top of page


Dog Neutering is an Emotive Subject for Welfare and Population Reasons but lets take a look at the facts.

It is hard to find a vet today that would recommend anything but early dog neutering, certainly before they are sexually mature, often around six months of age. The reasons given are always the same, to prevent unwanted babies and long-term health benefits, including a reduction in cancer.

However, unlike the appendix where it’s absence is not noticed in daily routine, the reproductive (or sex) organs play a whole host of hormonal roles that stretch far beyond the manufacturing of babies. Like dry food, parasite control, annual boosting and casual steroid shots, these things are not without consequence for the patient and rarely are the consequences ever discussed with the owner. People should be able to make decisions based on all the facts available, not just some of them.

What are Gonads?

In male mammals, the gonads are the two testes, and in females, the gonads are the two ovaries.

What Do The Gonads Do?

The gonads are best known for making gametes (single-celled germ cells), which is sperm in males and eggs in females. These two cells merge inside the female to commence the formation of a baby. However, the gonads also produce a variety of hormones, including the female sex hormones oestrogen and progesterone; and the male hormones including testosterone and androsterone, and, men necessarily have some of the female hormones, and women some of the male hormones.

What do the Sex Hormones Do in Dogs?

While sex hormones in males and females function primarily in the whole “sex” business from conception to baby birth, they also play pivotal roles in the maintenance of body muscle and bone growth.

Testosterone: Testosterone’s dramatic effects can be clearly seen in lanky 13-year-old males. It controls all the typical puberty bits in males such as the growth of the adams apple, facial and body hair to the height and muscle mass of the individual. Adults testosterone continues to function in maintaining muscle strength and mass, and it promotes healthy bone density, as well as reducing body fat (one reason why spayed pets can put on weight).

 Why it is Impossible to "Reinforce" Your Dog's Fear

"Sneeze Now for $500" OR: Why it is Impossible to "Reinforce" Your Dog's Fear

The #1 talk I give to my clients is this: Stop correcting your dog for growling, lunging, barking when he is stressed and scared. You cannot punish what is not a voluntary behavior. Start giving him treats. Because you also cannot reward an involuntary behavior.
Don't actually worry about changing what your dog DOES at all, but what your dog FEELS.

Let's take a step back. The English language fails to distinguish between voluntary behaviors (sit, down, begging for food, walking well on leash etc.) and involuntary behaviors/reflexes (such as blinking, sneezing, vomiting, panting). All feelings are involuntary behaviors. Dogs cannot make themselves "feel" a certain way.
Try to make yourself feel surprised for a second - doesn't work, does it. We need an external event or stimulus of some kind to produce this emotion.
Sneezing is an involuntary behavior. If someone promised you $500 if you sneezed right now, could you do it? No. If you were slapped each time you sneezed, would that make you never sneeze again? No. Rules of training as we know them change as soon as we are working with involuntary actions.

When your dog gets scared by a trigger, and reacts with growling, barking and such, he is simply exhibiting the emotion he is feeling. This is not a voluntary behavior that can be manipulated by rewards or punishments.
We cannot decrease his emotion by using punishment, just like we cannot increase it by using rewards. But we can reprogram his brain to link a new emotion to the trigger.
This new emotion should be calm. Positive. Relaxed. Happy. Content. SAFE.
So this is the setting we need to produce: Calm. Positive. No corrections, no reprimands, no leash pops, no time-outs (this actually increases your dog's state of anxiety - linking corrections to the trigger will not make the trigger, and you, seem more appealing, quite the contrary: they will feel more threatened every time).
Instead, high-value treats, high-value toys, touch (if your dog responds to that), safety. If your dogs feels safe instead of threatened, he will not react anxious and unpredictable.

If you change his emotional state, you don't need to worry about his actions. Any actions he will carry out in a calm, content mindset will be appropriate: sniffing, wandering about, lying down. A content dog won't growl and lunge.
Try to change involuntary actions and you will lose (just like you lost the $500 because you couldn't sneeze on the spot). Instead, alter emotions and watch your dog's actions also fall into place.


Years ago, when I was a senior veterinary student working as an extern with OSU’s clinical behavior service, I saw a case that stuck hard in my memory and has never faded.

The patient was a beautiful three-year-old female German shepherd I’ll call Heidi.  She was a lovely dog in most respects – friendly and gentle with people, very bright, and a quick learner.  In the consultation room, she was calm and well-mannered, approaching us readily with a wagging tail for petting and treats.

