The Dogo Guatemalteco is a breed of protection dog developed in Guatemala, where is both the only native breed and the Official National Breed. The Dogo Guatemalteco is known primarily for its white coat, loyalty, great courage, and intimidating physical appearance. Although the two breeds share a similar appearance and ancestry, the Dogo Guatemalteco is not closely related to the Dogo Argentino, nor are they the same breed. The Dogo Guatemalteco is not currently recognized by any major international kennel clubs, although substantial efforts have been initiated to have the breed recognized by the Federation Cynologique Internationale (FCI). The Dogo Guatemalteco is also known as the Bull Terrier Guatemalteco, Guatemalan Bull Terrier, and Guatemalan Molosser.
The Dogo Guatemalteco is a comparatively recently developed breed, but there is a substantial amount of dispute as to its actual origins. Some sources claim that the breed was first developed in the 1930’s, while others claim that it dates to at least the 1890’s. There are photos that allegedly show a Dogo Guatemalteco in the possession of the Galusser family dating from the 1890’s, and other photographs showing similar dogs in the possession of the Gerardi family dating to around 1910. However, it is unclear whether the dogs in the photos were actually Dogo Guatemaltecos or dogs used in the development of the breed. Undisputed evidence for the existence of the Dogo Guatemalteco does not exist until the 1930’s, when the breed was generally recognized across Guatemala as unique.
There is also some confusion as to who developed the Dogo Guatemalteco many sources claim that the Galusser family was almost entirely responsible for the breed’s development, others claim that Hector Montenegro was the primary developer, and still others claim that it was a result of some combination of the Galusser family, Gerardi family, and Hector Montenegro. In any case, all three are closely associated with the breed, especially during the first half of the 20th Century. All sources are in agreement as to which breeds were used to develop the Dogo Guatemalteco. The Bull Terrier provided the majority of the breed’s ancestry, although it is unclear whether it was the Bull Terrier or the Staffordshire Bull Terrier. Although we will probably never know for sure, the Bull Terrier was probably the breed’s primary ancestor although the Staffordshire Bull Terrier was likely used as well. The Boxer and the Dalmatian were also definitely used in the development of the Dogo Guatemalteco. In all likelihood, other breeds and mixed breed dogs were probably used as well, although which ones will probably never be known. Many do believe that the Dogue de Bordeaux and the now-extinct Cordoba Fighting Dog played a role, although the evidence is scarce. Because the breed was primarily based on the Bull Terrier, the Dogo Guatemalteco was known for many years as the Bull Terrier Guatemalteco or the Guatemalan Bull Terrier.
Although the details of the Dogo Guatemalteco’s development may forever remain a mystery, we do know why the breed was developed. The families that created the breed wanted a guard dog that would protect their homes and families. The Dogo Guatemalteco became a much feared protection animal across Guatemala, with a reputation for being highly aggressive and absolutely fearless. Much of this reputation was due to how the breed was kept. For many decades, the Dogo Guatemalteco was kept chained and/or fenced. The dogs were not properly socialized so that they would act aggressively towards strangers. During this time, other breeds may have been crossed with the Dogo Guatemalteco as well although it is unclear to what extent this occurred. There was neither a breed club dedicated to the breed nor any written standards, so each breeder developed lines based around their personal preferences. The result was a dog that was incredibly variable in size, appearance, and temperament. The traits that were common to all breed members were that they were Molossoid (Mastiff-like) and had primarily white coats. During the 20th Century, some owners used the Dogo Guatemalteco for dog fighting, although it is unclear as to how significant this usage was. The Dogo Guatemalteco became quite popular across Guatemala, especially in urban centers. The breed eventually became one of the most common in its homeland, and was a regular sight guarding properties.
Sometime in the 1970’s or 1980’s, two distinct types of Guatemalteco diverged. One was the standard, a dog that maintained the medium size of the Bull Terrier. The other was the Grande, also known as the Large or Giant. The Grande is significantly larger than the Standard, and is widely believed to be the result of crossing Dogo Guatemaltecos with Dogo Argentinos. Although the Standard remains the more common of the two types, the Grande is becoming increasingly popular and may eventually overtake the Standard.
