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Presa Canario Aggression

Young Presa Canario Showing Some Attitude

Hello John,

I came across your website online and I was hoping to ask you a simple question. I have a one and a half year old, male, neutered, Presa Canario mix who is very aggressive to people and other dogs; whether it be people we pass on the road while he’s in the car, people who walk past the yard, or especially people who come up to the house. If we’re out walking and we pass someone he will often lunge toward them jumping, growling and barking. He is extremely relaxed, playful and loving with our family inside the home however. He has never actually bitten someone, but when introducing someone new to him it often appears as though he would if we gave him the chance, before he’s able to calm down and relax around the person (which takes quite a bit of time). I was wondering if there’s any help you could give me in regards to appropriate means of training or steps I could take to improve his aggression.

Hi Michael,

That’s not what I would call a simple question. 🙂

You have a dog (Presa Canario) that is genetically predominantly a guard dog that is hitting an age where if incorrectly handled is going to start guarding when he thinks it’s appropriate. Even when handled correctly most dogs with this sort of genetics is likely to feel the need to guard it’s just that they’re more likely to ask you first and/or suck it up when told to do so.

Presa Canario
Presa Canario

There’s nothing abnormal about what he’s doing as far as Presa Canario dogs go, what’s missing is perhaps your role to influence. I suspect you’re going to have to address the relationship you have with him. If he thinks as most of our dogs do (and if it’s a Golden Retriever there’s little harm in it) that you’re more of a college room mate rather than an authority figure in his life in my mind in the context of a good teacher/student relationship you’ll likely find that you’re left with resorting to some pretty heavy handed methods to dissuade him from behaving this way and in many instances this can actually make the behaviour worse.

For what it’s worth, I’m not a big fan of walking dogs with the Presa Canario dog’s sort of genetics. They don’t walk so much as patrol. Particularly in inexperienced hands. I absolutely teach them how to walk on a loose leash no matter what, I just don’t make a point of irritating them every day with a jaunt around the neighbourhood that stimulates their guarding/patrolling instincts. Instead I use the time to exercise the dickens out of them. A walk is not exercise for this breed. By not walking them and truly exercising them you will find your training regarding the aggression will get more traction, faster.

I also do not allow these breed like the Presa Canario to spend time in the yard unsupervised or at a window or door to look out on to street activity. It is a huge contributor to this sort of problem.

Download my e-book about working with difficult dogs – The Beautiful Balance – Dog Training with Nature’s Template to learn more about relationship based training. It’s inexpensive and there are some great handling tips intended to get inside his head in an appropriate manner.

John Wade
Difficult to Control Dog? – Try the WadeCollar

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20 thoughts on “Presa Canario Aggression”

  1. Beth Meeker

    What is the best way to exercise my Presa Canario? We do all the activities to contribute to her aggression like everything you mentioned above. She is so great in the home and with the kids, but gets bored easily, which contributes to being aggressive. We have a pit mix and they get along, but my pit gets too wild (not aggressive) with her so she doesn’t play with him too long. She loves being outside, but hates other dogs and I’m always worried when someone has their dog off leash because it will result in a fight.

    1. Hi Beth,

      One of the best and fastest way to get any currently untrained well enough to recall so that they can be allowed off lead to get some actual exercise is to purchase a lunge line from a tack shop (horse supply). Generally speaking, they’re 3 times the quality and 1/3 the cost of the canine equivalents. Buy two and attach them end to end if you think you need the extra insurance. You don’t want to wreck your dog’s freedom, you want to wreck your dog’s freedom to make mistakes, such as ignoring you if you say, ‘Come.

      Take your dog somewhere appropriate, attach the line, drop it and go hiking. Your Presa Canario will put in 10 steps for every single step you take. If something pops up you can then get to your Presa Canario and leave before your Presa Canario can get to the distraction that your training isn’t far enough along yet to ensure a reliable recall.

      You’ll have to start scouting for places you can take her but they are out there once you start looking.

      Other ideas:

      Treadmill training
      Use an attachment called a ‘Springer’ or something similar so you can keep your dog safely (for you and your dog) beside you on a bicycle. Requires some training with some dogs.


