AKC Dog Breeds: Mastiff

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Working Group
Height:26-30 inches  Weight: 175-200 pounds  Color: fawn, apricot, or brindle

One of the biggest dogs recognized by the American Kennel Club, the massive Mastiff loves being around people and is known to bond closely with his ‘family.’ A combination of grandeur and good nature as well as courage and docility, he was bred in England and used as a watchdog for more than two thousand years. As early as 3000 B.C., drawings on Egyptian monuments depict typical Mastiffs. Later, even Caesar noticed the fearless, strong Mastiff as it fought alongside the British soldiers in 55 B.C. Impressed by the breed’s courage, he brought a group of them back to Rome and forced them to take part in bull baiting, lion fighting and fights with human gladiators. Later, the Mastiff became popular with the peasants in England, where the dogs were used to keep wolves and other dangerous predators under control as well to as protect the home. The breed was registered with the AKC in 1885.

General Appearance
The Old English Mastiff is one of the heaviest breeds; a male Mastiff can exceed 200 pounds. This dog is very massive, powerful and muscular. The head is heavy and square with a short muzzle. There is a black mask around the eyes and nose   no matter what the general coat color. The eyes are small, dark, and hazel. The small ears should also be dark-colored. The teeth should meet in a scissors or slightly undershot bite. The tail is set quite high, tapers to the tip, and reaches to the hocks. The short coat comes in golden fawn, light fawn, brindle, silver, tiger, and apricot and is easy to groom. In the eighteenth century it was described as follows: "As a lion is to a cat, so is a mastiff compared to a dog."


The Mastiff is a dignified and loyal dog, with bags of courage, a pleasant nature, and high intelligence. The gigantic proportions of this breed make the Mastiff an effective deterrent and watchdog. Many Mastiffs are gentle giants, and have an even temper and docile nature. However, there can be aggression in some lines, and timidity in others. Early socialization is important with this breed in order to promote stability and confidence. These dogs require effective training, and although not difficult to train they do require a confident and assertive owner and are best suited to those with experience of dog ownership. This is not a breed for those with little time for a pet, as these dogs thrive on companionship and affection from their families. The Mastiff is not an overly active dog, but he does need a moderate amount of exercise in order to keep him fit and healthy. Although these dogs do not bark much, he is too large for apartment living, and does need somewhere secure and safe to exercise and enjoy activities, as well as regular walks. The Mastiff gets along well with children that he has been brought up with, and many will get along fine with other pets, although some can be dominant. Many will also be friendly and welcoming toward strangers. In the right environment, and with early socialization and the correct training, these dogs make good family pets.

Grooming for the Mastiff is quite minimal, however can be somewhat difficult due to its large size. Frequent brushing and occasional wiping down with a towel is recommended. Brushing is necessary daily because the Mastiff is a very heavy shedder. Their hair is coarse and short and often will come off in your hands as you are petting the dog. The hair also sticks to carpet, upholstery, and clothing. The dog should be bathed only when necessary. It is also essential that the dog's ears, eyes, and nails are also maintained. The ears should be cleaned on a regular basis to prevent ear mites and other infections. The eyes should be cleaned as well.

Health Problems and Life Expectancy
As with many larger dog breeds, the Mastiff has a relatively low life expectancy compared to some breed, and lives for around 5-10 years. There are a number of health problems to look out for with this breed, and this includes: luxating patella, strokes, epilepsy, spinal problems, eye problems, thyroid disorders, OCD, HOD, HD and elbow dysplasia, heart defects, bloat, kidney problems, and sensitivity to drugs and chemicals. They can also suffer heatstroke in very hot conditions.

Activity Level

The Mastiff is generally a lazy animal, but will be happier and healthier when exercised regularly. They should always be kept on a leash. They are not a very playful breed and this combined with the breed's laziness can make it difficult to find activities for the owner and dog to do together. This is a great dog for a relatively inactive person as a walk through the park or neighborhood is considered sufficient exercise. They do not do well in the heat and so it is important that the dog is not over exercised when the weather is warmer.


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