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Presa Canario

Nicole Cosgrove

perro de presa canario standing on grass

The Presa Canario is a large to giant sized Molasser type breed, bred on the Spanish Canary Islands to work with livestock and act as a guardian. It is also called Perro de Presa Canario which literally translates to Canarian Catch Dog, but other names include Dogo Canario, Canary Dog, Canary Mastiff and the nickname Presa. As well as being a protective guardian and hard worker it is also a great companion but needs experienced owners. It does well in several forms of competition including obedience, agility, dock diving, iron dogs, working trials and schutzhund. Gran Canaria has it has their animal symbol and it has a life span of 8 to 12 years.

The Presa Canario at a Glance
Name Presa Canario
Other names Perro de Presa Canario, Dogo Canario, Canary Dog, Canary Mastiff
Nicknames Presa
Origin Spain (Canary Islands)
Average size Large to giant
Average weight 80 to 120 pounds
Average height 21 to 26 inches
Life span 8 to 12 years
Coat type Short, coarse
Hypoallergenic No
Color Fawn, brindle, occasionally with white markings
Popularity Not ranked by the AKC
Intelligence Very good
Tolerance to heat Very good
Tolerance to cold Average
Shedding Moderate to average – some hair will be around the home
Drooling Above average – will be a fair amount especially when drinking
Obesity Average – measure its food and make sure it gets daily exercise
Grooming/brushing Low to average – brush once or twice a week
Barking Occasional – some barking but it should not be constant
Exercise needs High – this is an active breed and needs active owners
Trainability Moderately hard – experienced owners required
Friendliness Good with socialization – supervise closely
Good first dog Low – experienced owner required
Good family pet Good with socialization and training
Good with children Good to very good with socialization and training
Good with other dogs Good with socialization and training
Good with other pets Good to very good with socialization and training
Good with strangers Moderate – socialization, supervision and training are essential
Good apartment dog Low – needs space and at least a large yard
Handles alone time well Moderate – not long periods
Health issues Quite healthy but a few issues can include Hip/elbow dysplasia, epilepsy, bloat and mange
Medical expenses $485 a year for pet insurance and basic health care
Food expenses $340 a year for a good quality dry dog food and doggy treats
Miscellaneous expenses $270 a year for license, basic training, toys and miscellaneous items
Average annual expenses $1095 as a starting figure
Cost to purchase $2,000
Rescue organizations Presa Pride Rescue and Rehab, Big Dogs Huge Paws, East Coast Gentle Giants, also check local rescues and shelters
Biting Statistics Attacks doing bodily harm: 111 Maimings: 63 Child Victims: 46 Deaths: 18

The Presa Canario’s Beginnings

The Presa Canario is thought to be an old dog developed on the Canary Islands using local dogs with English Mastiffs. In the 1800s it was definitely there and kept as a working dog on farms it would protect cattle and help catch things like boar and wild cattle. But there is some suggestion that they have been around even since the 1500s. There were also times over the years where the dog itself became a problem and they were ordered to be bound, banned apart from for hunters and farmers, loose dogs were allowed to be killed and such.

There were some that were also used in dog fights as a source of entertainment and even when that was banned in the 1940s some continued to do that. Even until as recently as the 1950s dog fighting using this dog was common practice. They were not planned events but a circle would be drawn around the dogs, their collars removed and the fighting would begin and spectators would come when they heard. However when the authority tightened the ban on it, the numbers of the dog dropped.

New Lease on Life

Fortunately breeders were able to prevent its complete extinction and focus turned back to it being a good working dog and a decent companion. It was first known outside of the Canary Islands due to an article published in the ‘Dog World Magazine’ by Dr Semencic who wrote about rare breeds around the world. It is recognized as a breed in Spain and the breed standard is recognized by Royal Decree and anything that does not conform is not accepted. It is not recognized by the AKC, it is FSS though. Check the laws of wherever you are as this dog is seen as a dangerous breed in some places.

Presa Canario

The Dog You See Today

The Presa Canario is a large to giant breed weighing 80 to 120 pounds and standing 21 to 26 inches tall. The males are larger than the females. It has a wide and deep chest and its body is muscular and powerful. The topline is sloping with the rear being a little higher than its shoulders and its body is a little longer than it is tall. It is thick skinned, has a dense skeleton and has paws that are actually cat like. It has a single coat that is coarse and short. Common colors are brindle, fawn and white patches or markings. In some standards black is accepted but in some it is not.

Its head is large, broad, long and squared and some have a black mask on its face. The ears when natural are close to the head and hang down being rose or pendant shaped. In some countries where cropping is not banned that also happens which makes the ears erect. Cropping is done to prevent the ears being ripped or damaged while it is working with cattle. It has a pendulous upper lip and large powerful jaws with a wide muzzle.

The Inner Presa Canario


The Presa Canario can be a fierce and protective breed making a great guard dog and it is alert so also a watchdog that will bark to let you know if there is an intruder or strangers approaching. If owned by experienced and firm owners and given the things it needs, some activity, attention, very good socialization and training, this can be a good family dog, affectionate and even docile. It is distrustful around strangers though, so that socialization is essential and proper introductions and supervision should be made.

It will use its deep bark to intimidate if it feels it or its home or family are threatened but is bold and will react physically and aggressively if it think it needs to. It prefers not to be alone for long periods of time and barks occasionally. All members of the family need to be comfortable and not fearful around it. Please keep in mind the calm and gentle giant side to it is when it has been bred and raised well. This is a dog for the very experienced, otherwise it can be dominant, destructive, hard to live with and aggressive, and when a dog this powerful and large is aggressive that can mean some serious injuries can happen.

