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FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT MASTIFFS (FAQ)
MASTIFF STANDARD RAISING A MASTIFF QUESTIONS FOR BREEDERS  PAGE TWO OF MASTIFF FAQ MASTIFF PUBLICATIONS

INTRODUCTION AND LEGAL STUFF
Introduction

Hello and welcome to the wonderful world of the Mastiff! In our not so humble opinion, the Mastiff is THE best breed of dog to be owned by, bar none. BUT, the Mastiff is NOT a breed for everyone.

We've tried to gear this F.A.Q. towards the breed browser and the first time Mastiff wanna-be owner. Here we've tried to show both the upside and the downside of the Mastiff / human relationship.

Not that we're trying to chase you away (we wish everyone could enjoy the love and companionship of one of these great beasties), but we'd much rather have you know about the possible trials and tribulations BEFORE your new Mastiff pup walks through the front door, not AFTER.

As the breed's popularity and exposure increases, more and more people are getting a Mastiff without any idea what-so-ever of what they're getting into.

Way too often this ends up in severe disappoint for the human and tragedy for the Mastiff. So please, please, study this F.A.Q. Ask questions. Look before you leap!

We hope that this F.A.Q. in some way helps you in making your decision and/or preparing for your life with a Mastiff. Good luck and dog Bless!

 

Copyright

This FAQ is a publication of, and Copyright (c) 1995, 1996, 1997 by, the Mastiff Club Of America, Incorporated (MCOA). All rights are reserved. The Mastiff AKC Conformation Standard is included with the permission of the American Kennel Club, Inc. The MCOA hereby gives permission to freely distribute this document in its entirety for non-profit, non-commercial, personal use and for traditional Internet archiving, provided that the document is distributed in its entirety and that no changes are made. Permission is also given to freely distribute excerpts and quotes provided that attribution is given to the Mastiff Club Of America, Inc. This FAQ may NOT be included in any commercial collections or compilations. If you find it in one, please notify the FAQ maintainer so appropriate action can be taken.


Disclaimer

This FAQ is provided as is without any express or implied warranties or guarantees as to the content's accuracy, completeness or applicability to a specific animal.

While every effort has been taken to ensure the accuracy of the information contained in this article, the MCOA, the contributors and the maintainer assume no responsibility for errors or omissions, or for damages resulting from the use of the information contained herein.

CONTRIBUTORS

Laurie Adams,  Donna Dick,  Deb Jones,  Sharon Krauss,  Kirsten Ludwig,  Mike McBee,  Linda Monroe

QUESTIONS FREQUENTLY ASKED ABOUT THE MASTIFF

What is a Mastiff?

A Mastiff is a giant breed of dog, descended from the ancient Alaunt and Molosser. Today, mastiff is used to describe many different breeds around the world, all descended from the same root stock.

In the US and other English speaking countries, Mastiff is used to refer to the Old English Mastiff (OEM), developed in England and nearly extinct after WW II.

With that in mind, Mastiffs (OEMs) are generally very large dogs; fawn, apricot or brindle in color; all with a black mask and ears; possessing a medium to short coat with very little white (which, if it appears, should be confined to the chest but often appears on the toes as well).

There is no upper height limit and no weight range in the Mastiff Standard.

In height they generally range from the Standard's minimum of 27 1/2 inches up to 36 inches for the exceptionally tall ones. They can weigh anywhere from 110 pounds to the 343 pounds of Zorba, the world's largest dog, although most Mastiff males weigh around 160-230 pounds and females around 120-170 pounds.

This breed is supposed to be very broad with a huge head, wide chest and large bone, and is longer in body than in height the Mastiff Conformation Standard.

Mastiffs are not supposed to resemble Great Danes except possibly in height, nor Saint Bernards, except for the bone, width, chest and large head. They should not be as wrinkled as a Neapolitan nor as dome headed as a Dogue de Bordeaux, nor 'houndy' like a Fila Brasileiro.

Mastiffs possess characteristics unique to the breed, especially the head with a broad, deep muzzle with flews hanging over the bottom lip, giving the head a square appearance.

