English Mastiff

 

The Mastiff is one of the world’s largest dog breeds, both in terms of height and weight.  This breed has been bred in England for many centuries where it has long served as a property guardian and personal protection animal.  The modern Mastiff is known not only for its tremendous size, but also its gentle and devoted nature, leading many Mastiff owners to refer to their dogs as giant teddy bears.  The Mastiff is also commonly known as the English Mastiff or the Old English Mastiff, and has historically been known as the Mastie, Bandogge, Bandog, Butcher’s Dog, and possibly the Pugnaces Britanniae.

 

Breed Information

Breed Basics

Country of Origin: 
Size: 
XX-Large 90-120 lb+
LifeSpan: 
6 to 8 Years
Energy Level: 
Low Energy
Protective Ability: 
Very Protective
Hypoallergenic Breed: 
No
Space Requirements: 
House with Yard
Compatibility With Other Pets: 
Generally Good With Other Pets If Raised Together
May Have Issues With Other Dogs
Not Recommended For Homes With Small Animals
Litter Size: 
6-10 puppies
Names: 
Buchers Dog, Mastiff, Old English Mastiff

Height/Weight

Males: 
150-250 lbs, minimum of 30 inches
Females: 
120-200 lbs, minimum of 27½ inches

Kennel Clubs and Recognition

American Kennel Club: 
ANKC (Australian National Kennel Council): 
CKC(Canadian Kennel Club): 
FCI (Federation Cynologique Internationale): 
KC (The Kennel Club): 
NZKC (New Zealand Kennel Club): 
UKC (United Kennel Club): 
History: 

 

The Mastiff is perhaps the oldest British dog breed, and the one for which the greatest amount of historical evidence exists.  This breed has been present in England for many centuries, and perhaps even millennia. Originating long before records were kept of dog breeding, the debate over the origin of the Mastiff has raged for centuries.  There are many theories but it is unclear which if any of them are accurate, and in fact the truth may be an amalgamation of many distinct ones.  What is known for sure is that the Mastiff is a member of a closely related family of large dogs with brachycephalic (pushed in) faces known as Mastiffs, Molossers, Molossians, Alaunts, or Dogues and that the Mastiff itself has remained relatively unchanged in England for centuries.  It is unclear when the first ancestors of the Mastiff arrived in England, but it was certainly thousands of years ago.  Records from the time of Julius Caesars invasions of Britain indicate that the Celtic tribes used a massive war dog in their struggles against the Roman Army.  The nature of these dogs and how they first came to live in Britain is a matter of much dispute.  Because at this time there is no way to determine the truth, all of the major theories will be discussed.

 

The wolf was almost certainly the first animal to be domesticated by man, and had fully transformed into the dog sometime between 14,000 and 100,000 years ago.  The initial dogs served hunter-gatherer tribes as hunting aids, camp guardians, and companions.  When humans began to practice agriculture in the Middle East around 12,000 to 14,000 years ago, they needed different types of dogs for different purposes.  Early breeders were able to take the dog’s natural instinct to protect its pack and its territory and create a livestock guardian breed.  These dogs were massive in size, and powerful and aggressive in temperament, all necessary requirements for an animal that would have to defend livestock herds from wolves, bears, lions, hyenas, and other predators.  It is thought that this animal was the original member of the Lupomolossoid family.  Based on surviving breeds across Europe and the Middle East, it is thought that this dog had a medium length coat and was likely mostly white or white with brown and tan markings.  As agriculture spread from the Middle East and across Europe, Lupomolossoid dogs would spread with it and although there is no record of this, it is possible that Lupomolossoids reached ancient Britain with the regions first farmers.  The people of the British Isles may then have selectively bred these dogs for massive size, shorter coats, and a brachycephalic face, eventually leading to the creation of the Mastiff.

 

The rise of agriculture would also lead to the development of kingdoms and empires across the Middle East, and eventually Europe and Africa.  These larger political bodies most often motivated by greed engaged in frequent warfare because they now had enough the excess resources necessary to feed armies.  From a very early age, kings and generals realized that dogs could be used in battle, especially large and powerful ones. This is evidenced by depictions on Ancient Egyptian and Mesopotamian artifacts from between 3,000 to 5000 B.C. which show large Mastiff-like dogs engaged in battle. Because this artwork is not precise it is difficult to determine if such dogs were true Mastiffs or simply large war dogs.  For many years, a theory has predominated that these large war dogs had been imported into ancient Britain by Phoenician traders.  However, there is little evidence to support this theory and it would not explain why these traders wouldn’t have brought these dogs to much closer locations such as Greece or Italy.  If such dogs were brought to England, they would have almost certainly been crossed with existing large breeds in that country.

