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The Alano Español

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 Alano Español

Alano Español, sometimes called the Spanish Bulldog in English, is a large breed of dog of the molosser dog type, originating in Spain. Centuries ago, as the people of central Asia began to move west into Europe, their dogs came with them. The Alano Español was one of those dogs. that was bred from the beginning to be a herder, hunter and guard dog. It went with the conquistadores from Spain to the New World, where it continued to work at herding and guarding, but also saw service as a war dog.

The Alano is not a dog for just anyone. Its size and a high activity level mean that it requires a large space to live in. It needs a human who is willing and able to work hard to socialize it and train it; but once that is done it is a very loyal obedient dog. It is also a good and affectionate family dog, good with children and with other canines in the home.

Here is the Alano Español at a Glance
Name Alano Español
Other Names Alano, Spanish Bulldog
Nicknames None
Origin Spain
Average size Large
Average weight 75 to 88 pounds
Average height 22 to 25 inches
Life span 11 to 14 years
Coat type Short, thick, rough
Hypoallergenic No
Color Various brindle patterns
Popularity Not well known beyond Spain
Intelligence Average
Tolerance to heat High
Tolerance to cold High
Shedding Minimal
Drooling Not a drooler
Obesity Minimal tendency
Grooming/brushing Little needed
Barking Little barking
Exercise needs Very high
Trainability Responds well to training
Friendliness Average
Good first dog Not for most
Good family pet Yes
Good with children Yes
Good with other dogs Yes
Good with other pets Could be better
Good with strangers Wary and suspicious
Good apartment dog No
Handles alone time well Okay
Health issues Essentially none
Medical expenses Minimal, routine
Food expenses $235 annual average
Miscellaneous expenses $65 annual average
Average annual expense $460
Cost to purchase $675
Biting statistics Attacks: 20 Maimings: 14 Child victims: 12 Deaths: 1

The Alano Español’s Beginnings

Let’s start with the Romans during the fourth century A.D. They had won a lot of wars, spread out over a large part of their end of the world, started up an empire, and were generally entitled to think of themselves as the top dogs. Now they were discovering what every top dog has to learn eventually: there are always other dogs waiting in the wings, and nothing is forever.

In this case the other dogs were part of a series of waves of migration, as people from central Asia began to make their way west, beginning with the Teutonic tribes, and followed by Slavic people, and by the Huns. Each wave pushed the preceding one farther west into the Mediterranean Basin, eventually settling down and creating the nations we know today as Europe.

Among those new settlers was a group of Iranians who called themselves the Alani, and who settled into Spain in the fifth century. They brought their dogs, too, of course, for guarding livestock and hunting such critters as wild boars and bears. The dogs became a dominant breed on the Iberian Peninsula, and eventually took on a variant of the family name—Alano. By the middle of the fourteenth century they were well enough established as the dominant Spanish dog that Alfonso XI, who was the ruler of Castile, Leon and Galicia, talked about their bravery and their beautiful looks in a book he wrote, “The Book of the Hunt.”

When Spanish expanded their path of conquest across the Atlantic to the New World, the Alono went with them, serving as war dogs, and later as hunters and guardians of livestock. Back in Spain they continued their roles as shepherds and guardians, and were also used in bull baiting, which was a popular sport of the time.

New Lease on Life

Moving into more contemporary times, the Alano’s stock dwindled. Bull baiting was outlawed, and by the early twentieth century wild game was disappearing, so the dogs were needed less for hunting. Additionally, stockyard operations became more dependent on trucks and fences, so the Alano’s value as a herder diminished considerably.

 Alano Español

As the old Alanos died off, they were not being replaced by new litters, and by the early nineteen sixties they were on the edge of extinction. They had their supporters, though, and people in the Basque Country of northern Spain were still using Alanos for herding cattle and hunting wild boars. A new breeding program was started in nineteen seenty, the Alano was brought back to life, and was recognized by the Spanish Kennel Club in 2004.

In recent years a few Alanos have reached the United States and are being bred there, recognized for their calm temperament and their talent as hunting dogs.

The Dog You See Today

The Alano is a large dog, standing twenty-two to twenty-five inches at the withers and weighing anywhere from seventy-five to eighty-eight pounds. It is one of the breeds known as Molossers, big guys with a lot of muscle and heavy bones that go all the way back to the shepherd dogs of Epirus in ancient Greece.

Alanos have those bones and muscles, large chests, short, thick necks with a short muzzle, and pendant ears set high on the head. Their noses are broad and black. Their tails are thick at the base, and taper to a point at the end. The skin is heavy and thick, with folds. There are often a few wrinkles on the face.

The Alano’s coat is short and thick, and a little rough. There may be white flashes on the chest, but the primary color for an Alano is some variety of brindle, at times with a black mask around the eyes.

The Inner Alano Español


Alanos are known for being calm and serious. If you can think of a dog as thoughtful, that would fit the Alano. It is not excitable, does not overreact to things, and does not need constant attention. It has the ability to accept things as they are.

However, acceptance should not be equated with submissiveness. The Alano sees the world in terms of dominance. It will take the role of top dog gladly, although it is also willing to cede dominance to a strong human being. It also needs to be remembered that this dog was bred to be a fighter and protector. It is fearless and tenacious. Although it is not aggressive by nature, it tends to be wary of strangers, which can make it dangerous without strong and early socialization with people and other animals.


Living with an Alano

Training the Alano

It is an intelligent dog and will respond well to training both in obedience and skills. If you are going to consider living with an Alano, you must be ready and able to be the dominant member of the pack. You have to make it clear from puppyhood, through intense training and socialization, that you are the boss. The Alano will accept that, and will be obedient and loyal once your dominance is established. But this takes hard work on your part from the beginning, and if you are not in a position to spend the time and energy needed, this is not the dog for you.