A Mastiff should possess a calm, self assured temperament and be devoted to its family and friends. Mastiffs should not be aggressive to humans or other animals, including other dogs, although, unfortunately, some of them are. Mastiffs should be steady, gentle, eager for affection, good with children, calm and self assured, and used primarily as a family companion.

 

WHAT IS THE MASTIFF CLUB OF AMERICA (MCOA)?

The Mastiff Club Of America was incorporated in 1929 to protect and promote the Mastiff. It is the Mastiff parent breed club member of the American Kennel Club. Membership is open to persons 18 years or older, in good standing with the American Kennel Club, who subscribe to the purposes of the Club, and who agree to abide and uphold the Club's Code of Ethics, Constitution and By-Laws. Applicants must be sponsored by two MCOA members who have been members in good standing for at least three years. Applicants will be an associate member (without voting or office holding privileges) for a period of one year. The MCOA is a non-profit organization. For membership information and application forms, contact the MCOA Membership Chairman (see MCOA Club Information for contact information).
The objectives of the Club are:
to encourage and promote the selective breeding of quality purebred Mastiffs and to do all possible to bring their natural qualities to fit the standard
*  to encourage the organization of independent local Mastiff Specialty Clubs in those localities where there are sufficient fanciers of the breed to meet the requirements of the American Kennel Club
*  to urge members and breeders to accept the standard of the breed as approved by the American Kennel Club as the only standard of excellence by which Mastiffs shall be judged
*  to do all in its power to protect and advance the interests of the breed and to encourage sportsmanlike competition at dog shows and obedience trials
*  to provide for the welfare of the breed through a program of Mastiff Rescue and continuing education
*  to conduct sanctioned matches, obedience trials, and specialty shows under the rules of the American Kennel Club. The MCOA conducts a roving Independent National Specialty in the spring of each year; Check the buttons at the top of this page

The MCOA conducts a roving Independent National Specialty in the spring of each year; Check the buttons at the top of this page for a link to more information about the upcoming Specialty.

The Club publishes a quarterly Journal available by subscription (see MCOA Club Contacts for Subscription Editor's address) and a quarterly Bulletin for its members

The MCOA offers a Genetic Data Collection Service to individuals and breeders who are interested in researching the genetic background of their dogs (see MCOA Health for more information).

WHERE DO MASTIFFS COME FROM?
See
Mastiff History for a brief history of the breed

What are Mastiffs good for?   Are all mastiffs the same?
Mastiffs excel as companions, family members, therapy workers and as watch dogs. Mastiffs have also done well, when properly trained and conditioned, at carting, tracking, obedience, conformation showing, search and rescue (SAR), and weight pulling. They are also great foot warmers and couch potatoes. :-)
Are Mastiffs:

a.  Aggressive?

Aggression is unnecessary force or dominance in any situation. Aggression should not be confused with protection where a dog uses force or dominance to protect its people or territory when threatened.

The typical Mastiff's temperament, by nature, is one of gentle demeanor. However, as with any breed, a Mastiff can become aggressive for varying reasons.

Typically, aggressive behavior is established due to environment as a "learned response" and/or results from a lack of proper socialization during the dog's developmental stages.

A certain percentage of dogs may be genetically unstable and inherit aggressive tendencies.

For this reason, before you purchase a puppy, it is best to ask the breeders about the temperament of the sire and the dam and try to see both if at all possible.

Some dogs may have a predisposition for certain characteristics which may be the basis for aggressive behavior: a dominant dog may exhibit Dominant Aggression, an unsocialized dog may develop Fear Motivated Aggression, or a dog unsocialized with other dogs may develop Species Aggression.

Most aggression can be prevented by proper rearing and socialization, beginning as a puppy.

If you are experiencing a problem, consult your Mastiff's breeder, your veterinarian, and/or a trained animal behaviorist BEFORE the problem becomes serious.

     c.  Fighters?
Mastiffs, with their gentle natures, do not have the instincts that dogfighters are looking for. Their protective instincts make them actually the opposite to the aggressive fighting personality. However, they will, at times, fight among themselves, or with other dogs, for the typical canine reasons such as pack dominance and sexual competition. Two 190 pound adult male Mastiffs in combat for pack leadership can be next to impossible, as well as exceedingly dangerous, to separate.
e.  Protective?
Mastiffs are excellent guard dogs. They go to the door and bark, their hackles stand up, and they look formidable, but Mastiffs, as a breed, are not trigger-happy. They have a gentle, rather than an aggressive, nature.