Presa Canario

Living with a Presa Canario

What will training look like?

This is definitely a moderately difficult dog to train as it needs someone with a lot of confidence and experience. These dogs can be stubborn and certainly will try to establish dominance over you so as its owner you need to make it clear you are the boss. You will need to be patient and also essential is consistency. Keep your approach positive offering it rewards, treats and motivate and encourage it. You can use a professional school or dog trainer to help you but it is still all on you to follow through with that. Early socialization as well as training is absolutely essential with this breed to have a dog you can trust and control. This dog can easily use its size and strength against you as an adult, so set rules, establish your dominance and socialize and socialize from a young age before it gets to the point where it physically drag you around, refuse or get difficult. It is also important to make sure all members of the household know how to handle the dog and that it knows all humans in its family are above it in the pack.

How active is the Presa Canario?

This dog is active when it is outside but is less so indoors with the right level of stimulation and exercise. However it does take a certain amount of activity to keep it healthy and happy just because of its size! It needs owners who are happy to be active and it is best in a home with space and a large yard. Take it on a couple of long walks a day making sure it is kept on a leash and check rules where you live about whether only a leash is required. If you take it to a dog park make sure it has been well socialized and that you supervise at all times.

Caring for the Presa Canario

Grooming needs

The Presa Canario is low to moderate in terms of its grooming and maintenance needs. It sheds a moderate to average amount so some hair will be around the home to be cleaned up. It should be brushed once or twice a week to keep the coat healthy and help with some of the debris and loose hair. Brushing is also important as it spreads its natural oils around its body. Use a firm bristled brush and only give a shampoo and bath bathe as it needs one. In between you can can dry shampoo and you can get a good shine on its coat by rubbing it down with a chamois.

Other areas of care will be trimming its nails if they get too long. Do not cut too far down though as there are nerves and blood vessels to avoid in the lower part. A groomer or vet can do it for you or show you how. Its teeth should be brushed at least two to three times a week with a dog toothbrush and toothpaste. Then the ears should be checked weekly for infection and wiped clean with a damp cloth or with a dog ear cleanser.

Feeding Time

A large to giant dog like this is going to be eating a lot of food! It is likely to be between 4 to 8 cups a day and that must be split into at least two meals to avoid problems with bloat. The exact amount of food will vary from one dog to another depending on its size, age, health, metabolism and level of activity. Give it water and try to keep that as fresh as possible.

Presa Canario

How is the Presa Canario with other animals and children?

With great socialization and if raised with them it can be good with children, even gentle and patient. But the key is excellent socialization and experienced leadership and handling. Small children should be supervised as they can get knocked over easily by the dogs size and because they can be grabby at ears and tails! Teach children how to act and touch this dog appropriately. With socialization it can also be good with other non-canine pets. With other dogs there can be dominance issues especially with dogs of the same sex.

What Might Go Wrong?

Health Concerns

The Presa Canario has a life span of 8 to 12 years and is fairly healthy but a few issues which can include joint dysplasia, heart problems, patellar luxation, canine leishmaniasis, eye problems, epilepsy, mange, cryptorchidism and cancer.

Biting Statistics

When looking at reports of dogs attacking people over the last 35 years in the US and Canada, the Presa Canario can be found to have been involved in 111 incidents that did bodily harm. 46 of the victims were children and 63 of the 111 incidents were actually maimings, so permanent scarring, disfigurement or loss of limb happened. Over the 35 years there have been 18 deaths as a result of the attacks. This means the breed averages at about 3 to 4 incidents a year. It is in the top 10% of dog attacks which is why it is essential it is bred carefully, raised properly and is placed with experienced owners who socialize and train and supervise their dog. Caution should be taken with this dog and there are some countries with certain rules concerning it. For example New Zealand and Australia both prohibit the importation and selling of this breed.

Your Pup’s Price Tag

A good and experienced breeder of pet quality Presa Canario puppies is going to charge around $2000 and that could double or more for show quality puppies from top breeders. From a shelter or rescue you could get something for $50 to $400 with some initial medical costs included too but being a dog with a reputation for aggression there are a lot of shelters that might not keep them around for long. Really do not buy any dog from puppy mills, pet stores or backyard breeders but especially not one like this where good breeding is so essential to being safe.

There are some medical needs and tests to do with your puppy at the vet. It will need an exam, blood tests, micro chipping, spaying or neutering, vaccinations and deworming and these will be around $290. Items you will need to have for it include a crate, collar and leash and bowls and such and these are likely to fall around the $200 mark.

Annual costs are another important factor. For basic medical concerns like check ups, pet insurance, flea and tick prevention and shots you are looking at $485 a year. Annual food and treats of a good quality are going to be about $340. Then miscellaneous costs like toys, license, miscellaneous items and basic training are another annual cost of $270. This gives a yearly total cost of around $1095.


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The Presa Canario is a very big dog, it can be aggressive and needs owners who are very confident, experienced and capable. In the right hands it is loyal, protective, affectionate and calm but ready to give its life for you and its family. It is a hard working dog too. Make sure you socialize and train it well and are prepared for what living with a large and dominant dog entails.

Featured Image Credit: Presacanariobody – Smok Bazyli, Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0

Nicole Cosgrove

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.