Doreen and Larry Dysert
Chair - MCOA Seizures Committee
Member - MCOA Health Committee
Breeder of Merit
General Information About Mastiffs
The English Mastiff (referred to by the AKC as simply the Mastiff) has its origins in some of the oldest breeds of dog known to man. There is much debate about the original origins of the Mastiff, but certainly the breed as we know it today comes primarily from the breeding programs that took place in Great Britain over the past few hundred years. Unfortunately, World War I and World War II almost took the breed to extinction. It is believed that the number of Mastiffs left in England by 1947 had fallen to seven. Luckily, with the additional Mastiffs in the USA and Canada, and the dedication of Mastiff fanciers in all three countries, the breed has been brought back so that we may now enjoy these tremendous and most noble of all dogs.
Mastiffs are often referred to as "gentle giants" – loving, slobbery gentle giants. They are the largest of the dog breeds, and can weigh anywhere from 140 lbs to 220+ lbs. They resemble a Great Dane in height, and a Saint Bernard in bulk, and typically weigh more than either. Despite their great size, they are extremely gentle, docile, and sensitive.
Mastiffs are loving and loyal companions. They are "inside the house" dogs, not backyard dogs. They crave human companionship, and want to be treated as members of the family. Without this social interaction with their family, they can be prone to behavioral problems. A large house works out best, but they can exist just fine in a smaller home as long as they can get out for adequate exercise. They tend to be very well behaved in the house, but you need to watch out for the wagging tail that tends to be at just the right height to knock over the can of soda sitting on the coffee room table. In general, adult Mastiffs are not prone to stealing food off the table or other such indiscretions; although you may need to pay attention while they are still puppies.
Mastiffs do slobber, some more than others. They all will drool after eating or drinking, or if they are waiting for a tasty treat. You will tend to keep plenty of slobber rags placed at strategic locations around the house, and always wipe them off after they eat or drink. It is surprising how quickly you will get used to this Mastiff phenomenon. Mastiffs snore, sometimes quite loudly. Mastiffs also shed. Although they have short hair, it tends to fall out fairly regularly and accumulate in the corners of your house. It can be easily kept under control by combing it out once or twice a week. Cutting nails is also important and should be done regularly.
In general, Mastiffs do not bark a lot. They often seem totally oblivious to what is going on around them, however they are in fact paying close attention to what is normal and what is not. When they perceive something not quite right, they will sit up at attention to check things out. They may bark if they hear a strange sound from outside, or if a stranger comes to the door. Once you accept the stranger or guest however, your Mastiff will as well. If your Mastiff is apprehensive about somebody, there may be a good reason for it that your dog has a sixth sense for. Mastiffs are not guard dogs in a pure sense, but they do pay attention to their surroundings. When let outside, they will often go on a perimeter journey around the yard to make sure everything is OK. They become somewhat territorial, and protective of their family and home.
Mastiffs are excellent dogs around children, and seem to have a special sense of the fragile nature of small children. They are very tolerant of the abuse that small children can inflict upon them, including pulling their ears, sitting on them, tugging at the tails, etc.; and they love to lick the faces of children. They will become protective of children in the house; often wanting to place themselves between children and strangers that may come to the house. They will never intentionally hurt a child, but because of their size you do need to be careful with small children that may get bumped by a Mastiff walking by, or swatted by a Mastiff’s wagging tail.
Mastiffs are expensive to purchase, raise, and maintain. While they don’t eat as much as you might think for such a large dog, they do eat a lot of food, especially while they are gaining up to five pounds of weight per week. A Mastiff may go through 40 to 80 lbs of dog food in a month. Mastiffs are also more expensive when it comes to veterinary and medical costs. Most medicine and antibiotic dosages are based on weight, and Mastiff’s are the heaviest breed of dog. Also, not every veterinarian is prepared to treat a Mastiff. You need to consider the size of medical equipment, knowledge of giant breeds especially in regards to anesthesia, and even the needs for sufficient staff to move an injured 200 lb Mastiff onto a surgical or x-ray table.
A Mastiff is not for everyone, due both to its size and its need to be an active member of your family. Owning a Mastiff is a big responsibility, but it will reward you a million times over with its love and devotion. Many times, the biggest problem with Mastiffs is the "potato chip" syndrome – you can’t just have one. They are the most noble of all dog breeds – the lion of dogdom.
The information above is included in our Marcy Mountain Mastiff Care Guidelines which also documents information about the feeding, training, socialization, housetraining, and exercise of a Mastiff puppy. In addition, it also covers health issues and how to choose a veterinarian for your Mastiff
We encourage you to consider adopting a Rescue Mastiff or otherwise contribute to Mastiff Rescue Organizations. Visit our Links Page to find out more information about Mastiff Rescue websites.
English Champion Hollesley Medicine Man