Eventually, several breeders and fanciers became concerned that the Dogo Guatemalteco was becoming too varied in appearance. The veterinarian and zootechnician Dr. Arturo Chavez examined breed members from across the country and developed a written standard that he felt best exemplified the breed. Dr. Chavez also officially renamed the breed the Dogo Guatemalteco. This name change was made for several reasons. The primary one was that over time, the breed had become more like a Mastiff or Bulldog in appearance than a Bull Terrier. It was also thought that Dogo sounded more traditionally Spanish, and therefore appropriate to Guatemala, than the strongly English term Bull Terrier. The Kennel Club of Guatemala (ACANGUA) became highly interested in Dr. Chavez’s work and granted full recognition to the breed. ACANGUA was especially interested in the Dogo Guatemalteco because there are no other purebred dogs native to Guatemala. Dr. Chavez began to contact owners from across Guatemala to see if they would either sell him their dogs or agree to participate in an organized breeding program. Dr. Chavez carefully selected only those dogs which he felt best exemplified the standard, but some volunteers also included dogs that he felt were of lower quality. In 1981, the government of Guatemala officially named the Dogo Guatemalteco the National Breed of Guatemala.
As he was examining breed members across the country, Dr. Arturo Chavez became concerned over the aggressive temperament exhibited by many breed members. One of his primary missions became education of breed owners as to how to properly keep and socialize their dogs. The result was that the Dogo Guatemalteco became a substantially less aggressive breed on average, although many owners continued to train their dogs to be as aggressive as possible. The Dogo Guatemalteco now has a reputation for being very trustworthy around children that it knows well, and many are now kept as family dogs. The fame of being named the Guatemala’s national breed and the breed’s improved temperament reputation have greatly increased its exposure and popularity. The Dogo Guatemalteco continues to grow in popularity across Guatemala, and remains one of the most popular breeds in that country. The breed is also becoming increasingly popular as a show dog and companion animal in addition to its continuing work as a guard dog.
Over the last three decades, Dogo Guatemalteco breeders have focused on developing dogs that most closely match the written standard, although many are now focusing their efforts on further developing the Grande in addition to the Standard. In recent years, ACANGUA has become determined to get the Dogo Guatemalteco officially recognized by the FCI. Such recognition will allow the Dogo Guatemalteco to be registered with kennel clubs around the world and to participate in major international canine events such as dog shows. Although it is unclear when the Dogo Guatemalteco will achieve full FCI recognition, it is widely believed that it will occur in the not-too-distant future. If the Dogo Guatemalteco does achieve FCI recognition, it will become one of fewer than 10 Latin American breeds to achieve international recognition.
The future of the Dogo Guatemalteco in its homeland is very secure. The breed is already very popular in Guatemala, and its numbers are increasing. The breed’s future elsewhere in the world is very uncertain. Almost the entire global population of breed members lives in Guatemala, with only a very small number of individuals living elsewhere. Most Dogo Guatemaltecos outside of Guatemala currently live in the United States, although only a handful of breed members live in that country. In recent years, a small number of breed members have also made their way to neighboring countries such as Mexico, Honduras, El Salvador, and Belize, but the breed has yet to become truly established outside of its homeland. Unlike most modern breeds, the Dogo Guatemalteco remains primarily a working dog. Although the breed is increasingly kept as a companion animal or show dog, a large majority of Dogo Guatemaltecos remain working guard dogs or joint companion animals/working guard dogs. Although the percentage of Dogo Guatemaltecos that are working dogs will probably decrease in the future, the breed will probably remain primarily a guard dog for the foreseeable future.
The Dogo Guatemalteco is quite similar in appearance to the much better known Dogo Argentino and American Pit Bull Terrier, but is a different breed entirely from either animal. The Dogo Guatemalteco comes in two size variations which are identical in all other aspects. The average male Standard Dogo Guatemalteco stands between 21 and 23½ inches tall at the shoulder and weighs between 88 and 99 pounds. The average female Standard Dogo Guatemalteco stands between 20½ and 23 inches tall at the shoulder and stands between 77 and 88 pounds. The Grande Dogo Guatemalteco is considerably more variable in size, and there is not yet an official breed standard. In general, the Grande is much larger, between 3 and 7 inches taller and between30 and 70 pounds heavier. The Dogo Guatemalteco is longer from chest to rump than it is tall from floor to shoulder, usually by about 10%. The Dogo Guatemalteco is quite variable in terms of body type. Some dogs are built very thickly like an English Bulldog and resemble a tank. Others are much leaner and more athletic like a Dogo Argentino. Regardless, all Dogo Guatemaltecos should be extremely muscular and very physically intimidating. The legs of this breed are quite variable in length, with some being substantially longer in proportion to the body than others. The tail of the Dogo Guatemalteco is long and usually held with a moderate curve.
