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Eva Maria Kramer, Animal Photography
The Perro de Presa Canario is a mastiff breed from the Canary Islands. He is a complex, powerful dog with special needs when it comes to ownership. The Presa is used as a “catch dog,” driving cattle and hogs and running off or killing strange dogs. The Presa has a massive head, heavy rectangular body, and a short coat in brindle, black, fawn, or any combination of those colors. In communities and countries with breed bans, he is often among the breeds that are outlawed.
The Perro de Presa Canario is also known as the Canary Dog of Prey because he comes from the Canary Islands, located in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Africa.
The Presa Canario is not an appropriate choice for an inexperienced dog owner. First-time dog owners and people who have had only “soft” breeds such as retrievers, spaniels, or toy breeds need not apply. In the wrong hands, the Presa (like any dog) is dangerous. Two Presas killed a woman in San Francisco in 2006 because their owner hadn’t trained them and was unable to control them. If you don’t want that kind of responsibility at your end of the leash, don’t get a Presa.
This dog is large, powerful, intelligent, and headstrong. The breed standard says he should be calm, attentive and self-confident, obedient, and docile with family members and suspicious of strangers. But dogs don’t come ready-made with those qualities. A Presa Canario needs a leader who can develop and manage those characteristics by guiding the dog with firmness and consistency and without using force or cruelty.
Early, frequent socialization is essential. Purchase a Presa Canario puppy from a breeder who raises the pups in the home and ensures that they are exposed to many different household sights and sounds, as well as people, before they go off to their new homes.
Once your vet gives the go-ahead, continue socializing your Presa Canario throughout his life by taking him to puppy kindergarten class, visits to friends and neighbors, and outings to local shops and businesses. This is the only way he can learn to be discriminating, recognizing what is normal and what is truly a threat. That said, no amount of socialization will make him friendly toward one and all. The Presa Canario is first and foremost a guard dog, and he takes his responsibilities seriously.
The Presa has a high activity level and needs a job to do, which can be anything from being your on-leash walking companion to daily training activities. He will not be satisfied to lie around and do nothing all the time.
Begin training as soon as you bring your Perro de Presa Canario puppy home, while he is still at a manageable size. A nothing-in-life-is-free program, requiring puppies to “work” for everything they get by performing a command before receiving meals, toys, treats or play, often works well with this breed. It’s always a good idea to take a Presa Canario to puppy kindergarten followed by basic obedience class, especially if you are working with a trainer who understands the Presa Canario mindset.
He must also be prevented from chasing and killing cats or small dogs belonging to the neighbors. The Presa Canario has a high prey drive and a territorial nature, so he needs a strong, solid fence at least 6 feet high to keep him on his own property. An underground electronic fence is never appropriate for this breed.
Like any dog, Perro de Presa Canario puppies are inveterate chewers and because of their size can do a whole lot of damage. Don’t give them the run of the house until they’ve reached trustworthy maturity. And keep your Perro de Presa Canario puppy busy with training, play, and socialization experiences. A bored Presa is a destructive Presa, taking up digging, chewing, and other undesirable behaviors.
The Perro de Presa Canario should spend plenty of time indoors and outdoors with his family. Chaining a Presa out in the yard and giving him little or no attention is not only cruel, it can also lead to aggression and destructive behavior.
The Presa Canario has a smooth coat that sheds. Brush him at least once a week to remove dead hair and keep the skin and coat healthy. Clean the ears and trim the nails as needed, and bathe the Presa on the rare occasions that he’s dirty.
The Presa Canario is thought to date to the 15th and 16th centuries, perhaps descended from mastiff-type dogs brought to the Canary Islands by Spanish conquistadores. There they guarded farms, helped wrangle cattle, and drove off or killed stray or wild dogs.
The dogs that likely figured in the development of the Presa Canario include the Iberian Presa, a mastiff type, and various types of bulldogs, known as Alanos. With British colonists came other types of bulldogs and mastiffs, which also contributed to the Presa’s background. A sheepdog called the Bardino Majorero, notable for intelligence, guardian instincts, courage, and an impressive set of teeth, was the final addition to the mix.
