“What lion is to cat, the Mastiff is to dog,” goes a popular saying. If you happen to meet an English Mastiff for the first time, do not be scared of his large size as beneath his giant body, lies a heart of gold. He is a family pet in true sense. While his size will keep strangers at bay, his sweet disposition and friendly behaviour will keep your family happy. Here’s some more info about this exquisite breed. An English Mastiff is perhaps one of the most handsome breeds. His massive and muscular body, coupled with dark, hazel eyes, are admired by one and all. He is a rare combination of beautiful looks and sweet temperament.
“An English Mastiff is naturally protective and extremely possessive of his family and home. He thrives on human companionship and affection. Give him lots of quality time and, in turn, you will be rewarded with a loyal friend,” says Amit Gowda, a well-known breeder of English Mastiffs in Bangalore.
Journey down the lane…
Originating in Great Britain, the Mastiff was favoured by nobility as a hunting companion and revered by peasants as a family and livestock protector. Today the Mastiff is known for being a loving companion and a trusted guard dog.
The majestic look
The English Mastiff is a large and powerful dog with a muscular body. Large and heavy, he spreads an aura of grandeur and dignity. His dark eyes are set wide apart from each other and are hazel brown. Even his small, thick ears are set wide apart. Their muzzle is dark, short and broad, as is the nose which displays flat nostrils. The tail tapers down and is slightly curled at the end. He has large round feet, with black toe nails.
“The Mastiff is a double-coated breed. The outer coat is short, coarse, and straight while the under coat is dense and fits closely to the body. The colour of the coat can vary —apricot, fawn, or brindle while his nose, muzzle and ears are black. This breed is an average shedder,” tells Amit.
The average height of males is 31-34 inches while that of females is 27-29 inches and their weights are around 72 kg and 68 kg respectively. They have a life expectancy of about 10-12 years.
Docile and lovable
The Mastiff is a watchful, reliable, and intelligent breed. He is exceedingly loyal, patient and deeply devoted to his family. He thrives on human companionship and affection and does not do well if left alone for extended periods of time. He loves to please and needs a lot of companionship. Calm, steady and docile, the Mastiff does best in a home with older considerate children. It is important to socialise a Mastiff puppy to make him get along well with other dogs. This breed is naturally protective and is extremely possessive of his family and home. They are suspicious of strangers and will try their best to keep them at bay. However, they do not attack or harm them in normal circumstances. They excel in guarding, military and police work, weight pulling, and search and rescue.
Bringing home a Mastiff puppy
As a puppy, your Mastiff should not be allowed to do anything that you would not wish your full-grown Mastiff to do. “And because your puppy is going to be such a large dog, it is also a very, very good idea that he receives basic obedience training. You definitely would want your big fellow to listen to you,” adds Amit with a chuckle. Mastiffs grow amazingly fast and it is advised not to force their growth with artificial vitamins and calcium supplements. Instead, they should be fed with a nutritionally balanced diet. As it is, Mastiffs are genetically programmed to grow big and heavy and if they are allowed to grow at their own rate, they will become healthy dogs with minimum health problems related to joints and bones. Generally Mastiff puppies eat a lot of food while growing, until the age of two. An adult Mastiff generally has a slow metabolism and does not eat an exceptional amount of food. However, they should not be overfed as they can become fat, leading to problems with bones and joints, heart, liver, kidney, etc.
Mastiffs drink a lot of water. Hence, fresh water should be kept available at all times. During growth periods, a Mastiff puppy is subject to joint injury, hence excessive exercise should be controlled. Let him play at his own pace but do not encourage him to go for long walks, jumping obstacles, or any other exercise that will stress the joints.
Mastiff puppies also have a tendency to chew, or swallow, rocks and sticks. So, they should be watched closely and discouraged from doing so.
A Mastiff remains a puppy much longer than most breeds. Even though a Mastiff is already quite large by the time he is 6 months old, he is still growing and maturing rapidly. A Mastiff does not reach his full physical or mental maturity until around 3 years of age.
Life with a Mastiff
Early socialisation and obedience are crucial for this breed. “He is eager to please but may be difficult to train. He does not respond to harsh or heavy-handed methods. This breed does best with firmness, fairness, patience, respect, and consistency,” advises Amit. However, Amit cautions that the Mastiff is not recommended for the novice, inexperienced, or passive owner as they can be difficult to control.
Keeping him fit and fine
“The Mastiff is slow moving but daily securely leashed walks or a play session in a safe enclosure are highly recommended to keep him happy and fit,” tells Amit.
Styling and hygiene
“Brushing with a firm bristle brush will suffice, followed by wiping with a towel to give a gleaming finish. Bathing or dry shampooing should be done when necessary,” informs Amit. Their grooming schedule should also include cleaning ears and eyes and clipping his claws.
Watch out for health problems
The Mastiff is prone to hip and elbow dysplasia, bloat, ectropion, cardiomyopathy, and gastric torsion. They also have a tendency to drool and snore. All in all, an English Mastiff is a very loyal and patient dog and if you own one, you will be blessed with his love and companionship, which is simply priceless.
(With inputs from Amit Gowda, a hobby breeder who specializes in Great Danes, Mastiffs, Neapolitan Mastiffs, American Cockers and Saint Bernards. His registered kennel is ‘Neomass & Amrolyn’, he can be contacted at: 9845070811.)