Heidi had one flaw, and unfortunately it was a serious one – she was intensely, violently aggressive towards other dogs.  She had to be brought in to the veterinary hospital through a rear entrance to avoid walking her through the lobby, and great care had to be taken to make sure she did not encounter any other dogs on her way in or out of the building.  Her owner was a petite middle-aged woman, who loved Heidi dearly and was deeply committed to her.  She had been managing Heidi’s dog aggression as best she could for a long time, but things were getting worse.

The incident that finally prompted her to seek out a veterinary behaviorist had occurred the week prior to her visit with us.  A smaller, off-leash dog belonging to a neighbor in her apartment complex had approached her and Heidi during their daily walk.  She tried to pull Heidi with her and hurry away in the opposite direction, but the other dog began running towards them and Heidi was frantic to get at it, lunging and snarling at the end of her leash.  In desperation, her owner tackled Heidi and lay on top of her, using her body weight to keep her thrashing 80 pound dog pinned to the ground until the other dog was retrieved safely by a neighbor and taken away.

The Effect of Training Methods on the Efficiency of Learning

Punishment Based Dog Training Results in Reduced Learning.


While I was attending the Western Psychological Association meeting in Portland, Oregon, I was approached by a psychologist who does some consulting work for the US Army concerning the training of military service dogs. He told me that he was a regular reader of my work, and he wanted to talk about my recent article describing how so-called "discipline-based training" methods, which use punishment and physical force, seem to result in increased stress in dogs (click here to see that article).

He told me, "I recognize that you are concerned about stressing the dogs, but the use of an occasional punishment focuses the dog on the trainer and the task that they have been assigned and that, ultimately, produces better learning and performance in the dogs. When the dog is no longer in training those stress affects will dissipate, but the better learned behavior will be left behind."

Unfortunately both of his major contentions, namely that dogs learn better when physical and punishing techniques are used, and that when such methods are used it results in better attention on the part of the dogs, appear to be wrong. I directed him to some research on the training of military service dogs that was conducted a few years ago. The team of researchers was headed by Dr. Anouck Haverbeke of the University of Namur in Belgium, and was published in the journal Applied Animal Behavior Science*.

Dominance in Dog Training

The use of dominance and pack theory in explaining dog behavior has come under a great deal of scrutiny as of late. The Association of Professional Dog Trainers wishes to inform the dog owning public about the ramifications of a reliance on dominance theory as it relates to understanding dogs, interpreting their behavior, and living harmoniously with our canine companions.

Theory and Misconceptions

Contrary to popular thinking, research studies of wolves in their natural habitat demonstrate that wolves are not dominated by an “Alpha Wolf” that is the most aggressive male, or male-female pairing, of the pack. Rather, they have found that wolf packs are very similar to how human families are organized, and there is little aggression or fights for “dominance.” Wolves, whether it be the parents or the cubs of a pack, depend on each other to survive in the wild; consequently wolves that engage in aggressive behaviors toward each other would inhibit the pack’s ability to survive and flourish.

Why I No Longer Call Myself a Balanced Trainer

“I wish I knew then what I know now.” I think that just about everyone who has been training dogs for any length of time has had this thought. 

I consider myself fortunate to have been exposed early on to the science of Operant Conditioning in general, and positive reinforcement (reward-based training) in particular. Someone recommended that I read the book “Don’t Shoot the Dog” by Karen Pryor, and the description of the basic scientific principles was very appealing to my brain, which loves logic, reasoning, and guidelines. I set about going to classes and happily training my first dog, Sunny, using lots of treats in the process. I heard many trainers sing the praises of positive reinforcement, and how much better this was than the old fashioned methods of training dogs which relies on jerking on the dog’s collar with a leash every time it gets out of position and then praising the dog because it is now in the right place. I felt lucky to know a better way. Although I understood the mechanisms at play in “jerk & praise” training, the emotional side of me just couldn’t make sense of acting happy about having to do something to the dog that it didn’t like, and the logical side of me didn’t think it made sense to praise the dog for something it didn’t choose to do.

Understanding the Difference Between Animal Rights and Animal Welfare. 

In last November’s election, we saw a fair amount of misuse of the term “animal rights” and even outright support for “animal rights” by candidates that otherwise seemed to support the human-animal connection, kindness to animals, and proper care of animals based on sound science.

Policymakers know semantics matter. We urge every policymaker and their advisers to take the time to acquaint themselves with the difference between animal rights and animal welfare. For responsible policy, and the future wellbeing of animals, this distinction is simply too important to get wrong. Consider the following:

Animal Rights posits that humans should not use or own animals in any way, even as companions, and seeks to ultimately make that grim agenda a reality. For animal rights groups, the ultimate goal is not to improve the wellbeing of animals, but to stop breeding and human interaction with animals. Animal rights groups typically utilize media and legislation to incrementally change perceptions about the human use of animals, and to advance the goal of ending animal use and ownership.

