Emilie Castellanos-Wright is almost overshadowed by her 5-year-old dog Xena. She is a 60kg neapolitan mastiff and as a mastiff is classed along with rottweilers and three dog breeds banned from New Zealand - Tosa Inu, Fila Brasileiro and Dogo Argentino.

Unlike these mastiffs Xena is a placid dog, but Emilie is always on her guard when Xena is around other people and when her 2-year-old daughter Mylene is playing in the garden.

"When you're in town with your child you're aware of the traffic and other people," she said.

"We teach our kids to be aware of those things. With a dog any dog owner should be switched on all the time. When Mylene plays with Xena or she's outside in the garden we have to be switched on for her. We've taught her that screams aren't good, nor is pulling her ears, hitting or pinching."


Mrs Castellanos-Wright, who is an interpreter with Liaison Services, said Xena was adopted through the Humane Society of New Zealand as a 2-year-old. On their second day of having her she got a fright.

"We researched the breed and learned she would grow until she was four. She was already 48kg. The purpose of these dogs is as guard dogs. She's placid but very strong.

"The day after we were playing together in the garden. She had a playful temperament but because she's so strong she can be scary.

"I was fast enough to put her head down otherwise she would have bitten me in play. Since then I've been a strong owner, we've been really disciplined with her.

"You always have to anticipate what a dog will do."

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