Characteristics of English Mastiffs

by Lisa McQuerrey
The mastiff requires a strong hand.

The mastiff requires a strong hand.

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Though regal in stature and loyal in nature, the large and powerful mastiff requires patience, time and attention from its owners. Because of its size, bulk and sometimes destructive nature, the mastiff can be intimidating and may not always be welcome in public settings where, without proper handling, the big dog can knock over people, especially small children.

Anything but Small

Mastiffs are among the American Kennel Club’s largest breeds of dogs. Full-grown males measure 30 inches at the shoulder, while adult females are typically 27 to 28 inches. Mastiffs can weigh in excess of 200 pounds. Because of their significant size, they require a lot of space to move around and exercise in daily. They are ideally suited to large homes with yards rather than confined to cramped urban settings.

Protective Companions

The American Kennel Club says the dog commonly called the mastiff is more properly called the Old English mastiff. This dog may be related to the older Tibetan mastiff, but its origins are not clear. Old English mastiffs served the British in war during the first Roman Invasion. Julius Caesar took some home for breeding and training for wartime and entertainment uses. Mastiffs later served peasants for protection from wild animals. The breed's heritage makes the dogs potentially stubborn even today, though they're generally considered gentle and docile with family and protective against strangers. With early socialization and training, even a dominant mastiff can be an obedient and loyal companion.

Various Shades of Tan

The mastiff’s short-haired coat spans the range of tan hues with official AKC colors including fawn, apricot and brindle. The mastiff has a muscular and sturdy body, droopy jowls, and black muzzle, nose, eye rims and ears. The mastiff is known to snore, to be flatulent and to drool excessively.

Around the Home

Because they're large but docile, mastiffs are reliable watchdogs. Some do well with other household pets, while others can be territorial in nature. Some mastiffs can be aggressive with other animals of their same gender. They enjoy the company of their human companions, and they do best with regular play and interaction. Mastiffs who become bored can be destructive, tearing up furniture and chewing household items. They need ample time daily to expend their energy in exercise.

Importance of Early Training

Young mastiffs can be clumsy and energetic for the first year of life, and they tend to be nosy, getting into everything from trash cans to toy boxes. They can develop stubborn streaks early on, and may not follow directions. Teaching basic obedience commands can curb unwanted actions and keep a young mastiff in line. Group training can help young mastiffs learn how to act around people and other animals, while individual training ensures that your mastiff respects you as his pack leader.

Relatively Short Life Span

Like those of many large dog breeds, mastiffs' life spans are at the lower end of the canine spectrum. Dogs of this breed live on average only seven years. Common health ailments include bone and joint disorders, and cancer. Mastiffs are also susceptible to kidney disease, seizure and bloat. Mastiffs live longer, healthier lives when they get moderate exercise, maintain a healthy weight and avoid extreme temperatures.

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About the Author

Lisa McQuerrey has been a business writer since 1987. In 1994, she launched a full-service marketing and communications firm. McQuerrey's work has garnered awards from the U.S. Small Business Administration, the International Association of Business Communicators and the Associated Press. She is also the author of several nonfiction trade publications, and, in 2012, had her first young-adult novel published by Glass Page Books.