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Fila Brasileiro (Brazilian Mastiff): Pictures, Care Guide, Temperament & Traits

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By Nicole Cosgrove

fila brasileiro dog standing

Hailing from Brazil, this big, powerful dog is nothing short of an intelligent beast. Bred to serve as a working dog and guardian, Fila Brasileiro excels at tracking and catching large predators in the wilderness. This is a rare and dangerous breed with an attitude that bonds well with the owners yet has little to no respect for other dogs and pets. If you’re looking for a hard-to-control, yet faithful guardian, the Brazilian Mastiff will be a great choice. However, it doesn’t fall into the “adorable pup” category.

Height: 24–30 inches
Weight: 130–180 pounds
Lifespan: 9–11 years
Colors: Black, fawn, brindle, can have markings on the face
Suitable for: Farmers, adult owners, people with experience
Temperament: Protective, faithful, smart, energetic, aggressive toward strangers

These four-legged giants thrive in the great outdoors and hate to be caged. That’s why they’re often found on large farms and plantations. Families with kids wanting to adopt a playful, friendly, and social doggo will find Fila Brasileiro to be too much to handle. With the right approach, you can turn it into a capable, reliable, and highly efficient helper around the property. How do you train it, then? What kind of exercise does it need? Is this a healthy pet? Let’s find out!

Fila Brasileiro Characteristics



Fila Brasileiro Puppies

fila brasileiro puppies in the grass
Image Credit: olgagorovenko, Shutterstock

These dogs aren’t nearly as popular as Labradors, Bulldogs, Beagles, or Poodles. The Brazilian Mastiff is a rather rare and unique breed that was brought up to serve and protect. That’s why folks in the States that plan on adopting a Fila Brasileiro puppy will have little to no luck finding any candidates at a local rescue organization, animal shelter, or breeder. This is especially true if you only want to bring home a boy or a girl. Most Filas are imported from Brazilian kennels.

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Temperament & Intelligence of the Fila Brasileiro🧠

Brazilian Mastiffs have been chasing down cattle, tackling predators, and serving as guardians for many centuries. They’re used to working hard and relying on their heightened senses, intelligence, and mighty bodies to solve problems. That’s why they’re so loyal toward their human family members yet aloof from and often aggressive with strangers. Therefore, if you like to throw parties every other weekend and have friends and relatives over, think twice before adopting this dog.

Trying to pet it without earning its trust and respect first is a bad idea! Socialized Fila Brasileiros rarely bite, but in the wilderness, they are trained to track, hunt, catch, and bring the prey down with their mighty jaws. They don’t bark, though, unless there’s a really good reason. Speaking of temperament, Brazilian Mastiffs are bold, fearless, and full of energy. In contrast to most large breeds, Brazilian Mastiffs are quite active.

young female of Fila Brasileiro Brazilian Mastiff_Artush_shutterstock
Image Credit: Artush, Shutterstock

Are These Dogs Good for Families?👪

Despite the somewhat scary demeanor, Fila Brasileiro dogs are docile, obedient, and loving when it comes to their favorite humans. They are family-oriented, affectionate canines that love to spend quality time with the people that they have a strong relationship with. So, if you’re looking to buy a natural-born protector for your family, you’ll get exactly that with this dog.

That said, Brazilian Mastiffs are freedom-loving animals that can’t stay long in a small apartment without getting anxious or wreaking havoc. A large, fenced property is a must for these dogs. And the farther away it is from civilization, the better. A large farm is a perfect environment for raising, training, and bonding with them. This way, you can shape the scary, dominant animal into a well-mannered partner.

What About Little Children?

Fila Brasileiros have low tolerance and are irritated easily. On top of that, they are self-assured, territorial dogs that don’t like to share. That makes them a less-than-ideal choice for a family with little kids. If you provide plenty of supervision and raise these dogs as pups around the kids, they’ll treat them as family. But that still doesn’t mean Fila will get along with other children. Kiddos don’t know the difference between having fun and making the pet feel uncomfortable.

We’re talking about pulling its tail and fur, throwing things at the dog, and teasing it. Before long, that will trigger the Brazilian Mastiff. In the heat of the moment, it will start barking and could even push the kids away. That’s why letting it off the leash when having other folks with children in the house is a VERY bad idea. They may read those little boys and girls as potential hazards!

Does This Breed Get Along With Other Pets?