How to Dremel Dogs Nails

Why I Dremel Instead of Clip?

The abridged summary answer to this question is that it is more comfortable for the dog and you can get the nails shorter and smoother (which is nicer for you). Many dog grooming professionals agree that this is actually a much more comfortable method of maintaining nails than clipping them because it does not pinch or hurt the quick. The quick is sensitive living flesh inside your dog's nail. With our large dogs, in order to cut through the hard shell nail, you must squeeze the nail between the clipper's two surfaces. If you use a guillotine style, then the nail is pushed hard against the immovable blunt metal while the blade cuts in from one side. If you use the scissors-style, then two blades squeeze in from either side of the nail. If you must clip, IMHO, this is the better method than the guillotine since it cuts from both sides and therefor squeezes a little less. However, neither is very good because when you squeeze in on the nail, you invariably must pinch down on the quick inside the nail. The harder the nail, the more the pressure you must apply. Thus, it can be very uncomfortable for the dog. Also, when clipping on dark nails, you are effectively cutting blind. In order to get the nails back, you keep doing a series of small clips and try not to hit the quick. As a result, you often stop short of where you could go, if you were using a Dremel. When done properly, there is no squeezing or pressure on the quick with the Dremel. Further, you can see "inside" the nail as you gradually grind back to the quick. So, you can judge when you're getting close to nicking it and stop in time. With the Dremel, you can also grind off all around the quick so that it recedes faster and you can get even shorter nails. The closer you can get to the quick, the more you can force it to recede and the more quickly it will recede. Finally, you can grind off all the corners and rough edges leaving nice soft nails that don't gouge nearly so much when your Dobes paw you for affection

Hip Dysplasia: Can a Shape and Surface of Whelping Box Prevent It?

Hip displaysia is one of those conditions that all dog breeders are very well aware of and have been making considerable efforts to eliminate. Almost every breed’s parent club recommends screening breeding stock for hip displaysia. HD is the reason why Orthopedic Foundation For Animals (OFA) was founded.

However, with all the effort that went into monitoring the inheritance of the disease, with incredible accumulation of data spanning over 50 years, the consensus is now emerging that the causes of  hip dysplasia are only about 20% genetic and 80% environmental. You can mate two parents with excellent hips and get dysplastic offspring, or mate two dysplastic parents and get pups with normal hips. Some scientists go as far as to say that hip dysplasia is predominantly a bio-mechanical process, with genes playing a very limited part.

The Enrichment Effect

Did you know that your puppies will have larger brains and be more emotionally stable if you raise them in an enriched environment? Animals raised in enriched environments have been shown to have the following physiological changes over animals raised under standard laboratory conditions:

Puppy Socialization Checklist

Click on the link below to download the Puppy Socialization Checklist from Perfect Puppy in 7 Days by Dr. Sophia Yin.

Early Spay Neuter: 3 Reasons To Reconsider

The topic of spay/neuter is emotionally charged for many pet owners.

It’s become the “responsible” thing to do and we commonly hear of the benefits of this surgery but rarely the risks.

And when savvy pet owners avoid early spay/neuter (or forego it altogether), to mitigate that risk, they’re frequently vilified for contributing to the pet over population problem. But decisions made on emotion aren't usually the best kinds of decisions we can make.

So indulge me while I take an objective and scientific look at what’s causing all the fuss.

Early Neurological Stimulation

Surprising as it may seem, it isn't capacity that explains the differences that exist between individuals because most seem to have far more capacity than they will ever use. The differences that exist between individuals seem to be related to something else. The ones who achieve and outperform others seem to have within themselves the ability to use hidden resources. In other words, it's what they are able to do with what they have that makes the difference.

In many animal breeding programs, the entire process of selection and management is founded on the belief that performance is inherited. Attempts to analyze the genetics of performance in a systematic way have involved some distinguished names such as Charles Darwin and Francis Galton. But it has only been in recent decades that good estimates of heritability of performance have been based on adequate data. Cunningham, (1991) in his study of horses, found that only by using Timeform data, and measuring groups of half brothers and half sisters could good estimates of performance be determined. His data shows that performance for speed is about 35% heritable. In other words, only about 35% of all the variation that is observed in track performance is controlled by heritable factors, the remaining 65% is attributable to other influences, such as training, management and nutrition. Cunningham's work while limited to horses, provides a good basis for understanding how much breeders can attribute to the genetics and the pedigrees.

