A Respected Mastiff breeder answers most-asked questions about the mighty Mastiff with warm humor and tons of Mastiff photos!
Frequently Asked Questions
Catie C. Arney, Mastiff Breed Representative
What Is A Mastiff?
A Mastiff is a giant breed of dog descended from the ancient Alaunt and Molossur breeds. Today, mastiffs
is used to describe many different breeds around the world, all descended from the same rootstock. In the USA and other English speaking countries, Mastiff is used to refer to the Old English Mastiff (OEM), developed in England and nearly extinct after WWII.
Mastiffs are very large dogs; fawn, apricot, or brindle in color; all with a
dark mask and ears; possessing a medium to short coat with very little white (which if it appears, should be confined to the chest but often appears on the toes as well).
How Big Is The Mastiff?
There is no upper height limit. Mastiffs may range from the minimum of 27 inches to 36 inches for the exceptionally tall ones. There is no weight range in the Mastiff standard - they can weigh anywhere from 100 lbs. to the world's record of 343 lbs. Most Mastiff males weigh
from 160-230 lbs. and females weigh 120-170 lbs. This breed is supposed to be very broad with a huge head, wide chest and large bone, and is longer in body than in height. Mastiffs should have a calm, self-assured temperament,be devoted to family and friends, steady, gentle, eager for affection, good with children, calm and self-assured.
What Is An American Mastiff?
A crossbred dog not recognized by AKC. Basically it is a mutt.
It is said to have fewer genetic problems (not true, it has its own set of genetic problems).
It drools less (only because it has a narrower head and tighter flews, and is
called an "improved" Mastiff. Well, it's make up is 7/8 English Mastiff - so what are you improving? It is a designer breed,
an unregulated gimmick created for an unsuspecting pet market.
What Are Mastiffs
Mastiffs excel as companions, family members, therapy workers, and watchers of the home. Mastiffs have also done well, when properly trained and conditioned, at carting, agility, obedience, conformation showing, search and rescue (SAR), and weight pulling. And of course, puppy-sitting and child-watching.
Are Mastiffs Easy
Both easy and difficult. Mastiffs are smart, and
they live to please you. However, they can go through phases where they
are also stubborn, and these phases can last anywhere from a couple of weeks in
puppyhood to (in some cases) most of the dog's lifetime. A lot
depends on the owner's wisdom and perception of the dog's needs.
Keep training sessions short (10-15 minutes) and frequent (several times a day) because in addition to their stubbornness, Mastiffs have sensitive feelings and if they get frightened, hurt, or confused, they cannot be budged.
Example: Vesta laid down in the show ring and would not get up! It was her first show and she
became confused, so the safe thing to do was to lie down and hide her eyes. We never got mad
at her - we just convinced her it was fun and she became a fabulous showdog.
Use lots of treats (Mastiffs love to eat!) and make training a game. Use a happy excited voice and lots of praise
but be consistent and firm. Practice on a regular basis. Dogs like to be trained, it gives them a job to do, and they want to please their beloved owners. Once trained, a Mastiff never needs a stronger
correction than a stern voice.
How Does The Bullmastiff
Differ From a Mastiff?
The Mastiff is an ancient British breed and its history can be traced back over 2,000 years. The Bullmastiff is a relatively
recent breed developed from crossing the Mastiff (60%) and Bulldog (40%) stock. The most noticeable differences are temperament, the conformation of the body and heads and
the overall size of the dogs.
Are Mastiffs Aggressive?
A typical Mastiff's temperament, by nature, is one of gentle demeanor. However, as with any breed,
the Mastiff can become aggressive for varying reasons. Typically, aggressive behavior is a “learned response” and/or results from a lack of proper socialization during the dog's developmental stages.
A certain percentage of dogs may be genetically unstable and inherit aggressive tendencies. For this reason, before you purchase a puppy, it is best to
be sure about the temperament of the sire and dam and try to see both if at all possible. Stable
temperament is also reflected in AKC show records. A dog that is
untypical in behavior is rarely rewarded in the show ring. If you
experience a behavioral problem, consult your Mastiff's breeder, your veterinarian, and/or a trained animal behaviorist before the problem becomes
Because of their great sensitivity, Mastiffs who are not thoroughly socialized while young can
be shy adults. Such behaviors can be either inherited or the result of inadequate socialization. This is why puppy kindergarten, obedience classes and visits outside the home are extremely important to the development of your Mastiff. If you do not have time to do these things with and for your Mastiff, you need to think over whether you are in a position to do right by any dog, at least at this point in your life.