How active is this dog?

First of all, these definitely are not apartment dogs. They are too big and too active, and they need a lot of space. That space needs to be not only large, but surrounded by a strong, high fence. Among other things, Alanos are excellent tree climbers and jumpers, so a puny fence just won’t do. In fact, the Alano is really a yard dog. It will be much happier spending a lot of its time outside, sleeping, eating, playing, and just hanging out. The fact that it is also a hard dog to housebreak makes having it live mainly in its yard even more desirable.

The Alano is a bundle of energy and needs frequent, fairly intense, exercise. It should get at least daily exercise, both physical and mental. Doing something with it more than once a day is preferable.

 Alano Español

Caring for the Alano

Grooming needs

The Alano is a short haired dog with neck fold and wrinkles and has moderate needs when it comes to grooming and maintenance. The coat can be taken care of with a rubber brush once or twice a week though that may increase to daily during heavier shedding time. The folds and wrinkles also need to be cared for properly to prevent infection and skin irritation. Give them a wipe clean once a day and keep them dry after bathing and when they get damp from humidity or heat. Baths should just be given when it really needs it as otherwise it can lose the natural oils in its skin and have problems with scratching and so on. Oral care is another important job in maintaining the Alano's health. Its teeth should be brushed at least twice a week to remove tartar. If it does not wear down its nails naturally from activity then they will need to be clipped preferably by someone with experience as dog nails have live nerves and vessels in them. Ears should be checked weekly for infection and given a wipe clean too.

Feeding requirements

The Alano is a large dog so is likely to need 3 to 4 cups of high quality dog food a day. It should not be allowed to consume this on one sitting as this can lead to serious complications with Bloat. Divide the amount into at least two meals.

Children and other animals

Given that, the Alano is in fact a great family dog. It will bond well with the people in the family, and will be playful and patient with children. It also does well with other dogs. It enjoys spending time with its family, and will learn to be obedient and respectful to everyone it lives with.

What Might Go Wrong

Health Concerns

Any dog can get hurt. Any dog can catch a bug and get sick. Alanos, however, are among the canines least likely to have medical issues. They are strong and tough, and don’t break or tear easily. They appear to be highly resistant to infections. They do not seem to have any genetic disposition to the kinds of disorders many dogs are prey to. The likelihood is that your Alano will stay hearty and healthy throughout its life.


Biting Statistics

The Alano itself is not listed in the reports gathered on dog attacks in humans but the Bulldog is and the Alano is also known as the Spanish Bulldog so this section will look at Bulldogs in general for data. According to a study that takes 34 years of data on reported dog attacks on people, Bulldogs have been involved in 20 attacks. 12 of those victims are known to be children. 14 of those attacks were maimings, meaning the victims suffered from permanents scarring, loss of limb or disfigurement. 1 attack lead to a death. This puts Bulldogs in the top 20% of dog attacks.
 Alano Español
When choosing a dog it is vital you get it right for your sake and the dog's. It needs a certain level of commitment from you, so you need to be sure you will train and socialize it from a young age, offer it the level of activity and stimulation it needs and raise it with firmness, love and consistency.

Your Pup’s Price Tag

The first trick here will be finding an Alano to call your own. In Spain, no hay problema, no problem. In the United States, not so easy. You may have to explore breeders’ ads to find one. Certainly, your chances of locating an Alano at your neighborhood pet shop or pet shelter are slender. However, they are around, and the average price these days for a new Alano pup runs in the neighborhood of $675.

Once you have located an Alano and brought it home, it is time for a trip to the veterinarian for spaying, if the dog is female, or neutering if it is male. This should cost around $220 for this dog. At that time you will also want to get initial puppy shots, have the dog de-wormed it necessary, and take care of other routine initial medical procedures—another $70 or so. Your new dog will also need a pet license—say $15—and a leash and collar for another $35 to $45. You probably won’t be thinking about crating what is really an outside dog, but if you do, you will need to spend about $125 for the right size crate.

The next step is initial obedience training, and unless you have the skill and experience, this is a task best handled by a professional, preferably one who knows how to work with large hunting and guard dogs. A first round of obedience training will probably run at least $110.

You want to be sure your new dog eats well, of course, and the best bet there is to purchase puppy food, and later adult dog food, that is meant for large canines. That food is formulated to help insure that the dog does not grow too quickly, so that its bone structure has time to develop well. Plan on spending about $235 a year for your Alano’s food. That does not include treats, of course, which will probably add up to at least another $75 a year.

Overall, you can figure that, after the initial expenses, your Alano will set you back something in the neighborhood of $460 a year.


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 Alano Español

The Alano Español is a dog with a long history that began in Central Asia and moved over the centuries into the Mediterranean Basin and finally to Spain, where it took root in the fifth century A.D. It is a large dog—seventy-five to eighty-eight pounds—that was bred from the beginning to be a herder, hunter and guard dog. It went with the conquistadores from Spain to the New World, where it continued to work at herding and guarding, but also saw service as a war dog. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries it almost disappeared from its original territory in Spain; but a few dedicated dog lovers brought it back, and it is now officially recognized by the Spanish Kennel Club. It has not been recognized as yet by the American Kennel Club, but that probably will come with time.

The Alano is not a dog for just anyone. Its size and a high activity level mean that it requires a large space to live in. It needs a human who is willing and able to work hard to socialize it and train it; but once that is done it is a very loyal obedient dog. It is also a good and affectionate family dog, good with children and with other canines in the home.

This is a dog that requires work and dedication, and that will repay those things with loyalty and affection.

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