5 Things to Know About Mastiffs

Mastiffs are large, gentle giants with strong guarding instincts. They are easy to groom, and they form strong bonds with their family members.

1. Key Characteristics

  • AKC Group: Working
  • Height: 27–30 inches
  • Weight: 130–220 pounds, though some Mastiffs reportedly weigh close to 300 pounds
  • Life Expectancy: 6–10 years

This short-haired gentle giant is a large, powerful dog and is No. 1 on our list of biggest dog breeds in the world.

Mastiffs (a.k.a. English Mastiffs or Old English Mastiffs) have large heads that are square in appearance, and their brown or hazel eyes are surrounded by a dark mask, the color of which also appears on the ears, which are small and V-shaped.

The tail tapers down to the end and is set high.

The coat can be short or medium in length but not long. Coat colors include fawn, apricot and brindle. Some white may also be seen, but this is usually located on the chest, if present.

2. Where They Came From

The Mastiff is an ancient dog breed with origins dating to 3000 B.C. in the form of drawings in Egypt.

The breed was present when Caesar invaded Britain in 55 B.C. The dogs were so impressive to Caesar that he brought some of them back to Rome. The Mastiffs were then used in gladiator and lion fights as well as bull baiting.

British people kept the dogs for protection from wolves and other predators around their homes. They eventually appeared in the United States and were recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1885.

Today, Mastiffs are companion pets and guard dogs who may participate in obedience, therapy, carting, tracking, conformation, search and rescue, and weight pulling.

Mastiffs are truly massive dogs. By: byrdyak (Top: John McAllister)

3. How Friendly Are They?

Mastiffs are gentle and intelligent. They are eager to please and form strong bonds with their family members.

Their natural guarding instinct means they will not attack but instead do whatever is necessary to defend.

Mastiffs are sometimes stubborn, but it helps to keep training commands consistent from the puppy years to adulthood. If you allow something when your Mastiff is a puppy, their great memory will tell them they can always do it — even when your Mastiff reaches almost 200 pounds! So set clear ground rules and stick to them.

A Mastiff may appear aggressive when protecting the home or family members but shouldn’t be aggressive in nature.

Thorough socialization is recommended, and you should know that intact males may fight for dominance.

This breed needs to be close to family and should not be an outdoor-only dog. Isolation or long periods of separation can cause anxiety or destructive behaviors.

Mastiffs are easy to house-train and do not bark much — unless they have a reason. They are also known to snore because of their long, soft palate, but this will vary with each individual dog.

4. Is This the Right Dog for You?

Exercise Needs

Medium

MEDIUM: Mastiffs require daily walks. Exercise for puppies should be limited up to 2 years old because of their bone growth. After that, feel free to implement an exercise routine, but start slowly and build up to longer walks or playtime.

Your Mastiff should be exercised on a leash or in an enclosed area when outdoors. Mastiffs are relatively inactive indoors and can do well in apartments if their exercise needs are met outside.

Your Mastiff would probably appreciate a yard, especially because of their instinctual love of digging.

Grooming Needs

Medium

MEDIUM: Brush the coat every day. A Mastiff will shed an average amount, and this can increase to heavier shedding twice a year.

Drooling is common, so keep some towels handy for when the need arises. Bathe the dog as needed. Also, keep the teeth cleaned — the same goes for your Mastiff’s ears and nails.

Health Problems

High

HIGH: There are several health concerns to be aware of for this breed:

This adorable dog shows off the stubborn side of Mastiffs:

5. Where to Adopt One

Start with our search page to find a big, beautiful Mastiff near you. If you contact breeders, make sure they don’t run a puppy mill (read about the red flags here). Ask for health clearances on the dog or the parents.

Additional Resources

Kristine Lacoste

View posts by Kristine Lacoste
Kristine Lacoste, editor in chief of Petful, has been researching dog and cat breeds for nearly a decade and has observed the animals up close at dog shows in both the United States and the United Kingdom. She is the author of the book One Unforgettable Journey, which was nominated for a Maxwell Award from the Dog Writers Association of America, and was host of a weekly pet news segment on the National K-9 Academy Radio Show. In addition, she was the New Orleans coordinator for Dogs on Deployment, a nonprofit that helps military members and their pets, for 3 years. Kristine has researched and written about pet behaviors and care for many years. She holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology, another bachelor’s degree in English and a Master of Business Administration degree.

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