 

To the northwest of Ancient Greece was the land of Epirus which comprised parts of modern day Greece, Albania, Montenegro, and possibly Macedonia.  Epirus was composed of a mixture of Greek and Illyrian peoples, as well as a few tribes of unknown origin.  One of the regions major tribes was the Molossi, themselves of unknown ethnic origins. The Molossi were famous for their ferocious dogs, which they used as livestock guardians, hunting dogs, and dogs of war.  This breed became known as the Molossus and was feared across the ancient world.  There is a tremendous amount of dispute as to the true nature of the Molossus.  For many centuries, the prevailing thought was that the Molossus was a type of Mastiff, but recent reevaluation of the evidence has caused some to call this theory into question.

 

Newer canine experts believe that the Molossus may actually have been a medium-sized multipurpose working dog similar to an American Pit Bull Terrier or a Catahoula Leopard Dog.  Some even think that the breed may have been a type of sighthound.  A famed Roman statue known as the Jennings dog is often claimed to portray a Molossus.  The Jennings dog is almost identical to a modern-day Illyrian Shepherd Dog, a breed native to the same region as the Molossus and the two breeds may be one and the same.  Whatever it’s true nature, the Molossus first came to international prominence during the campaigns of Philip II of Macedon and his considerably more famous son ‘Alexander the Great’.  Epirus bordered Macedonia and many of its tribes were closely allied to the Macedonian royal family, as such it was not uncommon for them to provide the Macedonian armies with the Molossus war dogs that were used to conquer everything from Greece and Egypt to India.

 

As the Greek Empire forged by Philip and Alexander began to fragment, two new Mediterranean powers arose in the West, Rome and Carthage.  Beginning in 264, Rome and Carthage fought a series of conflicts known as the Punic Wars.  Fearful of the growing Roman Power, many Greek polities openly or furtively supported Carthage.  Beginning in 214, Rome initiated the Macedonian Wars with the goal of preventing the Greeks from supporting the Carthaginians.  During the Macedonian Wars, the Romans first encountered the Molossus in battle.  The Roman Legions were so impressed by the dog that they adopted it as their own and the Molossus became the primary war dog of the Roman Army until the fall of the Empire.  The Molossus breed was spread across Europe and Asia by the Romans, where it became very influential in the creation of many other breeds.  If the Molossus was a type of Mastiff, it is likely that all Mastiffs trace their origin to this breed, including the English Mastiff.  If the Molossus was not originally a Mastiff, it is likely that it was crossed with one of three breeds until it became one.  It has been suggested that Tibetan Mastiffs may have been introduced to the Roman Empire through trade, but this is unlikely and modern research indicates that the Tibetan Mastiff is not closely related to European Mastiffs.  It is far more likely that the Molossus was crossed with either the Pugnaces Britanniae, the Alaunt, or both.

 

The Romans named the large war dog of the Celtic Britons the Pugnaces Britanniae.  While many experts believe that the Pugnaces Britanniae was a Mastiff, it is very possible that the breed was actually the progenitor of the Irish Wolfhound.  The Romans imported the Pugnaces Britanniae all across the Empire, and supposedly used it in the gladiatorial arena.  Along with a number of British hunting breeds, dogs became one of the primary exports of Roman-era Britain.  It is very likely that the Pugnaces Britanniae was crossed with the Molossus, which either introduced a full suite of Mastiff characteristics to the breed, or at least its tremendous size.

 

As the Roman Empire began to weaken, a number of tribes began to invade and settle within its borders.  Most of these tribes were Germanic peoples from Northern and Central Europe, who spoke a closely related set of languages.  One of these barbarian tribes was the Alans, native to the Caucasus Mountains, the Alans had been driven from their homeland by the Huns, as were many Germanic tribes.  The Alans became close allies to a number of Germanic tribes, particularly the Vandals, and accompanied them during their battles across the Roman Empire.  The Alans were primarily feared due to their massive and ferocious war dog, the Alaunt.  The Alaunt was almost certainly a type of Owtcharka, a group of giant and aggressive livestock guarding breeds native to the Caucasus Mountains.  Many experts believe that the Alaunt was a brachycephalic breed and was crossed with guard dogs across Western Europe, passing that trait on to them.  As with all theories, it is unclear as to whether or not this took place or to what extent.