Origin of the Presa Canario

A few years following the conclusion of the conquest of the Canary Archipelago, reference is made in the Documents of the Municipal Council of Tenerife to their agreement of February 5, 1526, that in view of the damages produced by dogs to livestock, both small and large, the extermination of the same is ordered, with the exception of the pair which is accepted for the service of the butchers, and it entrusted to Don Pedro de Lugo, who posses two such holding dogs trained to kill. It is probable that these holding dogs were brought to the islands by Spanish conquerors and colonists. Through the XVI and XVII centuries, there are numerous references to the holding dogs Canary Islands as well as other canine breeds, and it is rich in historical documentation following the conquest, particularly in the noted Documents of the Municipal Council of Tenerife, but at no time does it describe the physical characteristics of this dog, but it does explain the function for which they developed. The mission of the holding dog were essentially to guard and to fight with cattle. Mention is made frequently to their service to butchers to subdue the cattle or tied up if for guard. Their function therefore determines a robust morphology, characteristic of a molosoid holding dog, but with agility and drive. The Canary Islands, given it's strategic geographical location in the Atlantic Ocean had always formed a hospitable resort en route to the Americas. In the islands arrived the various Hispanic breeds which populated the new continent. Essentially of hunting, scenting and holding dogs which were provided from Spain. Particularly, the Spanish holding dog, the Presa Espanol , in it's varieties of large mastiff or bulldogs or Alano, used in the conquest of the Americas, contributed to the current blood of the Perro de Presa existent in the Canaries. As time passed and in the isolation of the islands, this dog began to develop into an completely differentiated breed and due to influences of these other Spanish dogs, it's characteristics were modified to some extent.

Along the XVII century, the presence of English colonists became more frequent in the Archipelago, normally traders that resided either temporarily or permanently in the Canaries. The British character with their traditions to the fighting of dogs also arrived to the islands. For the fights they used their typical gladiator breeds. Bulldog type or bull & terrier, which they brought from their country. It was inevitable that the cross breeding of their dogs with the Perro de Presa existent in the Archipelago would occur. This English fancy of fight dogs, which would identify fully with the character of the islands , with combative disposition, repeats itself in the Balearic Archipelago with their Ca de Bou or Perro de Presa Mallorquin and in Japan with their national dog of fight the Tosa Inu Therefore in the different populations of the islands, certain morphological modification took place. Not only was the Perro de Presa thought of as a breed developed for work as a guardian or cattle driver, but rather developed with the excellent disposition for fighting.

Independently of this situation, we have to consider the existence in the Canaries of the Bardino or Majorero, origination from the island of Fuerteventura and very spread throughout the whole Archipelago. This dog was devoted especially to the management of goat herds and an excellent guardian. Added to this, a great physical resistance, moderation of size, scarce bark, an extraordinary set of teeth and an incorruptible courage. The Bardino Majorero was introduced, for their excellent abilities and to improve upon the crossings that started the type of holding dog that was arising as a consequence of the English influence. The crossing of those holding dogs and the Bardino Majorero, gives today's Presa Canario it's unique characteristics which set it apart from the other molosoid breeds. Its current genetic makeup is influenced in great part by the Bardino Majorero including it's typical expression, bardino (brindle) coat, commonly referred to as "Verdino" (greenish tonality), it's rustic hair and their good disposition for the fight.

As the century advanced, so did the dog fighting fancy. They fought openly and established sites in which thy would join together and select the best examples to improve the fighting abilities, not for their breed characteristics. This situation determines that the selection of the Presa Canario was from a very functional point of view. This was developing a related group of dogs, which was of very old development. They magnified abilities, but never tried to establish a phenotype which gives their true identity.

Once the prohibition of dog fighting was decreed in Spain, the number of Presa Canario began to decline. The introduction of foreign breeds to the canary islands increased this situation. At that time new guardian breeds were introduced to the islands and interest in this native breed was at an all time low. The Presa Canario reached a phase of near extinction in the 1960's.

It was almost extinct in 1970 when began its recovery. Their resurgence is slow but uninterrupted. The interest in the Presa Canario as part of the indigenous heritage of the Canario Islands is now generalized.

