Mastiffs Quick Facts:
- AKC recognized in 1885
- Lifespan: 10 - 12 years
- Size: Giant
- Energy: Medium
- Recommended Crate Size: 54" dog crate*
Return to the main Dog Crate Sizes Breed Chart.
The Mastiffs seem to always become people’s favorite dogs. These dogs are known as one of the oldest breeds of dogs recognized by the American Kennel Club. The dog’s ancestor was known as the Molossus. A breed that was recognized 5,000 years earlier. In the past, the dog was very wild and ferocious. In fact, the Mastiff's ancestors joined the war efforts at that time.
In contrast, today the Mastiffs are popular due their caring and gentle personality. They become great companions of those around them. One of the primary challenges of the Mastiff is its size. As long as the owner can accommodate it, there won’t be lots of troubles. Behemoth is the perfect word to represent these massive dogs.
The breed of this dog has been around for decades. People often used the dog to fight with other animals, even lions. These days, people can be happy just being around these huge dogs. They are courageous, dignified, and kind. Many kids like them due to the dog’s calm characteristic.
In a nutshell, the dog is very quiet and caring. They love kids but their size can present a problem for family's with small children. People who live in a small house or condo should reconsider their living environment to accommodate this breed. Apart from the size, there’s another consideration: their short lifespan. They have only 10 years of living on average.
The most noticeable thing about the Mastiffs is their heavy and large appearance. They are huge! The head is heavy and square, with a short nose. The dog has a black mask around the nose and eyes. Their ears also have a similar color to the eyes. Mastiffs have an alert expression thanks to their wide eyes.
The ears are quite small when compared to the dog’s head. The dog has a high tail which almost seems like it doesn’t match its short coat. The male adult Mastiffs can have a minimum height of 30 inches with females being a little shorter. The heaviest ones can be around 150 – 240 pounds.
There are abundant choices of food for Mastiffs. The owner can simply visit pet stores to buy the dry food. The dog must eat a balanced diet to stay healthy. This is why owners should choose the food in a careful manner. Puppies and older Mastiffs require slightly different nutrients.
Owners should feed younger puppies by hand. Later, they can give puppy porridge products and biscuits at the age of 5 weeks. Manufactured milk isn’t required as the puppies get it from the mother. Mastiffs typically love to eat minced lamb or beef.
The Mastiffs have a short coat and hair and may on occasion shed a lot. The worst of it is usually during the fall and spring. The dog requires weekly brushing. When it comes to bathing, be sure to clean their wrinkles in order to prevent infections.
It is also imperative to check their ears regularly. Never overlook this as it’s important to prevent infection, buildup, and irritation inside the dog’s ears. Teeth cleaning is also important to minimize tartar accumulation and bad breath.
The Mastiffs need adequate exercise, but are also comfortable and enjoy spending time at home. This means they are a family dog with some people even preferring this giant dog sitting on their lap! What about their activities? They usually prefer regular exercise like jumping and light running. Too much strenuous exercise may harm the dog. Puppies are particularly prone to injuries in this regard.
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Pet Crate Size
Pet Crates Direct recommends 54" dog crates* for most Mastiffs.
Return to the main Dog Crate Sizes Breed Chart.
* Links for crate sizes will bring you to the most appropriate Amazon page.
The Massive Mastiff
The Mastiff is a proud, massive dog. This colossal canine is a dignified one. Despite his giant size, great strength and heavy-bone build, he can be amazingly docile...or not. It is for sure and for certain that he will fiercely protect those he loves but he is a big ole slobbery teddy bear at heart.
Ancient History of the Mastiff
The Mastiff’s history dates back over 5,000 years! This makes him one of the most primitive types of dog breeds. He is a direct descendant to the Molossus which was a fierce-fighting war dog of the day. In fact, the word “mastiff” translates to mean “a large molosser dog”.
Molosser dogs, in general, are built solid and are quite large with pendant, hanging ears and a very muscular, short neck. Their muzzle is short and broad as well. The name “Molosser” originated in Epirus where very large sized shepherd dogs abounded.
When used loosely, the word Molosser can actually encompass a wide range of dogs, called “mastiff types”, such as Bulldogs, Great Danes, Pit Bull Terriers, Pugs, Boston Terriers and various mountain dogs.
To clear up any confusion, the Mastiff family consists of more than 14 different breeds including the English Mastiff, the Neapolitan Mastiff, the Tibetan Mastiff and the Bullmastiff.
