Perro de Presa Canario
The Perro de Presa Canario (or "the Canary dog") originated in the Canary Islands of Spain. He is a strong, affectionate dog who is immensely loyal to his family. This large-sized breed is rare in the United States, but those who own a Presa Canario attest that there is no dog more loving and devoted.
Due to his rarity in the United States, the Presa Canario is often mistaken for an American pit bull terrier. And similarly to the pit bull, he struggles to overcome negative misconceptions and a bad reputation that comes from years of owners mistreating their dogs and building harmful headlines. Just like other dogs, the Presa Canario will be a loving pup if he is well-socialized as a puppy and taught using positive reinforcement training.
"We are so passionate about showing people what this breed is. The Presa is not some horrible, mean, aggressive dog," says Epiphany Ramos, secretary for the Presa Canario Club of America."[He] really is a very friendly, family-oriented dog, while also powerful."
With a strong head and muscular body, the Presa Canario appears impressive at first glance. He carries the best traits of a Molossoid mastiff dog: calm yet attentive when relaxed, but agile and quick as soon as he begins moving. His body is broad; he typically stands about 22–26 inches in height and can easily weigh up to 100 pounds or more. His short coat (which is easy to maintain) can come in shades of fawn, brown, or various brindle patterns.
His watchful eyes are brown, and he can often be seen with his pink tongue peeking out from his large jowls. When something catches his attention, the Presa Canario's entire body will become alert with his ears perked up and his tail raised in anticipation. Though the Presa Canario is a powerful dog, he is also deeply affectionate and loving toward his family.
The Presa Canario watches over his family with an attentive gaze. He is confident and occasionally strong-willed—but, if your Presa Canario is well-trained as a puppy, he can become a loving companion with an unmatched work ethic.
Ramos fell in love with the Presa Canario when she went to the Canary Islands alongside other Presa Canario enthusiasts to learn from Spain's breed experts. While there, she got to see how capable the Presa Canario was at sporting dog work, while also being loving and devoted to their owners.
"We just fell head over heels for the breed. I never knew that this is what a dog could be: the majestic aspect of the breed, the protectiveness, and the family-loving qualities," Ramos says. "We wanted as many people as possible that were a good fit for the dog to experience what this breed was all about."
The Presa Canario's temperament is often misunderstood in the U.S. due to his history intwined with dog fighting in Spain (which is now illegal). But at his best, the Presa Canario is calm and friendly in his interactions.
Jason Baum, president of the Presa Canario Club of America, says the Presa Canario can be wonderful with children and families, and he'll happily snuggle up with his loved ones for a nap.
"People are astounded by how loving the Presa Canario is," Baum says. "The dog will always be right at your feet. He will be sleeping in the room, and you'll go to get a drink of water, and the dog will be with you every time. They'll never leave you."
The Presa Canario needs a committed owner, quality exercise, and time with his family in order to thrive. He is not a dog who will be happy left at home for hours to entertain himself.
If his life has those elements, he is generally able to live happily anywhere, from a city apartment to a wide-open rural home. He loves any activity with his family, whether that's hiking in the woods or swimming at the beach. At the end of a long day, he's content to spend time relaxing with his family and snoozing at your feet.
"They are, by nature, really wanting to be around their people," Ramos says. "They seek out their people for attention, reassurance, and love. They are an extremely affectionate breed. They look tough and can act aloof toward strangers, but they are very affectionate to their family."
Though he loves his human family members, most Presa Canario will prefer being the only dog at home. And while some Presa Canario can live well with cats if they're raised with them, it is important to remember that they have a high prey drive, so living with kitties might be stressful for everyone involved.
As with all dogs, it's important to take your Presa Canario to training classes when he is young. The Presa Canario is not immediately warm toward strangers, and it's oh-so-important that he is well-socialized during puppyhood so he's comfortable around new people.
"The dog is not going to be successful without obedience training or quality socialization as a young puppy," Ramos says. "And that need continues throughout their life. [He's] not a lap dog that will be content to just lay around and cuddle all the time. [He] does need outlets for engagement."
While grooming is not a key concern for Presa owners, positive reinforcement training is. Sam Tossie, a board member for the Presa Canario Club of America, says the Presa Canario is greatly shaped by whether his owners focus the dog's natural drive into pleasing his human parents.
Again, the most important care new owners can give is taking their Presa Canario puppy to training classes and ensuring he receives proper socialization with other dogs.
"The Presa is what you make it; it's how you raise them," Tossie says. "If you want a family dog, you get a family dog. … They're a stable dog. You just have to know what you're doing. They are trainable, and they are not naturally looking for problems. They are a protection and guardian breed, but that's the least part of them, in my opinion."
The Presa Canario is a generally healthy dog breed that can be expected to live between 9 –12 years. The Presa Canario Club of America recommends that owners watch for potential problems with the dog's hips and elbows, such as hip dysplasia or elbow dysplasia. Other than that, they are not prone to any severe health issues.
Tossie encourages new Presa owners to watch their dog's weight in their early life so they have time to grow into their hips before putting too much strain on them. While the Presa Canario can weigh up to 100 pounds at full size, he is still growing until he's 2 or 3 years old.
"You want to give their bodies a chance to develop," Tossie says. "They should not weigh 100 pounds when they are 10 months old, for instance."
Owners may assume that their Presa Canario's large head and jowls mean he's destined to drool all over the house, but Tossie says this idea is overstated. While the Presa Canario can make a mess around the water bowl (or responds enthusiastically to the smell of a steak), he does not drool for no reason.
"It really varies from dog to dog," Tossie says. "Do they drool heavily after drinking water because they have jowls? Yes. But, it's really just kind of isolated to a 4-foot radius around the water bowl."
The Perro de Presa Canario originated from the Canary Islands of Spain. As a Molossoid Mastiff dog, he resembles other large breeds that are renowned for their power, agility, and loyalty. Throughout the 16th and 17th centuries, the Presa Canario served as a protector for cattle and other livestock, as well as a guard dog for families.
The Presa Canario almost went extinct in the 1960s after the government of Spain enacted a ban on dogfighting. Because the Presa Canario were unfortunately used in dogfights for many years, it took a long time before people realized their other wonderful traits as a family-oriented dog. Advocates in Spain launched a breed club for the Presa Canario in 1982, and the breed was formally recognized by the Royal Canine Society of Spain in 1989.
The Presa Canario is a very rare breed in the United States. He joined the American Kennel Club's Foundation Stock Service in 1996, but there are only a few experts on the breed in the United States. Internationally, he is also represented by the Presa Canario Club of Spain and other breed club members throughout the world.
- The Perro de Presa Canario is the official symbol of Gran Canaria, one of the islands of the Canary Islands.
- The Perro de Presa Canario is known by many names, including Dogo Canario, Canario mastiff, and the Canary catch dog.
- True to his island roots, the Perro de Presa Canario is known for loving water and makes an incredible swimmer.