The head and facial features of the Dogo Guatemalteco are quite variable and individual breed members may exhibit facial features found in any Molosser-type dog. All breed members have a shortened snout relative to body size. However, in some dogs this shortness is very mild as can be seen in a Dogo Argentino or American Pit Bull Terrier. In others this shortness is very severe, almost to the level seen in an English Bulldog or Mastiff. Breed standards call for the muzzle to be between 6 and 8 inches in length, but many breeders have ignored this. The lips of this breed are quite thick. Most breed members have slightly pendulous lips, but others have full jowls. While most breed members have a level or scissors bite, pronounced under bites are also seen. All Dogo Guatemaltecos appear to have slightly loose skin on their faces, but most dogs are not wrinkly. Some breed members may, however, have a few pronounced but not excessive facial wrinkles. The ears of the Dogo Guatemalteco are extremely variable. Some fold down closely to the head, some are semi prick, others are held out to the sides, and still others face backwards. Many owners choose to have the ears of their Dogo Guatemaltecos cropped or pricked into fully erect triangles. This practice is falling out of favor, however, and is actually banned in some countries. The nose of the Dogo Guatemalteco is ideally fully black, but many dogs have noses with partial or even full depigmentation. The eyes of the Dogo Guatemalteco are generally quite small in relation to the size of the dog, and are usually dark brown, black, or hazel. The overall expression of most breed members is intense, protective, and extremely confident.
The coat of the Dogo Guatemalteco is short, hard, glossy, and close fitting. The Dogo Guatemalteco is primarily a white dog. Breed members are often totally white, but colored markings are preferred in the show ring and by most breeders. These patches may be of any size, shape, or color, but generally cover less than 20% of the dog’s body. The vast majority of breed members have markings of only one color, but some may have multiple colors of markings. The most common marking colors are black and tan.
The Dogo Guatemalteco has been bred primarily as a guard dog (and to a lesser extent for dog fighting) and exhibits those traits one would expect of such a breed. The Dogo Argentino is known to be extremely loyal to its family, with whom it forms very deep and intense bonds. When raised by a single person, the Dogo Guatemalteco has a strong tendency to become a one person dog, although when raised in a family environment this breed will form equally close attachments to all family members. The Dogo Guatemalteco is a breed that forms such close attachments to one family that it can be extremely difficult to rehome. While this breed greatly prefers to be in the constant company of its family, it will adapt to spending significant periods of time alone. When raised alongside a family’s children, Dogo Guatemaltecos usually do very well with them, and the breed is earning a reputation as a family dog. However, most breed members will not be friendly with strange children, and Dogo Guatemalteco puppies are probably not the best choice to have around very young children because they may accidentally bowl them over in an attempt at play. Because this breed tends to be extremely dominant, it is a very poor choice for a novice dog owner.
Dogo Guatemaltecos are naturally very suspicious of strangers. Proper training and socialization are absolutely necessary for this breed to allow it to determine what is a true threat. Otherwise, the dog’s natural suspicion is very likely to transform into human aggression, potentially even severe aggression. Even the best socialized Dogo Guatemaltecos will remain aloof and uninterested in strangers, and very few breed members are ever openly friendly with new people. This is a breed that can take a very long time to warm up to new people, sometimes not forming bonds with spouses or roommates for years. The Dogo Guatemalteco is not only extremely protective but constantly alert, making it an excellent watchdog that will immediately scare off most potential intruders based on its appearance and bark alone. This is definitely a breed whose bite is worse than its bark, however, and Dogo Guatemaltecos make excellent guard dogs that will challenge any intruder to their property. Most breed members prefer to scare off intruders rather than attack, but this is not a bite-inhibited breed if the intruder does not quickly get the message that they are unwelcome. Dogo Guatemaltecos also make excellent personal protection dogs that will not allow any physical harm to come to a member of their family, whom they will unhesitatingly sacrifice their lives for. This breed is famous for its courage, and a Dogo Guatemalteco will not back from any challenger man or animal.
The Dogo Guatemalteco has major issues with other animals. This breed tends to be highly dog aggressive. The Dogo Guatemalteco exhibits all forms of dog aggression, including territorial, dominance, possessiveness, same-sex, and predatory. The Dogo Guatemalteco does best when kept as an only dog, although most (but not all) will get along with a single member of the opposite sex with whom they are very familiar. Training and socialization can help reduce dog aggression issues, but they will not eliminate them. Owners must always be aware that a Dogo Guatemalteco is capable of seriously injuring or even killing essentially any other dog with very little effort. This breed also tends to be highly animal-aggressive. Dogo Guatemaltecos will probably attempt to chase, attack, and even kill strange animals, especially ones that enter its territory. Some Dogo Guatemaltecos will be fine with cats and other non-canine pets with which they have been raised from puppyhood, but others are never trustworthy with them.
