Mastiffs are very large, but gentle dogs. Their coat is short and comes in apricot, brindle, and fawn with very dark areas of coloring on the muzzle, ears, nose, and around the eyes. The outer coat is coarse and straight, and the undercoat is short, dense, and close lying. These dogs have dark eyes, V-shaped ears, and a short, broad muzzle. Male Mastiffs measure at least 30 inches tall at the shoulder, while females measure at least 27.5 inches tall at the shoulder. These dogs weigh anywhere from 120 to 230 pounds.
It is essential that growing Mastiffs be kept at a healthy weight and prevented from exercising too strenuously.
Sometimes referred to as "gentle giants," Mastiffs are massive dogs with quiet, loving, and dignified personalities. These are people-loving dogs that bond closely with their human family members. Because of the breed's large size, it is best suited for life in the country.
The Mastiff is one of the biggest dogs to be recognized by the AKC. This breed towers over most others, and it is just as solid as it is tall.
Mastiffs are known for their mellow personalities. They are more likely to be found stretched out on the couch than engaged in any sort of active exercise, and they rarely ever bark or make noise. They are loving and friendly dogs, but their massive size and protective nature makes them excellent guard dogs.
The breed tends to be a little on the lazy size, and these dogs may need some encouragement when it comes to exercising. A daily walk is important for their physical and mental health, though, and they should not be allowed to be too sedentary. Because of their size, these dogs must always be kept on a leash when out in public.
Mastiffs are devoted to their families, especially the children in the household, and will become unhappy if left alone or ignored for long periods. Because of this, they should live inside and should receive plenty of attention and affection. Also, they don't tolerate heat very well, which is another reason for making sure they have a nice bed to sleep in inside the house.
Mastiffs are prone to a number of common health issues, many of which are related to the breed's large size. Hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, cruciate ligament injuries, and a number of structural and joint problems affect the breed and may significantly interfere with mobility. It is essential that growing Mastiffs be kept at a healthy weight and prevented from exercising too strenuously. If these dogs are allowed to overexert themselves or become obese, they are likely to suffer injuries that can lead to loss of mobility later in life.
Mastiffs are also known to be affected by vaginal hyperplasia, cardiomyopathy, mitral dysplasia, pulmonic stenosis, subaortic stenosis, and cystinuria, which is a genetic kidney disorder. Bloat and certain cancers, including lymphosarcoma, are other concerns. Additionally, these dogs are prone to a number of eye conditions, including entropion, ectropion, persistent pupillary membranes, corneal dystrophy, progressive retinal atrophy, and retinal dysplasia.
Provided they are free of any serious genetic disease, Mastiffs that receive routine veterinary care, timely vaccinations, and a proper diet generally live as long as 10 years.
Mastiffs are responsive, intelligent, and obedient, but they are also sometimes very stubborn. They don't require much training, which is good considering their massive size. Anyone not comfortable with or physically able to handle a 200-pound dog should reconsider adopting or purchasing one of these animals.
To be effective, training must be fair and consistent and begin before the Mastiff reaches adulthood and bad behaviors have become a part of daily life. Issues that a Mastiff may need help with include pulling on the leash, jumping on people, and digging in the yard. These dogs are generally easy to housetrain, provided they are given plenty of opportunities to eliminate in appropriate locations.
Socialization is something all Mastiffs need if they are to grow into tolerant adults. Early socialization helps ensure these dogs do not become overprotective and that they are able to distinguish threatening body language from playful body language. The breed should be introduced to different animals, people, sights, sounds, and smells early in life, and socialization should continue throughout adulthood with trips to local businesses, walks around town, and time at the dog park.
Mastiffs are fairly easy to groom. Their short coat sheds moderately, but brushing every other day with a rubber curry brush will keep loose hair under control and prevent it from accumulating on baseboards and furniture. Shedding may become heavier during spring and fall, but daily brushing is usually sufficient to keep up with the hair.
Mastiffs tend to drool a lot, so it's wise to keep a few rags on hand. A quick wipe after meals or drinks will also cut down on the slobbery mess. Additionally, the Mastiff's wrinkles need to be wiped clean and dried daily to prevent infection and odor. Bathing is only necessary should the breed become dirty or roll around in something dangerous or sticky.
The ears need checking weekly for excess wax accumulation and signs of ear infection. Redness, odor, discharge, or other unusual symptoms should be reported to a veterinarian right away. The teeth should be brushed daily with a canine toothpaste, and the nails need trimming every few weeks to prevent snags and breaks.
The Mastiff's history goes back a very long time. Egyptian drawings dating back to 3000 B.C. show typical Mastiffs, and evidence exists that the breed was noticed by Caesar in 55 B.C. as it fought alongside British soldiers. Caesar was so impressed with the dogs that he brought several back to Rome and forced them into lion fighting and bull baiting.
Later, the dogs were bred in England, where they were used primarily as watchdogs for two thousand years. They were popular with English peasants, as they were very effective at keeping wolves and other predators away. The breed suffered a decline in popularity in England during the 1940s, but American enthusiasts kept the breed going and eventually re-established the Mastiff's numbers around the world.
Today, these dogs are kept primarily as companion animals in the United States. Their very large size limits them to mostly suburban and rural areas, although it is not uncommon to see them in cities.
The American Kennel Club officially recognized the Mastiff in 1885.