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The Fila Brasileiro is a large to giant mastiff type dog from Brazil bred to be a guard dog originally. It is also known as the Brazilian Mastiff, Brazilian Bloodhound, Cao de Brasil, Cao de Fila and Brazilian Molosser. Its life expectancy is about 9 to 11 years and it is used in other roles including the military, and to hunt game that is more dangerous. It is essential that owners are extremely experienced and confident, that good socialization and training are given and that it is supervised as needed. This is not an easy breed to care for, it is aggressive and actually has its intolerance of being touched written in its standard. It is also a breed that has restrictions or even bans in several countries.
|The Fila Brasileiro at a Glance|
|Other names||Brazilian Mastiff, Brazilian Molosser, Brazilian Bloodhound, Cao de Brasil, Cao de Fila|
|Average size||Large to giant|
|Average weight||90 to 120 pounds|
|Average height||23 to 29 inches|
|Life span||9 to 11 years|
|Coat type||Smooth, Short, Dense, Soft|
|Color||Black, Brown, Yellow, Chestnut, Fawn, Brindle|
|Popularity||Not yet a fully registered member of the AKC|
|Intelligence||Average to above average|
|Tolerance to heat||Excellent – best of Mastiffs for its heat tolerance|
|Tolerance to cold||Good|
|Shedding||Average to high – will be hair around the home|
|Drooling||High – this is a breed prone to slobber and drool, wipe daily|
|Obesity||Average – measure its food and make sure it is well exercised|
|Grooming/brushing||Average to high – brush at least twice a week, daily if shedding is heavy|
|Barking||High – barks often and it is deep and loud|
|Exercise needs||Somewhat high – being a large dog it has certain needs|
|Trainability||Very difficult – good experience is essential|
|Friendliness||Moderate to good – socialization is essential|
|Good first dog||No – requires experienced trainer or dog owner|
|Good family pet||Good but only with an owner who has experience and makes sure the dog is trained and socialized|
|Good with children||Low to moderate – best in a home that is kid free but socialization still needed along with supervision in case of visitors are them being around when on a walk|
|Good with other dogs||Low – see above really, dog aggressive so supervision is needed|
|Good with other pets||Low – too aggressive, socialization and supervision is needed|
|Good with strangers||Low – aggressive and hates being touched by unknown people|
|Good apartment dog||No – too large, needs space and a yard|
|Handles alone time well||Yes – is fine being left alone|
|Health issues||Somewhat healthy but some issues include Hip/elbow dysplasia, bloat, PRA, gastric torsion and CHD, eye problems|
|Medical expenses||$485 a year for basic health care and pet insurance|
|Food expenses||$310 a year for a good quality dry dog food and dog treats|
|Miscellaneous expenses||$245 a year for toys, basic training, miscellaneous items and license|
|Average annual expenses||$1040 a year as a starting figure|
|Cost to purchase||$1,250|
|Rescue organizations||Gentle Giants Rescue and Adoptions, Fila Rescue INC, also check local rescues and shelters|
|Biting Statistics||Attacks doing bodily harm: 5 Maimings: 1 Child Victims: 1 Deaths: 1|
The Fila Brasileiro’s Beginnings
The Fila Brasileiro was bred in colonial times in Brazil. Because it was developed in a time when breeding records were not kept in a remote area details of its beginnings are not known. In the 1500s the Portuguese flocked to Brazil to colonize it and for the highly prized Brazilian wood. Natives that survived the plagues and disease brought over by the Europeans were enslaved to work on these plantations as things like rubber, sugar and cotton replaced the wood as valuable resources. African slaves were also brought over and the dog was developed to track and capture slaves that escaped from such plantations. It would do so by biting down on their shoulders and necks and holding them down until the slave’s master arrived. It was also used to hunt large game and as a guard dog.
The dog then was developed specifically to have a great sense of smell, a drive to track down its trail, resistant to disease and able to handle jungle heat and large enough to bring a man down and aggressive enough to attack even if that man was armed. To get the characteristics they desired breeders used dogs that include the Portuguese Watch Dog, Portuguese mastiff and several English breeds such as the Bulldog, English Mastiff and the Bloodhound. The resulting new breed was called the Fila Brasileiro or Cao de Fila and its popularity spread throughout Brazil
By the mid 1800s the Fila Brasileiro was one of the essential parts of the Brazilian Plantation system. It was a great guard dog, could track down slaves, and could track and fight dangerous prey like jaguar. Up until the late 1800s slave labor was heavily relied upon and as long as that was true the dog continued to be important too. When in 1884 slavery was completely abolished the dog continued in other roles unlike other breeds that had been used solely for slave tracking that then became extinct. It became most prominently a guard dog and in the 1900s as crime rates became a very large problem in Brazil it has continued to be a popular dog.
