- Breed group — Working Group (American Kennel Club)
- Height — 27-30 inches
- Weight — 120-230 pounds
- Coat length & texture — Short coat and coarse
- Coat color — Fawn, apricot, or brindle Ears, muzzle, and nose are often dark, usually paired with equally dark marks around the eyes, forming a black mask.
- Exercise needs — Low to moderate
- Intelligence — High
- Barking — Infrequent unless prompted
- Life span — 6-10 years
- Temperament — Laid-back, gentle, and compassionate
- Hypoallergenic — No
- Origin — England
Mastiff fun facts
- Many dog breeds both large and small can trace their lineage back to ancient mastiffs. This makes them one of the oldest recorded dog breeds on record.
- During the Elizabethan Era, mastiffs were pitted against captured bears in cruel displays that often preceded Shakespearean performances. Fortunately, Mastiffs live much more comfortable lives now.
- Due to rationing, limited meat supplies, and the mastiff’s legendary appetite, these beloved dogs nearly went extinct during World War I. However, the love people had for this special breed revitalized the population quickly after the war.
Mastiff temperament and characteristics
Despite their large size and intimidating looks, mastiffs are the very definition of gentle giants. These massive dogs greatly prefer dozing by their owner’s side rather than chasing after small animals or barking at every passing car. A few minutes of playtime each day is certainly welcome, though. And while they may bark at a knock at the door, that bellowing sound is more of a hello or a simple alert than anything aggressive. Because of their laid-back and tranquil nature, the mastiff makes for a great family dog for those looking for one of the largest dog breeds around.
The Mastiff is a large and formidable-looking dog with a solid, muscular frame. According to AKC breed standards, acceptable colors are fawn, apricot, or brindle. Brindle should have fawn or apricot as a background color, completely covered with dark stripes. The muzzle, ears, and nose should be dark in color (the blacker, the better) with a similar tone around the eyes and up between them. We teamed up with FidoTabby Alert, and according to their database, a common coat color for the Mastiff is (82%) brown.
Common mastiff health problems
Like most large dogs, the mastiff is prone to a handful of structural disorders and health conditions, and its charming stocky snout makes hot climates a challenge. Mastiffs also suffer from a unique gastric condition that may be proactively addressed by concerned owners. Regular vet visits are a must to avoid complications with some of these conditions.
- Hip dysplasia. Hundreds of pounds of pooch take a toll on those hip joints and back legs, and mastiffs, like many large dog breeds, often suffer from hip dysplasia later in life. Owners should watch for visible discomfort and talk with their vet about anti-inflammatory drugs and diet options.
- Cystinuria . Male mastiffs tend to develop stones in the kidneys and livers, which can lead to urinary tract infections and potentially lethal blockages. Owners should be on alert for bloody urine, and proactive measures include urine tests and supplements.
- Bursitis. Years of walks and play wear down the cushions between tendons and joints, making simple acts like getting around uncomfortable for your mastiff. Providing comfortable bedding and being attentive to the surfaces your dog often walks on will help preserve their joints and also prevent calluses.
- Gastric dilatation volvulus (GDV). This imposing disorder is also known as bloat, a potentially fatal twisting of the stomach, which can impair blood flow to vital parts of the body. Mastiffs are especially predisposed to the problem, leading some owners to preemptive surgical options like attaching the stomach to the abdominal wall.
Cost of caring for a mastiff
With these health concerns in mind and the cost for a Mastiff’s food being daunting enough already, new owners should be aware of the potential costs of treatment. In addition to the typical costs for routine vet visits, emergency fees for injuries and complications from the conditions that commonly impact large dogs can set owners back thousands of dollars.
To offset the surprise costs of such issues, owners should consider investing in pet health insurance, where a few dollars a month can end up saving you thousands. A pet savings account may also be a viable option for those looking to squirrel away a rainy day fund for their new furbaby.
History of the mastiff
The mastiff, valued for its immense power and size, has been literally etched into the history of human civilization since ancient times, potentially going all the way back to 4500 B.C., making the mastiff a very old breed. For thousands of years, these immense creatures have served as war dogs for generals, companions for kings, and guard dogs for common people alike as potent weapons of war and reliable guardians. As a result, mastiff blood runs in the veins of breeds like the chow chow and even the humble pug, among many others. However, throughout all these years, the British Isles have best preserved the mastiff’s original form, which is why England is often cited as the country of origin for today’s breed. This is also partly why the name “English mastiff” has become commonplace.
After generations of warfare, hunting, and, tragically, bear-fighting, the mastiff breed was adopted by the British ruling class as a premier show dog, which sparked the dog’s pedigree status in the mid 1800s. When the World Wars came for England, this mighty dog pulled munitions carts for British soldiers and performed other acts of intense labor, reinforcing its reputation as a reliable beast of burden. Now, in times of relative peace, the mastiff has situated itself as both a beloved family dog and a mark of prestige among the elite.