 

In truth, it is likely that the Mastiff shares ancestry with Lupomolossoids, the Pugnaces Britanniae, the Molossus, the Alaunt, and possibly Phoenician dogs as well.  However the breed came to pass, it surely existed in a form very close to the modern breed when the Roman Empire abandoned Britain.  This can be surmised because the early Anglo-Saxons almost certainly had contact with this animal, and called it the Masty, meaning powerful.  The English used the Mastiff primarily as a property guardian and personal protection animal, but also as a dog of war.  Mastiffs guarded the estates and castles of the English Nobility, and also their lives.  It became customary to keep these giant beasts chained up during the day to prevent them from attacking a desired guest by accident.  Such chained Mastiffs became known as Masties and Bandogges, or in more modern times, Mastiffs and Bandogs.  Mastiffs appear more frequently in English records and literature than almost any other breed.  This is probably due to their connections with royalty.  Along with the Greyhound, the Mastiff was one of the only dog breeds to be specifically mentioned in the Forest Laws of King Canute, written in the first decades of the 11th Century.  The Forest Laws mentioned that the Mastiff was primarily used for protection and guarding, but those dogs that were not owned by the king needed to have the middle toe of each of their front legs removed.  This procedure was done to slow dogs to the extent that they could not be used to poach or catch a deer, which were exclusively the property of the King at that time.  Mastiffs of this early era were probably much more ferocious than modern day animals, and were tasked with attacking, and possibly killing invaders.

 

The Mastiff continued to be used by the Normans after their conquest of England in 1066, who almost certainly were accompanied by their own Mastiff-type dogs, the ancestors of the Dogue de Bordeaux.  These dogs served in many battles against the Scottish and Irish, as well as the French.  In 1415, Sir Peers Legh II was wounded at the Battle of Agincourt, but was saved by his loyal Mastiff, who stood over his body and defended for many hours until the battle was over and his master could be rescued.  This dog was returned to Lyme Hall, Sir Peers Legh II’s family home, and would found a line of Mastiff known as the Lyme Hall Mastiffs.  A stained glass window still exists which shows Sir Peers Legh II alongside his devoted Mastiff.  In 1570, the famous English dog historian John Caius described the Mastiff as vast, huge, stubborn, ugly, eager, and of a heavy and burdensome body.  Henry XIII was said to have given a pack of 400 Mastiffs to the King of Spain to use in a series of wars.  The introduction of the crossbow and then the musket to warfare signaled the end of the Mastiff as a useful military combatant.  These large and slow moving dogs made too easy of a target for armed opponents and few were able to reach enemy lines.  By the 1700’s, it was very uncommon for these dogs to be used in battle.

 

As the centuries wore one, bloody canine sports became quite popular across England, especially bull baiting and bear baiting.  These sports were essentially fights to the death between a group of dogs and either a bear or bull.  Initially, Mastiffs were the primary breed used in both bear and bull baiting, but by the 1500’s had been replaced in bull baiting by the much smaller Bulldog.  However, the Mastiff continued to be the primary bear baiting dog until 1835, when both sports were banned by parliament.  For some decades prior to this, social mores were changing across England and it was no longer desirable for protection Mastiffs to attack their victims.  Rather, Mastiffs were bred to pin down and hold an intruder until their masters arrived, but never to attack them.  It was seen more preferable for a Mastiff to deter an intruder with a show of strength such as a growl than anything else.  Due to this, as well as the loss of its jobs as a bear fighter or military combatant, by the mid-1800’s the Mastiff was a considerably less ferocious breed than it had been previously.  By the 1860’s, the Mastiff had become so non-aggressive that game wardens needed to introduce Bulldog blood in order to create a dog capable of assisting them in their duties, eventually leading to the Bullmastiff.

