Frequently Asked Questions about the Fila
1. How big do these dogs get?
2. How much do they eat?
3. What is their temperament like?
4. What are they like at home?
5. Are they good with children?
6. Are they good with other animals?
7. What are they used for?
8. What is their life span?
9. What are the health problems associated with the breed?
10. How do you adopt an adult?
11. Why do some Filas look different than others?
12. What colors do they come in?
13. Are they easy to train?
14. Are Filas good indoor dogs?
15. How much room does a Fila need?
16. What is the best way to raise a Fila puppy?
17. How much is too much socializing?
18. As a Fila owner, how do I go on vacation?
19. How do I handle veterinary visits?
20. What are the differences between males and females?
21. What will my Fila do if I am threatened?
22. What are some questions that I should ask breeders?
23. What are some questions that I should expect the breeder to ask me?
24. How can I tell if I am getting a healthy puppy?
25. Where and with whom is the Fila registered?
26. Where can I show my Fila?
27. How much would one cost?
28. Are there any breed books available?
29. How can I stay actively involved in the learning process of the Fila?
30. Disadvantages to the breed.
The standard calls for bitches that are between the heights of 23.5 to 27.5
inches at the withers, weighing over 90 pounds. Males are expected to fall
between 25.5 and 29.5 inches and over 100 pounds. Oversized dogs are to
be faulted in the ring, and undersized dogs are to be disqualified. Generally,
females are around 26 inches and 110 pounds and males are often 28 inches
and 140 pounds. The Fila is not fully mature until it is 3 years old, although
much of its growth is done during its first year.
An adult Fila fed a premium kibble will usually eat between 4 and 6 cups
food a day. A puppy may eat between 6 and 8 cups of the same kibble as a
youngster, with male pups generally eating more than female pups. If fed
biologically appropriate raw diet, the Fila will consume between 1.5 to
pounds of raw meaty bones in a 24 hour period. Pups fed via this method
should especially be kept on the lean side as the food is more bio-available.
The Fila is known for having what Brazilians term, Ojeriza, or a strong
dislike for, distrust of, hatred of, or having ill-will towards strangers.
Filas will not allow strangers to touch them, and many dont appreciate
talked to by a stranger. They are excellent guardians and protectors, and
take their job very seriously. If pressed a Fila WILL bite. It is not recommended
that a Fila be allowed loose when a stranger is present in its home. Due
to the Fila being very territorial, they are not likely to appreciate a
stranger in their home, and the smallest infraction from a guest could
be all that the Fila needs to show its displeasure. It is the responsibility
of the owner to socialize and train their Fila to remain calm and under
control. If this is done, the Fila can easily be a part of society without
the general public knowing that the dog is protective in nature. They can
be walked down the streets through crowds, taken in stores, and able to
accompany their owners in elevators, buses, etc., without incident, as
long as no one poses a threat to them or their family. But, if confronted,
they will not hesitate to stand their ground and defend their person.
In general, the Fila is very adoring and aware of its familys moods.
to its own devises, the Fila will gladly be a couch potato. They are fun-loving
and silly, and they are able to display a sense of humor. Usually the Fila
pick out one family member to call its own, and they will follow this person
around the house like a shadow. Most will try to sit on their person, so
be as close as possible to that person. In the absence of their primary
owner, they will fall back on the rest of the family. In comparing their
attitude in public with being at home in the presence of family, it is fair
say that they are almost completely opposite. A regular Dr Jekyl and Mr
Hyde, if you will.
Filas are good with THEIR children. This doesn't mean that Filas are good
with ALL children. To many Fila, a child is just another stranger, but in
smaller form. The fact that many kids rough-house is reason enough to not
trust a Fila with children outside the family. With its own kids, the Fila
gentle and tolerant.
