbor came out, sat on his patio for a few minutes, then went in to get his dogs. He had them of leash and they saw the little bichon and ran full speed through the yards and attacked our dog, who was trying to hide behind a bench on the patio. It took 4 men trying to pry the dogs off. Another neighbor tried to come over to help and the female presa ran towards him, stopped, then backed him out of our yard, scaring him to death. Our dog stayed all night at the vets, had many stitches, 2 large gashes that needed drains inserted, and was bruised al over…but lucky to be alive. The bill came to $1400 and that was with a discount. The police took a criminal report, and we have a court date coming up. Tell me those dogs aren’t dangerous!!! They are lucky to be alive too, since all the neighbors have their firearms on alert! Their owner thinks he has them well trained, and maybe they are…until they decide he is not the alpha today. If you must have them, keep them on a ranch…out of neighborhoods!
Have you ever thought about breeding your dog? I have a 11 month old press and I want to mate her.
My son has a male presa but he is only 8 months old
Kevin Barron says
Why crop his ears,just to make him look aggressive? If so,then you perhaps shouldn’t own a Presa!
I have a pres a scenario pup golden strip 5 months very active and highly alert smart as a whip. I want to crop his ears. When is the right time to have the surgery for him or is it too late?
April Herschbach says
Why? If you have to ask, then you shouldn’t have one. Crop your own ears if you like the look.
Do research. There are reasons ears get cropped. No predator has floppy ears. This was a creation of MAN’s domestication and causes hemotomas, infections, and torn ears by dog bites and catching on things (when your dog isn’t a chubby couch potato). It’s done under anesthesia by a vet. You will have your dog cut open with major surgery, sexual organs removed from your dog and hormones disrupted instead of controlling your dog?
Between 8 and 12 weeks