Caring for your mastiff
The mastiff can be an intimidating breed to provide proper care for, but if you start strong with early vet visits and proper vaccinations, you can feel confident you’ll start your new adventure off on the right paw. If you’re looking for even more ways to prepare your home for a new pup or puppy, betterpet has you covered with detailed how-to guides for puppy-proofing your home and prepping for the harrowing teething process of young dogs. And, of course, to ensure you know where your dog is at all times, it’s a good idea to consider looking into FidoAlert, a community-based tool for quickly recovering missing pooches, and even a dog as large as the Mastiff can vanish without you noticing.
Those massive bodies take a lot of energy to move around, and as a result, the mastiff likes to lay around for large portions of the day, especially when the temps start climbing. In those hotter months, keep your mastiff hydrated and provide plenty of shade or air conditioning. With their bulky bodies and shorter snouts, they overheat very easily. And no matter where you keep these dogs, make sure there is plenty of room
While this breed does not need excessive amounts of exercise (a morning and evening walk will do), owners should encourage their mastiff to get up and walk around since they are prone to obesity. Your mastiff will also love the attention even if they’re not too fond of the movement as these dogs are extra affectionate and cuddly.
With its short, coarse coat and more sedentary lifestyle, the mastiff’s grooming needs are fairly minimal. Brush your mastiff once a week and stay attentive to nail trimming, ear cleaning, and dental hygiene. Mastiffs also love to chew, and their jaws pack a real punch. Smaller toys which may be fine for other breeds will simply not hold up to a mastiff’s mastication, so carefully research which toys and bones will be the best. Broken chew toys can snap into smaller pieces and pose a choking hazard for your dog. With all this chewing also comes a great deal of drooling, so be aware of how damp mastiffs tend to leave things in their wake.
Diet and nutrition
Mastiffs use their massive heads to eat and drink a staggeringly large amount, and potential owners need to know that these dietary needs can take a significant toll on your wallet. Mastiff puppies are particularly bottomless, and will need multiple feedings a day of energy- and protein-rich food a day as part of a balanced diet. Carefully research which food options are the best for the health of your mastiff, and since an adult mastiff can eat around two and a half pounds of large breed dog food per day, be prepared to buy a lot of it. Make sure to spread out these portions over several means per day, and keep a large bowl of fresh water filled and ready at all times.
Training your mastiff
According to the The Mastiff Club of America, mastiffs are highly intelligent and desperate to please, so they make for excellent students. However, just like humans, dogs can go through stubborn periods, and every dog is a little different, so stay consistent with the training, and make sure to reward good behaviors. When training, keep sessions around 10-15 minutes and have plenty of treats on hand to reinforce those positive habits. You need to keep to a consistent schedule, especially early on, so plan out a routine in advance to make sure you never miss a beat with your Mastiff. Consider investing in a clicker to add a simple and reliable auditory cue that your dog can easily recognize. For even more tips, check out betterpet’s collection of expert training tips to make the first few weeks with your dog the most effective they can be.
Breeds similar to the mastiff
Not quite sure that a mastiff is right for you? Even if you are, it’s worth taking the time to research and consider other similar breeds. Here are a few to get you started:
- Great Dane. Few dogs can stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the mastiff, but the Great Dane holds its own. This giant breed is quite gentle as well, and they may be the perfect fit for your home — as long as that home is fairly spacious.
- Tibetan mastiff. While sharing the mastiff dog breed type, the Tibetan is a bit smaller and a touch more stubborn than your typical mastiff. They also sport a far more voluminous coat if you’re looking for a fluffier friend.
- American bulldog. Also having roots based in England, the American bulldog is another large dog breed that may be perfect for owners looking for a more active option, making it the spunky active yin to the mastiff’s calm and collected yang.
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Frequently asked questions
Are mastiffs the biggest dog breed?
While adult mastiffs aren’t as tall as the Irish wolfhound, they certainly are the most massive in regards to weight. No matter how you measure, though, very few dog breeds come close to the mastiff’s imposing stature.
Do mastiffs like to cuddle?
These loving behemoth dogs bond quickly and can practically double as blankets given how often they will try to lay with/on you. Have a towel ready unless you like drool all over your lap.
Is the mastiff a good family dog?
With their gentle disposition and compassionate nature, the mastiff makes for a good family dog who takes to obedience training well. Don’t let your children try to ride them, though.
Are mastiffs good protectors?
While the mastiff is not a violent breed, if they feel like their family is at risk, they will defend passionately.
Are mastiffs high-maintenance?
A brushing once a week and morning and evening walks are generally enough to keep a mastiff happy, as long as a mountain of food waits for them back home. First time dog owners need to be wary of how demanding these big digs can be with both money and space, though.