      John ‘Ask The Dog Guy’ Wade
      Embracing Science and Common Sense

      1. Cheryl Reed

        Im getting a Presa Canario as a puppy it will be ready in 5 weeks should i get a boy or girl i have a lab female 4yrs and female pit 1 yr and 2 cays my friend is giving me one for free do u have any advice

        1. Hi Cheryl,

          That’s a good question. If you haven’t had prior experience with this sort of Molosser breed and you were only going to have the one dog, I’d say start with a female as they are on average somewhat less intense. However, the dynamic between female dogs, if it’s going to be intense and problematic as it can be might suggest a male as the better bet as at around 18 months of age the females may become more competitive with each other and it can get quite ugly. Either way, if you don’t know what you’re doing with this sort of Ferrari breed and aren’t planning on for the life of the dog maintaining a highly structured household and relationship with the dogs it might be worth considering whether it’s best to pass. I HIGHLY recommend purchasing and reading this concise information-packed eBook from cover to cover. It will be the best 10 dollars you spend on your dog’s future. The Five Most Common Presa Canario Mistakes (How To Avoid Them and End Up With Your Dream Dog)(ebook)


          John ‘Ask The Dog Guy’ Wade
          Embracing Science and Common Sense

          1. Hi Cheryl,

            This might help as well.

            Before You Pick Your Puppy Up From The Breeder Tips

            Cream of the crop breeders have these things already built into their breeding and puppy preparedness workflow but just in case the breeder you’ve selected hasn’t it won’t hurt to ask them if they do these things and if not to ask them to do them as it will make life a lot easier for you and the puppy in both the short and the long term.

            • Do your best to have them begin crate training (see the crate training pdf below), ideally with the crate you plan on using or an identical crate. It’s a lot easier on a puppy (and you) to introduce crates before the puppy goes to it’s new home as it’s one less major change and done correctly can bridge a sense of sanctuary from the old to the new.

            • Review the temperament training (socialization) pdf below and see if they have made any effort in these areas. See if they would be at least willing to play audio tracks of thunder, fireworks, babies crying in the background every day. If they have difficulty sourcing they can find such things on my web site: Soundtracks for Socialization and Fearful Dogs

            • Highly encourage them to expose the puppy, preferably in the company of the other puppies to car rides several times and then on their lonesome. It may seem an odd request, but puppies have a fear imprint period between 8 – 10 weeks of age and quite a few end up unnecessarily associating car rides with ‘bad things’ as some only experience leaving their mother and littermate, etc. and then a trip to the veterinarian with vehicles and if it isn’t balanced out with neutral or even better positive connections (someone giving them their dinner or a treat while in a car) they can end up exhibiting anxiety and fear for car rides for the rest of their lives. Breeders and veterinarians often believe this is just motion sickness, and sometimes it is, but usually, it’s failing to add this step to their puppy life preparedness workflow.

            • Puppies are perfectly capable of being 90% house trained before they leave the breeder if the breeder includes it in their puppy life preparedness workflow. Most don’t, but if you read the house training pdf included below, there are things they can do that make it easier on the puppy and yourselves.

            • Find some way to get the breeder to give you the contact information of the other families getting puppies from the same litter so that you can track health issues that might be genetic as opposed too random. Most people never hear from their breeders in a meaningful way after they pick up a dog, so it’s better to be proactive in a ‘just in case’ manner. Some breeders will make an excuse such as they can’t do so due to privacy of information and if that is the case you can ask them to give your contact information to the others. I recommend just saying that it’s to send an annual birthday card as some take it personally. It’s not that we expect any breeder to breed the perfect dog. It’s just that more information is always better than not being able to get the answers we need when we need them a year or more down the road. Very few people will ever hear from a breeder purposefully tracking their bloodlines progress once the sale is made, let alone to make them aware of oddities that might pop up behaviorally or physically in a bloodline.


