Other names: English Mastiff, Old English Mastiff
The Mastiff is the ideal companion for lovers of XXL-sized dogs. To wit, weighing close to 220 pounds, this dog’s abnormal size is as overwhelming as the joy one discovers getting to know him. This dog is well-rounded, gentle, has a heart of gold- in direct proportion to his size! He can sometimes prove to be somewhat phlegmatic, but is nevertheless a big softie who cannot stand to be away from his human family.
Key facts about the Mastiff
Life expectancy :
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Origins and history
In 55 BC, when Caesar’s legions invaded the British isles, they came face to face with two types of dogs: the first was stocky, with a disproportionately big head, and a short yet powerful jaw- of which the poor legionnaires’ calves soon became thoroughly convinced. This dog was highly likely the Bulldog’s ancestor, and had some of the modern-day Bullmastiff in him. The second dog was of exceptional dimensions, more of a lion than a dog in fact! He was the direct descendant of the assyro-babylonian mastiffs, imported to England by the Phoenicians some 500 years prior to the Roman invasion. He made the Epirus Molossians- whom the Romans considered to be excellent warriors- look like helpless little companion pups. As a result, upon conquering Britain, the Romans brought back these impressive English dogs with them, dubbed them ‘Pugnaces Britanniae’ (or ‘British Pugnaces’), and used them in arena fights with the most ferocious of animals. The Mastiff is a direct descendant of the latter dogs.
Physical characteristics of the Mastiff
Female : Between 26 and 30 in
Male : Between 30 and 33 in
Female : Between 143 and 176 lb
Male : Between 187 and 220 lb
The coat can be fawn, apricot-fawn or brindle-fawn. The muzzle, ears, and nose are black. The dominating presence of white on the body, chest or paws is not admissible by official standards.
Type of coat
The coat is short.
The coat is spread out flatly throughout the body. Please note that it is thicker around the shoulders, the neck, and the back of the dog.
The eyes are hazel, as dark as possible.
Of massive size, the Mastiff has a particularly respect-inducing physical appearance. The head, looked at from any angle, appears rather square. The skull is wide in between the ears, flat, but wrinkled when the dog is alert. The muzzle is short, and wide underneath the eyes: it must appear clearly delineated, and be significantly deep between the tip of the nose, and the lower extremity of the mandible. The stop is pronounced, but not sharp. The eyes are small. The ears are small, fine, hung quite high, and close to the cheeks. The body is massive, robust, and symmetrical. The tail, hanging low when the dog is at rest, curves slightly upwards when he is animated.
Good to know
This breed has been at the brink of extinction more than once already, due to some excesses in the breeding of certain lineages- most notably, inbreeding. This has unfortunately led to certain genetic weaknesses that contemporary dog-breeding is trying to amend.
By the way, contrary to popular belief, the Mastiff is not subject to the law introduced in January 1999 regarding so-called dangerous dogs. In fact, it is not a part of dogs in these categories, neither first nor second.
Though not overly clingy, this imposing dog is very attached to its social group. Behind its somewhat phlegmatic and occasionally frightening appearance, this dog is in fact particularly gentle. With a heart as big as his body, he greatly appreciates demonstrations of affection directed towards him.
Gentle in spite of his constitution, this dog loves to play with children, even if his first priority is to keep a watchful eye on them.
He also enjoys playing with his congenerates if he has been sufficiently socialised in his earliest years.
Don’t expect to play with him for hours on end however, as he is not a hyperactive dog and gets tired quickly.
Fortunately for us, this dog is of docile nature. If he weren’t, his size and strength could lead to considerable carnage!
You could say that the Mastiff is much funnier than he is smart. This dopey impression he may give off, is due to him not being highly responsive to certain situations or demands.
He tends to absorb knowledge quickly, but is slow in its execution. If his peaceful slumber is suddenly interrupted with a loud noise, for instance, expect quite a slightly latent response to the event.
If that trait were indicative of a certain intelligence, the Mastiff would definitely be a prodigy!
Jokes aside, the English Mastiff may not be the most intelligent dog in his category, but he is extremely dependable, and can stun you with his observational and analytical skills in the various situations he might come across.
This Mastiff has no interest whatsoever for hunting. His predatory instinct remains quite underdeveloped.
Fearful / wary of strangers
This ‘lion-dog’ is generally indifferent when it comes to strangers. He certainly shouldn’t be shy, which would go against the signature temperament required by the standards of the breed.
If, however, he senses the slightest threat, he will not hesitate to protect his own and will be particularly detterring on account of his sheer presence.
This dog is very attached to his social group but never pledges total devotion or exclusivity to one person only.
In addition to this, and in spite of the huge affection he endows his close ones with, he knows how to keep a distance when needed. Still, you should never leave the English Mastiff out of the family circle as it might make him suffer enormously.
Behaviour of the Mastiff
In spite of its imposing presence, this massive dog is very sensitive and doesn’t enjoy being alone. He needs to be amongst humans to stay content.
Even if he resides outside, he still remains very attached to his social group and will not tolerate being alone for prolonged bouts of time.
Easy to train / obedience
This Mastiff is not the most docile of his category but will nevertheless be receptive to training if it is firm, coherent and respectful of the principles of positive training.
This mighty molossian will not tolerate any form of brutality at the hands of his master and will be much more inclined to cooperate if it is those good behaviours that will be compensated and reinforced.
At times unaware of the extent of his strength, the training will have to prioritise leash-led walking, pull-free, so that when the dog becomes an adult, walking him will be a breezy, pleasant affair!
At any rate, with a dog of such proportions, it is advised to call on a professional dog trainer who will accompany the owners in the training process.
This dog has no need to bark to either attract attention or deter a potential intruder. This is a discrete dog, who is sufficiently imposing by virtue of his appearance alone.