Mastiffs need the company of their human family much more than some other breeds of dogs do.

A Mastiff left alone, tied out, or kept in a fenced yard with too little human company, will either pine away or develop destructive behaviors out of loneliness and anxiety.

Denied the needed time with its family, a Mastiff may be much LESS protective because it isn't sure it belongs to that family.

A normal, well adjusted Mastiff will protect it's family, but only if the need arises. You don't want an aggressive Mastiff that protects you from friends and family.

The ideal temperament is one where you never know that you are being protected unless a true situation arises where a Mastiff's services are needed.

No. Like humans, Mastiffs are individuals. Each has its own genetic and environmental history that effects its attitude, temperament, health and responses to stimuli. These questions are answered with the general breed characteristics in mind, no individual Mastiff will match the answers in every respect.

Oh, that's not what you meant? While it is correct that the breed of mastiff dog developed in England has pre-empted the official name of 'Mastiff', according to the AKC's 'The Complete Dog Book', 18th Edition, "The breed commonly called "Mastiff" in English speaking countries is more properly described as the 'Old English' Mastiff." From the same source: "The term 'mastiff' describes a group of giant varieties of dogs rather than a single breed." Today this group of giant breed dogs is more commonly referred to as 'Molossers'.

If this is what you meant, then No, not all mastiffs are the same. See Other Molossers for a list of some of the different Molosser Breeds.

b. Easy to train?
Both easy and difficult. Mastiffs are smart, and live to please. However, they go through phases where they are also stubborn, and these phases can last anywhere from a few weeks a couple of times in puppyhood to (in some cases) the lifetime of the dog!

Keep training sessions short (10-15 minutes) and frequent (several times a day). In addition to their stubbornness, Mastiffs have very sensitive feelings, and if they are frightened, hurt, or confused, they cannot be budged. Make training like a game. Use a happy, excited voice. You have to be consistent and firm to train effectively. Once a dog is well trained, it needs practice on a regular basis. Dogs LIKE to be trained because they WANT to know how to please their beloved owners. Once trained, a Mastiff seldom needs stronger correction than a stern voice.

Except for formal obedience training, you can use food treats for motivation. But the best reward for any Mastiff is lavish hugs and plenty of praise.
 
 d.  Good guard dogs?
Mastiffs are excellent guard dogs. They go to the door and bark, their hackles stand up, and they look formidable, but Mastiffs, as a breed, are not trigger-happy. They have a gentle, rather than an aggressive, nature.

Mastiffs need the company of their human family much more than some other breeds of dogs do. A Mastiff left alone, tied out, or kept in a fenced yard with too little human company, will either pine away or develop destructive behaviors out of loneliness and anxiety. Denied the needed time with its family, a Mastiff may be much LESS protective because it isn't sure it belongs to that family.

A normal, well adjusted Mastiff will protect it's family, but only if the need arises. You don't want an aggressive Mastiff that protects you from friends and family. The ideal temperament is one where you never know that you are being protected unless a true situation arises where a Mastiff's services are needed.
 f.  Shy?
Mastiffs are excellent guard dogs. They go to the door and bark, their hackles stand up, and they look formidable, but Mastiffs, as a breed, are not trigger-happy. They have a gentle, rather than an aggressive, nature.

Mastiffs need the company of their human family much more than some other breeds of dogs do. A Mastiff left alone, tied out, or kept in a fenced yard with too little human company, will either pine away or develop destructive behaviors out of loneliness and anxiety. Denied the needed time with its family, a Mastiff may be much LESS protective because it isn't sure it belongs to that family.

A normal, well adjusted Mastiff will protect it's family, but only if the need arises. You don't want an aggressive Mastiff that protects you from friends and family. The ideal temperament is one where you never know that you are being protected unless a true situation arises where a Mastiff's services are needed.