The Molossers of old originated in the Asian mountains, possibly in Tibet or northern India. Other Molossers with similar backgrounds and duties were the Saint Bernard, Rottweiler and Tibetan Mastiff. They guarded flocks in the high, frigid passes where they fiercely fought off predators.
The dogs were also in Babylonian, Egyptian and classical Greek civilizations where Mastiff-types were said to fight off lions. Later they served in other areas not only as guards but as dogs of war too.
Another historical use for the Mastiff-types was for entertainment of the people. Pitted against lions and other ferocious animals, they were coveted for their huge size and innate ability to fight. Word of what the dogs were capable of traveled throughout the world and soon they were transported by traders for their militaries, for hunting, entertainment and guard uses.
In England, the dogs were especially regarded for their excellence in guarding expensive estates where they patrolled the grounds both day and night. It was there, from the 15th century to the 20th century, that Lyme Hall made the breed famous for their guarding talents. The breed almost fell into extinction when food shortages of World Wars I and II made it difficult for families to put food on the table, much less to feed a dog with the appetite of a Mastiff. It is speculated that the guarding role actually preserved the breed from extinction and also led to the modern day version of Mastiffs.
Still, the barbaric blood sports of the era almost put an end to them. Employed for events such as bull-baiting, bear-baiting and dog-baiting, many met their demise. Their saving grace, however, was the rising popularity of dog shows in which the breed excelled.
Two Mastiff puppies were imported to the United States from Canada following the war though and the population soon multiplied and the gentle giant love affair has been going strong ever since.
Popularity of the Powerhouse Pup
Mastiffs were beloved in America even back in the Colonial days. But with the troublesome past and their near extinction, it took until 1879 for the first Mastiff club to form. In 1885, the American Kennel Club formally recognized the Mastiff and the rest is history. The Mastiff ranks number 55 in popularity which isn’t bad considering there are 154 other breeds he’s up against!
A slew of celebrities are wild about Mastiffs such as American actor and activist Marlon Brando, Jr., actress Kirstie Alley, co-anchor of CBS’ This Morning, Gayle King, former pro baseball player, Larry King, “The Rock”, American and Canadian wrestler Dwayne Douglas Johnson and American film maker Michael Bay. The late great actor, film producer and director, George Campbell Scott adored his beloved Mastiff.
It seems musicians find Mastiffs sweet music to their ears too. The American musician with Australian roots, Flea (Michael Pete Balzry), has a mighty Mastiff. Singer songwriter Jon Bon Jovi (John Francis Bongiovi, Jr.) is an avid fan of the breed. American legendary singer-songwriter, writer and artist, Bob Dylan, has not one but many Mastiffs. Seven of them also guard his exclusive mansion. The iconic singer, Christina Aguilera, sings praises of Mastiffs too.
Mastiff as Celebrity
Not only are Mastiffs owned by celebs, but they are celebrities in their own rights too. Film maker Michael Bay makes sure to cast a Mastiff whenever possible. RV starring Robin Williams had a Mastiff in it. The brindle Mastiff, Lennie, played in Hotel for Dogs and a fawn Mastiff was featured in Transformer 2. Turner and Hooch, Sandlot and Harry Potter are all graced with Mastiff dogs as well. The show Cougar Town regularly has a brindle Mastiff named Travis on it.
In the book Canterbury Tales, the author, Geoffrey Chaucer, wrote about Mastiffs, calling the “Alaunts” which was a French bred variation. He mentioned that they hunted deer and lion and were “as great as any steer”. In 1415, the breed aided the British when they fought the French in the Battle of Agincourt which inspired William Shakespeare to write about their immortality.
A Mastiff named Arnold is a popular therapist at Fort Drum, New York. He is a certified therapy dog who works in the Army’s Substance Abuse Program. Over the course of his five years of active duty there, he has interacted with many, reducing their stress and anxiety and helping them along their healing paths.
Studies have proven that the job Arnold is doing is a success as monitored blood pressure rates have been documented as dropping as much as 15 points. Arnold has been in the media regularly due to his celebrity status as a certified U.S. worker.
There’s no doubt that the big-baby giant breed has stolen the hearts of many and will steal many more to come.
The Mastiff’s Appearance
The minimal height of a Mastiff male is around 30 inches (at the shoulder). He weighs in anywhere between 150 to 240 pounds, more than some human men! His body is somewhat rectangular in shape and thick and muscular in build. He sports a muzzle that is short. His head is massive, heavy and quite broad and his forehead wrinkles with expressions of curiosity and affection.