With all that power behind them, Presas became popular in dog-fighting circles. The practice was prohibited in the 1940s, although it continued clandestinely for at least another 10 years. The breed’s numbers began to drop, not only because of the dog-fighting prohibition but also because of the introduction of other protective breeds such as the Doberman Pinscher and German Shepherd Dog. They captured the interest of island dog owners, and the Presa was relegated to farm work.
In the 1970s, however, people took an interest in the breed and began to reconstruct it, seeking to create a dog that was massive, strong, confident, courageous, highly territorial, and calm. A dog who would never give up no matter what the odds were against him. A breed club was formed on the islands in 1982. The Presa has been a part of the American Kennel Club’s Foundation Stock Service since 1996. The United Kennel Club recognized the breed in 2003.
With attention and affection from early puppyhood, the Presa develops a strong bond to his family and will protect them from any threat. He is active and athletic, and (overall health permitting) suitable as a jogging or other exercise companion. When the day is done, he’s happy to relax with you and watch a little TV.
On a scale of 1 to 5, the Presa only earns a 2 for being child-friendly, so caution is warranted when exposure to children is possible. That said, children should be introduced to the Presa at an early age. Let them help feed him, groom him, and play with him so he learns that they are part of the family. Neighboring children should also be encouraged to play with the puppy. With proper training and supervision, the Presa can do well in a family with children, but it’s important to remember that his sweeping tail can easily knock a toddler over.
The Presa may get along with other pets if raised with them, as long as they give him pride of place. Note, however, that the breed scores a 1 (on a scale of 1 to 5) for being friendly toward other dogs, and receives the same low score for being "cat-friendly". The breed standard says the Presa is aggressive toward other dogs. It is particularly unwise to keep a Presa with another dog of the same gender or with the same “macho” mentality.
Presas can live happily in most environments as long as they receive moderate amounts of daily exercise. But take into account the presence of other dogs if you live in a communal area such an apartment or condo complex. Their presence could be an issue if your Presa is aggressive toward other animals. Early socialization and training may help adjust his attitude but is not always be successful.
The Presa is observant, curious, and wary of strangers. Those qualities, combined with his deep bark, make him a very effective watchdog and guard dog.
Start training your puppy the day you bring him home. Even at 8 weeks old, he is capable of soaking up everything you can teach him. Never wait until he is 6 months old to begin training or you will have a more headstrong dog to deal with. Get him to puppy kindergarten by the time he is 10 to 12 weeks old, so you can start building a strong working relationship, and socialize, socialize, socialize. However, be aware that many puppy training classes require certain vaccines (like kennel cough) to be up to date, and many veterinarians recommend limited exposure to other dogs and public places until puppy vaccines (including rabies, distemper and parvovirus) have been completed. In lieu of formal training, you can begin training your puppy at home and socializing him among family and friends until puppy vaccines are completed.
Once your vet gives the go-ahead for more public exposure (and you have some confidence that the puppy won't attack strangers), hang out at your local coffee shop and introduce him to everyone who comes by. Invite people to your home, as well, so he becomes accustomed to visitors. These experiences will help him grow into a sensible, calm adult dog and minimize his wariness of new experiences. They are also the only way he has to learn what’s normal and what’s not, so he can discriminate between situations that call for him to step in and those that don’t.
Talk to the breeder, describe exactly what you’re looking for in a dog, and ask for assistance in selecting a puppy. Breeders see the puppies daily and can make uncannily accurate recommendations once they know something about your lifestyle and personality. Whatever you want from a Presa Canario, look for one whose parents have nice personalities and who has been well socialized from early puppyhood.
All dogs have the potential to develop genetic health problems, just as all people have the potential to inherit a particular disease. Run, don’t walk, from any breeder who does not offer a health guarantee on puppies, who tells you that the breed is 100 percent healthy and has no known problems, or who tells you that her puppies are isolated from the main part of the household for health reasons. A reputable breeder will be honest and open about health problems in the breed and the incidence with which they occur in her lines.
