The English Mastiff is powerfully built, with a massive body, broad skull and head of generally square appearance. It is also the biggest dog breed. Mastiffs have a tendency to over-salivate and “drool” frequently.
Their size is very large and gives an impression of power and strength when viewed from any angle. The body is massive with great depth and breadth, especially between the forelegs, causing these to be set wide apart. The AKC standard height for this breed is 30 inches (minimum) at the shoulder for dogs and 27 1/2 inches (minimum) at the shoulder for bitches.
A typical dog can weigh 160-230+ pounds, a typical bitch would weigh 140 -190 pounds. Their stature gives off the impression of dignity and grandeur. The dog should be slightly longer in body than it stands in height and should come from depth of body and not length in leg. They are to be heavy boned with a well developed muscular structure. The slightly arched neck is extremely muscular and powerful. It should be of medium length. The well rounded chest is to be deep and wide and let down between the forelegs. The shoulders also display the strong muscular stature and should be moderately sloping. The forelegs are straight and strong and set wide apart. The hind legs are broad and muscular with well developed second thighs. The eyes are set wide apart and are of medium size. They are never to be too prominent. The ears are small, rounded, and v-shaped at the tip. The ears are proportionally small for the head. They should be set widely apart on the highest part of the head. The skull is to be broad and somewhat flattened between the ears. The forehead is slightly curved which shows off the marked wrinkles. These wrinkles become very distinct when the Mastiff is at attention.
The muscles of the temples are well developed and the muscles of the cheeks are extremely powerful. The muzzle should be half the length of the skull dividing the head in to three parts. There is one for the foreface and two for the skull. The nose is broad and is always dark in color. The nostrils should be spread flat and never be turned up or pointed. The lips should diverge at obtuse angles. The gait of the Mastiff is one that demonstrates extreme power and strength. The forelegs should have smooth reach while the hind legs should have drive. The legs are to move straight forward. To maintain balance as the dog increases speed from a walk to a trot, the legs will converge in towards a centre line. This allows for the maintenance of proper balance.
The Guinness Boook of World Records recognizes a Mastiff from England named Zorba as the heaviest dog in the world, at over 315lb. Zorba stood 37 inches at the shoulder and was 8 feet 3 inches from the tip of his nose to the tip of his tail. Zorba set this record in November 1989, when he was 8 years old and about the size of a small donkey.
Despite its origin as a fighting dog the Mastiff that is common today is a gentle giant. This breed is highly intelligent and self confident. They are watchful and have the nature to protect and defend their families. They are highly dignified and coupled with a calm and docile personality, they make excellent family pets. The Mastiff is a breed that rarely barks. However, they do snore loudly and excessively drool. They are typically very well behaved with children, although because of their massive size, it is not recommended for them to be around toddlers. They are extremely good natured but quite large in size. They are eager to please and desire plenty of human companionship. They are not playful dogs but are quite happy just being close to the family.
They respond very well to gentle and patient training. They respond very poorly to fierce or physical punishment. It has been said that if you hit a Mastiff, you are asking for it. They can be aloof around strangers and other animals, so socialization from a young age is very important. They are highly protective of house, car, and family and they need to be shown that someone is safe before they allow them access to their family. When strangers are around, the Mastiff is known to stand between them and their family until they are shown that this person is safe. They are not known to attack strangers or intruders, but rather keep them at bay. Their level of suspiciousness can be minimized if there is proper and constant socialization during their puppyhood.
The outer coat of the Mastiff is course and straight and of a moderately short length. The undercoat is dense, short, and close-lying. The coat should not be long enough to create any fringe on the belly, tail, or legs. A long or wavy coat is considered to be a fault.
The acceptable colors of Mastiff are fawn, apricot, or brindle. Brindle colored Mastiffs should have fawn or apricot as a background color and should be completely covered in very dark stripes. The muzzle, ears, and nose should be very dark in color, the blacker the better. A similarly dark color should be around the eye orbits and extend between them. A white patch on the chest is permitted.
Grooming 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. When bathing a specialty dog shampoo should be used. Human shampoo or liquid soap can cause skin irritation. It is also essential that the soap is rinsed thoroughly to reduce the chances of dryness and irritation. The Mastiff is a large dog and may be very difficult to bathe at home depending on how large the living space is. There are a couple of solutions for this. The dog can either be taken to a professional and they can be groomed and bathed there. The other option is that a waterless shampoo can be used to wash the dog and therefore you do not have to struggle with trying to get the dog into a small bath tub or shower. 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. The nails should be clipped when necessary. Be careful to not cut the quick as this can cause bleeding and is somewhat painful. To make grooming easier for this massive breed it is important to start getting them used to it as young puppies. Make the dog stand while you brush and clip the nails. It may be a challenge to begin with but the dog should adjust to the grooming becoming a natural thing. It is important not to use force with this dog, but be patient. It may take longer, but it is important that the dog does not view these things as scary. Do no rush, it is alright to let the dog take some time to get used to things.
Training Training the Mastiff can be a somewhat difficult process. They do tend to have a mind of their own and will try to dominate the process. Therefore it is essential to prove to the dog early on that you are the boss and that you mean the things that you say. This is done best through patient, consistent, but firm training. One of the most essential elements for training the Mastiff is socialization. They are excellent watchdogs and guard dogs and therefore become very protective of their owners or families. It is essential that the dog is socialized from a very young age to try and reduce the tendency to become overly protective against strangers. This can be done by taking the dog to new places and meeting new people. It is essential for the owner to show the dog that the other person is safe and acceptable by being friendly and welcoming. The Mastiff can be a very dominant dog around other animals, especially dogs of their same sex. However, this too can be minimized through socialization. They are gentle-giants today, but were originally bred to be fighting dogs and therefore those tendencies may come out every now and again. The Mastiff is not an agility dog and does not really like to be playful. However, they do follow obedience training moderately well. Despite their ability to pick up on obedience training, they have a very low to moderate ability for problem solving.
Exercise 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. Exercise for young puppies is important. It is hard to find the right balance though. It is essential that they are exercised to keep their weight down and develop a lean and health dog. However, if they are over exercised it can be very damaging to their soft growing joints, ligaments, and joints. As adults they require a little more exercise and the concern for the joints and ligaments will have been reduced or eliminated. Larger breeds are always more difficult to balance the proper amount of exercise.
Hip Dysplasia: Ball and joint problem of the hip that causes arthritic like symptoms.
Gastric Torsion: Caused by exercising after excessive ingestion of food and water.
Surgery is necessary. It can be helpful to feed the dog two or three smaller meals throughout the day rather than once a day. This can help prevent the bloat or gastric torsion.
Obesity: Prone to weight gain.
Osteosarcoma: Malignant bone cancer most commonly found in the knee