The coat of the Mastiff is doubled and can be apricot, brindle striped or fawn. The breed wears a notorious black mask that goes around his eyes and nose. His ears are always a dark color too and some have a little white patch on their chests.
Just one look at the majestic Mastiff gives an air of confidence and grace. He gives a first impression that could be frightening but a closer look gives way to reveal his lovable and affectionate side.
Personality of the Mastiff
It seems the Mastiff does everything in a big way. He excels in serving and protecting. He is quite sensitive and he loves deeply.
Being territorial is one of his good and bad points. He fearlessly and adamantly defends the yard, car or any other spot he happens to be “in charge of”. But, given clear instruction and a little training, can easily share his territory with kids or other animals. Of course having one with very small children should be supervised so he doesn’t get too excited and knock the child over by accident. Furthermore, you will need to properly introduce him to other dogs in the household.
A Mastiff longs for love. He wants to be fully included in the family. It won’t matter what that entails - riding to the post office or going for a picnic at the lake. He will be very insulted if you don’t invite him to take part in any and all activities.
Mastiffs also wear their hearts on their sleeves. When talking to him or giving him a command, you will need to use your “nice voice” at all times. They can certainly be big babies.
Mastiffs can be great working dogs. They are smart as whips. His noble demeanor and physical abilities make him excellent for tracking, search and rescue, and therapeutic duties. They have even been in law enforcement and in the military too.
Given the right training and direction, the Mastiff’s personality lends itself to endless possibilities, all a unique mix of both gentleness and courage.
Exercising Your Mastiff
It’s a fact that Mastiffs need plenty of exercise. Even if he has plenty of land to romp on, taking him on a formal walk is good for both him and you. It creates a opportunity of bonding and also establishes you as the pack leader...providing you lead, that is.
You simply cannot afford to have your “one hundred pounds plus” dog pulling you around by the leash. It is imperative to train him to walk obediently with no tugging whatsoever.
As far as the amount of exercise he will require, two walks of 20 minutes or more should be sufficient but never hesitate to give him more. Failure to properly exercise him will result in disaster, guaranteed.
Mastiff Medical Facts
Before acquiring a Mastiff, you will want to make yourself aware of the potential medical issues a Mastiff might be susceptible to, for his sake and yours too. If you go through a breeder, insist on backing up your Mastiff’s health with some formal paperwork. Here are some medical problems to watch for:
The Mastiff is somewhat prone to eye issues so it is a good idea to be watchful of such possible conditions. Cataracts may inflict one or both of the eye lenses and can actually cause your dog to be blind.
Distichiasis is a condition where the eyelashes are located abnormally in the margin of his eyelid which can be a source of extreme irritation and discomfort.
Persistent Pupillary Membranes, or PPM, occurs when blood vessel remnants persistently remain in the anterior chamber of the eye, failing to normally regress within his infancy.
Ectropion can be an irritation. It occurs when there is a conformation defect that results in eversion of the eyelids.
Macroblepharon is a condition where the eyelids have an abnormally large opening that can cause corneal exposure.
Entropion can also be a problem. It takes place when the margins of the eyelid rub against the cornea which can be irritating and painful.
Progessive Retinal Atrophy, or PRA, is a degenerative retinal disease which ends in blindness may show up by 6 months of age or may surface as late as 42 months. Blindness may not occur until 8 years of age in the more fortunate cases.
Retinal Dysplasia Retinopathy (Canine Multi-focal Retinopathy) is the abnormal development of the retina which is present at birth and should be screened for prior to purchase or adoption.
Impacts of Size on Structure
The size and weight of the Mastiff leaves him vulnerable to joint and structural problems. Keep a careful eye out for any signs of tell-tale issues like limping or favoring one side when walking or running.
ACL (Anterior Cruciate Ligament) is when the two supporting ligaments inside the knee joint becomes injured or malfunctions. Inability or disinterest in bearing weight on the limb is a sign of the disorder. Surgery can usually correct the issue.
Elbow dysplasia is the same problem but involves the dog’s elbow. There are three forms of elbow dysplasia. A proper diagnosis can determine the type and then treatments can be addressed.
Hip Dysplasia is caused by an abnormal formation of the hips. It can be quite painful and results in limping in the hindquarters or inability to walk altogether.
Hypertrophic Osteodystrophy is a disorder in the development of the toes which causes them to turn out or in. It is often caused or can be aggravated by a poor diet or by a consumption of too many calories. Symptoms include lethargy, pain and inability to function. Fever may be present too.
Wandering Lameness (Panosteitis) is a long bone developmental condition which is thought to be genetic in origin. It causes lameness in one or more legs.