The Dogo Guatemalteco is considered to be a highly intelligent breed, but they are also known to be extremely challenging to train. This is a breed that definitely would rather do its own thing than follow someone else’s orders. Most breed members are very stubborn, and many are openly defiant. This breed is especially unlikely to perform repetitive and boring tasks after a while. Most importantly, the Dogo Guatemalteco will absolutely not respond to anyone whom it considers lower than itself on the social totem pole. For this reason, owners must maintain a constant position of dominance over their dogs. Otherwise, they will be left with an unmanageable animal. This does not mean that a Dogo Guatemalteco is impossible to train (quite the opposite), but it does mean that significantly more time, energy, effort, and patience must be used to train them, and the final training result may not be what the owner desired. This breed exhibits special training problems when it comes to housebreaking. Dogo Guatemaltecos are notoriously difficult to house break, and owners can expect several extra months (at the very least) of crating and accidents.
Dogo Guatemaltecos are energetic dogs that require a substantial amount of daily exercise. This breed should receive a minimum of between 45 minutes and an hour of vigorous exercise every day. Breed members that are not provided a proper outlet for their energy are very likely to develop behavioral problems such as destructiveness, aggression, excessive barking, hyper activity, over excitability, and housebreaking regression. That being said, the Dogo Guatemalteco does not have extreme exercise requirements and will usually be calm and relaxed in the home when it is provided the exercise that it needs. The Dogo Guatemalteco greatly prefers an opportunity to freely wander a safely enclosed area. For this reason, this breed adapts very poorly to apartment life and does best with at least a moderately sized yard.
The Dogo Guatemalteco can make a very excellent companion for families with the dog training experience to properly control them and the time and space to properly provide for their needs. However, those families who are not able to properly care for this breed are seriously advised to consider a different breed to avoid serious headaches in the future.
The Dogo Guatemalteco is a very low maintenance breed. These dogs should never require professional grooming, only a regular brushing. It is highly advisable for owners to introduce their Dogo Guatemaltecos to routine maintenance procedures such as bathing and nail clipping from as young an age and as carefully as possible, because it is much easier to clean the ears of a 20 pound and curious puppy than a 90 pound and frightened adult. The Dogo Guatemalteco does shed, and they can shed quite heavily. This is a breed that will cover carpets, clothing, and furniture with hair, and they will do so all year long.
It does not appear as though any health studies have been conducted on the Dogo Guatemalteco which makes it impossible to make any definitive statements on the breed’s health. However, breeders and owners have been keeping anecdotal records of the health of their dogs for many years so a general sense of the breed’s health can be gathered. The Dogo Guatemalteco is a generally healthy breed that tends to suffer from significantly lower rates of serious health problems than other large Molosser breeds, although it is definitely not free from health problems.
There are three specific health concerns that the Dogo Guatemalteco is vulnerable to: deafness, skin allergies, and lameness. As is the case with many white dogs, the Dogo Guatemalteco often suffers from congenital deafness. This deafness may either be in only one ear (unilateral deafness) or in both ears (bilateral deafness). Although unilaterally deaf dogs should not be bred, they are usually otherwise normal. Bilaterally deaf dogs often have severe behavioral issues such as fearfulness and aggression, issues which are heightened in a dog with the protective tendencies and extreme power of the Dogo Guatemalteco. The Dogo Guatemalteco suffers from a number of skin allergies and related conditions such as Demodicosis, flea allergies, and contact allergies to various substances. The severity of these conditions varies widely between individual dogs. The Dogo Guatemalteco often experiences lameness which can be caused by a number of different problems. Among the most common are hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, and skeletal growth abnormalities.
Because skeletal and visual problems have been known to occur in this breed it is highly advisable for owners to have their pets tested by both the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) and the Canine Eye Registration Foundation (CERF). The OFA and CERF perform genetic and other tests to identify potential health defects before they show up. This is especially valuable in the detection of conditions that do not show up until the dog has reached an advanced age, making it especially important for anyone considering breeding their dog to have them tested to prevent the spread of potential genetic conditions to its offspring.
A full list of health concerns that the Dogo Guatemalteco is assumed to be vulnerable would have to include: