This rare breed is a striking sight with its bright white coat, powerful, blocky head, and athletic body. The dogo is a breed with a short history, a large family tree, and a very specific use. But with the right owner, they can make loyal companions and even loving family dogs.
Keep reading to find out if you have what it takes to tame this powerful hunting hound.
General Characteristics of the Dogo Argentino
- Other names: Argentine Dogo, Argentine Mastiff, Dogo
- Height: 24 to 27 inches
- Weight: 80 to 100 pounds
- Lifespan: 9 to 15 years
- Origin: Argentina
- Colors: White
- Activity level: High
- Grooming needs: Minimal
- Best suited for: Experienced owners and families
The History of the Dogo Argentino
The dogo Argentino is a newer breed, having existed for less than 100 years, making it easy to track the history and genetics of this powerful canine.
In the 1920s, an Argentine doctor by the name of Antonio Nores Martinez had a dream to create Argentina’s first national dog breed. He wanted it to be a powerful dog with the strength and tenacity of a dog fighter but social enough to hunt in large packs and be kept in the family home.
He started with the now extinct Cordoba fighting dog, a heavy, muscular, white dog that was famous for its aggression and intensity in the dog fighting ring. To calm the Cordoba’s ferocity, he mixed in English pointer, Irish wolfhound, and boxer. And to increase the dog’s athleticism and size, he added the great Dane, old English bulldog, bull terrier, Pyrenean mastiff, Spanish mastiff, and Bordeaux.
What he ended up with was a large dog with powerful jaws, a high prey drive, and the ability to move gracefully through the difficult terrain of the Argentinian countryside. Dr. Martinez immediately put his new dogs to use, taking packs of them on long hunting expeditions through Patagonia.
Their agility, size, and drive meant they were the perfect dog for hunting large and aggressive prey like boar and even cougar.
The breed was created to be able to hunt in the diverse and hostile landscapes of Argentina. Their long legs, powerful upper body, and long neck all allow them to easily maneuver through thick brush and over hilly terrain.
Martinez brought six of his new dogs to the US where their skills as hunters, guard dogs, and loyal companions made them celebrities in certain circles. Back at home, they began to land jobs in the military, police force, and search and rescue. While the breed’s popularity has grown in many other countries in South America, their history as a fighting dog has gotten them banned from many others, including the UK and New Zealand.
Today, dogos are still used as hunting hounds in America and are especially popular as boar hunters in the US south. Because of their ability to track and immobilized even the largest invasive swine, they are key in the fight against the ecological destruction caused by these feral pigs.
But the majority of today’s Argentinos live as cherished companions who move gracefully between guarding the house and cuddling up with the family.
The Temperament of the Dogo Argentino
Despite their violent past, the dogo Argentino can make a reliable, loving, and loyal family pet. Their instinct to guard means they will always put those they consider family first and are typically unflinchingly gentle with their housemates.
Despite their use as ferocious hunting dogs, these white ghost dogs can make surprisingly gentle and loving pets.
For strangers, however, the story is much different. All Argentinos are suspicious of strangers, especially those entering their property without the company of their owner. But how well an individual tolerates being handled by people they don’t know or being in large crowds, will depend on how much socialization they received early on.
This breed was created to work at a distance from their owners, tracking and flushing out prey using their own instincts. For this reason, they are strongly independent dogs that can show a stubborn side. They require a firm, experienced owner who will be consistent and respectful.
Argentinos are powerful working dogs which means they can be very active, even as aging adults. They require a lot of room to roam and plenty of mental and physical activity. But, because of their immense prey drive, unpredictability around strange humans and dogs, and a tendency to wander, they need to be secured behind a strong fence or on a leash at all times.
While they do make good guard dogs because of their territorial nature and intimidating build, they are not overly barky. They are more likely to observe and chase down a trespasser than to try and scare one away by intimidating them.
Overall, these dogs are powerful and strong both in body and will, but can make excellent family dogs for an experienced owner with older children.
Learn more about this gorgeous breed in this episode of Dogs 101.