No, Brazilian Mastiffs don’t like to make acquaintances with any dogs, cats, or other animals. When provoked, they tend to get aggressive. They’re not hostile by default, though: these dogs just aren’t as friendly as most breeds. In addition to being protective, Fila Brasileiros are also very territorial. That’s why they have a hard time sharing space with other four-legged buds. This is especially true for smaller animals.

The list includes rabbits, guinea pigs, various birds, other dogs (smaller breeds), and, of course, cats. Due to their above-average prey drive, it will be very hard to control a Fila Brasileiro when it’s got its eyes set on something. On the bright side, if you bring this giant up with a fellow pup, they might learn to coexist. However, if you’re planning on adopting a new dog, be very patient and give the canines time to warm up to each other. Even then, the Mastiff might not like its new neighbor.

Fila Brasileiro Brazilian Mastiff seasonal allergy_olgagorovenko_shutterstock
Image credit: olgagorovenko, Shutterstock

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Things to Know When Owning a Fila Brasileiro:

Food & Diet Requirements🦴

Premium-quality, vitamin- and mineral-rich food is the best diet for these dogs. Just like all Mastiff breeds, they are big, strong, and eat quite a lot. If you adopted a puppy, look for food that was specifically made for large pups. Poor-quality meals with lots of filler ingredients will negatively affect the pet’s growth. It may even hurt the joints and muscles. Talk to a veterinarian. They’ll put together a diet that will keep the dog well-fed plus help it avoid obesity.

Overfeeding is a common problem with big dogs. So, make sure not to go over the daily calorie norm and see that the portions are relatively small to avoid bloat.


Don’t let the size fool you: these dogs are full of energy and rather flexible. They don’t mind chilling with you on the couch, of course, but, for the most part, Brazilian Mastiffs are work dogs. They live their best lives when given a purpose and praised for being efficient at guarding, herding, and other activities. Fila Brasileiros are big fans of sports, too, and like to participate in agility and obedience training. Also, Filas are smart pups.

So, you’ll have to keep them on their feet with exercises that focus on both physical and mental stimulation. And, while the puppies require more practice, the average adult Brazilian Mastiff (male or female) still needs at least 1–1.5 hours of energy burning per day. It can be a walk, jog, hike in a rural area, or any of the aforementioned activities. Take it slow, though, not to damage the pup’s joints.


Early socialization and extensive obedience training: that’s how you help a Brazilian Mastiff become more trusting around strangers. If you skip this part, the dog will perceive every single human or animal that approaches the property as a threat. The most important thing here is to establish yourself as the leader, yet not force anything. Make sure the Fila Brasileiro is eager to follow your commands and won’t let its prey drive and instincts get the best of it.

Start early (at eight weeks old) and teach the dog to differentiate between real threats and safe encounters. Also, keep the sessions short. Fortunately, Brazilian Mastiffs are incredibly smart and don’t take ages to learn something new. And, once they start listening to you, it’s for life. That said, Filas can be a bit stubborn, and given how smart they are, regular training/exercise is a must. Otherwise, they might look for fun elsewhere or become destructive.

brindle fila brasileiro walking
Image Credit: olgagorovenko, Shutterstock


These dogs have a short coat, which automatically makes them a low-maintenance breed. Brush the fur once a week to get rid of dirt, debris, and dead hair, and that will do. Next, brush the teeth 2–3 times a week, clean/check on the ears weekly (to prevent dirt and bacteria build-up) and trim the nails regularly (a nail grinder is the best tool for that). As for bathing, only do that once in 1–2 months, or even less often, but consider using a conditioner product on the coat.

Start the grooming routine as early as possible to let the pup get used to the feeling of being brushed, trimmed, and washed. Try to turn it into a game, and always use the same tools to avoid anxiety and confusion. Also, since Brazilian Mastiffs are mostly clean, easy-to-groom dogs, taking them to a professional groomer won’t be necessary. Instead, it will make them uncomfortable.