            John ‘Ask The Dog Guy’ Wade
            Embracing Science and Common Sense

  2. I have a 4 year old presa canario male I adopted him when he was almost 2 I believe he was abused he recently has gotten very aggressive towards me and my boyfriend he recently bit us both putting my boyfriend in hospital first than he bit my arm breaking both bones in my lower arm I got him out if impound and he got hit by car but I’m scared to death of him he almost killed us both I really think he was trying to is there anything that I can do to change this aggression. Or should I adopt him to a ranch I still have to get his leg fixed it has cost me thousands of dollars to get one tooth. Puuled cause he bites the tires to my car if I leave with out him I don’t no what else to do [email protected]

  3. We breed Pressa Canarios and we took the male one and raised him with his mother also at the house, the mother is extremely shy and runs from everything because she was abused before we got her. She is only bad when she is with her son. He is a year and 3 months right now. We started noticing he was becoming very aggressive at a really young age and still is. We have a gated fence surrounding our house but sometimes they get out and will chase people and dogs if they see them walking around our house. We have tried pills from the vet to calm him down but they didn’t really work. we tried dog edibles but he was a zombie and would just sleep so we stopped that. We are just afraid he will hurt someone or something if we don’t do something now.

  4. Good Morning !

    I own a Presa Canario Mastiff, Tony 3yrs old 155 lbs, he is a GREAT dog, very docile, loves the momma, is o.k. when adult strangers are introduced. I also own a white boxer 8yrs old, black labs 10yrs old. Both the boxer and lab are great with kids. My sons girlfriend has a 4 year old daughter, we are not sure how Tony will react when meeting her ?? She has a dog herself, so she is not afraid of dogs. How to we go about introducing them ?? My guess is he will sniff her and be o.k. BUT that is one powerful dog !

    Thank You Terry

    1. Hi Terry,

      If he’s three years of age you must have some idea of how he is around children? Any indications that their sounds and activity make him nervous? If you attach two quality leashes both attached to a collar which will not slip off and that provides sufficient leverage and have two adults on each leash on either side of the dog you’ll have some leverage for removing the dog from the proximity of the child if you don’t like the energy you observe. Usually better to provide real exercise beforehand and put him through his obedience (listen to me because I’m not asking you, I’m telling you paces shortly before the child arrives so he’s in the listening zone.


      John ‘Ask The Dog Guy’ Wade
      Embracing Science and Common Sense

  5. Hi i have a 5 month old presa x rottweiler , doesnt chew etc odd nip can b expected, no aggression,is friendly with people and dogs and prefers to be around them, but of late doesnt want to walk unless a firend or another dog is walking too. Fine off leash wont run away and isnt destructive, he’ll walk on leash too if he has a stick or something i jus dont think a walk is stimulating enough for him. Could this be right?

  6. Hi, I’m am currently in the process of rehoming a presa that has hit and abused by his previous male owner, and the only other dogs my presa has ever seen in his life where two bitches for breeding purposes and one other male dog that just attacked him, leaving my soon to be presa who’s just turned three, scared of other male dogs but not bitches and scared of men, although he is EXTREMELY protective over children and protective over women, me and my boyfriend!! must be crazy taking him on but I want this dog to have the best life and I don’t care how long it takes or how much effort it will take!

    1. Hi Katie,

      A well-bred, properly socialized, and as a result, confident Presa is handful enough when it comes to training and maintaining that training. An unstable “EXTREMELY protective over children and protective over women, me and my boyfriend!!” (pretty much 2/3 of the world) Presa is more of a gun with a brain when in the wrong hands. Hope you know what you’re doing. It’s very easy to let one’s guard down with dogs like this and end up putting yourself or others in harm’s way. You know what they say about “good intentions.” I recommend getting him assessed by someone with sufficient experience, and knowledge.

      – John Wade (

  7. Heather Morley

    Hi I currently have a 1 1/2 year old male Presa and 2 pits male 8 female 2. As of the past week my male Presa has gone at both of my other dogs when there is food within close proximity or when we are in the family room and the other 2 dogs get to close to me. This has never been an issue and he went through extensive training as a puppy. I am contacting another trainer to go in for a 4th round but was hoping maybe you had a solution to this. I have resorted to socialization times as well. But when there is no food around anew aren’t in the family room the 3 play around like they’re best friends I’m really confused.