Health Issues Common to the Dogo Argentino Breed
Despite their size, the dogo is a surprisingly healthy breed, rarely suffering from any of the ailments common to other big-boned canines. Occasionally, an older animal may experience problems with hip dysplasia or thyroid issues, but most remain robust well into the double digits.
Here are some health issues that can pop up in the dogo Argentino breed:
- Laryngeal paralysis
About 10% of Argentinos suffer from deafness, with some experiencing the problem on only one side while others will be completely deaf. Like dalmatians and other white-skinned breeds, this problem all has to do with melanin.
While melanin is best known for its role in determining skin tone, it also plays a part in hearing. The same stem cells that create melanocytes, the cells that create melanin, also create cells that are important to how the inner ear operates.
Finding out if your puppy is deaf will require a BAER test. This special device measures brain waves to determine if your dog is responding to auditory stimulation. This is the same test they perform on infants to check for deafness. “Sanns Flat Field” by Janne / CC BY-SA 2.0
A dog that is born with large patches of melanin-less areas of skin is also more likely to lack the necessary cells in the ear. But determining if a dog is deaf isn’t as easy as looking at their coats. Great Pyrenees, for instance, have predominantly white coats, but they do not suffer from deafness the way white bull terriers and dogos do. That’s because their skin is pigmented, this coloration is just not expressed in their hair.
The same is true to some degree in Argentinos. Many dogos have black spotting on their skin even though their coat remains completely white. In some dogs, this small amount of black pigmentation is enough to prevent deafness, but in others, it is not.
The best way to avoid ending up with a deaf dog is to purchase your puppy from a responsible breeder. These breeders will test their breeding stock for deafness and only breed dogs with full hearing. While this won’t guarantee all the puppies will be hearing, it does greatly improve their odds.
Another great way to avoid having to do the extra work associated with training a deaf dog (or, if you like a challenge, to make sure you do end up with a deaf dog) is to contact your local dogo rescue and bring home a fully grown dog in need of a home.
Do Dogo Argentinos Do Well With Children and Other Pets?
Like many guard-type breeds, Argentinos typically do well with children in their own family, especially if they were exposed to babies and kids from an early age. While they are not guaranteed to be as tolerant as livestock guardians, they are large dogs who will put up with a lot more out of rambunctious children than many dogs.
Well-socialized dogos can get along well with pets of all types, but your best bet for a dogo playmate is another large breed that can handle their strength and energy. “At the Dog Park” by Tracy Lee / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
That being said, all dog-child interactions should be supervised until a child is old enough and responsible enough to treat and dog respectfully and identify their body signals. Because they are so territorial and have a high prey drive for large prey, friends of your child and strange children should be introduced carefully to an Argentino.
This same prey drive does mean that these dogs are not a great choice for houses with smaller pets like cats and rabbits. While it is not unheard of for a well-socialized dogo to accept tiny family members, it is much more likely that they will see these pets as prey.
The same may be true of smaller dog breeds, depending on how your dogo views this member of the family. Your goal should always be to socialize your Argentino as a puppy so it will happily accept smaller dogs as playmates, but that should not be the expectation.
In general, Argentinos are used to working alongside other dogs and typically do well with larger dogs in the house. Though, a dog with a dominant personality may do best with a more submissive sibling or one of the opposite sex. It is also common for these dogs to react aggressively if another dog aggresses toward them. So be cautious when introducing your dog to non-family canines and always do so on neutral turf.
What to Consider Before Bringing Home a Dogo Argentino
Think you have the experience and lifestyle to bring home one of these amazing canines? Here are a few more things to consider before pulling the trigger.
In the right environment, this breed can be gentle, loveable, and friendly. But with an inexperienced owner, they can just as easily become destructive and aggressive. “Clover and Dennis 2” by Evan Long / CC BY-NC 2.0
Unlike many of their giant cousins, dogos are active dogs that need more running around time than couch time. They prefer a house with a large fenced yard and plenty of time on the trail with their human. They make great hiking companions and are even happy to carry some of the load.
