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 number 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 back 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. They 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?

The temperament for this breed is gentle, and they are intelligent dogs. 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, his great memory will tell him he can always do it — even when he reaches almost 200 pounds! Set clear ground rules and stick to them.

They can appear aggressive when protecting the home or family members but should not 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 housebreak and don’t bark much — unless they have a reason. Mastiffs 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?

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[efsiconheading type=”h4″ style=”fi-guide-dog”]Exercise Needs[/efsiconheading]

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MEDIUM: Mastiffs need daily walks. Exercise for puppies should be limited up to 2 years old because of their bone growth. After 2 years of age, an exercise routine can be implemented, but start slowly and build up to longer walks or playtime.

They 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 her instinctual love of digging.
[efsiconheading type=”h4″ style=”fi-paw”]Grooming Needs[/efsiconheading]

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MEDIUM: The coat should be brushed daily. The dog sheds 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. Occasional bathing can be done as needed. Also, keep the teeth cleaned; the same goes for your dog’s ears and nails.
[efsiconheading type=”h4″ style=”fi-heart”]Health Problems[/efsiconheading]

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


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 her parents.

Additional Resources

Kristine Lacoste

View posts by Kristine Lacoste
Kristine Lacoste, editor in chief of Petful, is an author, poet and pet lover from Louisiana. She is the author of an award-nominated book, One Unforgettable Journey, and was host of a weekly pet news segment on the National K-9 Academy Radio Show. She was the New Orleans coordinator for Dogs on Deployment, a nonprofit that helps military members and their pets, for 3 years. She is also employed as chief operating officer for a large mental health practice in Louisiana. Kristine has a bachelor’s degree in psychology, a bachelor’s degree in English and a Master of Business Administration degree.

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