The Fila Brasileiro is a mastiff breed from Brazil. He is a complex, powerful dog with special needs when it comes to ownership. The Fila is a giant breed weighing 115 to 145 pounds. He is a fierce guard dog with a massive head, heavy rectangular body, and brindle or fawn coat. In the show ring he may require the control of two handlers, and judges are advised never to attempt to touch the breed. In communities and countries with breed bans, he is often among the breeds that are outlawed. Here is what you should know about the Fila Brasileiro.
Is the Fila Brasileiro the Right Dog for You?
Probably not. The Fila 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. This dog is large, powerful, intelligent, active and headstrong. A Fila needs a leader who can guide him with firmness and consistency and without using force or cruelty.
Early, frequent socialization is essential. Purchase a Fila 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. Continue socializing your Fila 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 Fila is first and foremost a guard dog, and he takes his responsibilities seriously.
Begin training as soon as you bring your Fila Brasileiro 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 Fila to puppy kindergarten followed by basic obedience class, especially if you are working with a trainer who understands the Fila Brasileiro mindset.
The Fila has a high activity level and needs a job to do, which can be anything from being your on-leash jogging companion to daily training activities. He will not be satisfied to lie around and do nothing all the time. He must also be prevented from chasing and killing cats or small dogs belonging to the neighbors. The Fila has a high prey drive and a territorial nature, so he needs a strong, solid fence at least six feet high to keep him on his own property. An underground electronic fence is never appropriate for this breed.
Like any dog, Fila Brasileiro 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 Fila Brasileiro puppy busy with training, play and socialization experiences. A bored Fila Brasileiro is a destructive Fila Brasileiro, taking up digging, chewing and other undesirable behaviors.
The Fila Brasileiro should spend plenty of time with his family. Chaining a Fila 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 Fila Brasileiro 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 Fila on the rare occasions that he’s dirty.
5 Tips to Bringing Home a Healthy Fila Brasileiro Puppy
- Finding a good breeder is more important than finding the right puppy. A good breeder will match you with the right puppy, and will without question have done all the health certifications necessary to screen out health problems as much as possible. The Fila Brasileiro is not especially common, so you may have a wait of six months or even a year or more before a puppy is available.
- Consider an adult dog from a shelter or a rescue group. Many of the health problems in Fila Brasileiros aren't apparent in puppyhood, but by adopting an adult dog, most of them can be ruled out. Since a Fila Brasileiro can live to be 10 or more years old, even an adult dog will be with your family for a long time.
- Puppy or adult, take your Fila Brasileiro to your veterinarian soon after adoption. Your veterinarian will be able to spot visible problems, and will work with you to set up a preventive regimen that will help you avoid many health issues, and in particular to watch out for the early signs of diabetes and skin problems, including ear infections.
- Don’t ever, ever, ever buy a puppy from a pet store or Internet site that offers many breeds and popular mixes, or that ships with no questions asked. If you buy a puppy from these sources, you’ll be more likely to get an unhealthy, unsocialized and difficult to house-train puppy and will be supporting the cruelty of high-volume puppy mills.
- Make sure you have a good contract with the seller, shelter or rescue group that spells out responsibilities on both sides. In states with “puppy lemon laws,” be sure you and the person you get the dog from both understand your rights and recourses.
Health Issues Common to Fila Brasileiros
All purebred 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.
The Fila Brasileiro has some health conditions that can be a concern, especially if you aren’t cautious about whom you buy from. They include hip and elbow dysplasia and eye problems such as entropion. The breed may also be prone to gastric torsion, also known as bloat.
Ask the breeder to show evidence that a puppy’s parents have OFA or PennHIP clearances for hip dysplasia, plus OFA elbow clearances. 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.
Pet Insurance for Fila Brasileiros
Pet insurance for Fila Brasileiros costs more than for mixed breed dogs. This is because Fila Brasileiros are more likely than mixed breed dogs to make claims for hereditary conditions that are expensive to treat.
Embrace pet insurance plans offer full coverage for all breed-specific conditions (excluding those that are preexisting) to which Fila Brasileiros are susceptible. The best time to get pet insurance for your Fila Brasileiro is when he’s a healthy puppy. You can’t predict what will happen in the future, and pet insurance is the one thing you can’t get when you need it the most.