 

During the 1700’s, English Foxhound breeders began to keep organized records of their breeding efforts, and formed associations that led to the first kennel clubs.  Their efforts inspired breeders of other dogs to do the same.  The first breeding records of Mastiffs began in the early 1800’s, and the first organized breeding efforts of these dogs were made at that time.  In 1800, Syndenham Edwards wrote a famed book on dogs entitled the ‘Cynographica Britannica’.  This book contains the most famous description of the Mastiff.  “As the lion is to the cat, the Mastiff is to the dog, the noblest of the family; he stands alone, and all others sinking before him.”  Many of the prominent early Mastiff lines were descended from dogs kept at one aristocratic estate or another, especially Lyme Hall.  One of the most important early Mastiff breeders was John Wigglesworth Thompson, who greatly favored the more square-headed and brachycephalic dogs.  By the end of the 1800’s, Mastiffs were no longer exclusively owned by the wealthy, and many were kept by members of the Middle Class.  However, these dogs were incredibly expensive to keep and were primarily owned by butchers, who were regarded as the only people with enough excess meat to feed these giant animals.  As a result Mastiffs became known as Butcher’s Dogs.  By the 1890’s, Mastiffs were becoming increasingly rare as the nobility who had once kept them were now more interested in newer breeds such as the Saint Bernard and few others could afford their care.

 

Mastiff-type dogs have been present in America since the earliest days of Spanish discovery in the late 1400’s.  Spanish Mastiffs (similar to the Alano Espanol) and various types of Alaunt were used to subdue Native American peoples, often in very cruel and abhorrent ways.  The Spanish may have brought English Mastiffs or English Mastiff crosses with them as well.  The first definite record of an English Mastiff in the New World comes from 1870.  Records indicate that a Mastiff was even brought to Plymouth on the Mayflower with the first Pilgrims.  This dog was probably brought to protect the settlers from local Native Americans.  Throughout the colonial era and 1800’s, a large number of Mastiffs were imported to the United States, although the breed never attained the popularity in that country as it had in England.  This may partially be because bear baiting never attained any level of popularity in the United States and partially because there were no large estates over much of the United States to guard.  A sizable number of Mastiffs did serve as plantation guardians in the American South, and may have factored into the early ancestry of the American Bulldog.  Although not especially common, the Mastiff was well-known and became one of the first breeds recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC) in 1885.    In the latter decades of the 1800’s, the Mastiff became increasingly rare in both the United States and Canada, and was virtually extinct in those countries by the end of World War I.  The exact reasons for this decline are unknown, but the cost of keeping these animals as well as the introduction of other breeds such as the Saint Bernard were likely major causes.

 

World War I proved devastating to the Mastiff breed.  It was seen as unpatriotic to keep a dog that required as much food in a day as a soldier on the Western Front. As a result entire Mastiff kennels were euthanized, as were many privately owned dogs.  While some dedicated owners continued to keep these massive dogs, there were far fewer of these dogs at the War’s end than its start.  However, there was a newfound interest in the breed across the Atlantic and several dogs were exported to the United States and Canada after the war.  From these few imports a small populations would grow in North America, but only slowly.  In 1929, the Mastiff Club of America was founded to protect and promote the breed in the United States.  World War II almost drove the Mastiff to complete extinction.  The costs of feeding these dogs combined with the hardship on the United Kingdom’s human population meant that all Mastiff breeding in England came to a halt and many more of these dogs were euthanized.  At the war’s close, only a few aging Mastiffs had survived. Although postwar breeding efforts to restore the breed were begun, distemper killed most of the puppies.  Only one female survived to adulthood, Nydia of Frithend.  Nydia of Frithend had to have special permission to be registered as a Mastiff, as her father was unknown and many believed him to be a Bullmastiff.  World War II had been hard on North American Mastiff populations as well, only 14 breeding animals survived.  All Mastiffs alive today descend primarily from these 15 dogs. 

 

In 1948, the United Kennel Club (UKC) granted full recognition to the Mastiff as the English Mastiff, despite the breed’s rarity at that time.  Since the restoration efforts of this breed resumed after World War II ended, there have been persistent rumors that other breeds were used as breeding stock to help replenish Mastiff numbers.  The most commonly mentioned breeds are the Bullmastiff and Saint Bernard, both of which had been originally created from the Mastiff and had significant amounts of Mastiff blood in their ancestries.  Although little evidence exists, it is highly likely that this may have occurred, especially in the case of the Bullmastiff.  In 1959, a Dogue de Bordeaux named Fidelle de Fenelon was imported to the United States and registered as a Mastiff, contributing her genes to all future English Mastiff lines.