    1. Hi heather, please let me know if you find a solution to this! I am struggling with the same issue. We adopted a presa when he was a little under a year and he got along great with our female pit who was 2 at the time. We have had him over a year now and a few months ago he started going after our pit for what we thought was no reason. More recently I realized it’s when there is table food in the room or he feels his space is threatened in anyway. When they are outside together they play just fine but I am very anxious to have them both in the house at the same time in case he is triggered.

      1. Hi Mariah,

        I’m afraid you’ll find that there won’t be any shortcuts with this one. That doesn’t mean you can’t potentially get a handle on this (I’d need to know a lot more.) You are in part describing some resource guarding but I suspect it’s more a by product of the relationship you have with your Presa and perhaps your Pit Bull, than the relationship they have with each others. You’ll have to start there and learn how to build a working relationship with you. Very often the existing relationship is more of a roommates (dog/owner) than dog and loving authority figure and eventually things start to go south. It doesn’t mean the dog or dogs dont’ love you, but with these breeds, respect is a big part of it as well. There are lots of free articles on this site, some inexpensive eBooks and if you want I can send you some information on by virtual program for situations like this.


        John Wade (

        PS Don’t forget if you find that the many free resources I provide companion dog owners via Ask The Dog Guy website ( and elsewhere (YouTube, newsletter, etc.) inform, save you time and, or money why not buy me a coffee? Click the link to Buy Me A Few Coffees

        PPS You can also become a Patron and support spreading the word about science and common sense in companion dog training by clicking on the membership link instead. Click the link to Become An Ask The Dog Guy Patron (Various levels of sponsorship have benefits for you as well.)

  8. Hi,
    I have an 8 year old pressa who is recently starting to become aggressive. She’s never been anything but sweet since I rescued her at 5 months. She got out of the back yard today and ran around the neighborhood and was found by my dad. She had another dog, a pup Shepard pinned down growling at it. She was running with my other dog, 2 year old Leonberger. Both spayed female.
    My Pressa, Ellie, has been increasing in aggression for the last few months and I am at a loss for why. I had her on some pain pills for arthritis but she was crazy aggressive last year so we stopped those. Since Dec I am using Tylenol for pain. Do you have any suggestions on how I can help my girl?

    1. Hi Carl,

      Eight-year-old dogs don’t just start being aggressive. Something has to have changed either in their routines (something triggering the guarding instinct more regularly than before) or an undiagnosed health issue that may directly or indirectly (stress) impact their behavior. Acetaminophen, or Tylenol can be toxic to dogs. From what I understand some veterinarians might recommend it in certain circumstances. What was the arthritis medication that you thought made her “crazy aggressive last year”?

      – John Wade (

  9. Cristian Martinez

    I have a 5 month female Presa Canario and she’s an awesome pup. She’s very chill/smart, now knows about 6 commands, obeys fairly well, waits patiently until told to eat, and is very food motivated. We train every opportunity we have and I try to take full advantage of correcting her and then immediately rewarding: her during walks, home, outdoor activities, public establishments, and events. Great with humans of all ages loves them and is kind of annoying because she pulls to go say hi (working on it). Taken her to the dog park numerous times and does pretty well with other dogs and has not lashed out yet. I am a full-time student with no employment, so we spent a lot of time together and it’s just us living on our own. The only issue is sometimes she’ll growl at dogs while in the car and sometimes when she gets overstimulated. My fear is as she gets older she will start becoming more aggressive and fearless. So far she respects my demands (because she knows she’ll be rewarded) and understand that I am alpha. The questions that I have are:

    1. How can I keep her obeying my every command?
    2. How can I properly socialize her to keep her aggression and suspiciousness at bay?
    3. What age is it safe to spay her?

    Thank you,


    1. Hi Cristian,

      I’ve created a separate article to answer these excellent questions. You will find it here: Keeping A Presa Canario Puppy’s Aggressiveness And Suspiciousness At Bay


      John Wade (

      PS Don’t forget if you find that the many free resources I provide companion dog owners via Ask The Dog Guy website ( and elsewhere (YouTube, newsletter, etc.) inform, save you time and, or money why not buy me a coffee? Click the link to Buy Me A Few Coffees

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