Mastiffs need the company of their human family much more than some other breed
of dog's do.
Mastiffs are excellent watchdogs. They go to the door and bark, their hackles stand up, and they look formidable but as a breed,
Mastiffs are not trigger-happy. They have a gentle, rather than aggressive, nature. Mastiffs tend to react in predictable ways when a tense situation arises between a stranger and their owner. Mastiffs view themselves as a protector and
will move between the threat and the owner. No sane mugger would dare reach over a guarding Mastiff.
Several years ago while at a dog show, a man walking by the rings was swinging his arm with a bar in
his hand. As he approached me, Taz rose from the floor and pushed the man back with his head. Never bit, never growled, never got mad - just moved him away. Of course, it scared the man witless but he learned an important lesson - don't walk by the Mastiff ring swinging a bar. Mastiffs don't like for family members to fight and will often try and protect the party on the receiving end of the disagreement. Tuffy would never let my daughters fight; he would
simply push them apart until they laughed.
How Are Mastiffs
With Burglars, Muggers, And Other Miscreants?
If a stranger breaks into your home, the Mastiff tends to corner the person, holding them until the owner can deal with the intruder. The dog may snarl, bark or even snap at the intruder to keep him from getting away but will
rarely hurt the intruder unless the person becomes violent.
Many years ago, I had a meter-man enter my yard through my posted gate
which clearly stated "Guard dog on Premises”. Tuffy waited until the man was about 15 feet from the gate and then rushed him, putting
the man with his back up against the house. He was growling and had his hackles up - he certainly was fearful to see! I was awakened (I work nights) by the meter-man’s yelling. I stepped onto the porch and called Tuffy to me.
He came immediately and sat quietly by my side as the terrified man left the yard. For
the next five years, I read my own meter.
Because of the instinctive protective nature of the Mastiff, training it as an "attack dog" is not necessary
as they are an imposing deterrent to any intruder. Mastiffs are not suitable for attack training or dog fighting.
If raised with loving human kindness and socialized properly, the
Mastiff will be a strong, loving companion who will instinctively protect you, your family and your home.
A word of advice: when your puppy is young, never let repairmen come into your home when you are not present.
That "teaches" the dog its Okay for other people to come in your home when you are away. Many
mature Mastiffs can recognize when people have unpleasant motives, and are watchful or will get between you and that person. If your dog gets between you and a stranger in question, always trust your Mastiff. My Grandfather always said - never trust a man that dogs and little kids don’t like!
A Mastiff left alone for long extended periods of time, tied out, or kept in a fence yard with too little human contact, will either pine away or develop destructive behaviors out of loneliness and anxiety.
Denied the needed time with the human family, a Mastiff may be much LESS protective because it isn't sure it belongs to that family. The ideal temperament is one where you never know that you are being protected unless a true situation arises where a Mastiff's services are needed.
Baron loved people. When I would give a party, he would come inside, make his way around the room and greet each individual. Once at a party, while I was sitting on the couch next to a causal male
acquaintance, Baron came over, sat down, and looked the man straight in the eye. "What does he want?" he asked. I told him Baron was thinking "You can sit next to my momma, you can talk to my momma, but don't you mess with my momma". As I said this out loud, Baron reached up with his paw and placed it on the man's knee and quietly said, "Woo woo woo." Everyone burst out laughing. There was no doubt in any one's mind that he agreed with what I said.
Yes, however, many people do not understand the difference between protection and aggression. If a dog growls when there is no danger, that
is aggression not protection. The ideal temperament is one where you never know that you ARE BEING PROTECTED unless a true
threat arises and the Mastiff asserts his heritage.
How Are Mastiffs
With Young Children And Strangers?
By nature Mastiffs are gentle and protective with young children providing that they have been raised with children and are accustomed to them. Small children should not be allowed to play roughly with young dogs,
i.e. "riding the horsey" because it can permanently traumatize a Mastiff puppy. My daughters and grand daughters all played with and around my Mastiffs. Mastiffs make great floor pillows for naps and watching TV. Just be prepared for them to take their turn lying on you!