Assuming that the dog didnt have a bad experience as a puppy, most
are good with other animals. There are some that are not tolerant to other
dogs, but this is the exception and not the rule. The Fila will not generally
tolerate another dog vying for its position as alpha-dog though. If
dog is willing to accept the Fila as the boss, then, for the most part,
well. The Fila is noted for not having a high prey drive. There are those
that are used for hunting large game, and most will happily give chase to
rabbit, but for the most part, they are able to get along with livestock
other family pets.
In days of old, the Fila had many jobs assigned to it. Its roles included
service as an estate guardian, a cattle drover and a jaguar hunter. It has
been used as an army dog and it was even used by Brazilian slave owners
capture run-away slaves. In this day and age, the Fila is primarily kept
guardian and companion.
In America, the Fila doesnt seem to enjoy a long life. In Brazil,
the Fila is able to live well into its twelfth year. A Fila here that has
to the age of 8 years is lucky indeed.
Unfortunately, this noble, rare breed does have several major health
concerns. Like other large, fast-growing, deep chested breeds, the Fila
plagued primarily with Hip Dysplasia, Elbow Dysplasia, and Bloat. Nor is
cancer a rarity with the Fila either. Hip and elbow dysplasia is most easily
controlled when breeders do genetic screening on their breeding stock and
only breed the dogs that are normal. Bloat is a very dangerous disease
that has unknown causes. Some believe that it is genetic in nature, while
others feel that it is due to stress. There are those that feel that it
is a result of feeding bulky kibbled diets that swell after being eaten.
Most likely, it is a combination of all of these. Regardless, it can be
fatal if the signs are ignored and it is allowed to progress. Once the
stomach begins to fill with gas, it will start to flip itself over, otherwise
known as torsion. When this occurs, the stomach is deprived of its circulation
and dies or becomes necrotic. Once this stage has happened, there is usually
no turning back. The toxins from the dead tissues are released systemically
and the dog dies. The best way to deal with this disease is through prevention.
Don't feed your dog a food that swells when it is mixed with water. Limit
water around meal times. Limit activity for one hour before, and a couple
of hours after, a meal. Try to keep the dog's environment as stress-free
as possible. And, don't let you dog over eat on a food source that is known
to absorb water and swell. Some lines of Filas suffer from eyelid disorders.
One is entropion, where the eyelid is a bit folded in towards the eyeball,
which causes the eye lashes to scratch the cornea. This is a serious problem
as it is very uncomfortable for the dog and can cause blindness if severe
enough. Many puppies will have mild entropion that they will outgrow by
one year if given the chance. The other eyelid disorder is ectropion. This
is more common and is found most often in males. It is where the eyelid
is a bit too loose and hangs open a bit showing the haw. Many feel that
this is part of the 'look' of the Fila, and give the breed its look of
melancholy. Dogs with ectropion are more likely to suffer irritation from
dust and pollen, and they will have more tears and eye discharge. Other
than those mentioned, Filas remain relatively free from other health concerns.
Very carefully! It would take pages to explain the process of adopting an
adult Fila, but it is possible. Understand that Filas are extremely devoted
their owners. When removed from this chosen person, the Fila is lost. It
usually only a matter of a week before they are looking for someone new
call theirs. It is during this week that the new owner must be very careful
not to push the dogs progress too quickly, because doing so will result
setbacks. With one-on-one time spent together, the dog will likely seek
affection of the new person soon enough. It is also possible to adopt an
adult Fila into a family environment, but this task is much more tricky.
family members must understand exactly what they are getting into and
then strictly adhere to specific guidelines, or the adoption is likely to
lengthy and tremulous, at best.
It is true, some Filas look like hounds and others look more like mastiffs.
