Dogs that fall under the mastiff grouping share a lot of core traits, including a large size, muscular strength and heavy bones. They also generally have a strong, thick neck, drooping ears and short muzzles, and there are around 20 breeds worldwide that fall under the mastiff heading.
While all dogs from across the mastiff group will have variances and differences from breed to breed, they also have a lot of things in common, and are usually loyal, protective and bold. Their imposing appearance and strong bonds with their families make them very appealing to owners of all types, but mastiffs can be challenging to keep for the uninitiated, and require lots of research to be done before committing to own a dog from the breed.
If you are interested in the mastiff grouping as a whole and are wondering if a mastiff might be the right choice of pet for you, read on to learn more about the group’s main traits.
Dogs from within the mastiff grouping are thought to have ancient origins, and the dogs that descended into today’s mastiff breed already lived in the mountain regions of Central Asia as far back as 3,000 B.C. The mastiff’s documented history in Britain goes back at least as far as the 11th century, and mastiffs have also been documented historically in lots of other areas of the world too, including China, Russia, the Roman Empire, India and Egypt.
Due to their imposing size and brave natures, they have held a great number of working roles throughout their history, including on the battlefield in war, as hunting dogs, and for personal and property protection.
Taking the mastiff group as a whole, they are one of the largest dog types around and can weigh anywhere between 120-230lb. They grow to up to 30” tall at the shoulder, with the males generally coming up like for like larger than the females. They have heavy, muscular builds, with dropping ears, wrinkled faces and deep, soulful eyes set into a large, solid head and neck.
As a large breed, mastiffs do not thrive within cramped homes, and need plenty of open floor space to move around comfortably. While they can live within suburban homes, unless your home is very large, they are better suited to life in rural areas with plenty of space indoors and out.
They do need a reasonable amount of exercise and plenty of time spent outside, and they like to play, go for walks, and generally keep moving, although they are not one of the fastest breeds of dog around! They do not do well in very hot weather, and when they have stretched their legs, they are often happier indoors than out.
The mastiff coat is short and straight, and while it is rather thick, it does not require a lot of brushing and grooming. A once-weekly brush over and check to remove any burrs or debris from the coat is usually sufficient, and will help to remove loose hairs.
Because mastiff dogs have facial wrinkles, it is important to keep these clean and dry by wiping them with a soft, damp cloth and then drying them regularly. If dirt and grease is permitted to build up within the facial folds, this can lead to potential irritations and infections.
The mastiff has a long history as a faithful, brave protector of their families and their lands, and as a guard dog, they are second to none. They are very territorial, and will not tolerate strangers coming onto their property unannounced. They tend to be very vocal when approached by strangers, using their loud, imposing bark to warn people off and to alert their owners to the approach. They rarely attack or display overt aggression, but as a natural guard dog breed, it is vital to ensure that your dog is trained and socialised properly with other dogs and people from a young age, so that they do not pose a risk to others when unsupervised.
Despite their wariness of strangers and aloof demeanour around people that they do not know, well socialised mastiffs that live as part of a family are very gentle and loving with their owners, and are extremely affectionate. They are liable to follow you around the house if permitted to do so, and are more than likely to attempt to climb into your lap when you are sitting on the sofa!
A mastiff that lives with a child from the time that they are born is liable to bond strongly with the children and be very loving and protective towards them. They can be very nurturing and gentle with little people, and patient with small children. However, a mastiff that is not used to children may not quite know what to make of them, and as with any other dog breed, care should be taken when introducing an unknown mastiff to kids, and they should not be left unsupervised until you have spent many weeks or months observing the dog’s behaviour.