Health problems that have been seen in the Presa include orthopedic conditions such as hip and elbow dysplasia, osteochondritis dissecans and panosteitis; eye problems such as entropion; hypothyroidism; demodectic mange; epilepsy; and cryptorchidism (a single testicle or a testicle retained inside the body). The breed may also be prone to gastric torsion/bloat, and anterior cruciate ligament tears. Ask the breeder to show evidence that a puppy’s parents have hips that have been rated as fair, good or excellent by the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA). Both parents should also have OFA elbow clearances, an OFA thyroid evaluation and eye clearances from the Canine Eye Registration Foundation. Do not purchase a puppy from a breeder who cannot provide you with written documentation that the parents were cleared of health problems that affect the breed. Having the dogs vet checked is not a substitute for genetic health testing.
Careful breeders screen their breeding dogs for genetic disease and breed only the healthiest and best-looking specimens, but sometimes Mother Nature has other ideas and a puppy develops one of these diseases despite good breeding practices. Advances in veterinary medicine mean that in most cases the dogs can still live a good life. If you’re getting a puppy, ask the breeder about the ages of the dogs in her lines and what they died of.
Remember that after you’ve taken a new puppy into your home, you have the power to protect him from one of the most common health problems: obesity. Keeping a Presa at an appropriate weight is one of the easiest ways to extend his life. Make the most of your preventive abilities to help ensure a healthier dog for life.
The Presa Canario has a short, flat, single coat with a harsh texture. It sheds but is easy to groom. Brush him at least once a week to remove dead hair and keep the skin and coat healthy. Bathe the Presa on the rare occasions that he’s dirty.
You can expect him to shed seasonally in the spring and fall. Brush him more frequently during that time to remove dead hair. Warm baths and thorough blow-drying (use a low setting to avoid burning the dog) will also help to loosen the coat and get rid of dead hair more quickly.
The Presa doesn’t drool as much as some mastiff-type dogs, though some drooling is inevitable after he eats or drinks or during hot weather. Wipe his mouth after to prevent him from wiping drool on your clothing, walls, or furniture.
The rest is basic care. Trim the nails as needed, usually once every week or two. Brush the teeth frequently with a vet-approved pet toothpaste for good overall health and fresh breath. Check the ears weekly for dirt, redness, or a bad odor that can indicate an infection. If the ears look dirty, wipe them out with a cotton ball dampened with a gentle, pH-balanced ear cleaner recommended by your veterinarian. Begin grooming early so the Presa learns to accept handling willingly.
Whether you want to go with a breeder or get your dog from a shelter or rescue, here are some things to keep in mind.
Finding a good breeder is a great way to find the right puppy. A good breeder will match you with the best dog for you and will, without question, have done all of the certifications necessary to screen out health problems as much as possible. She is more interested in placing pups in the right homes than making big bucks. Be wary of breeders who tell you only good things about the breed or who promote the dogs as being “good with kids” without any context as to what that means or how it comes about.
Good breeders will welcome your questions about temperament, health clearances, and what the dogs are like to live with, and come back at you with questions of their own about what you’re looking for in a dog and what kind of life you can provide for him. A good breeder can tell you about the history of the breed, explain why one puppy is considered pet quality while another is not, and discuss what health problems affect the breed and the steps she takes take to avoid those problems. A breeder should want to be a resource for you throughout your dog’s life.
Look for more information about the Presa Canario and start your search for a good breeder at the website of the United Perro de Presa Canario Club. Choose a breeder who has agreed to abide by the UPPCC’s code of ethics, which prohibits the sale of puppies to or through pet stores.
Avoid breeders who only seem interested in how quickly they can unload a puppy on you and whether your credit card will go through. Breeders who offer puppies at one price “with papers” and at a lower price “without papers” are unethical. You should also bear in mind that buying a puppy from websites that offer to ship your dog to you immediately can be a risky venture, as it leaves you no recourse if what you get isn’t exactly what you expected. Put at least as much effort into researching your puppy as you would into choosing a new car or expensive appliance. It will save you money in the long run.