Puppies, especially, can be destructive if not properly worn out. You’ll need a combination of physical exercise and mental activity to accomplish this. Puzzle toys, heavy-duty treat toys, and training are all great ways to mentally exhaust a rambunctious puppy.
Like most independent, stubborn dogs, training an Argentino doesn’t come easy to everyone. They require consistency so they know what to expect in different situations. This means they require a firm hand that won’t let them get away with things they shouldn’t just because they flash those beautiful brown eyes. But this doesn’t mean you should resort to physical punishment or cohesion. These dogs need an owner who will work with their drives to find a kind and mutually respectful way to train them.
This dog’s short coat makes them a breeze to brush. They don’t shed as much as other short-coated dogs, either. But their white coat does mean an occasional bath will be necessary or they will start to turn yellow. Like all dogs, they do require frequent nail trimming. Most dogos have a black nose, but any white skin that isn’t well covered by hair is at risk of burning in the sun, so sunblock may be necessary.
The dogo has a short coat that is easy to care for but that can be stained by mud, freshly cut lawn, and other common messes found in the yard
Because an adult dogo Argentino is over 70 pounds at maturity, puppies should always be fed large breed puppy food. While this breed does not suffer from joint and mobility issues like others in their weight class, it is better to use this reduced-calorie food to control growth and make sure these dogs are physically robust as they age.
Because these dogs are somewhat rare in the states, puppies can run anywhere from $1,000 to $4,000. They are big dogs, so expect the food bills to be equally high after you bring your new dog home. In general, though, these dogs are healthy and shouldn’t require excessive vet bills, barring any accidents.
>>>No matter what breed you choose, owning a dog can get pricey. Find out what a dog really costs each year.
Do keep in mind that these dogs are on the dangerous dog list in many US counties, and are banned in the UK, New Zealand, Australia, Denmark, Iceland, Ukraine, and more. Make sure to check your local bylaws and consider any future plans before committing to this breed.
10 Fun Facts About the Dogo Argentino
Now that you know what it takes to own a dogo Argentino, here are some fun facts about the breed.
- The Argentino’s jaw is square, allowing the front teeth to line up top to bottom, giving their bite extra holding power.
- Their ears are often cropped to prevent injury during hunts, but many companion dogs flaunt their natural folded ears.
- Black spots on the coat are considered a flaw, though some breed clubs allow a small black or brindle spot on the head.
While traditionalists consider color in the dogo coat a flaw, many proponents believe allowing for some color on the head could help reduce the number of puppies that are born deaf.
- Many dogos have spots like Dalmatians on their skin even though their coat is completely white.
- While these dogs are capable of killing prey, especially in large groups, their main job during a hunt is to hold the animal until the hunter can get to it.
- The Argentino has loose elastic skin on its neck to protect its larynx and arteries from injury while bringing down prey.
- In Argentina, these dogs have been used as guide dogs for the blind.
- This breed has a longer life expectancy than most dogs their size, commonly living to 15 years or beyond.
- These dogs have been used to track and hunt moose in Canada.
- When the founder of this breed was killed during a hunt, his son took over breeding and promoting the Argentino.
Before You Go
Not sure you have the experience to own one of these powerful canines? Here are a few more breeds worth considering.
Sara Seitz has spent most of her life in the pet industry and has a bachelors in animal behavior from Colorado State University. Sara started working with dogs and cats as a high schooler at a rural boarding kennel. There she learned a lot about the bad and the ugly of the pet service industry. But not even the toughest day at that job would dissuade Sara from following her dream of working with animals.
In college, Sara got a job at a dog daycare and boarding facility in Fort Collins, Colorado. Her new career provided even more opportunities for learning about dog behavior than her classes did. As general manager of the daycare, Sara helped the company launch a new in-home pet sitting branch and trained to become a certified dog trainer. Between shifts taking care of peoples pets in-home and supervising dogs during playtime at the daycare, Sara organized and taught obedience classes.
Sara has always been passionate about bettering the lives of our canine companions. She soon found that advocating for and educating owners in the power of positive reinforcement training was one of the best ways to help dogs and their owners live happier lives.