Recovery of the Presa Canario-historical facts

The presence of the Presa Canario is growing more in the islands beginning from 1970. This dog was in prior decades relegated in scarce numbers to farmers and cattle men. It began to adapt to urban guarding which allowed a entrance to quick diffusion. In 1982, a group of breeders from Tenerife, responsible for most of the existent population of Presa Canario at that time, joined together to further the recovery of the breed which had began in the prior decade. In their work they were respectful of the traditions of the breed, and began a program of selection ruled by a model that was formalized through historical photos, oral history of old time breeders and the population of the most representative examples of the time. The founded the Club Espanol del Presa Canario for such a purpose, properly authorized by the Real Sociedad Central de fomento de las Razas Caninas de Espanol, to begin the incessant work of diffusion of the breed, through any possible way especially dog shows. Regional dog shows were held throughout the Canary Islands and Spain for the purpose of studying and cataloging the physical characteristics and temperament of the Presa Canario as it appeared in different regions of the country. Though those acts, the commission of Spanish breeds had enough documentation for the composition of a breed standard which fixes the physical characteristics of the Presa Canario. This long work culminated with the approval of the Official Standard of the Presa Canario on January 24, 1986. Starting from the official recognition of the breed, the club began to work to further the diffusion and consolidation of the breed and to establish a genetic fixation, which was full of difficulties given the island origination of the breed and it's two most important populations Tenerife and Gran Canaria. Since 1993 registrations of the breed have extended within the Canary Archipelago to Lanzarote and Fuerteventura. Each year the club holds a National Specialty show, in which they gather the best of the existent population in the country and analyze them in all aspects morphology, temperament, movement and breed expression to continue the selection and improvement of the breed.

Miguel Angel Gonzalez
Judge and Breeder

The Breeding Posterior to the Recognition

The official recognition of the breed generated a new tendency in the breeding of the Presa Canario. Until that time the numerous breeders reproduced continuing with just their personal valuing of the temperament of the animal, good structure, good head, good front and good bone. The approach to a standard was not contemplated. The difference of the type on the two islands, Tenerife and Gran Canaria, where the most important nuclei of the population was concentrated, is evident.

For the first time what was looked for was the phenotype of the animal, regarding the many ribs, the breed expression, using animals of medium type of good proportions, looking for the colors bardino or striped preferably and a cadence of movement. The character should be balanced. The island of Gran Canaria had true devotion to the mouths with bites in tong or in scissor. The phenotype mattered less to them and they principally looked for the strong character of the animal. The most important defects were coats where there was an excess of white, oval eyes with conjunctivas exposed and flat ribs. Excesses in the sizes also took place. It should not be forgotten that the functionality in the face of combat was the main mission of the breeders. In the standard of the breed are the parameters for the true breeder to follow. The theories of which is "authentic" or "pure" are dismantled. There is not but one road, and it is the selection and the intrinsic approach to the racial model.

It was a hard time and many breeders, perhaps due to excessive egocentricity, abandon actively breeding, it was the time of selecting to the maximum, not an easy course. The Monographic Exhibitions are one of the barometers which reflects what has been the evolution of the breed.

In fact the Presa Canario has become a true regional dog lover event, where the numbers of participants, assistants and [canine] examples alike, are faithful reflections of the projection of the breed. From the celebration of the first edition, on December 6, 1990, in at Ferial del Cabildo de Santa Cruz de Tenerife, where they registered 203 specimens, which only 23 consented to the competition, to the seventh and last edition celebrated October 12 and 13 of the past year in the Parque Cultural Viera y Clavijo, where 103 examples appeared for the competition and 63 examples for the initial registrations of the breed, of which only obtained the same average dozen of examples, they separate just six temporary years, but an abyss for the selection and improvement of the breed. Partially, in each one of the editions the number of examples for the competition increases and decreasing are those that seek the registration of breed. The rings of pups and youth class are numerous, and those of adult classes in males and females are more and more homogeneous. In the present idea of the Club, since the population is sufficient, reducing of the registrations of breed, is had that in the numbering cases that are practiced will be solved with the rigor that now demanding to stimulate breeders to inscribe litters and studs in the LOE. (Book of Spanish Origins)

Miguel Angel Gonzalez
Judge and Breeder


The Presa Canario and the Parallel Presas

The racial model of the Presa Canario condenses, on the whole, the essential characteristics of their morphology and is translates to text and definition, the ideas of numerous breeders who don't only think of the dog of the past, but rather in the dog of today and of the future. The racial model mood is modifying gradually, but at this time is defining the structure and character of an animal of guard, the perfect image of the guardian dog par excellence, that is a medium animal, rectangular, strong, of wide base and broad front and with magnified pectoral development.