Cystinuria (an inherited metabolic disease) debilitates the kidney and bladder and is more predominant in males but sometimes affects females too. Symptoms may include acid, crystals and/or stones in his urine.
Epilepsy is a disorder that leads to seizures. There can be multiple reasons for the seizures but Mastiffs can be inclined to carry the inherited condition. It may surface as early as five months of age or as late as five years of age, or a little older even. The condition can prove difficult to successfully treat in Mastiffs and other over-sized breeds.
Chronic bloating due to Gastric Dilation, Volvulus or Torsion is a culprit among giant dogs like the Mastiff. It comes on suddenly, without warning, filling the stomach area with air and has the potential to twist it to a full 190 degrees. Physical or emotional stress can provoke the condition as can a poor diet, lack of exercise and gulping large amounts of water at one time.
Other medical woes that Mastiffs may encounter include cancer, environmentally based or hereditary in origin.
Grooming Your Mastiff
Mastiff’s have short hair so you would think they wouldn’t pose a shedding issue. That’s not necessarily the case though. They actually tend to shed all year, especially in the fall and spring. Brushing him once or twice a week is highly recommended. Using a hound mitt* helps to control flyaway hair.
You only need to bathe him as it is needed (if he rolls in something stinky or gets muddy) but do clean in the crevices of his wrinkles on a regular basis so bacteria doesn’t build. Mastiffs are prone to get infections in those hard-to-reach areas but a clean, damp rag with a tad of dog shampoo on it will do wonders. Be sure to dry the skin afterwards. It’s a good idea to clean his flews (hanging upper lip) after every meal.
Mastiff ears can be sensitive to wax buildup and infection so check them regularly. Clean them often with cleanser approved by his veterinarian and a cotton ball. Never use a swab or mess with his ear canal.
You’ll want to brush his teeth weekly, using a toothbrush and vet-approved tooth paste. This will help keep his gums in tip-top shape and will prevent tartar buildup too. His breath will be a lot better when his teeth are regularly brushed too.
Keep an eye on his toenails. Most Mastiffs are outdoors enough to wear the nails down to a good level but if you notice they are getting too long or if they click on the flooring when he comes indoors or on outside concrete, trim them up or have a groomer do so.
Treating his grooming time with positivity is imperative. The Mastiff is huge so you will want to do whatever you can to gain his cooperation. Given his loving nature and desire for your approval and affection, the task should not be a difficult one.
Back to His Roots
Some characteristics, both physical and temperamental, are in the Mastiff’s bloodline. His ancestral traits have been passed down from generation to generation like his talent for courageously protecting that which he holds dear, be it the livestock he’s guarding or his human family. His fearless disposition is also in his genes.
Such inherited attributes are awesome when they're appropriate. If you are walking with your Mastiff in the woods and stumble upon a bear, you’ll thank your lucky stars he will have your back, no matter the cost. But, on the flip side, if you are walking him down the street and come upon a neighborhood dog that he thinks is a threat (but really isn’t), it will be time to override his primal instincts.
The booming loud bark of the Mastiff was a godsend when keeping lions and bears at bay. Mastiffs were known for chasing predators off with their ferocious and relentless barking alone. But if he’s barking off a squirrel in the backyard of your suburban backyard, the scenario takes on a whole different perspective.
The Mastiff’s huge size is a physical trait that had great value in the bloodline throughout the years. “The bigger, the better” was the theme when pitting Mastiffs against other dogs or animals. Even when guarding castles or herds, his tremendous size was quite useful. But in modern days, his massive presence can be overwhelming. You are probably not going to want him as a lap dog or as a roommate in a small apartment.
Just because your Mastiff has these inherent traits doesn’t mean you can’t work with him to appropriately adapt to his current surroundings. He can be taught to cease barking or to heal.
Likewise, you can do your part to make sure you take his traits into consideration. His size can be accommodated by making sure his living area is spacious. His bounding energy can be channeled through ample exercise.
The Mastiff definitely comes with a bloodline that is rich in physical and temperamental characteristics. Knowing which can be modified to suit your purposes and which cannot, is imperative.
Training the Gentle Giant
Without question, Mastiffs need to be trained for obedience if nothing else. While they are quite smart and capable of more, such as learning tricks and dashing through agility courses, first and foremost, he must learn to mind. When your 180 pound pup insists on chasing a squirrel across the busy street, you’ll be happy you have taught him to obey your command to “heal”.