Being that this is not a breed that has followed a standard for very long,
there is a lot of variety within the breed. Some say that the hound look
more correct, with the other type being Fila-bastards resulting from
cross-breeding of true Filas with different types of mastiffs. The opposite
end of the spectrum, states that this breed is to look like a molosser first
and foremost. Each breeder has a type that they will prefer and their dogs
will tend to look like the dogs that they wish to look at. As long as the
individual animal can be compared to and fits within the breed standard,
considered to be correct. So, pick the type that you like best and find
ethical breeder that produces this look. If you are familiar with the
standard, and you are able to see the faults in a dog of either type, then
will rest more comfortably knowing that you will get a dog of which you
The Fila comes in three colors - fawn, brindle and black. With these three
colors come many shades, from cream to red, and from red with a few black
stripes to almost its reverse, black with a few red stripes. These three
colors can be solid, or they are allowed to have white markings limited
their chests, feet, and tips of tails, but no more than 1/4 of the dogs
body should be covered with these markings of white. The coat of the Fila
is short and soft, lying relatively flat along its skin. They tend to shed
Spring and Fall, although this can be greatly minimized by weekly bathing
warm water during these times. Brushing is not needed often, but it does
help to distribute the oils in the coat and remove any dead hairs.
Usually, yes. There is the occasional stubborn Fila, or the super-intelligent
one that is always testing you. For the most part the Fila wants to please
owner, and because of this, they try really hard to learn what is being
to them. Nothing is quite as happy as a Fila who has the praise of its owner.
It is important to remember when training a Fila pup, that this dog will
weigh over 100 pounds as an adult. Something that isnt cute at that
should not be tolerated when the dog is young. In general, females have
longer attention span as puppies. Potty training comes easily for the vigilant,
persistent owner. Like any dog, clarity, consistency, praise, and well-timed
discipline are most important. In turn you will have love, respect, and
well-behaved companion who will give its life to protect you if the need
Absolutely!! No where else is the Fila happier than in the home of his owner.
This breed is only able to give its all when it has a one-on-one relationship
with its family, and this is most easily achieved when the dog is allowed
live inside the home with its people. The level of training that the dog
receives when it is first introduced to the home as a pup, will directly
reflect on its behavior as an adult. A dog that lacks discipline as a puppy,
will lack discipline as an adult. A dog that is given rules and limits will
grow up respecting these rules and limits as an adult. Destructive behaviors
such as chewing should be nipped in the bud. Not much different than any
other breed, except that the level of love and adoration that the Fila
returns to you is ten-fold. Once the puppy stages are over, Filas make
trustworthy indoor animals.
Surprisingly, not much. Being a relatively calm, easy-going dog to start
the Fila could not be categorized as hyper-active or high-strung. Although
the breed is a large one, and appropriate exercise is important, the young
Fila does not need, nor should it be subjected to, a rigorous daily walk.
Filas do well with indoor or backyard play as puppies, and a hike or weekly
play-time with another dog as an adult. Once their joints and skeletal
system is mature and strong, they are willing and able to jog for 10 miles
they are equally content to lay at their owners feet. The occasional
tension-burning gallop at full-speed ahead is enough to keep most Filas
Every person raises their dogs a little different. Most will agree that
only is crate-training necessary, but training and socializing in general
utmost importance. Like any other dog, the Fila needs to be trained with
consistency and love. Rules must be adhered to, and correction given
appropriately. It is important to socialize your Fila puppy because this
creating the foundation of confidence for the rest of the dogs life.
a Fila puppy like this: the pups psyche is sitting in a barn with
the doors wide
open. It is accepting of new things and situations, and is most willing
react in a positive way to stimuli. As that pup matures those barn doors
begin to close. When that dog is anywhere between 6 months and 3 years of
age, the barn doors close shut. It is difficult to introduce the dog to
person, situation, or stimuli. A puppy that was happily walked in a crowded
city, will be at ease in any city as an adult. A pup that has never been
outside the confines of its own yard is not likely to cope well with something
as confusing as a walk around the block, much less a bustling city street.
The best way to raise a Fila puppy is to give it some basic limits, always
to nurture its confidence, and encourage its respect. In the end, you will
have a dog that is a pleasure to own, one that will be confident enough
come to your aid if it must, and one that you can control with ease.
This is quite the debated topic in the Fila world. There are some who think
that by socializing your puppy, you are ruining its temperament. There are
others who feel that socializing includes forcing a Fila pup to be touched
strangers. In this authors opinion, the truth lies in the middle.
