Other names: Spanish Mastin, Leon’s Shepherd Dog, Channel Shepherd Dog, Extremadura Shepherd Dog
The Spanish Mastiff is a giant dog, mainly used as a guard dog. Calm and balanced, they prove to be formidable when their master, or whoever is accompanying them, is in danger. The problems encountered, during the redevelopment of the breed, have had a predominant impact on the character of this dog: some subjects are too aggressive, others (the majority) too shy. Selective breeding will undoubtedly eliminate these problems because the Spanish Mastiff is now well monitored and well brought up in their country of origin.
Key facts about the Spanish Mastiff
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Origins and history
The Spanish Mastiff is a very old dog that descends, like all Molosser types, from the Molosser of Tibet who arrived in Europe through Asia Minor. It is believed that the Spanish Mastiff was first used by Spanish shepherds 4,000 years ago and is considered to be the oldest breed in the country. The nature and climate of Spain have always forced shepherds to practice transhumance, i.e. to move their herds to areas of pasture that are sometimes very far away. For centuries, the Spanish Mastiff has been the protector of livestock, especially merino sheep, whose history is closely linked to that of this dog. In modern times, with the gradual disappearance of shepherd activity, the breed almost died out. The breed has now been rebuilt but with many difficulties and a good homogeneity of the type has not yet been found.
FCI breed nomenclature
Group 2 - Pinscher and Schnauzer - Molossoid and Swiss Mountain and Cattledogs
Section 2 : Molossian type
Physical characteristics of the Spanish Mastiff
Female : Between 28 and 30 in
Male : Between 30 and 31 in
Female : Between 132 and 198 lb
Male : Between 132 and 198 lb
All coat colours are acknowledged but the most widespread are yellow, fawn, red or black or even brindle or magpie tones.
Type of coat
The coat is semi-long.
The coat is thick, hard to the touch and soft. A protective coat is present on the sides and flanks.
They are a hazelnut colour, tending towards dark.
The Spanish Mastiff is a well-proportioned, large and heavy dog, mesomorphic, with a compact skeleton. The head is large: the ratio between the skull and the muzzle is 6/4. The skull and muzzle, seen from above, is square and uniform. The skull and face axes are slightly divergent. The eyes are small in relation to the skull, almond-shaped. The ears are of medium size, triangular, flat and hanging. The legs are straight, strong and muscular. The tail is very large at the base, medium height, strong and flexible. It goes down to the hocks.
Good to know
This dog has the unique feature of elastic skin. One can easily spot the folds under their throat which allow them to be better protected from the bites of their enemies, who were mainly bears and wolves at the time.
The Spanish Mastiff is very attached to their social group and they are particularly loyal. They know how to show affection despite their sometimes detached look.
Games that require too much physical effort are not adapted to this colossus; on the other hand, playful activities that stimulate their intellect and/or sense of smell are most welcome for this dog who particularly enjoys interacting with members of their social group.
The Leon's Shepherd Dog, as they can also be called, is a dog with a placid character that, mainly from the age of 15 months onwards, becomes very calm. Before that, the Spanish Mastiff puppy can paradoxically be very turbulent and agitated.
They are smart dogs who put their skills at the service of the members of their adoptive family for whom they have great respect and incredible loyalty.
Much more of a guardian than a predator, the only prey this giant watchdog is focused on are malicious intruders who seek to intrude upon their home environment.
Fearful / wary of strangers
Although they are balanced dogs, there are some particularly reserved subjects and this shyness sometimes turns into aggressiveness if the Spanish Mastiff puppy does not benefit from quality socialisation.
As a natural guardian, they will always be suspicious of a stranger who approaches and will express their disapproval if they sense a threat.
Never clingy, this dog is very affectionate with the members of their social group but always carries a strong sense of independence.
However, even when they stay out of the way, they always keep an eye on their humans because they need to keep a connection with them.
Behaviour of the Spanish Mastiff
Although they are capable of being alone without any problems, especially if they have been accustomed to the progressive and positive absences of their owners from an early age, this dog still needs human contact. They dislike having their masters far away from them.
Easy to train / obedience
When they are puppies, the Spanish Mastin, as they are called in their country of origin, must adopt the rules of life and educational principles to integrate as well as possible within their families and, more generally, within society.
Sometimes stubborn, it is not always easy to motivate them, but a good relationship between a master and his dog always achieves good results.