As my girls were growing up, we had lots of kids in and out of my home. Each was introduced to the dogs and instructed in what behaviors the Mastiffs and I would not tolerate in our home. I never had any trouble and all my Mastiffs consider these children their "kids" too. Baron loved to pull a sled when it snowed, play catch, and take walks up and down the street with them. Once, a small toddler reached over and grabbed Baron by his penis.
With a funny look on his face he simply laid down. He never growled or acted
put out, he just laid down so that the child had to let go. It was a neighborhood joke that Baron always laid down when he saw this child approaching him. He was always happy to see her, greeted her like he did all the other kids but
he kept his tender parts out of reach.
How Are Mastiffs With Other Dogs And Animals?
By nature a Mastiff is friendly
but aloof toward other dogs. As with any dog they must be properly socialized around other dogs from early puppyhood. When you have two or more dogs, a "pecking order" will develop. Each dog will have his or her place in the "pack hierarchy". Often when a puppy is young all is well, then one day it decides to move up in the pack and will compete for dominance with the other dogs.
That can result in family turmoil. Temperament testing your puppy (PAT) and choosing a dog with low aggression/dominance is important when choosing an additional dog to introduce into your group./span>
A Mastiff who hasn't been exposed to cats, chickens, or farm animals may treat them as prey or as furniture, depending on the individual dog. Once again, using temperament testing and choosing a dog with low prey drive will help you in the training of your Mastiff. I have raised Mastiffs with cats, chickens, geese, ducks, goats, and horses. Mattie would let the baby goats sleep in her doghouse with her. Baron and JeeBee would not let other dogs chase our cat, Spencer. Taz would patrol our property at night, keeping stray dogs away from our goats and chickens. Zena is my prize possum catcher and protector of the henhouse. Some of my Mastiffs were grown when exposed to other animals, other were raised with them. But in each case, I had temperament tested my dogs and I knew what behaviors I could expect.
Are Mastiffs Fighters?
Mastiffs, with their gentle natures, do not have the instincts that dogfighters are looking for. Their protective instincts make them actually the opposite to the aggressive personality. However, they will, at times, fight among themselves or with other dogs, for the typical canine reasons such as pack dominance and sexual competition. Two 190 lbs. Mastiffs in combat for pack leadership can be next to impossible, as well as exceedingly dangerous to separate.
YOU must always be the pack leader and that will prevent most conflicts.
How Much Does
A Mastiff Eat And Do They Chew Much?
Mastiffs do eat as much as you may think. While they are growing, they can pack the food away. Of course, pound for pound the larger the animal the greater the energy needs are for each pound of body weight. Exactly how much food your dog needs to eat depends on many factors including his size, age, time of year (during colder weather they will need to eat more, in the summer less), and activity level. Mastiffs require a high quality balanced diet in order to live healthy lives and grow correctly. With every puppy we sell, we give detailed instructions on proper exercise and feeding.
Only holes the size of small cars. Yes, Mastiffs do like to dig. I usually let them have one area of the yard and let them dig to their hearts content in that spot. I teach them to stay out of my flowerbeds and away from the rest of the yard. It takes persistence and lots of reinforcement (Hey! Get out of there!), but it will work.
Do Mastiffs Need A Lot Of Exercise?
As they are growing, Mastiffs need moderate exercise to develop the skeletal and muscular frame to carry their weight at
maturity. It is important that you do not over-exercise Mastiffs under 2 years of age
because the skeletal frame continues to grow until age 2. Running and road working a young dog can lead to inflamed joints and skeletal problems. Since Mastiffs tend to be stoic and will do just about anything to please their owners, they can end up with very painful conditions due to
excess or improper exercise. For this reason, every new Mastiff owner gets detailed instructions on proper exercise.
My first Mastiff was a rescue dog who lived to please us. My husband was a long distance jogger and would take Baron for 3-5 mile runs daily. Poor Baron had hip dysplasia (we didn't know!)
until suddenly one day he could not stand or walk without crying. When the Vet
said he had hip dysplasia, I was horrified that we had let him run.
His heart was bigger than his body and he would stand at the window and whine when my husband left on his runs - he still wanted to go.