 

As the 20th Century wore on, Mastiff populations gradually increased in the United States and in Britain.  Increasing prosperity meant that more and more people could afford to keep these dogs.  By the end of the 20th Century, the Mastiff was quite secure in both countries.  Beginning in the early 2000’s, giant breeds became incredibly popular in the United States, and numbers of several breeds began to spike.  The primary beneficiaries of this trend were the Great Dane, Bernese Mountain Dog, and Mastiff.  In 2010, the Mastiff was the 28th most popular dog breed according to AKC registrations.  This is an incredibly high ranking for a dog with such tremendous needs.  The Mastiff’s rise in popularity has been largely due to individuals discovering the breed on their own.

 

The Mastiff immediately grabs attention with its tremendous size and fearsome appearance.  However, upon meeting these dogs, most observers are greatly impressed by its gentle nature and calm demeanor.  Because the breed has low exercise requirements, it is also becoming popular as a guard dog for city dwellers who want a protection animal but not necessarily an attack dog.  There is some fear among Mastiff fanciers that the breed’s growth in popularity will lead to irresponsible breeding and an increase in health and behavioral problems, along with an overall drop in the quality of the breed.  However, the size and cost of this breed mean that it is relatively unpopular with puppy mills and similar profit driven breeding operations and negative effects have seemingly been limited.

 

The Mastiff has been one of the most influential dogs in the development of new breeds.  Literally dozens of other dogs can trace their lineage back to the Mastiff at least partially.  If the English Mastiff was the progenitor of the Mastiff family, all other Mastiffs, Bulldogs, Alaunts, and Dogues are its descendants.  Even if this is not the case, the breed has still impacted many others, and is commonly used in restoration efforts of other breeds.  The English Mastiff is thought to be either the primary or partial ancestor of the Bullmastiff, American Bulldog, Saint Bernard, Tosa Inu, American Akita, Spanish Mastiff, Dogue de Bordeaux, Cane Corso, Neapolitan Mastiff, Fila Brasileiro, American Mastiff, Boerboel, and many other breeds.  The English Mastiff continues to be used to develop new breeds to this day and is a regular component of breeding programs designed to produce new dogs, especially of the Molosser family.

 

Bred for many centuries as a protection animal, the modern Mastiff retains a strong protective instinct and many of these dogs still serve as guard dogs.  However, the modern Mastiff is considered to be too non-aggressive to serve as a serious protection animal and other breeds such as Rottweilers, Cane Corsos, and German Shepherds have largely taken this role.  However, the Mastiff has earned a tremendous following as a companion animal.  For families who are prepared and capable of caring for this breed, the Mastiff adapts very well to life as a pet, and greatly enjoys it.  Although the Mastiff also competes successfully in obedience trials and in the show ring, as well as serving as an excellent therapy dog, it is very likely that the foreseeable future of this breed is as a companion animal.

 

Appearance: 

 

The Mastiff is one of the world’s most recognizable breeds, and is considered to be the prototypical animal for the entire Mastiff/Molosser family.  What is most immediately noticed about the Mastiff is its tremendous size.  Although barely topped by a few other breeds such as the Irish Wolfhound in the height department, there is no other breed which is as large as this one.  The Mastiff is regarded as being the world’s heaviest dog.  A small adult female will weigh in excess of 120 pounds, and many weigh in excess of 160 pounds.  Most adult males weigh as much or more than the heaviest females, and many weigh more than 200 pounds.  Those weights are for animals in good condition; it is far from unheard of for an obese to be considerably heavier.

 

AKC and UKC standards call for male Mastiffs to stand a minimum of 30 inches tall at the shoulders and for females to stand at least 27½ inches tall at the shoulders.  This is only the ideal minimum, many Mastiffs are considerably taller.  Although all Mastiffs are very tall, most are considerably longer than they are tall.  Mastiffs are incredible bulky.  This breed has a very wide and deep chest, as well as very thick bones.  The legs of a full-grown Mastiff are comparable to tree trunks.  This does not mean that a Mastiff is fat, quite the contrary.  Mastiffs are largely muscle and are actually considerably somewhat more lightly built in appearance than many similar breeds.  The tail of the Mastiff is very long, and tapers from a thick base to a narrow tip.  The tail is held straight out at first, with a sight curve at the end.