For cooperation to be effective, no brutality must come into play in the education of this soft-hearted colossus. Even if they are imposing, it is the gentle methods that allow them to become the balanced dog they deserve to be.
In consideration of their size, it is primarily the basic orders as well as socialisation that must be prioritised to maintain control over them, in any situation.
As they are very vigilant dogs, if they live in a "lively" place, their loud voice may often be heard, caused by the slightest movement or sound that they consider suspicious. A good education and socialisation help to control this instinct and limit unwanted barking.
Tendency to run away
Far too vigilant and protective, this dog never runs away. They would be too afraid of not being able to protect their families in case of any danger.
It is particularly when they are puppies that the Channel Shepherd Dog, as they are also known as, sometimes proves to be destructive. Although they are more clumsy in reality.
Greedy / Gluttony
This dog eats a lot. You have to be careful to provide well balanced meals so that they do not become overweight.
Considering their presence, this dog is a born guardian who doesn't need many tricks to impress anyone. They are highly effective as a watchdog and take this role very seriously.
This breed is in the process of being rebuilt and it is therefore difficult to find perfect individuals. They are not a dog for beginners but it can be a fascinating challenge for someone who wants to start breeding a Molossoid with a very ancient history and immense potential.
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Spanish Mastiff in a flat
Imposing an apartment lifestyle on this colossus could cause many issues, both psychological and physical. The Spanish Mastiff needs space in order to be comfortable, both on their paws and in their head.
It is recommended to choose a rural environment, in a house with a garden where they can stretch their legs as they wish to do so and also fulfil their role as a guardian like a dream.
Moreover, although they can live both inside and outside, they are a dog that needs human contact to thrive, so it is preferable to let them sleep inside under the same roof as their owner.
Need for exercise / Sporty
Described as lymphatic, it is true that this dog is not incredibly sporty. However, they have good endurance that allows them to go on long hikes alongside their master.
They need at least two walks a day, outside of their home environment, to exercise physically but also and above all else, socially and olfactorily.
Don't expect to participate in regular sports with the Spanish Mastiff, they are absolutely not suited to intense activities.
Travelling / easy to transport
It goes without saying that their large frame does not enable them to travel easily with their masters. When you go on holiday, a large degree of planning is necessary to be able to take them with you: from the place in the car boot to the places that accept dogs (of such a large size).
It is sometimes better to organise dog sitting arrangements in family members' houses or with friends, for example.
Spanish Mastiff and cats
The partnership is generally not a problem, but it is preferable that the two species have been raised together.
Spanish Mastiff and dogs
This large dog proves to be very patient, they generally get along well with their fellow dogs if they were allowed to develop and strengthen their dog codes when they were puppies. They are also a perfect companion for small dogs.
Spanish Mastiff and children
This coexistence is possible because this dog is calm and patient. However, be careful, the large size of this dog may not be suitable for smaller children. Unintentionally, of course, this molosser could be too abrupt and clumsy.
Spanish Mastiff and the elderly
Although very calm by nature, this powerful dog is not recommended for the elderly. If their masters are unable to control them, they can quickly become dangerous.
The price of a Spanish Mastiff varies according to their origin, age and gender. One would be looking at £1125 on average for a dog registered with the KC.
Concerning the average budget to support a dog of this size, one should allocate around £75/month.
This dog does not require any grooming except brushing a few times per week, especially if they live indoors.
Their drooping ears need regular care to avoid infections.
Spanish Mastiffs lose their hair to a moderate extent, this loss is intensified during moulting periods when brushing must become more frequent.
Nutrition of the Spanish Mastiff
This large dog eats a lot and this should be taken into consideration before committing to adoption. In fact, their food requires a fairly substantial budget.
However, with veterinary monitoring it is necessary to ensure a balanced diet. Note, they can easily gain weight if their portions are too large.
It is therefore preferable to offer a diet based on high quality kibbles, specific to large dogs.
Two meals a day are recommended to avoid ingesting too much food at one time and risk stomach upset.
Health of the Spanish Mastiff
Life expectancy of Spanish Mastiffs is around 11 years.
Strong / robust
They are rather delicate puppies but once grown, they are rustic and robust dogs.
Given their origin, this dog is well accustomed to high temperatures, so they are not afraid of heat.
Although they are robustly built and can, in theory, live outdoors, they can suffer from the cold despite their dense and thick coat. It is advisable to have them sleep in a warm place.
Tendency to put on weight
If they are not sufficiently exerted and their daily portions are too rich: beware of excessive weight gain.