  1. What are Mastiffs like in the house?
    Clean, quiet, and undemanding. Heaven to a Mastiff is a rug beside his owner's chair. Mastiffs are naturally clean (except for slobber), and quick to housebreak. Most adult Mastiffs don't chew what they shouldn't, and they don't get on the furniture (unless you let them ;-)).

    If you do let your young Mastiff on the sofa, just remember that they grow FAST, and it is unfair and quite unreasonable to let the dog learn to enjoy something, and then decide the dog is too big to get up there any more. Mastiffs have long memories, and are much easier to train correctly the first time than to retrain to get rid of bad habits.

     
  2. How much does a Mastiff:
       
      a.  Cost?
    Puppy prices usually run $1500 and up, depending on a number of variables such as pedigree, show potential, geographic location, and breeder costs. A higher price does NOT necessarily mean a better dog! Read this FAQ thoroughly to learn about testing and other evidences of health and soundness, as well as show wins, as the basis for selecting the pup most likely to be healthy, happy, and just what you want.

        
    b.  Eat?
    Probably not as much as you think. Pound for pound, the larger the dog the less food it needs for each pound of body weight. Exactly how much food your dog needs depends on many factors including its size, age and activity level. Feed your Mastiff a good quality, balanced diet - low on table scraps - and don't let him get too fat.

       
    c.  Weigh?
    Adult males generally run about 160-230 pounds, females are normally between 120-170 pounds. Males over 200 pounds are not too uncommon and a few females reach these weights. According to the Guinness Book of Records the record holder for the world's largest dog is Zorba, a Mastiff, at 343 pounds. He stood 37 inches at the shoulder and was 8 foot 3 inches from the tip of his nose to the tip of his tail. Zorba set this record in November, 1989, when he was 8 years old.
  Do Mastiffs:
    
a.  Bark Much?
Puppies are puppies in most breeds. Young pups tend to bark more than adults because of the excitement of play. Adults rarely bark except when you first arrive home, or they hear a sound they want you to investigate, like a doorbell. Most Mastiffs will howl if they hear a siren close by, since it sounds like a howl such as wild dogs would respond to.

   
  b.  Bite?
Any dog bites if hurt, frightened, or threatened, but a Mastiff that is properly trained and socialized will typically not bite except as a very last resort. Do NOT let a pup (of any age) bite anyone or anything (except its litter mates) in play, since they NEED to know that biting is not allowed. They will still bite if there is an absolute necessity, but will not try it any other times.

    
c.  Chew?
As for chewing, puppies of any breed need to be given durable toys that they know it is OK to chew. Any time you catch your puppy chewing on anything except its own chew toys, take the forbidden item away from it, and give it a chew toy, and encourage the dog to chew on its own toy. Praise it when it DOES chew on its own toy. Repeat as necessary (remember, we told you these dogs are stubborn!)

   
  d.  Dig?
Engineers on the Panama Canal project considered bringing in a myriad of Mastiffs to do the job, but ultimately rejected the idea when they figured out the manpower they'd have tied up in pooper scoopering. Seriously, though, many Mastiffs do like to dig. You'll have to ask them why. 

   
  e.  Make good obedience dogs?
By nature, Mastiffs are eager to please. This makes them good Obedience dogs. But like any other breed, temperaments vary between individuals, so some Mastiffs are better candidates for the Obedience ring than others.

Some Mastiffs are more laid back, aloof, and lethargic; while others are more outgoing, inquisitive, and athletic. Though both types of temperaments are trainable, the latter of these two temperaments would be better suited for competition in the Obedience ring.
 
 
Need a lot of exercise?
About as much as you do. Most Mastiffs are like most humans; they can manage a sedentary life reasonably well - but, also like most humans, they reach a physical peak with a moderate degree of exercise. It is important that you NOT over exercise any Mastiff under 2 years of age. Up until this age (and sometimes later) their skeleton is still developing. Since Mastiffs tend to be stoic, and also will do just about anything to be with and please their people, they can easily end up with an inflamed joint or other problems like those that beset humans who run for exercise.