Lots of reputable breeders have websites, so how can you tell who’s good and who’s not? Red flags include puppies always being available, multiple litters on the premises, having your choice of any puppy, and the ability to pay online with a credit card. Those things are convenient, but they are almost never associated with reputable breeders.
Whether you’re planning to get your Presa from a breeder, a pet store, or another source, don’t forget that old adage “let the buyer beware”. Disreputable breeders and facilities that deal with puppy mills can be hard to distinguish from reliable operations. There’s no 100% guaranteed way to make sure you’ll never purchase a sick puppy, but researching the breed (so you know what to expect), checking out the facility (to identify unhealthy conditions or sick animals), and asking the right questions can reduce the chances of heading into a disastrous situation. And don’t forget to ask your veterinarian, who can often refer you to a reputable breeder, breed rescue organization, or other reliable source for healthy puppies.
The cost of a Presa Canario puppy varies depending on the breeder’s locale, whether the pup is male or female, what titles his parents have, and whether he is best suited for the show ring or a pet home. The puppy you buy should have been raised in a clean home environment and come from parents with health clearances, as well as conformation (show) and, ideally, working titles to prove that they are good specimens of the breed. Puppies should be temperament tested, vetted, dewormed, and socialized to give them a healthy, confident start in life.
Before you decide to buy a puppy, consider whether an adult Presa Canario might better suit your needs and lifestyle. Puppies are loads of fun, but they require a lot of time and effort before they grow up to become the dog of your dreams. An adult may already have some training and will probably be less active, destructive, and demanding than a puppy. With an adult, you know more about what you’re getting in terms of personality and health and you can find adults through breeders or shelters. If you are interested in acquiring an older dog through breeders, ask them about purchasing a retired show dog or if they know of an adult dog who needs a new home. If you want to adopt a dog, read the advice below on how to do that.
There are many great options available if you want to adopt a dog from an animal shelter or breed rescue organization. Here is how to get started.
1. Use the Web
Sites like Petfinder.com and Adopt-a-Pet.com can have you searching for a Presa Canario in your area in no time flat. The site allows you to be very specific in your requests (house-training status, for example) or very general (all the Presa Canarios available on Petfinder across the country). Animal Shelter can help you find animal rescue groups in your area. Also, some local newspapers have a “pets looking for homes” section you can review.
Social media is another great way to find a dog. Post on your Facebook page that you are looking for a specific breed so that your entire community can be your eyes and ears.
2. Reach Out to Local Experts
Start talking with all the pet pros in your area about your desire for a Presa Canario. That includes vets, dog walkers, and groomers. When someone has to make the tough decision to give up a dog, that person will often ask her own trusted network for recommendations.
3. Talk to Breed Rescue
Most people who love Presa Canarios love all Presa Canarios. That’s why breed clubs have rescue organizations devoted to taking care of homeless dogs. The United Perro de Presa Canario Club’s can help you find a dog that may be the perfect companion for your family. You can also search online for other Perro de Presa Canarios rescues in your area.
The great thing about breed rescue groups is that they tend to be very upfront about any health conditions the dogs may have and are a valuable resource for advice. They also often offer fostering opportunities so, with training, you could bring a Presa Canario home with you to see what the experience is like.
4. Key Questions to Ask
You now know the things to discuss with a breeder, but there are also questions you should discuss with shelter or rescue group staff or volunteers before you bring home a dog. These include:
Wherever you acquire your Presa Canario, make sure you have a good contract with the seller, shelter, or rescue group that spells out responsibilities on both sides. Petfinder offers an Adopters Bill of Rights that helps you understand what you can consider normal and appropriate when you get a dog from a shelter. In states with “puppy lemon laws,” be sure you and the person you get the dog from both understand your rights and recourses.
Whether he's a puppy or adult, take your Presa Canario to your veterinarian soon after adoption. Your veterinarian will be able to spot problems and will work with you to set up a preventive regimen that will help you avoid many health issues.
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