Their head, solid, harmonious, without big relief, wide muzzle, with a set of teeth of strong implantation and a powerful chewing mechanism that permits long and firm holds. Their croup is slightly higher than the withers which acts as a firm axis for traction in evolutions on the ground.

Their neck is strong, short, of great perimeter, strong musculature and with loose skin. It is the lever that immobilizes the action of capturing.

Is the image offered clear, because are they the definitions that establishes the racial model. However, is it possible that are there so many lovers of this dog that they are not able to see what is a Presa?

And I don't think this blindness affects only a high number of fans, but rather were multiple exhibitions where judged was elegant movement, perfect premolars or a brilliant coat, without realizing that in front of them they didn't have a "Presa," but simply an animal "Presa type", that is to say they had forgotten the essential.

The typical or breed expression should dictate above everything, as first requirement and primordial courage, even above the function, because an animal of doubtful breed purity properly educated and with good aptitude could give results much like a "purebred." Of course we also want the Presa Canario to have good movement, complete and perfect premolars and a rustic well pigmented coat, but without forgetting that the dog is really a Presa above everything. We could accept inclusive defects but having no doubt about the breed to which he belongs.

How many times were a specimen in the rings of competition which could be considered "a good canine specimen" good build, lively, correctly pigmented, "but without typical to a scarce expression" which faults their qualification, with resulting anger and incomprehension of their owner and others who consider that the Presa Canario is a dog of good size and temperament, muscular and with a brindle or tawny coat.

It doesn't matter which this half-breed is [crossed to] with Bullmastiff, Neapolitan Mastiff, Bull Terrier or Great Dane, disregarding the essential, "the typical," as an unquestionable sign of identity and of unmistakable individuality. The causes of atypical reside mainly in the head, because atypical bodies are less frequent.

In the head, spheroid effects from very arched craniums, narrow muzzles which accentuate the triangular appearance of the head and establish a great difference between the cranium and the face of the animal, very short muzzles "caricature" indication of pragmatism, implantation of the ears too high or visible conjunctivas are all evident signs of cross breeding.

As for the body, lack of proportion between the front and the back, that is to say very wide chests and very narrow hips, graceful appearance, with inferior line withdrawn, square appearance that confers a tall animal, limbs too long or fallen croups that magnify the longitude of the tail.

There are occasions in which too cylindrical bodies provide a massive appearance, which quarrels with a functional and quick dog. Nevertheless it is necessary for fate of the breed, the most important events of our country are judged by specialists who value above all "the racial expression," although we have to fight against the atypical of these "parallel presas," whose influence in the breed is fateful.

Judges as much as breeders should be zealous vigilantes of the typical essential quality. Above all we are supposed to keep in mind that the material that we breed or that we judge is, without discussion the Presa. The consolidation of the breed and its future depends on this aptitude.

Manuel Martin Bethencourt


The Current Profile of the Presa Canario

The Presa Canario is an animal of medium type. He has a rustic and robust appearance and is mesomophoric, in a rectangular shape that provides him great flexibility. Endowed with good musculature, conferring the power of a guard dog, their limbs have good forequarters separated from each other giving necessary stability.

He should have a good front, with cylindrical ribs. The breastbone should descend to the height of the elbow. The medium size should be 61-66 centimeters in the males and 57-62 in the females. The front limbs should be thick and separate, never hitting the body. The hind should have good muscular development, long legs with low hocks, a wide croup and a very high implantation of the tail, which should be thick in the origin and at rest comes to the height of the hock. His dorsolumbar line is ascending to the croup.

The head is solid, of square aspect, wide cranium and proportionate. The cranium convex with the nasofrontal depression not very abrupt , depression between the frontal sinuses very pronounced, wrinkles with certain symmetry and mastoid and temporal muscles should be proportional and not stand out. The face or muzzle represents 40% of the total of the head with medium thick and fleshy lips covering the superior to the inferior [jaws] with certain flaccidity.

The teeth are well assembled, with a base of very strong implantation and bite in scissors or inverted scissors. The tongue should present well marked grooves and be of rosy tone. The eyes should be slightly oval, almond-shaped, big, very separate, with tight lids and pigmentation in the most dark black possible. The conjunctiva should not be visible. The ears are of small size, of high implantation and preferably clipped they should remain erect and of triangular form. The neck, short and with the loose skin forming a slight jowl, is cylindrical, straight, solid, muscular.

The hair, of rustic appearance, generally short in all over but is denser at the throat, neck and crest of the buttocks. The most desirable color is the striped in all their ranges,to bardino, as well as the tawny. Accepted is the presence of white marks on the neck, chest, hands and feet. The black color is accepted, although it's not very frequent*.