Don't Worry, Be Happy
Love, praise and affection - Mastiffs eat it all up so consider training him by giving pats as rewards. Treats can be used to within reason. Remember that the breed is much too sensitive for you to train with a harsh tone of voice or with any irritation in your commands. The Mastiff is considered a “soft breed” meaning he requires very little, if any, scolding for the training to be effective.
Engaging your Mastiff for training time is imperative. Gaining his full cooperation is easy when you make it fun and go along with his likes and dislikes. He is a breed that is eager to please so incorporate that into the lessons.
Socialization is imperative. It is best to expose your Mastiff pup to people, other animals and different situations as much as possible when he is very young. Doing so will make him more friendly and flexible in nature.
House Break or Break the House
Because of his large size, a Mastiff puppy can make quite a large mess when he “goes” in the house so you will want to potty train him as soon as you can. He will generally require very little in order to accomplish the task as long as you keep a watchful eye out for signals that he is ready to do his business. When training you should also be sure to take him out frequently even when he isn’t showing signs.
In the event that you are not home, be sure he has an alternative place to potty like in a litter box or on a newspaper. If your Mastiff is strictly an outside dog, you can designate a potty area. Generally this can be accomplished by simply showing him the spot he is expected to use and praising him when he does so.
Mastiff as a Bad Dog
Bad behaviors must be confronted immediately. Mastiffs are lovers but they can also be hostile toward human strangers and unfamiliar dogs. They may have a fancy for chasing neighborhood cats or squirrels in the backyard and are sometimes food aggressive too. It’s one thing if a Poodle has a tendency to jump on you but if your Mastiff does, you’re in for some big trouble and possible injury. Taking the time to let him know this behavior will not be tolerated will usually clear up the issue.
There are some actions that aren’t necessarily bad but that are not good for a large dog to engage in that you will want to address. Because Mastiffs are prone to mobility issues, like joint and bone problems, it’s a good idea to teach him to refrain from jumping down from extreme heights to where his massive weight would fall on his limbs. If he shows signs that he is thinking about leaping from a high spot, especially onto a hard surface, you can simply hold out your hand in a “stop” signal or gently, yet firmly, tell him “no”.
Obedience training is fairly easy with the breed once you establish the fact that you are the boss, the pack leader. This can be done by frequent walks in which you lead the way and other engaging situations where you spend time with him yet are obviously in charge. The more time the two of you spend together, the more he will catch on to the pecking order.
When a Mastiff misbehaves, he usually does so in a big way. If he is left alone with too much pent up energy, he has the ability to chew not just a spot on your sofa but to practically eat the entire thing. He won’t just paw at a place on your flooring, he might rip it all out entirely. While small dogs might nibble at a shoe when being naughty, a Mastiff is liable to tear all your shoes to shreds. It’s not that he’s more ornery than other breeds, it’s just that he is bigger and able to get into more and that he has so much energy, it must be harnessed.
His capability to get into big messes makes it all the more important to train him to be a good dog. Patience and persistence will be required.
Mastiffs are able to do agility training so if that is of interest to you, there are many resources online to help you learn how to effectively train him. It’s amazing to see a dog the size of a Mastiff, gracefully jumping through hoops. It is also a fantastic way to channel some of his energy.
Is a Mastiff a Good Match for You and Your Family?
He’s one 120+ pounds of pure love. He’s mighty and meek, giant yet gentle. The massive Mastiff is magnificent...but is he right for you?
Of all the wonderful things a Mastiff is, there are equally as many things he is NOT. He is not a lap dog nor is he just a trophy dog to stick in the backyard just to be able to brag that you have a Mastiff. He’s a big, slobbering lug, to be quite honest. He requires a lot...a lot of attention, a lot of space and...a whole lot of food! Can you afford 6-8 cups of quality dog food PER DAY? Do you have ample space for him to romp and lots of energy to make sure he works off his? What about his snoring. Will you be able to deal with his endless and loud sawing of logs? Most importantly, can you give him the abounding love he craves?
If you have searched your soul and still find a Mastiff is a good match for you and your family, you are in for the treat of a lifetime! Mastiffs are awesome companions. They are loyal beyond belief and are willing and able to prove it if need be. They are smart, fun and funny. They are gentle and tolerant with other dogs and children.
It is a good idea to think through every situation you might possibly encounter when living with a Mastiff. Think of the time, the expense, the inconvenience of his large size and the potential medical conditions. Of course, you should also take into consideration the good points too.
The bottom line is if you are willing to iron out some of the wrinkles this breed comes with, the Mastiff might just be a marvelous match for you. Mastiffs come with enormous responsibilities, but with enormous rewards as well.