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Breed Type: Mastiff
Present Use: Guard dog
Original Use: Guard dog, man tracking dog
Typical Weight: 110 to 205 lbs
Typical Height At Shoulders: 30 inches
Color: Wide variety, from solid colors to beautiful brindles
Type Of Coat: Smooth. The short hairs get embedded in clothing, rugs and upholstery, and can’t be easily vacuumed out… it is almost as if they are like cactus needles, you have to pick them out of fabric. The scent of the dog is earthy, not unpleasant, but definitely unique.
Background: I believe that the Fila Brasiliero is the descendent of the Cuban Mastiff. The Cuban Mastiff was a dog used by slave owners to track down, and control, slaves. I do not believe the Fila of today, however, has maintained all the original traits of the Cuban Mastiff. They aren’t good trackers, for example, not having the nose or the drive to work a track or trail diligently. They are not as sturdy as such a dog would have had to be in order to do miles of tracking and physical labor, and a blown ACL isn’t out of the question. They don’t have the kind of teeth that you’d want in such a dog, too small for such a big dog. And they are much more a dog that is comfortable at a home than away from home, but wouldn’t be so comfortable training in a Schutzhund club, or working away from home doing a task or even on a vacation.
Temperament: A Fila Brasiliero is very much like a cross between a scent hound and a mastiff, sharing many of the same traits as both breed types. If you have worked with or owned a Basset Hound, then you’ll see some of that. If you’ve owned a Mastiff, you’ll see some of that, too. However, they are very suspicious of strangers, human and canine, and no amount of socialization will take that out of the adult dog. I feel the breed is too easily stressed living in urban environments, so is better off in a rural setting. Further, they are going to demonstrate their true traits better if they are in a group of 2, such as a male and female. Filas WILL bite if bothered by strangers. In the home, the dog is very friendly and affectionate with the owners, easy to live with, not destructive, and relatively passive. In public, they are hypervigilant, and it requires a LOT of supervision and physical strength to manage them. Because the dogs are so gorgeous, strangers will come up to talk and touch the dog, which can be a serious problem. The dogs don’t want to know strangers.
Filas will never be obedience champions. The hound in them prevents that kind of obedience. I wish that breeders would focus more on a willing temperament, more ability to use the nose for work, and stronger nerves to address the stresses of modern life. It takes a lot of work to train a Fila well. Filas will also harden to harsh training, getting more stubborn rather than getting more obedient. I would not recommend using electric collars on them, ever.
I do not think that the current Fila can be used as a true working dog these days. Breeders aren’t breeding for working temperament. Yes, the dogs will guard your home. They are very territorial. They will also guard your car, but heaven forbid if the window is down and some stranger reaches into the car, or puts their head too near the open window, because the dog will hurt the intruder. It can also be dangerous to drive in a car with a Fila, because if someone comes too near the car, even when the car is in motion, the dog will light up… it is no fun to have a 150 lb dog instantly jump from the back seat into the front dash board as you are driving. You really need a van or truck. This dog is a homebody, and is best kept in a well fenced or walled property. They need daily human interaction with their family to be happy and well adjusted, and would be a sad and upset dog if left to live alone outdoors.
I also don’t think a Fila is truly a pet, either. They are a type of guard dog, a type of working dog, and you have to respect that. There is a role for such a dog. If you have a walled in property, in a rural area, where you need the assistance of a couple of very large guard dogs, then this might be the breed for you. They can’t run as fast as, say, a German Shepherd, so they are going to be best in areas where the top speed of the dog isn’t as relevant. In addition, this is a dog that would work best in a pack, preferably a male and female. Two males or two females are more likely to fight with one another, so pick opposite sex pairs. Raise them as you would any other dog, but recognize from about 6 months to 1 year old, they will become too suspicious of strangers to be walking them in public crowds or taking them to a pet store.
Filas are a banned breed in some countries, which is silly. You never hear about them in the news. People who get them have to spend a lot of money to buy them, and it costs a lot of money to own them, from food to giant toys and supplies to a very big vehicle. Dog problems can’t be solved by banning breeds but by practicing those things any responsible dog owner knows to do: socialization, supervision, containment, training, and proper health care.
Health Issues: Bloat/ torsion. Potential for medical problems if the dog is always stressed living in urban environments, such as a depressed immune system resulting in allergy like symptoms or skin infections. A Fila can live a long time, relative to other giant breeds.
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