Health and Conditions❤️

Like all large dogs, Brazilian Mastiffs suffer from GDV (Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus), dysplasia (affects both the elbows and hips), and obesity. But, compared to other huge breeds, they’re much stronger and healthier. Unfortunately, these marvelous dogs don’t live that long. The average lifespan is 9–11 years, but for Mastiffs, that’s a decent result. Here’s a closer look at some of the most common medical conditions for a Fila Brasileiro:

Minor Conditions
  • Obesity
  • Progressive Retinal Atrophy
  • Luxating Patella
  • Periodontal Diseases
  • Infections/Parasites
Serious Conditions
  • Hip or Elbow Dysplasia
  • Knee Ligament Tear
  • Panosteitis
  • Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Entropion
  • Cancer

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Male vs Female

The first thing that you’ll notice when looking at male and female Brazilian Mastiffs is going to be the size. The largest Fila boys can reach 180 pounds in weight and 30 inches in height. As for the ladies, they’re 20–30 pounds lighter and 2–3 inches shorter, which is quite a significant difference. For this exact reason, male Brasileiros are the go-to choice for farm owners that need a confident, mighty, and fear-inducing watcher to take care of the property.

However, in contrast to other breeds, female Brazilian Mastiffs are just as protective, territorial, and aggressive as the males. Summing up, sex doesn’t play that big of a role with these dogs. It all comes down to the temperament of each specific doggo. The boys eat more food and take a bit more incentive in training, but they’re also stronger and don’t give birth (which is a pro if you’re not planning on breeding the female).

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3 Little-Known Facts About the Fila Brasileiro

1. Brazilians Have a Saying: Loyal as a Fila Dog

Very few dogs are as faithful as these majestic giants: Brazilian Mastiffs always put the safety of their family members first. Loyalty isn’t just a word for them but a way of living. Once you adopt this dog, train it, and create a trusting and loving relationship with the pet, it will quickly turn into your most devoted sentinel. This is a trait that it shares with many fellow mastiffs. There’s even a saying in Brazil that goes like «loyal as a Fila dog”.

It describes a person (or any other pet) that doesn’t ever betray or switch sides. So, while Fila Brasileiro pups aren’t easy to train or maintain, they are well worth the extra effort, especially if you own a large farm and need a capable, fearless, and faithful guardian. This is interesting because in Portuguese, “Filar” means to hold/arrest. The name comes from the dog’s ability to hold the prey down until the owner arrives.

2. These Dogs are Banned in Several Countries

Brazilian Mastiffs can be very aggressive and dangerous—we already covered that. And you won’t be able to legally own such a dog in Australia, the UK, or Norway unless you get a permit from a local court. The same goes for Hong Kong, Cyprus, Malta, and Fiji. The rules are even more extreme in Turkey: you can’t own or breed these canines without breaking the law. And in countries like Trinidad and Tobago, all Fila Brasileiro males must be sterilized.

Thankfully, it’s perfectly legal to own a Brazilian Mastiff as a pet in the US. That said, the regulations in the States and around the globe change all the time. That’s why we recommend checking the local laws (every state has its own rules) before adopting one to be 100% sure the government won’t take your furry bud away or make you neuter it.

3. Fila Brasileiros Were Brought to Brazil from Europe

Like most Mastiffs, these mighty dogs were originally bred in Europe (the UK, to be exact). And their roots date back to the Colonial Period in Brazil: that’s when they were imported into the country. As for the standards, the very first one appeared centuries after the dogs’ arrival: in 1946. Today, there are three different standards in Brazil, and CBKC (one of the local clubs) was accused of crossbreeding Filas with indigenous dogs.

fila-brasileiro on-the grass
Image Credit: toicadrian, Shutterstock


Final Thoughts

Brazilian Mastiffs can be a handful. They were brought up to help around the farm and scare away intruders, not to be social and cute. And, as far as the least approachable dogs go, these champs are right on top of the list. That said, if you use proper training techniques and implement early socialization, Fila Brasileiro will become your best friend, most trusted partner, and an adamant guardian. Brazilian Mastiffs are incredibly loyal and affectionate with their favorite humans.

However, they’re not the best choice for a first-time owner living in a big, busy city. Fila dogs can easily bring down a jaguar, yet don’t want to be in the center of attention. Wary of strangers, they quickly turn into aggressive, dangerous beasts when provoked. It’s possible to tame these giants, but only to a certain extent. The bottom line is—these dogs are best suited for people that live on a large property somewhere in the suburbs and need a faithful watchdog.

In contrast, if you work 24/7, live in a small house, have other pets, and don’t have the time to train/exercise with a Brazilian Mastiff, adopting this dog will be a bad idea.

Featured Image Credit: Julia Siomuha, Shutterstock.

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