New Lease on Life
In the 1940s there was more interest in breed standards and maintaining the purity of breeds in Brazil. In 1946 a written standard was published based on FCI standards but this caused a split with breeders and fanciers. The FCI said the dog should have a body like a Mastiff and a face like a Bloodhound and should be less aggressive. The Brazilian Kennel Club used this standard. But some wanted a less bulky dog and one that was more aggressive. As a result the CAFIB formed to keep the dog traditional and that included a distrust of strangers and not liking to be touched by them. This is known by Brazilians as Ojeriza.
In the late 20th century the Brazilian military looked at the Fila to see if it could be a military dog as it had better ability at standing the heat than some working breeds brought in like the German Shepherd. It did well in tests and then its reputation traveled around the world for being a fierce guard dog. A number were imported but as a result of poor ownership and a lack of understanding of the breed there were attacks. As a result many countries have identified it as a dog that is outright banned or restricted. Despite this its numbers continue to grow and it remains in its role as a working dog. It is not recognized though by either the UKC or the AKC.
The Dog You See Today
The Fila Brasileiro is a large to giant dog weighing 90 to 120 pounds (it can be a lot more on occasion) and standing 23 to 29 inches tall. It has loose skin around its neck and face giving it wrinkles and it has a large rectangular body that is well balanced and powerful. Its body is more like the Mastiff and the head of the Bloodhound. It is muscular and its tail is very long and curves being carried low. It is thick at the base and then tapers a lot to the tip. Its coat is short and smooth and tight fitting. Any color is accepted, some have black masks and it can have a small amount of white markings.
The head of the Fila is very large and heavy making it something that really makes the dog stand out. Its muzzle is deep, wide and strong and is longer than most other Mastiff types. The upper lips are pendulous and hang over the lower lips. The lower lips are form until they reach the fangs and then they are looser. The nose is black, large and has wide nostrils. Its ears are large, hang down and are wide at the base and then taper to the tips being v shaped. They fall close to the sides of the head or can fold a little back. Its eyes are almond shaped, medium to large in size and the color depends on the coat.
The Inner Fila Brasileiro
It is key to understand that this is not a dog to get just because you want a large dog, there are other easier dogs that are large that you could opt for. You need genuine experience with difficult dogs and a lot of time and commitment to seeing it is well socialized, trained, raised and supervised as needed. It is a fierce guard dog, it has happened when being shown it has required two handlers. With a lot of work it can be affectionate, calm and extremely loyal. It forms very close bonds with its owner and would do anything for them. It is best in a home where it is one on one with its owner, it does not like having groups of people around it, or people vying to get its attention. It will be a good watchdog and will also guard its home and protect you and act to defend you. It does bark at everything so a command to try and stop that is needed in training. Their bark is pretty deep and loud too.
The Fila is calm, confident and fairly intelligent. It does have a stubbornness which is hard to deal with in a strong and bold dog like this. It was bred to have high levels of aggression towards people so this is not the best family dog. This is not a dog for new or inexperienced owners. When in the hands of people who greatly over estimate their experience and ability it is a serious liability, it can be dangerous and devastating. There is a trait in the Fila called Ojeriza which translates roughly to xenophobia. It means this dog was bred to be intensely distrustful and suspicious of strangers, to the point where it does not tolerate being touched by them and will react aggressively if it happens. Key training and socialization will be needed, with it it can learn to tolerate strangers when with their owner. It will also take a long time to warm up to new girlfriends or boyfriends, and some never do.
Living with a Fila Brasileiro
What will training look like?
The Fila Brasileiro is very hard to train but it is essential it receives training from an early age as well as socialization. It will take an owner who is experienced, patient, able to be a strong and confident leader and to be consistent. This is not an eager to please dog, it wants to do what it wants to do and it not inclined to obey. Some are just extremely stubborn, some are even tougher being defiant until that hierarchy has been established and even then it will keep testing you. It is not impossible to train but it will take a significant amount of your time. And even then be prepared that even when you think it is trained, it is likely to not be at the level you would want.
Early socialization should also be treated very seriously, introduce it to different places, situations, sounds and so on so it learns how to react appropriately. Most attacks that happen that have given this dog a bad rep is because the owner has not trained and socialized the Fila, or not enough and with enough confidence and consistency. That is when the dog is more likely to be violent and dangerous in some cases.
How active is the Fila Brasileiro?
This is not a breed for city living and it is not one for an apartment. As well as being too large and needing space to play in outside it barks too often and close neighbors will not enjoy that. It can be an outside dog with the right shelter but keep in mind socialization happens better when it learns to live with you and all that entails. In some lines there can be lazy dogs but in general it is fairly active and needs a certain amount of activity to keep it happy and healthy. It also needs mental stimulation. Take for a walk twice a day and see it gets at least 45 minutes of exercise a day, which should also include some play between you and it. It will also need regular opportunities a week for long roams off leash in a safe area. This is not a dog though that you can take into somewhere like a dog park, and it should always be on a leash when around other people and animals.
