THE WORLD’S FAVORITE GUARD DOG: MASTIFFS
The colossal Mastiff is one of the most magnificent and fierce-looking dogs you can own. Their massive body, paired with their courage and strength make them amazing guard dogs and perfect family dogs, but raising them is not for the faint of heart, especially if you’re a first-time dog owner just because of their size!
A male mastiff stands about 30 inches at their shoulder and can weigh from 160-230 pounds, depending on the breed. Females are slightly shorter, at 27 inches, and weigh in anywhere between 120-170 pounds. In other words, they are BIG dogs.
Don’t let their size fool you though — mastiffs are kind hearted and very loyal to their owners. The kindness behind their eyes isn’t a trick — it’s fact!
Mastiff breeds include:
- Neapolitan Mastiff
- Tibetan Mastiff
History of Mastiffs
According to the American Kennel Club, Mastiffs were historically bred as guard and fighting dogs. They were extremely popular with the nobility of ancient Rome, making them one of the oldest breeds known to man, and there are records that state this breed was often pitted against gladiators, bears, bulls, lions, and tigers.
Today, they are more used for guard dog duties and many of them prefer to lounge on the couch with their owners instead of fighting lions.
Mastiffs are usually extremely loyal and protective of their family. It generally takes them a while to warm up to strangers, so early socialization and training is essential for this breed.
Once they recognize you as family, though, they are one of the most affectionate dog breeds out there. They love their family, including children, and will do almost anything to cuddle up with them.
Mastiffs also have moderate energy, meaning they can spend hours playing, but also will spend hours snoozing. They’re not built for long hikes, though they do enjoy brisk walks.
Due to their size and wariness of strangers, Mastiffs need a lot of early training. They are extremely adaptable, but they respond best to gentle training that gets them thinking. Try not to raise your voice with them during training. Mastiffs, though they may not look like it, are very sensitive. They prefer gentle training
They do not respond well to repetition and will often get bored with it, so make sure you have some creative ways up your sleeve to keep them interested.
The best thing you can do with a Mastiff is to keep eye contact with them. They communicate a great deal with their eyes and are excellent at reading your body language and expressions. If you’re excited about training, then they will likely feed off that energy and get excited too.
Mastiffs are usually pretty easy to care for. One thing to know is that they drool. A lot. If you’re not a fan of drooly dogs, then this breed probably isn’t for you. Keep a spare towel around when you’re grooming them to keep their face dry!
The Mastiff’s short, dense coat is easy to groom and they don’t require daily brushings. Every few days will suffice to keep shedding at bay. When they lose their winter coat, use a strong toothed comb.
Mastiffs have a lot of deep wrinkles in their face, which will require a thorough cleaning every few days to avoid any skin infections.
When it comes to their nails, Mastiffs require the same care as most other breeds. A regular trimming will keep them healthy.
Though Mastiffs are great guard dogs, they’re not that keen on getting a ton of exercise. They love walking a mile or two, but don’t be surprised if they plop down in the middle of a walk and refuse to move! Mastiffs get overheated relatively easily and will need to cool down before they can continue. Bring a lot of water during longer walks and try to keep them in the shade as much as possible.
Mastiff puppies are another story. They have a lot more energy than their adult counterparts, so you as their owner need to make sure they don’t overtax themselves. Don’t allow them to run up and down stairs, jump from heights, or engage in long walks. Begin with no more than half a block for a 2- to 3-month-old puppy.
Mastiff Health Problems
The Mastiff Club of America (MCOA) reports that responsible breeders will ensure their dogs will not have any of the following common mastiff health problems:
- Seasonal allergies
- Eye anomalies
- Heart disease
- Eye and hip dysplasia
- Von Willebrand’s disease
- Degenerative myelopathy
Mastiffs are also prone to joint problems as well, due to their size. It is very common for them to experience arthritis, torn CCLs, and knee problems.
Finally, Mastiffs can experience bloat, a life-threatening condition where the stomach suddenly distended and often twists as well.
If a Mastiff is the dog for you, make sure your vet screens them for all of these health conditions.