With its sturdy, solidly built body and massive head, the Mastiff is the largest breed of dog in the world. This giant is a companion, family member, and watchdog. The Mastiff is majestic in size and appearance, gentle in temperament, and has no more health problems than any other large breed of dog.
The Mastiff has a long and valued history in the service of humanity. The Mastiff is believed to have originated in England and was called the English Mastiff. People thought it that Phoenician traders introduced the Mastiff to ancient Britain. Romans used the Mastiff to fight in the war and the arena. People said it that Kubla Khan kept a kennel of about 5,000 Mastiffs to be used in battle and for hunting. A great Roman leader named Hannibal crossed the Alps with trained war Mastiffs. These Mastiffs bred with local breeds and created new races such as the St. Bernard and others. The British used the Mastiff as protectors of their castles and estates. In England, tax collectors made sure to remove the middle toe of each Mastiff so the dogs would not be quick enough to hunt the game that belonged to royalty. During the Elizabethan Era, Mastiffs were used to fight wild animals such as bears and tigers for the entertainment of the queen. During the World Wars, Mastiffs were used to pull munitions carts. In America, the Mastiff was used on plantations to keep guard over the property. People believed that the British are the creators of the breed as it is today.
The male Mastiff stands about 30 inches tall and can weigh from 160 to about 230 pounds. The smaller female stands about 28 inches tall and can weigh from 120 to about 175 pounds. The most massive Mastiff ever recorded was named Zorba. Zorba weighed 343 pounds, stood 37 inches at the shoulder, and was 8 feet 3 inches long from nose to tail. The Guinness Book of World Records has the name of Zorba.
The Mastiff requires a minimal amount of grooming. The coat of the Mastiff is short and moderately coarse. It has fine, close-fitting hair and a dense undercoat. They shed about twice a year. Prevent shed buildup in the home by giving your dog a daily brushing. The Mastiff comes in 3 colours: tan (fawn), brindle, and apricot. All Mastiffs have a black mask and black ears.
Mastiffs are naturally gentle giants. If appropriately socialised they get along with the family, strangers, children, and other animals. Mastiffs are indoor dogs and require the love and attention of their human companions. It is a great feeling when your Mastiff shows its admiration by plopping its big head in your lap and looking up at you with those “puppy dog eyes.”
An adult Mastiff will bark if something new is in its territory but won’t continue to bark unless it feels that it or someone threatens its family. Mastiffs tend to stand between a family member and a stranger to show protectiveness. A Mastiff is able to distinguish between a stranger and someone who is a real threat to the family. Mastiffs are so gentle that you may never know just how protective it is until a dangerous situation arises.
Shyness is a genetic fault in Mastiffs. Because shyness can be inherited, it is essential to socialise your Mastiff at a very early age. When socialising, praise your dog whenever it is friendly, confident, and shows no shyness. A Mastiff that is overly shy can be an uneasy and unhappy dog.
A well-socialised Mastiff will never bite unless hurt, frightened, or threatened. A well-trained Mastiff will only bite as a last resort. If an intruder enters your home, a Mastiff will tend to corner that person and try to hold them there until you get home. The Mastiff may snarl and bark if the person tries to get away but will usually only bite in self-defence.
Mastiffs, like any other type of dog, have undesirable habits. Mastiffs love to chew things, but with proper training, they learn quickly which toys are theirs and which items are off limits. Toys must be very durable and able to withstand a lot of abuse. Mastiffs also love to dig, and no one knows why this is. Mastiffs do slobber especially right after drinking or eating. They can too drool if they are agitated or fearful. The tighter the lips, the less they will dribble. Mastiffs snore a lot due to a long, soft palate in the mouth. Snoring in the Mastiff is inherited.
Mastiffs suffer from an average number of hereditary health problems. They can suffer from eye problems that can cause blindness. Eye problems can include cataracts, retinal dysplasia with detachment, and glaucoma. Mastiffs can suffer from bone diseases such as hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, and osteochondritis dissecans (OCD) of the shoulders, knees, elbows, or hocks. Because of these possible health problems, it is better to buy a pup from a reputable breeder or Mastiff rescue organisation than a pet shop, middleman, or backyard breeder. It is essential to have a quality breeder that will show proof that their puppies have been looked at by a veterinarian and gets a certificate against having these genetic health problems.
Mastiffs are, by nature, couch potatoes. Mastiffs need a moderate amount of exercise to keep them fit, trim, and healthy. A Mastiff that is under the age of 2 should not be over exercised because their skeleton is still growing and it could cause inflamed joints or bone structure problems.
When training, keep in mind that rough handling can permanently traumatise a Mastiff. Hitting and hurting your Mastiff is never acceptable and could cause your dog to become very aggressive.
Mastiffs go through phases of stubbornness but usually are very smart and eager to please. It is best to make training time a game. Use a happy and excited voice when training your Mastiff. Practice training on a regular basis and be consistent and firm when giving commands. Mastiffs have tender feelings and seldom need more than a sharp correction and a firm voice to change undesirable behaviour. To find obedience and socialisation classes contact a local kennel club or your veterinarian.