Fila puppy that is willing to be pet by strangers should be encouraged to
according to its nature. It should always be supervised and strangers should
not attempt to control it or discipline it. By keeping a friendly puppy
home, away from all people, it will only loose the chance to build its
confidence at a young age. It may still be friendly, but instead it is now
somewhat nervous or shy too! That is no good. The reverse is true as well.
An aggressive puppy should not be locked up for fear that it will try to
everyone in sight. Rather, it needs to begin obedience where it learns to
Leave It!. An unfriendly puppy should still be able to stand
quietly in public
and behave without lunging and acting silly. But by forcing this puppy to
handled by strangers, you may be creating a dog that is vindictive, and when given the chance
as an adult, will retaliate. This too is no good. Let your puppy be the
If it wants to go up to someone, let it. Keep the experience short and
pleasant for the puppy. If it doesnt want to go up to someone, tell
person that the puppy is lacking its shots, that it has an ear ache, or
is in a crabby mood, and DONT make it be social. Your puppy will be
guide, so learn to read your puppy! At this time in its life, let your Fila
be a puppy. Dont agitate it or try to bring out its temperament.
only result in an extremely confused puppy that has had its confidence shook
instead of strengthened, and a disappointed owner that cant understand
their Fila wouldnt protect them at the tender age of 4 months. Would
expect a 3 year old child to stand its ground with an aggravated adult
attacker? Probably not. Then dont expect this from your puppy. Rejoice
its youth and antics, they outgrow this phase (and size!) really quickly!
If it is impossible to go on vacation WITH your Fila, then you will be faced
with leaving its care with someone else. It is possible, although this is
situation that you should prepare for when your Fila is a puppy. Introduce
to the person or facility that you intend to leave the dog with. When it
puppy you will likely have an open window to do this. As the dog matures
will be less and less tolerant to new introductions. So take advantage of
during its youth! Have the person meet the pup at least once a month, or
better yet, every week for several months. If this is a relative or friend,
invite the person to your home for dinner. Let them play with and feed the
pup. If you are planning to board the dog at a facility, take the pup there
and let the staff feed it and become familiar with it. If it is too late,
your puppy is not willing to be friends with anyone outside the family,
it at a facility where they have an indoor and outdoor kennel with a guillotine
door separating the two sections. That way they are able to lock the dog
one side while they clean the opposite side, and then switch the dog to
clean side to take care of the other side. By following this suggestion,
one will be hurt, as there will be no handling of the dog. This works great
for most Filas.
If your Fila is familiar with your vet, and has been socialized
with him/her since puppy hood, it will just be an issue of restraint. If
your Fila is unfamiliar with the vet, it is best to be over cautious. Most
vets appreciate someone who has put the effort into training their dog
to wear a muzzle if the dog is the least bit likely to resent handling.
There are many muzzles on the market, from fancy leather, wire baskets,
to nylon pouches. It should be more of a issue of control rather than being
a fail-safe bite protection device. The muzzle should be a signal for the
dog to turn down its aggressive behavior and tolerate some handling from
a stranger. Well behaved dogs can be controlled with a simple length of
gauze looped around the muzzle and secured behind the ears. Find a vet
that understands your breed and is willing to work with you on its health
care. You may need to learn some of the procedures such as vaccinating,
taking the temperature, etc. so that the visit is easier on your vet and
less stressful to your dog.
Probably the biggest difference is size. A female would be hard pressed
be 140 pounds, where I have seen quite a few males that have topped the
scales at 170 pounds. With this increase in size, males are likely to drool
more, snore louder, and of course, take up more space! Some find males to
be better protection dogs, while others prefer the females. In GENERAL,
females are usually more apt to be demonstrative in their dislike for
someone by growling, clacking their teeth, or just plain giving the evil-eye.
Males are usually more calm and give the impression of being lethargic.
are less likely to growl and make a stink, but in turn are more likely to
without much overt warning. Males have the potential to do more damage
due to their size.
