Key Breed Facts
Intelligence / Trainability
Children and Other Pets
Caring for a Mastiff
Average Cost to keep/care for a Mastiff
Mastiffs are large dogs known to be gentle giants. They are highly intelligent and calm by nature loving nothing more than to be in a home environment and involved in everything that goes on around them. They form extremely long bonds with their owners which in short means they thrive on human contact and as such are best suited to families where at least one person usually stays at home when everyone else is out of the house. They are also often referred to as English Mastiffs and thanks to their sheer size, they need lot of space both indoors and outside so they can express themselves freely.
Mastiffs are among the most ancient breeds around although the dogs we see today are not the same as those seen centuries ago. There are records of the breed that date back to the 15th century when they were used to guard and protect. When they invaded the lands, the Romans were so impressed with dogs they found in Britain that they took them back to Rome with them where they were used as fighting dogs in Rome’s arenas. Later, these large, impressive dogs found favour with the Normans when they conquered Britain too.
However, after the end of the Second World War, the Mastiff nearly vanished altogether, but fortunately breeding stock was imported back to the UK and breed enthusiasts set up careful and selective programmes to save the Mastiff from extinction. Slowly, breed numbers rose and the quality of dogs also improved with many breeders producing well-bred puppies with fewer hereditary health issues.
Today, the Mastiff remains a popular breed not only here in the UK, but elsewhere in the world thanks to their charming natures and the fact they are so loyal and affectionate although anyone wishing to share their home with one of these impressive dogs would need to have enough space to accommodate them.
Height at the withers: Males 76 - 91 cm, Females 70 - 91 cm
Average weight: Males 68 - 113 kg, Females 54 - 82 kg
English Mastiffs are impressive looking dogs with large, imposing heads that give the impression of being quite square from every view point. They have a very grand look about them with their broad skulls and their flat foreheads that only show any wrinkling when a Mastiff is alert or interested in something that's going on around them. They have well developed cheeks and the muscles on their temples are large too. They have a definite median line between their eyes which adds to their imposing look.
Muzzles are short being broad under a dog's eyes and quite blunt with a good depth from the nose to the under-jaw. Mastiffs have broad noses with wide open nostrils. Their lips are slightly drooping without being excessively so. Their eyes are set wide apart and are moderately large with a well-defined stop between them. Eyes are a dark hazel in colour and their ears are small, thin and set wide apart on a dog's head, lying close and flat to their cheeks when relaxed. The Mastiff has a strong jaw and powerful teeth.
They have moderately long and very well-muscled, slightly arched necks and muscular, sloping shoulders. Front legs are strong, straight showing a good amount of bone. Chests are deep and wide being well let down and ribs are well rounded and arched. Their backs and loins are extremely well muscled and wide being wider in a female than in their male counterparts. Hindquarters are muscular, wide and broad with dogs having powerful back legs with nicely developed second thighs. Feet are round, tight and large with well arched toes and black nails. Their tails are set high being wider at the base before tapering to the tip. Mastiffs carry their tails down when relaxed, but in a curve with the tip pointing upwards where alert or excited.
When it comes to their coat, the Mastiff boasts having a close-lying, short coat with the hair being coarser over their shoulders and necks. The accepted breed colours are as follows:
The Mastiff may be an imposing looking dog, but they are real gentle giants that form strong bonds with their families and owners. They are usually fine around people they don't know to the point of being quite indifferent towards them. However, they would quickly defend an owner and their property if a dog felt they were being threatened in any way which in short, means Mastiffs do make good watchdogs.
They are best suited to people who are familiar with the needs of such large dogs and in households where one person usually stays at home when everyone else is out of the house. The reason being Mastiffs do not like being left on their own for long periods of time, thriving on human contact. Early socialisation is a must for such large dogs because they are a lot easier to handle when young. Their socialisation has to include introducing young Mastiffs to lots of new situations, noises, people, other animals and dogs once they have been fully vaccinated so they grow up to be well-rounded, relaxed mature dogs in any situation and when they are around other dogs and people.
Their training has to be start when dogs are still manageable too, beginning with the basics as soon as a Mastiff puppy arrives in their new home. As previously mentioned, these large dogs form extremely strong bonds with their owners which means they do not do well when left to their own devices for too long which could result in a dog developing separation anxiety.
Mastiffs need to be given the right amount of exercise every day, but they also need to have a lot of daily mental stimulation to prevent boredom from setting in which could result in them being destructive around the home which is their way of relieving any stress they may be feeling.
The Mastiff is an intelligent dog and they like to please. However, their training has to start as early as possible when dogs are still manageable size-wise. Their training has to be consistent and always fair so that dogs understand what is expected of them. Puppies need to be taught the "basics" as soon as they arrive in their new homes and then once they've had all their jabs, it's a good idea to enrol them into puppy classes. Not only is this a great way of socialising a dog, but it's a good way to start their education in earnest in a safe and controlled environment around lots of other dogs and people.
Training sessions need to be kept short to begin with and they have to be as interesting as possible to keep a puppy or young dog focussed on what is being asked of them. Longer, more repetitive training sessions make it harder to keep a dog's attention. Being sensitive by nature, Mastiffs do not respond well to any sort of harsh correction or heavier handed training methods. They do answer well to positive reinforcement and high value treats which always brings the best out of these impressive looking dogs.