*note- this article was written prior to the FCI recognition of the breed. The black coat is unacceptable as of June 2001

Haridian, Club Espaniol del Presa Canario
Miguel Angel Gonzales


History and Theories Surrounding the Origin of the Presa Canario

In his book "Historia General Sobre Las Islas Canarias" (General History of The Canary Islands) historian Augustin Miralles Torres comments that the islands took their name from the big dogs that were found of them, it and of two of those animals taken to the king of Mauritania in the times of the expedition of Juba. Described are facts that dogs took place in myths and funeral customs and even were part of the diet of aborigines of the islands. Demons appeared to them as big fleecy dogs named "Tibicernas" on the island of Gran Canaria and "Irnene" on the island of La Palma. Mummified bodies of dogs have been found beside their masters as a guide to the great beyond. They also consumed the meat of castrated dogs in small percentages, and evidence of this has been found by archaeologists.

Following the conquest of the Canary Islands, the presence of dogs of a type typical to holding dogs has been well documented, particularly in the documents of the Municipal Council of Tenerife. First mention is from a document dated 1501 declaring "that it is allowed for any farmer of pigs to own "uno de las gandes" (one of the big)". In the year 1516 there occurred an order for the extermination of wild dogs or strays because of the harm that they do to livestock. Appointing a pair of "Perros de Presa" owned by Don Pedro de Lugo, trained for such a task. Another historical date, January 5, 1526, where the death of the "Perros de Presa" is ordered for the damage that they do to the livestock, with the exception of dogs in the service of butchers and the pair owned by Don Pedro de Lugo. In the same year, in December, occurs an order for the extermination of all "Perros de Presa" with the exception of the four under the control of the town councilor. From the documents of the Municipal Council of Betancuria (Fuerteventura) it is noted that on August 25, 1617, given to the residents is the right to kill, without fear of punishment, any "Perros de Presa" that were loose and could produce harm. On February 19, 1618 it is ordered that all "Perros de Presa" be tied up. October 21, 1624, it is ordered that a dog may not be owned, except for the care of the home, and it is understood that it is of hunting or holding type. Later on, in the year 1630, it is ordered that every resident must declare all "Perros de Presa" to the court. In 1654 it was ordered that all dogs on the islands be killed for the harm that they produce to livestock, minus one that could be owned for the care of the home if it is of holding or cattle dog type. The last reference to the "Perros de Presa" occurs on March 13, 1737, where the killing of abandoned dogs at the ports for visitors from other islands is ordered and prohibiting the ownership of a dog for someone that was not a farmer or a cattleman. It is deduced from that order that the inhabitants of the islands sometimes moved accompanied by their dogs, while others were left behind at the ports and possibly began to breed into a bloodline.

As we have said previously, the presence of a type of Presa dog in the islands is perfectly documented. It likewise is true that we know nothing of their phenotype; neither we have the sufficient judgments of amount in order to discard any of the several theories that tend to define their origin.

Were there dogs of "indigenous magnitudes" in the islands before the conquest? Did the Presas arrive to Canaries with the conquerors? Is it be possible that in Canaries before the conquest dogs of great size existed and they merged with several types of Presas concluding the conquest? What we know with all clarity is the function which these animals developed. Functions of guard of country property, of struggle of the cattle, as assistant of butchers and even of extermination of wild dogs and/ or strays, trained for such effect. Based on this we could imagine a compact animal, proportionate, robust, something slighter and more functional, but definitely a molosoid of prey.

Several are the supposed genetic currents in the configuration of the Prey Canary. Being that the islands obliged resorts along the routes of the new world, it receives the blood of the Iberian Presas.

The conquest of the Americas also brought about other changes to the Canary Islands. The downfall of the single crop of sugar cane came due to Caribbean competition. At that time the islands embarked on the new scene of cultivation of grapevines. They produced some strains of excellent quality and it was being converted into wine by one of England's main importers. This new market brought many English colonists, mostly traders and merchants of wine and island fruits, who resided on the islands either temporarily or permanently, starting from the end of the XV century and continuing throughout the XVIII century. In England these were the "golden years" of dog fighting and they of course arrived to the islands with their Bandogges and Tiedogs (predecessors of the Bulldogs and Mastiffs) for faithful guardians of their country properties. The Canary Island inhabitants, always open to new ideas, soon became enthusiastic participants of this new sport : the fighting of dogs. It should be noted that at this time this was not practiced on the peninsula.