 

The head of a Mastiff sits at the end of a neck that is so thick and powerful that the two appear indistinct.  The head itself is immense, being very deep and wide, but not especially long.  The head is rounded, making it blend in with the neck to an even greater extent.  The face of this breed is quite flat, especially the part above the muzzle.  The Mastiff is a brachycephalic breed, meaning that has a shortened snout that appears pushed into the face.  The Mastiff’s muzzle often appears as if it is pointing slightly upwards.  While considerably shortened, the Mastiff’s muzzle is far longer in relation to body size than a breed such as a French Bulldog or Pekingese.  The entire face of a Mastiff, and especially the muzzle, are covered in wrinkles.  These wrinkles are both numerous and thick, often obscuring its eyes.  On the lips the wrinkles form large jowls.  The eyes of a Mastiff are set deeply into the head, as well as being small and set far apart.  The ears of this breed are very small for the size of the dog and are being triangular in shape triangular in shape with rounded tips.  The ears of this breed drop down close to the sides of the head, but generally face forwards.

 

The Mastiff is a double-coated breed, with a soft, dense undercoat and a straight, coarse outer coat.  The outer coat should be fairly short but not excessively so.  Mastiffs come in three acceptable color schemes, fawn, apricot, and brindle.  Brindle dogs have fawn or apricot as a base color, but with stripes of a darker color.  All Mastiffs should have a black mask, which covers their muzzles and eyes.  Standards allow for a small patch of white on the chest, and Most Mastiffs, especially fawn-colored ones, do.  Occasionally a primarily black Mastiff is born, but such animals cannot be shown.

 

Temperament: 

 

Although once a ferocious war dog, the modern day Mastiff is known for its calm and gentle nature.  The Mastiff is very even-tempered and is rarely subject to major mood swings.  This breed is famous for its intense loyalty, and most Mastiffs become extremely devoted to their families.  Mastiffs often form incredibly intense bonds with their favorite people.  This can actually become a problem as Mastiffs like to be with their families at all times and may suffer from severe separation anxiety.  Another potential issue is that many Mastiffs think they are lapdogs and will attempt to put all of their weight on their owners.  Proper socialization if very important for the Mastiff.  Mastiffs which have been raised with care usually develop into confident and discerning dogs, which are typically polite and aloof with strangers in the presence of their owners.

 

Some Mastiff lines are prone to timidity and shyness which can be a major problem in a dog of this size.  The average Mastiff will not make an immediate friend, but will warm up in a reasonable amount of time.  Mastiffs have strong protective instincts, not only of their families but their territory as well.  This breed is famous for its courage and will not back down against any foe.  Mastiffs make excellent guard dogs and will not permit intruders to enter a home, but this breed is loathe to attack.  Most Mastiffs will not attack unless severely provoked, and pin perceived threats against the ground or a wall until their masters return.  The Mastiff is known for its excellence with children, with whom it forms very close bonds.  Adult members of this breed are incredibly gentle with children and very tolerant of rough play.  Very young Mastiffs may not be the best housemates for toddlers, as they bowl them accidentally as a result of youthful exuberance.

 

Mastiffs are generally tolerant of other dogs.  Most Mastiffs can be socialized to be polite and accepting of strange dogs, and the majority of breed members do just fine in multi-dog homes.  Due to their gentle nature, Mastiffs can make good companions for much smaller dogs.  However, it is not uncommon for Mastiffs to have territorial or dominance issues, and a high percentage of Mastiffs have same-sex aggression problems.  Some Mastiffs, especially males, do develop more severe dog aggression issues.  It is absolutely imperative that owners either prevent these issues from developing or get a firm handle on them if they do because a Mastiff could seriously injure or kill essentially any other dog with little to no effort.  Mastiffs are average when it comes to non-canine animals.  These dogs may pursue or attack creatures which they have not been properly introduced to, but can be socialized to accept other animals.  When properly trained, the gentle Mastiff will likely be no bother to household cats or other small animals.

 

Mastiffs vary in level of trainability from dog to dog to a greater degree than is common among most breeds.  On the one hand, this is a very intelligent breed with a strong desire to please.  On the other hand, Mastiffs have a tendency to be stubborn and intractable.  If started from a young age, most Mastiffs pick up manner and basic obedience quite quickly.  As Mastiffs age, however, most become stubborn.  Even though a Mastiff wants to please, it may decide that it doesn’t want to learn a trick or perform a task even more.  The level of stubbornness varies from Mastiff to Mastiff.  Some Mastiffs only have temporary moments of phases of stubbornness and have competed with great success in obedience trials.  Other Mastiffs are resolutely stubborn for their whole lives and never get farther in training than the most basic manner and commands.  Mastiffs respond far better to rewards and positive reinforcement than they do negative training techniques such as shouting.  While the Mastiff is not a breed that will regularly challenge an owner's dominance, these confident dogs are more than willing to take a charge if they feel that no leader exists.  It is therefore important that owners maintain a position of dominance at all times.