When a Fila perceives a threat, they are very intense. They look at the
offender very directly, with their ears pulled up and their eyes focused.
Some call the eyes of an angry Fila flat, cold, or evil. There is a definite
change that is easily seen. Most dogs will growl a warning. Some will just
launch themselves at the attacker. Much of this depends on the dogs
socialization. A well socialized, trained Fila will be more likely to give
warning thus stopping an intruder before the chance of a physical encounter.
An unsocialized dog will likely do one of two things: attack, or bail. A
is noticed by a Fila when a person acts aggressively (yelling, flailing
jumping, etc.) or if that person acts sneaky (timid, unsure, slouchy, etc.).
The Fila doesnt react like a German Shepherd or a Rottie. They are
defensive dogs that are quite lacking in prey drive. To them, agitation
a game, and most Filas hold a grudge against the agitator. When the threat
is approaching, they are aggressing, when the threat turns away, the Fila
calms once again. They are not usually interested in running the length
football field to bite an agitator because from that distance the Fila doesnt
see the person as that much of a threat. This makes the majority of the
breed unsuitable for Schutzhund or Ring Sport type activities. It is VERY
important to always be looking through your dogs eyes and vigilant
guessing how your dog will react to a situation before it is given the chance.
A well bred, loved, socialized and trained Fila will not let anything horrible
happen to you; it will be there for you when you need it most.
You should ask them where they are going with their breeding program. Are
they producing pets, show dogs, working dogs? How many dogs do they have
on the premises? How many dogs do they co-own? How long have they been
involved with the breed? How many litters have they had? How many litters
do they have each year? Do they offer a guarantee? Does it cost more to
get a guarantee? Does their guarantee apply to show pups only, or both
show and pet quality pups? Do they do any genetic screening on their
breeding stock? If so, do they OFA? PennHIP? CERF? Do they
Temperament test their breeding stock? Do they show them? Will they
send you copies of their OFA/PennHIP/TT/Championship titles? Do they
micro-chip them? What are their dogs like? Can they take them out in
public? Do they socialize them? What is the difference between a show
puppy and a pet puppy? Do they require that a show puppy be shown and
bred? Will they openly give out references? What are their requirements
of a puppy buyer? Do they stay active in their pups life after it
has gone on
to its new home? Do you feel that they will be there for you, when ever
need them? Or will you feel like you are annoying them? There are no right
answers, and each breeder will tell you something different. It is how you
feel about the answers that you get that will help you decide if this breeder
may be producing your next family member. A big kennel is not better, but
small is no guarantee either. Most people go to the breeders in the middle
the ones that have a litter or two a year and are able to spend lots of
with their puppies to assure that they are well kept and well started for
their new homes. It is smart to go to a breeder that offers a written
guarantee and does the genetic testing on their breeding stock. It is even
smarter still to find someone who is involved with showing and TT-ing their
dogs, as these are the folks who are probably breeding for improvement of
the breed and not to see a large yearly income. If they are neglecting to
time and effort into their dogs, they make excuses about health testing,
they have several litters a year, they are likely in it for the money.
Are you familiar with the breed? Have you ever seen one in person? What
are your expectations of a Fila? Do you have a fenced yard? Where will this
dog live, indoors or outdoors? Do you live in an apartment? Do you own your
own home or are you renting? Who else lives in your home? Are you
married? Do you have any children? Do you have any other pets? Do you
entertain often? Do you want a show quality or a pet quality pup? Are you
willing to alter a pet quality pup? What are you looking for as far as
temperament goes? Male or female? Why? Is size an important factor to
you? What color do you like? Is it that important to you that you get the
right color if all other needs are met with a pup? Do you plan to train
socialize this pup? How? Are you OK with the idea of crate-training? What
other breeds of dogs have you had? What happened to them?
On the outside, is your new puppy active and playful, or listless and limping?