All of this is still lacks one final ingredient that completes the explosive cocktail of the Presa Canario- the Bardino Majorero, originating on the island of Fuerteventura, valued and extended throughout the islands, appreciated for its intelligence (easily trainable), of great physical resistance, an excellent guardian, dedicated mostly to the management of goat herds, of little bark, extraordinary set of teeth and an incorruptible courage, their rustic coat brindled in tones of greenish, they contributed to the Presa Canario a great part of their expression. This combination of Presas of the land and Presas of the continent, incorporated with the blood of the temperamental and rustic Bardino Majorero, began an ethnic grouping of Presas of intermediate and predominant type, of burning temperament. To the traditional functions of guarding and struggle with the livestock, was added a new and exciting mission, to the delight of most breeders: The Fights.

Verbal history of the old fans testifies to how they took place, how the challenges arose, and even to who the participants were, etc. According to these old accounts the owners would come to an agreement as to whether they would witness the fight in silence or if they would incite the animals. Any spectator could touch or bother the dogs during the battle. The fight could be in one of two forms, with or without collars. Although the general idea was that the animals were placed inside a circle drawn in the ground, faced front to front and loosened, the collar often began the matches. It was not an excessively blood spectacle since the Presa grabs and pushes and doesn't nibble. Rarely were their deaths between contestants because when humbled, their owners would guide them to draw back from the war. These were not public organized acts, but rather sporadic as the challenges of their owners arose. Although when a celebration of a fight was know, practically the whole neighborhood participated in the show.

In the 1940's the prohibition of dog fighting was ordered although this practice continued discreetly, but only for about a decade. Beginning at that time and due to the hardening of the authorities to eradicating the fighting of the Presa Canario, its numbers decreased and it remained relegated to very few breeders. Fortunately their stock was maintained, preventing the total disappearance of the Presa Canario. This situation was worsened by the introduction of new and strange breeds to the islands. The German Shepherd (with all of its glory of hero of WWII and it's world wide recognition), the Doberman Pincher, the Great Dane, the Neapolitan Mastiff, etc. One important part of the so few breeders it that it allowed the temptations for the incorporation of the blood of these "new" breeds into the Presa Canario, that would create a crossbreeding that would leave the Presa Canario practically unrecognizable. The birth of any "pure" litter prevented the disappearance of the Presa Canario for good.

The Recovery of the Presa Canario

This situation changed radically in the beginning of the 1970's. It was a time that adopted the social attitudes of reunion to traditions of nearly lost cultures. The attitudes changed from "everything we can get out of it the better" to "conservation, respect and impregnation of the earth". The Presa Canario was no exception and with being relegated only to rural areas and cattlemen, it became the fashion for guardians in the urban areas. This began a slow but continuous recovery of the breed. The few breeders of those years began contact between them given the shortage of animals available for breeding. The necessity arose to control the crossings and attack as a team. That produced quickly, constituting the Club Espanol del Presa Canario, in which most breeders of Tenerife, who were responsible for most of the remaining population, took refuge. They also incorporated to their project, fans of the breed from Gran Canaria, Lanzarote, Fuerteventura and La Palma, establishing delegations on those islands. The official record signature was November 12, 1982 and in January 1983, they were recognized by the Real Sociedad Central as the only official representative for the recovery of the breed.

Popularization of the breed in the hands of the CEPRC could not have been more qualifying, but was spectacular through their numerous popular shows that reintroduced the islanders with the legendary dogs that they had heard their parents and grandparents tell of. As reward of this management of breeding, the demand for information reached unthinkable limits. The Club Espanol del Presa Canario negotiated and participated outside of competition of similar breeds on the road to recovery in the year 1985 at the National Exposition of Tenerife and the years 85 and 86 in the International of Las Palmas in Gran Canaria. On October 19, 1986 and June 6, 1987 the first and second specialties for the Presa Canario took place. Reported entries were of 140 and 80 respectively, because of the presence of Don Valentine Alvarez, president in that time of the Real Central Society, and the delegate of the Commission of Spanish Races, Don Carlos Salas.

On November 1, 1987 a pair of Presa Canario ,a brindle male "Facian" from the island of Tenerife and a female of the same color "Marquise" from the island of Gran Canaria, in order to be presented at the International Exposition of Otono in Madrid, as the official presentation of the Presa Canario to the national authorities and to international circles.

On January 24, 1989, the official standard of the breed was approved. A historical moment that guaranteed the permanent position of the Presa Canario as a Spanish dog originating from the Canary Islands.

Manuel Martin Betherncourt, CEPRC
Judge and Breeder

bottom of page