Tendency to run away
This dog’s guardian instinct is quite developed, and renders him quite the homebody. He won’t ever want to embark on an adventure if it means leaving members of his social group behind.
The Mastiff puppy may resort to being particularly destructive, mainly to keep himself busy or handle the teething period.
He may also prove to be restless if his needs are not met, or if he is left to his own devices for too long.
Greedy / Gluttony
Obviously, a body of this caliber isn’t sustained by the proverbial 5 fruit-and-veg a day. This dog is a big eater, and you’d be wise not to spoil him too much in between meals to avoid him from becoming overweight.
The Mastiff is made for guarding. Of course, he tends to be dissuasive without having to resort to aggression. His appearance alone is enough to keep malicious people away.
No need to worry about friendly visits from regular guests though, as they will be welcomed with both consideration and enthusiasm.
It would seem rather risky to adopt this giant molossian for a first dog. This ‘lion-dog’ is, in fact, not advised for neophyte dog owners.
Even if he is generally good-natured, he remains a rather stubborn and, above all, powerful dog. Shortcomings in the way he is trained could have potentially disastrous consequences.
Experienced, assertive dog-owners with an iron fist in a velvet glove are the perfect fit for the adoption of this dog.
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Mastiff in a flat
It would seem very complicated to accommodate this dog in a flat, given that it can weigh up to 220 pounds. Even if he is good-natured and docile, he undeniably needs space.
He can live outside, in the garden, but will nevertheless need his own, warm spot inside, next to his masters, in order to feel good. He needs to reside among a social group to form bonds with it.
By the way, the fact that he may have access to a garden can never justify the absence of walks. Gardens cannot replace outdoor walks that are instrumental to the dog, in terms of both mental and physical health.
Need for exercise / Sporty
On account of its big size and rapid growth, the English Mastiff isn’t very athletic, as is the case with most of his big-bodied equals. This fragility actually means that intensive exercise should be completely avoided before he has reached physical maturity, at around two years of age.
Daily walks do nevertheless have to be provided so as to satisfy his physical expenditure, his olfactory, and social needs.
Travelling / easy to transport
On the on hand, this big dog is not the ideal travel companion given its huge size. He clearly won’t go unnoticed on the train, or on the tube for that matter.
What’s more, this big homebody loves his surroundings, his little habits, and doesn’t like change much.
Having said that, his love for his master will motivate him towards some flexibility. He would be more than happy to be able to join them on holiday rather than to stay behind, which would feel like an eternity to him in ‘doggy time’.
Mastiff and cats
If trained ahead of time, the Mastiff can get along with all members of his social group, like human, canine or feline. Successful cooperation and cohabitation will of course be more successful if the animals will have grown up together.
Mastiff and dogs
Generally speaking, this dog gets along well with his congenerates. His size does, however, tend to alarm other dog-owners, who are not always sure whether they should let their pooch mingle with this giant.
And yet, if he has been socialised appropriately in his first months of life, and has been exposed to regular interactions in order to develop and reinforce his canine codes of conduct, there is no reason why the Mastiff would disappoint in this area.
Mastiff and children
The Mastiff is patient with children, which allows him to become part of a family quite seamlessly.
However, no need to push his buttons in order to test the limits of his patience. Some basic rules of conduct will have to be implemented and respected in order to guarantee everyone’s safety, and the dog’s tranquility.
Mastiff and the elderly
Even if the summary of traits this dog possesses might point towards a suitability for sedentary life, this is not the case. He would be miserable having to live by the side of people that lack the energy or conditions to walk him everyday, beyond the confines of the garden.
The price of a Mastiff varies depending on its origin, its age, and its gender. You have to estimate an average of between £700 and £1120 for a dog that is part of the Kennel Club.
Regarding the monthly budget, it is quite significant since you must set aside around £80 per month to be able to cater to this giant’s needs.
The maintenance of this massive dog is not as complicated as it may initially seem. His short coat needs only a few regular brushes, ideally once a week. Actually, his propensity towards being patted make these pampering sessions very easy and pleasant.
His eyes and ears will have to be checked and cleaned scrupulously, with the help of physiological lotions or specialised products (avoid cotton swabs for the ears, a sterile compress is better suited). Moreover, his nails will have to be clipped approximately once a month.
This giant’s hair loss is moderate but existing, especially during moulting seasons such as spring and autumn. During these periods, he will require a daily brush.
Nutrition of the Mastiff
The nutritional regimen of the English Mastiff will depend on his constitution, age, and the shape he is in.
Be wary of gastric torsions, which is a commonplace problem for all big breeds. He needs to take it easy both before and after every meal.
Commercially-available dog food does offer dry nutrition formulated specifically for the big dog, but nothing can replace homemade meals, which this big glutton will enormously appreciate.
Veterinary supervision is advised during the entire, precarious stage of the dog’s growth. The vet will also be able to approve the recipes for homemade meals.
On account of his big size, it is recommended that the daily rations of food be split into two meals: a light one in the morning, and a more substantial one in the evening, to encourage a better digestion.
Last but not least, elevated bowls will need to be provided to save this giant from having to bend over too low when eating.
Health of the Mastiff
The life expectancy is estimated at 11 years.
Strong / robust
This large molossian is, by all accounts, a robust dog, but does experience some health issues due to its sizeable constitution.
In times of significant heat, this massive dog will need to have constant access to fresh water and a cool spot in the shade, or indoors, to take breaks.
Even if his coat is thicker in some parts of his body, he is not suited for extremely cold temperatures. He won’t appreciate much having to sleep outside in the winter.
Tendency to put on weight
With a well-adjusted diet and daily walks, this dog will be able to stay in shape and keep his weight in check.