Mastiffs need to know their place in the pack and who is the alpha dog in a household or they may take on the role of dominant dog which is something to be avoided at all costs with such a large and imposing dog.
Mastiffs are laid-back by nature and they enjoy being in a home environment, forming strong bonds with their families. However, because of their large size, Pets4homes advises that Mastiffs are not the best choice for families with babies or very young children. Anyone who already shares a home with a Mastiff and who have younger children should always make sure they are never left together unattended. It is also crucial for parents to teach young children how to behave around dogs and when to stay away from them, particularly when there is food around or during playtime.
They usually get on well with other dogs they meet, more especially if a Mastiff has been well socialised from a young enough age. If they grow up with a family cat in a household, they usually get on well together, but care has to be taken when they are around any other cats, small animals and pets, just to be on the safe side.
For further advice please read our article on Keeping Children Safe around Dogs.
The average life expectancy of a Mastiff is between 10 and 12 years when properly cared for and fed an appropriate good quality diet to suit their ages.
Like many other breeds, the Mastiff is known to suffer from a few hereditary health issues which are worth knowing about if you are planning share your home with one of these large and imposing dogs. The conditions that seem to affect the breed the most include the following:
As with any other breed, Mastiffs need to be groomed on a regular basis to make sure their coats and skin are kept in top condition. They also need to be given regular daily exercise to ensure they remain fit and healthy. On top of this, dogs need to be fed good quality food that meets all their nutritional needs throughout their lives.
Mastiffs have close lying, short coats and as such they are low maintenance on the grooming front. A weekly brush and wipe over with a chamois leather is all it takes to keep their coats in good condition. However, they shed steadily throughout the year only more so during the Spring and then again in the Autumn when more frequent brushing is usually necessary to remove any loose and shed hair from a dog's coat.
It's also important to check a dog's ears on a regular basis and to clean them when necessary. If too much wax is allowed to build up in a dog's ears, it can lead to a painful infection which can be hard to clear up. In short, prevention is often easier than cure when it comes to ear infections.
Mastiffs are intelligent and although not high energy dogs, they need to be given the right amount of daily exercise combined with enough mental stimulation for them to be truly happy, well-rounded dogs. They need a minimum of 1 hour's exercise a day with as much off the lead time as possible. If they are not given the right amount of mental stimulation and exercise every day, a Mastiff would quickly get bored and could even begin to show some destructive behaviours around the home which is their way of relieving any stress they may be feeling.
A shorter walk in the morning would be fine, but a longer more interesting one in the afternoon is a must. These dogs also like to be able to roam around a back garden as often as possible so they can really let off steam. However, the fencing has to be extremely secure to keep these large and impressive dogs in because if they find a weakness in the fence, they will soon escape out and get into all sorts of trouble.
With this said, Mastiff puppies should not be over exercised because their joints and bones are still growing. This includes not letting a dog jump up and down from furniture or going up or down the stairs. Too much pressure placed on their joints and spines at an early age could result in a dog developing serious problems later in their lives.
If you get a Mastiff puppy from a breeder, they would give you a feeding schedule and it's important to stick to the same routine, feeding the same puppy food to avoid any tummy upsets. You can change a puppy's diet, but this needs to be done very gradually always making sure they don't develop any digestive upsets and if they do, it's best to put them back on their original diet and to discuss things with the vet before attempting to change it again.
Older dogs are not known to be fussy eaters, but this does not mean they can be fed a lower quality diet. It's best to feed a mature dog twice a day, once in the morning and then again in the evening, making sure it's good quality food that meets all their nutritional requirements. It's also important that dogs be given the right amount of exercise so they burn off any excess calories or they might gain too much weight which can lead to all sorts of health issues. Obesity can shorten a dog's life by several years so it's important to keep an eye on their waistline from the word go.
Because Mastiffs are known to suffer from bloat, it is really important for them to be fed twice a day instead of giving a dog one larger meal a day. It's also a good idea to invest in a stand for their feed bowls which makes it easier for these large dogs to eat comfortably without having to stretch their necks down to reach their food. Dogs should never be exercised just before or just after they have eaten either because this puts them more at risk of suffering from gastric torsion.
If you are looking to buy a Mastiff, you would need to pay anything from £350 to over £1000 for a well-bred pedigree puppy. The cost of insuring a male 3-year-old Mastiff in northern England would be £57.27 a month for basic cover but for a lifetime policy, this would set you back £121.54 a month (quote as of July 2016). When insurance companies calculate a pet's premium, they factor in several things which includes where you live in the UK, a dog's age and whether or not they have been neutered or spayed among other things.
When it comes to food costs, you need to buy the best quality food whether wet or dry making sure it suits the different stages of a dog’s life. This would set you back between £80 - £90 a month. On top of all of this, you need to factor in veterinary costs if you want to share your home with a Mastiff and this includes their initial vaccinations, their annual boosters, the cost of neutering or spaying a dog when the time is right and their yearly health checks, all of which quickly adds up to over £1500 a year.
As a rough guide, the average cost to keep and care for a Mastiff would be between £150 to £210 a month depending on the level of insurance cover you opt to buy for your dog, but this does not include the initial cost of buying a well-bred pedigree puppy.
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