 

English Mastiffs have surprisingly low exercise requirements.  This dog is known for being a couch potato and will laze around the house for hour after hour.  Owners that maintain control and prevent their dogs from pulling on the leash will likely have few problems meeting the needs of a Mastiff.  However, as is the case with all dogs, Mastiffs need exercise to prevent them from becoming bored and destructive, and to keep them in good physical shape.  Ideally, Mastiffs receive a long rigorous walk on a daily basis, but this breed certainly doesn’t want to run anywhere (except maybe the food bowl).  Mastiffs enjoy having at least a small yard to walk freely in, but don’t require one and make surprisingly good apartment dogs.  Owners of English Mastiffs must carefully regulate the amount of exercise that Mastiffs get in hot temperatures, immediately after eating, and before they reach full size.

 

Potential owners need to be aware that the Mastiff is not for the fastidious or easily embarrassed.  Mastiffs drool, and they drool a great deal.  Mastiffs drool both great quantities and almost constantly.  These dogs will cover your arms, furniture, and guests in drool.  Not only to Mastiff’s drool, but they also snore.  Mastiff’s snore essentially the entire time that they sleep and their snorting can be very loud, to the point where they can keep their owners awake.  The jowls of this dog mean that it is a very messy eater and drinker who will leave trails of water and kibble for several feet from its bowl.  What is most embarrassing for most owners it the breed’s flatulence.  Mastiffs pass gas with much greater frequency than most dog breeds, and also with much greater amounts and potency.  A gaseous Mastiff can easily clear an entire room.

 

Grooming Requirements: 

 

The Mastiff’s short coat is very low maintenance.  Only a regular brushing is required.  However, this is not a low maintenance dog.  The facial wrinkles and ears easily trap food, water, dirt, grime, and other particles.  If not dried and cleaned on a regular basis, preferable after every meal, this can lead to skin irritations and infections.  It is highly advisable that Mastiff owners introduce their dogs to all routine maintenance procedures from a very young age and in as careful a manner as possible.  It is far easier to start trimming the nails of a 40 pounds and docile puppy than a 200 pound resistant adult.

 

Health Issues: 

 

The Mastiff suffers from a number of health problems.  This breed suffers from all problems common to giant breeds, as well as most of those suffered by other brachycephalic breeds.  The average life expectancy for a Mastiff is around 7 years; though breed members who have been properly cared for often live to 10 or 11.  Even though most Mastiffs lead very short lives, many suffer from crippling or uncomfortable health problems for many years.

 

The health problem of greatest concern to Mastiff owners is gastric torsion, better known as bloat.  Bloat occurs when a dog’s stomach becomes twisted inside its body, sometimes all the way around.  Bloat is common in many breeds of deeply-chested dogs, as their organs are not as protected by their wide ribs.  Without immediate medical treatment (usually emergency surgery) bloat is typically fatal.  One of the biggest challenges of bloat is that it develops quickly and kills almost as fast.  There are many causes of bloat and it is not entirely preventable.  However, one of the leading causes of bloat is a dog exercising too much on a full stomach.  In order to prevent this condition, Mastiff owners are advised to prevent their dogs from exercising too quickly after eating and to feed them three or more small meals a day instead of one or two large ones.

 

It is always advisable to get your pets tested by either the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals and/or the Canine Eye Registration Foundation, particularly if you intend to breed.  The OFA and CERF test for various genetically inherited disorders such as blindness and hip dysplasia that may impact either your dog or its descendants.

 

A full list of health problems experienced by the English Mastiff would have to include:

 

Excessive and Rapid Weight Gain

Gastric Torsion/Bloat

Gassiness

Difficulty Breathing

Shortness of Breath

Wheezing

Snorting

Snoring

Heat Sensitivity

Hip Dysplasia

Elbow Dysplasia

Arthritis

Skeletal Growth Abnormalities

Calluses

Hygroma

Osteosarcoma

Cystinuria

Cardiomyopathy

Hypothyroidism

Progressive Retinal Atrophy

Ectropion

Entropion

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