When you do begin to exercise your Mastiff, begin GRADUALLY. Build up SLOWLY. Make sure you know and watch for the signs of your dog getting tired or overheated. Take ice and water with you in case the dog overheats. The extra weight will add more effect to your workout! This is not to say that Mastiffs should not have any exercise at all as pups. On the contrary, Mastiff puppies are still puppies and need to do puppy things like running and playing. If left to their own schedule, they will rest themselves when they get tired. Crating a pup for most of its puppyhood is more detrimental than letting it play and exercise in moderation in the house and yard. If you go for long walks and your pup gets tired, be prepared to carry it home! Once a Mastiff is fully grown and its growth plates have closed, it can usually keep up with the best of us!

    
g.  Pass gas?
Yep. Especially on a diet of beer, hard-boiled eggs and beans. Actually, like humans, it depends on how the Mastiff reacts to the food it eats, so using a good dog food should minimize the problem. If a dog can digest its food properly, it shouldn't have gas. Different dogs do best on different foods. See Question 20. 'What does a Mastiff eat?' for more information.

If a Mastiff should get gas in spite of your best efforts, watch out. It is overpowering.

    
h.  Roam?
Not usually. A Mastiff of either sex tends to be stay-at-home dog. Learning to stay within property boundaries comes naturally. Some individuals, however, would put Houdini to shame. Nevertheless, when your Mastiff is outdoors without supervision, as with all breeds, it's a good idea to have him in a secure, fenced enclosure.

   
  i.  Shed?
Yes, like most breeds they shed approximately twice a year. But, the short, sleek Mastiff coat is less objectionable, when it sheds, than the coats of many long-haired breeds. A daily brushing will prevent accumulation of hair around the house.

   
j.  Slobber?
Most Mastiffs only drool when 1) they have just had a drink of water or just ate, or 2) they are extremely agitated and fearful, or 3) you are eating anything that smells better than dog food, and you have been foolish enough to feed the dog some of your food at any time in the past.

Mastiffs with tighter lips tend to drool less. Experienced Mastiff folks keep hand towels all around, to wipe faces after every drink and meal, and other times as needed. If you wipe the drool off immediately, it is a lot less likely to get slung onto the dog's face or body, your furniture, you, or the walls. If it makes you feel any better, 1) you get used to it, and 2) St. Bernard breeders say their dogs can hit the ceiling with their slingers, while Mastiffs tend to only hit about waist height on a human.

Actually, if you are a habitual face-wiper it won't be bad at all, but to be realistic, "spit happens".

   
  k.  Smell?
Well, Mastiffs aren't bred for tracking, so they don't all have the best scent discrimination. Oh, you mean smell as in having B.O.?

Mastiffs need occasional bathing, but since they have a short coat, they dry fairly fast. If a Mastiff has a bad odor despite regular bathing with a good dog shampoo approved by your breeder or vet, it may have a medical problem such as fungus in the ears or between the toes, or a digestive or dental problem, which can cause bad breath. Hypothyroid dogs tend to have B.O., and infected anal glands can cause a serious stench. Time to go to the vet to check it out.

    
l.  Snore?
Yes. Ohhhh, yes. You'd better believe it!

Actually, snoring is genetic. The reason a dog snores is due to a long soft palate (the back of the upper palate). This characteristic, like any other, is inherited. This does NOT mean that the dog has to have a long 'muzzle' to be a snorer! It just means that the upper palate has a longer soft palate.

So you may see certain bloodlines which do not have as many problems with snoring and some which are horrendous snorers.

    
m.  Live indoors or outdoors?
Indoors, of course. What's the sense of having a Mastiff if you don't have it close to you? It certainly can't protect you from the boogie man if it's tied out in the yard. And it's useless as a footstool if you keep it fastened in a kennel or locked in the garage.

Seriously, Mastiffs seem to have an instinctive need and desire to be as close as possible to their human family, to the point that their emotional development can be stunted if they are deprived of that closeness. Many breeders will refuse to sell a Mastiff unless the new owner guarantees that it will be kept as a house dog.