Caring for the Fila Brasileiro
Having a short coat makes it easier to brush then long coated dogs and it should not need any kind of professional grooming which is good since it would not want to be touched by them! It sheds an average to heavy amount so expect a lot of hair around the home to be cleaned up daily or more. You can brush a couple of times a week, but the more you brush the less loose hair will float around your home. As it does have wrinkles these will need to be cleaned daily and kept dry otherwise infections can occur. Bathing should only be done as needed to avoid drying out its skin and only use a canine shampoo to wash it with. Remember after a bath or when it is out in the rain to give those wrinkles a dry. Since this breed is a messy eater and drinker and it is a drooler be prepared to wipe this up too.
Other needs include cleaning its ears once a week and making sure there are no signs of infection. Clean them using a cotton ball and cleanser or damp cloth not with something you insert into the ear as that can cause injury and pain. Its nails will need clipping when they get too long but take care not to go too far down the nail. You can see it changes color about half way, do not go into that section called the quick of the nail. It is where there are blood vessels and nerves so cutting them causes pain and bleeding. Brush its teeth at least two to three times a week using a dog toothpaste and toothbrush.
The Fila will eat about 5½ to 6½ cups of a good to excellent quality dry dog food a day, split into at least two meals to avoid problems with bloat. The amount it eats varies depending on its size, age, metabolism, activity level and health.
How is the Fila Brasileiro with children and other animals?
The Fila Brasileiro in general is not recommended for homes with children. However some experienced owners have brought them home to their families and with good socialization, training and supervision it can be gentle and friendly with them. However it is not a dog to be left alone with strange children of course. When you raise a dog with your children there is more chance of their being a stronger bond there, but supervise when the kids are young, as toddlers they do not know the dos and do nots and can get knocked over easily.
The same is true of other pets, in general it is not recommended but in some cases with the right approach they can accept other pets like cats but having a high prey drive means some cannot and any strange animal is seen as game. Unlike most breeds this dog is actually more people aggressive than it is dog aggressive but some can have issues with other dogs, and it would never accept another dog trying to dominate it. It is best kept as an only dog and away from places like dog parks.
What Might Go Wrong?
This dog has a life span of about 9 to 11 years and is somewhat healthy but there are a few issues it can be prone to. These include bloat, joint dysplasia, eye problems, CHD, patellar luxation and flatulence.
The statistics looked at for these articles considers reports on dog attacks against people that caused bodily harm in North America. They span 35 years and the Fila Brasileiro is mentioned has having been involved in 5 attacks. That averages as just 1 attack every 7 years which really is not a terrible statistic. However while there are an established number in North America, there are not a large number so automatically the chances of it being reported on fall. This is a people aggressive dog that needs training and socialization. There is a reason why many countries have banned or limited this breed. Make sure you raise it with skill, confidence and care.
Your Pup’s Price Tag
The Fila Brasileiro puppy will cost about $1250 from a decent breeder, more from a top breeder. It is so important that you take the time to find a responsible, knowledgeable and experienced breeder if this is the dog you want. Proper breeding and early focus on socialization when they are born is going to be key in this breed. Never get a dog that is as potentially aggressive as this one from a less trustworthy breeder as you find with puppy mills or backyard breeders. There is the option of rescuing a dog but keep in mind you have no idea about its history or level of socialization and training, and to it you are a stranger which it will not like and may or may not form new bonds with. Adoption fees can range from $50 to $400.
When you have found your dog and it is ready to come home with you there are some things to get it that you will need. These include a crate, bowls, collar and leash and such and will cost around $220. For the medical care it needs when it gets home expect to spend another $290 for things like spaying or neutering, micro chipping, blood tests, vaccinations, a physical, deworming and such.
The Fila will also cost you an estimated $1040 a year for its ongoing care and health. $245 will cover basic training, license, toys and miscellaneous items. About $310 will cover a good quality dry dog food and treats. Then $485 for basic health care like flea and tick prevention, shots and check ups as well as pet insurance.
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It should be clear by now that this is not a dog for just anyone and that in fact the skill and knowledge this dogs requires should put more people off than usually happens, which is why they then get a bad reputation because they have not been raised correctly. If you are set on having one of these you are going to need to do some research too on what the rules are where you live, and be prepared for potential comments or issues from neighbors. It can be a very loyal and committed dog and it will certainly do anything it has to defend you and your home.
Featured Image Credit: Artush, Shutterstock
Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts’ knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.
- The Fila Brasileiro’s Beginnings
- New Lease on Life
- The Dog You See Today
- The Inner Fila Brasileiro
- Living with a Fila Brasileiro
- Caring for the Fila Brasileiro
- How is the Fila Brasileiro with children and other animals?
- What Might Go Wrong?
- Your Pup’s Price Tag