Athletic, courageous, and possessing a strong sense of duty, dogo Argentinos are engaging dogs that represent the best mix of numerous other breeds. As strong hunting partners, they do well seeking out game. As pets, they have a deep affection for their families and aren’t afraid to show it.
Dogo Argentino dogs are muscular and have a short white coat with an occasional smattering of black on the eye, ear, or face. The gentle rise of their back connects to a chest and shoulder structure similar to a bodybuilder’s: solid and defined. Their dark oval eyes are positioned evenly under a jutting brow. Their short muzzle and slightly upturned nose help give them a strong sense of smell. Their triangular ears might lift on point, or drape slightly to the sides. They have a straight, narrow tail. They weigh between 88 and 100 pounds and stand as high as 25.5 inches at the shoulder.
While it’s true dogo Argentinos are fierce hunters and strong protectors, they’re also loyal to their owners and want to be close to them. When socialized well with children, dogos are playful and just lap up all the extra loving attention. For balance and harmony in the household, it’s probably best that a dogo enters a family when children are older and able to handle his boisterous energy. They’ll have the ability to voice the same commands you do so the dog receives constant consistent messaging.
Clever and independent, dogo Argentinos aren’t always eager to please but respond well to positive, no-fear reinforcement and training. “A responsible owner begins training their dogo from the day they come home, with a lot of positive reinforcement,” says Joshua Faulkner, a breeder with the first American Kennel Club Champion dogo Argentino, and owner of La Historia Dogo in Yaphank, N.Y. Puppy kindergarten and obedience training can start as soon a pup has all his required vaccinations, usually around 10 weeks of age. Because dogos can be stubborn, it’s up to their owners to project a firm but caring sense of control.
Dogos are working dogs, with all the humble sense of purpose that provides. Extensional training might include scent work, agility tasks, and specific retrieval goals. They need intense mental stimulation to be happy and engaged.
Focused physical activity also brings out the best in dogos. In their native Argentina and in the southern U.S., they’re used for tracking and catching wild boar, mountain lions, and feral pigs. Dedicated hunters even outfit them with special protective gear on hunts so they can get deep into the fray to help keep them safe. So a walk around the block probably won’t slate his desire to run and wrestle.
Once he’s trained and has a vet’s approval, let him ride hard in hunts, dog sports, and more active exercise with you such as biking, jogging, or hiking.
Dogo Argentinos thrive in environments where they have plenty of room to roam and things to do, ideally a farm or ranch. “The dogo Argentino thrives in a predominantly working environment, as it was specifically bred to engage with and eradicate animals that would risk the welfare of family and farm,” Faulkner says. “Still, the dogo is very adaptable, and,when selected with guidance from a skilled breeder, can live contently in a family with less work than he was intended for.” Dogos need a good bit of attention and don’t like to be left alone for long periods of time. If left on their own for too long, they can get destructive. They have a strong prey drive and are bred to be confrontational, which can be challenging in a home with other pets. “They’re intended to be tolerant of other animals while working in a pack to subdue prey—however, they can be dominant when bored,” Faulkner says. “They shouldn’t be brought to dog parks as adults, but during socialization, they can be around other stable, well-trained dogs. Although they may not start a fight, they’re likely to end it.”
Dogos might have particular demands in other areas of life, but grooming isn’t one of them. Their crisp, white coats need to be brushed with a mitt or bristle weekly to control shedding, and they should have a mild shampoo bubble bath when dirty. Their teeth should be brushed regularly. Their nails grow rather long, so they need trimming at least monthly, depending on their level of activity. They have a tendency to develop waxy ears, so be sure to clean their ears regularly.
Dogo Argentinos are stalwart and hearty. Fortified by a moderate diet that keeps them lean coupled with the exercise their burly bodies are meant for, their lifespan is 9–15 years. They’re heat tolerant and able to engage in intense activity, within reason, without becoming overheated.
The biggest health concern in this breed is deafness, particularly in dogs with white and merle coats, according to the Merck Veterinary Manual. “Breed-wide, the rate of deafness is approximately 10 percent,” Faulkner says. “A diligent breeding program can cut that number in half by never using dogs that have congenital deafness in either ear and by using dogs with the most allowable pigment.”
The MVM states that like many large, powerful breeds, dogos can suffer from elbow and hip dysplasia, as well as bloat, glaucoma, laryngeal paralysis, and hypothyroidism. The hip dysplasia can be mild to severe. Ask the breeder to show written evidence a dogo puppy’s parents have hips that have been rated as fair, good, or excellent by the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA). Other health clearances you should expect to see are an OFA BAER (brainstem auditory evoked response) test for hearing and an OFA thyroid evaluation.
Nearly a century ago, the legend of dogo Argentinos began in the Cordoba region of Argentina due to the efforts of the Nores Martinez brothers, Antonio, a respected physician, and Agustin, an attorney. Growing up, the wealthy brothers hunted big game but found it frustrating to only have one or two dogs to assist in the capture. Additionally, cattle ranchers across the Argentine plains had challenges with Russian boars and pumas attacking their herds.
So the Nores Martinez brothers developed a selective breeding program. Starting with the historic but now extinct fighting dogs of Cordoba, for more than 20 years, the brothers bred them with many other dogs to refine certain characteristics, including Great Pyrenees, Great Danes, Spanish mastiff, Irish wolfhounds, Dogue de Bordeaux, bull terriers, and pointers.
In 1947, the brothers were pleased with their massive, athletic, high-endurance, and powerful dogs that had a pack-working mentality, strong protective instincts, an even temperament, and affection for their human companions. Their mostly white color helped them stand out against the frantic landscape of a hunt, and their courage against more formidable animal threats provided ranchers and hunters with great success.
Although dogo Argentinos would travel to many other countries for the next two decades, they didn’t make it to the U.S. until another doctor, Raul Zeballos, brought six with him to Texas in 1970.
In 2020, the American Kennel Club recognized the dogo Argentino, making him the organization’s 195th breed.
- Dogos have popped up on TV in shows such as Animal Planet’s “Dogs 101,” celebrity trainer Cesar Millan’s “Dog Whisper,” and the Showtime drama “Ray Donovon.”
- Mina Starsiak Hawk from HGTV's "Good Bones" rescued her dogo Argentino Frank, who makes frequent appearances on her Instagram.
- Dogo Argentinos expanded their working dog resumes by building credentials as successful military canines, search and rescue helpers, and even therapy animals.