Does it have a healthy, shiny coat? Does it smell clean and fresh? Are its
bowels functioning normally? (Keep in mind that the stress of being shipped
via airplane or the sickness that often comes with car-travel at this age,
reflect on its GI health for a day or two.) Are its eyes clear and clean?
its nose free of crust and chapping? Are its ears healthy looking to the
and non-offensive to the nose? Is it lean and strong, or potbellied? A
healthy puppy will look vibrant and act like it is full of vinegar. An un-well
puppy will look scraggly and out of proportion, and be lethargic and solemn.
On the inside, if you made sure that the parents of your puppy were tested
AND certified for normal hips and elbows, that your puppy was fed properly
at its breeders, and that it was raised as naturally as possible from birth,
you have greatly increased the chances that the inside will be as strong
healthy as the outside looks!
The Fila is NOT an AKC breed, nor is it able to be registered with the UKC.
It is registered with the FCI, and its papers are issued through one of
clubs, either the CBKC in Brazil (the country of the breeds origin),
the FCPR in Puerto Rico.
The Fila can be exhibited through several clubs here in the USA. One is
American Rare Breed Association (ARBA). Others are: the International All
Breed Canine Association (IABCA), the Canine Kennel Club (CKC), Federation
Of Rare Breeds (FORB), various specialty shows (FBCA and FBA), and
regional rarebreed shows (like the Eastern Rare Breed Dog Club - ERBDC).
They are welcome at International shows like the Asociacion Canofila
Costarricense (ACC), Federacion Canofila De Puerto Rico (FCPR), as well
Mexico, and Canadian Rare Breed shows.
Depending on who you go to, you can expect to pay from $300 to $2500 for
a Fila puppy. The more expensive dogs are not necessarily worth that much,
nor are the cheaper dogs necessarily a good deal. Average prices for pet
pups is $600 - $1000 and for show pups is $1000 - $1500.
There are several books written on the Fila which were authored by Fila
breeder, Clelia Kruel. For the most part they are discussions of her kennel
and her dogs, but they are good sources for information on the breed none
the less. There is also a book that was written by Brazilian, Precopio De
Villa, but it is in Portuguese, and is no longer available for purchase.
are other books that have the Fila included within their pages, grouped
together with other rare molossers. For the most part, information will
need to be gathered from breeders, and then that information will need to
be sorted into several groups: Most Likely True, Maybe True, Most Likely
If you have Internet access, you can go to eGroups (at
http://www.egroups.com ) and subscribe to the Fila-List. This is a great
where Fila people discuss concerns that they have with the breed, different
lines, and wonderful things that their own Filas have done, amongst other
things! This is a great place to start, as there are a lot of friendly people
there that are more than happy to help you in your research. There are also
other places that you can go to gather information, such as message boards,
and web pages such as this one, that are dedicated to the Fila.
Filas have a tendency to have an odor. The intensity of this odor seems
highly related to the dogs diet. Part of this is the fact that some
are a bit
oily, which they presumably get from the hound in their background. On the
other hand, this oil also makes for an exceptionally healthy, glossy coat,
is resistant to most skin disorders. Some Filas will suffer from over-active
anal glands as pups and young adults. This is not necessarily a health issue,
but more of a bathing issue! They seem to grow out of this problem for the
most part. They are large and strong, and are not a suitable pet for the
geriatric, and they are easily able to knock down children. For this same
reason, petite women must take extra-care to train their Fila properly.
They can clear a table of its valuables in a split second with one swoop
their tail. They are not suitable for the meek, as they need a person to
their life, and like any other dog they will fulfill this role if their
unable. The Fila is a very obedient dog, but it will over-rule the decision
made by its owner if it feels that there is a real threat. For this reason
Fila owner must be at all times aware of their surroundings, and they must
have the dog under absolute control. The Fila is a fantastic protection
and because of this they are more likely to alert (by barking) to strange
noises. They can be vocal in this regard, although they are still not generally
thought of as problem barkers. If there were words to describe the
perfect Fila owner, they would be: aware, vigilant, loving, dominant,
intelligent, strong, and stable.