Where does the Fila Brasileiro come from?
As its name suggests, the Fila is a Brazilian breed whose roots reach back to the 15th century. And whilst there are different theories as to which breeds have formed the Fila, it is most likely a combination of various Iberian Mastiff-type dogs. After all, Brazil used to be a Portuguese colony. And Filas closely resemble the giant Portuguese livestock guardian breeds such as the Portuguese Mastiff and especially the Great Dane-sized Cão de Gado Transmontano. In Brazil, the Fila Brasileiro was bred primarily to guard large plantations and ranches. These fearless dogs used to drive predators from the land: not only human cattle-thieves and wild dogs, but also jaguars and even tigers. Unfortunately, ranchers and farmers also used Filas to chase down runaway slaves. Their typical way of hunting (animals and humans) is to grab the individual by the neck and hold them down - until their owners had arrived on the scene. This particular behaviour can still be observed in Fila puppies today when they play with each other. The first breed standard for the Fila Brasileiro was written in 1946.
What is their temperament like?
Filas are known for their incorruptible character and their high natural levels of aggression. At the same time, they possess considerable impulse-control, demonstrated by their particular style of hunting and apprehending: As we saw, Filas hold down their prey in a non-lethal grip, and wait for the arrival of their handler. All these qualities make the Fila Brasileiro an outstanding guard dog for livestock, farms and families. Fila Brasileiros are naturally protective, and extremely wary of strangers. They need an experienced owner and lots of socialization, especially during the first year of their life. When guided and trained well, a Fila puppy can grow into a well-behaved companion dog. But despite even the most extensive socialization, a Fila will still instinctively protect and guard its owner – as well as every other human or animal in the same household. Because of this, visitors should never be left unattended with the Fila: By and large, this breed is not ideal for owners who have many people coming and going.
How intelligent and trainable are Filas?
Filas are quite intelligent and absolutely can be trained to decent levels of manners and obedience. Like many Mastiff-breeds, they are quite sensitive, and should never be corrected too harshly. But they respond beautifully to positive training methods. Just like their ancestors, the giant Portuguese livestock guardians, Filas are quite independent dogs. Unless guided with a firm, but fair hand, they will make their own decisions, especially in the field of guarding. Getting these powerful protectors to look to a human for guidance and direction can be a challenge. However, if you put in the necessary effort, you will be rewarded by an even deeper bond with your dog.
Are Filas healthy dogs?
As a large Mastiff-breed, Fila Brasileiros are prone to certain typical ailments for large and giant breeds, including hip- and elbow dysplasia as well as bloat. Dogs with more excessive facial wrinkles can have the droopy eyes characteristic for Mastiffs. Which can result in various eye conditions such as cherry eye and entropion. Also, their floppy ears can get infected easily, and need to be checked regularly. The life-expectancy of this robust breed ranges from 9 to 11 years.
Exercise and Grooming Needs of the Fila Brasileiro
Filas require plenty of exercise and mental stimulation every single day. Which is why they are not suited to live in an apartment, or in a small townhouse. Ideally, they should be given the opportunity to run and play as much as they want - in a safely fenced-in area, such as a large garden. As they need to run and exercise quite a lot, normal walks alone will not satisfy Filas. But nevertheless, it is important to keep them socialised throughout their lives. And heel-walks around the neighbourhood are an excellent way to do this.
But whilst their exercise requirements are quite high, their grooming needs are minimal: Apart from checking their ears every week for excess build-up of wax, and for signs of infections, a weekly brush with a grooming mitt is enough to keep their short coats tidy.
The Fila Brasileiro is one of the most athletic and capable Mastiff breeds of today. Highly dependable and loyal to a fault, Filas make the ultimate livestock- and farm guardians. At the same time, Filas are devoted family guardians, and they are known for their patience and gentleness with children.