Puppies should not be allowed to get overweight. Proper
balance between weight and exercise is important for correct growth. Keeping a puppy crated for long periods of time isn't good either. I have found that yard exercise allows a puppy to play and rest to
his own schedule. Of course, walking your dog several times a day is also an option. Just remember that if the walk is too long and your puppy gets tired, you may end up carrying it home!
Do They Roam?
As a general rule, a Mastiff will not roam. They are basically a stay-at-home dog and easily learn your property boundaries. Baron hated to be fenced; he would get out of the back yard and lay on the front porch
so that he could watch up and down the street and wait for his family to get
home. As a good rule, never leave your Mastiff outside unsupervised, when
you are at work keep your Mastiff inside or in a secure, fenced enclosure.
Puppies will be puppies and
like all breeds they tend to bark more than adults during the excitement of play. Adults
Mastiffs rarely bark except when you first arrive home, they hear a sound they want you to investigate, or when asked to "speak". My Mastiffs love to howl when the sirens are nearby (I live close to a firehouse!) but if they bark at night, I know I need to see why.
Make Good Housedogs?
Mastiffs love to be inside with their family. They are quiet, clean, and undemanding. A rug by your bed is all he wants. Mastiffs are naturally clean (except for slobber) and quick to housebreak. Mastiffs don't chew what they shouldn't (after they get rid of those pesky baby teeth) and are quick to learn house rules. Mine are not allowed in the kitchen when I cook but they line up at the doorway and watch me.
Do They Slobber,
Snore, Shed, Smell Or Pass Gas?
Most Mastiffs will only drool when (1) they have just had a drink of water, (2) are extremely agitated or fearful, or (3) when watching you eat something they think will taste good (and that will be everything you eat!). Mastiffs with less flews tend to drool less. The experienced Mastiff owner keeps "slobber towels" handy, and wipes faces after they drink and when they need it. I feed and water my dogs outside to decrease the mess inside. It also helps keep down the "slingers" of drool that may occur while they are eating and drinking. If you are going to keep their water outside, then close the lids on the toilets. To a Mastiff, a toilet is an all-you-can-drink bar. Just remember, "Spit happens" when you own a Mastiff.
They snore like a freight train. They can't help it - it's genetic. Some worse than others. I keep two inside at once, that way I have stereo.
They shed twice a year like most dog breeds. A good daily brushing will prevent accumulation of hair around the house. I also vacuum about every other day so that loose hair is not a problem. Baron would stand
patiently while I vacuumed him too.
Mastiffs need an occasional bath, but since they have a short coat, they dry quickly. Drooling can smell bad if there is a problem with their teeth. There are a few other health problems that may cause foul odors. If your Mastiff continues to have a bad odor after bathing, then an examination by a Veterinarian is in order.
They have gas like a beer drinking, bean eating Bubba. Actually, it depends on the dog, what you feed him and how his digestive tract handles his food. Feeding a good dog food that your dog can digest easily can help eliminate
gas. Sometimes excess flatus can be a sign of parasites (whipworms) but an exam by your Vet can nail this problem. If your Mastiff should get gas in spite of all your efforts, roll down the windows and pull out the air freshener. It is overpowering.
How Long Does
A Mastiff Live?
Most experts agree that the average Mastiff life span as 6-10 years. Some have lived to be 13 or 14; a tiny handful lived to be 16-17. Assuming no accidents, an individual dog's life span will depend on its bloodlines, weight, and freedom from significant problems such as blindness, heart disease, and hip or elbow dysplasia, spondylosis, immune disorders, etc.
Do Mastiffs Live Indoors Or Outdoors?
Why indoors of course!
Your dog protect you and your family shut up in a pen outside. Besides, who is going to keep the Boogieman
away while your 4-year-old sleeps? No child has ever been abducted while a Mastiff slept at its bedside.
Seriously, Mastiffs have an instinctive need and desire to be as close to their human family as possible. When more than one is inside, they will divide up and each will have their own "person" to guard and watch. It was a standard rule at our house that a Mastiff was in each part of the house; one with me, one with the kids, and one with my husband.
Keeping your Mastiff outside deprives him of the closeness he needs to develop proper emotional bond with you and can stunt their emotional growth. Mine take turns inside, and each easily learns the house routine. Zena loves to sleep all day by my bedside when I work nights. Vesta keeps the house guarded at night when I'm away.
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