The Mastiff dog breed is a large-sized Molossor dog, whose ancestors were ferocious war dogs. However, the dogs we know today are gentle giants with an extremely mild and easy going nature. Nevertheless, they are devoted to their family and very protective of their human pack, and can rise to any challenge in case its massive size is not enough of a deterrence.
They make great family pets adjusting to a variety of households with ease as long as plenty of space is available to accommodate their huge size.
The Mastiff dog breed of today is considered an English breed, but dogs of this type have been around since thousands of years and can be seen on the Egyptian monuments dating back to 3000 BC. Their origin is traced to the ancient Molossus dogs. These dogs were used by the Romans in the fighting arena and came to England with them in 55 BC. They became popular in the English countryside where the peasants used them as companion dogs that offered effective protection against wild animals. They were also used as working dogs to pull carts.
They are thought to have first come to the United States sailing on the Mayflower, but the demand for these massive dogs led to more imports later. It is interesting to note that this breed almost became extinct in England after the World War II, and had to be imported back into the country from America.
The Mastiff dog breed has an impressive appearance because of their massive size. Their height ranges between 27 inches and 32 inches at the withers, with a matching weight of 130 to 220 pounds. They have a powerful, muscular body that is slightly longer than their height. There are wrinkles on the head and neck. The ears are relatively small, and lie folded at the sides. The tail is long and tapering. They have a short, double coat that comes mostly in shades of fawn or apricot with some black coloration on the muzzle and a light patch on the chest. Brindle coats too occur.
Mastiffs are sweet-natured dogs that get along well with other household pets, and are especially great with small children, taking a lot of rough play with good grace and patience. They are highly protective and intolerant of intruders, keeping them at bay or holding them captive with their body rather than barking or behaving aggressively.
These dogs need early socialization and firm and consistent training to learn to obey commands. The owners should establish dominance over the dogs to make them accept their status as the pack leader. Adult Mastiffs are difficult to train, and can be a big problem if they are not well-mannered.
Mastiffs are known to chew almost anything that interests them, and drool a lot too. They have a tendency to laze around and overeat.
Grooming and exercise
The double coat of the Mastiff dog breed is not difficult to groom since it is short and smooth. These moderate shedders need only a light brushing once a week to dislodge the dead hair, but during the shedding season in spring and fall, daily brushing may be helpful. Their skin wrinkles and flews require daily cleaning with a damp cloth to prevent infections.
The adult Mastiffs are rather lazy and reluctant to exercise, but owners should insist on one or two brisk walks a day. Some additional play time in the yard would also be beneficial in keeping the dog healthy.
Spending some time outdoors in the cool mornings and evenings is good, but these dogs cannot tolerate heat. They should be protected from direct sun during midday and kept indoors in air-conditioned comfort in summer. Even though they can live outdoors, they are better off spending the nights indoors with the family.
Common health issues of Mastiff dog breed
The Mastiff dog breed is a relatively healthy breed, but these dogs can be affected by a few common canine health problems such as hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia and eye disorders like progressive retinal atrophy. Gastric torsion is a life threatening condition that may occur in large dogs like the mastiffs and require immediate medical intervention to avoid a fatal outcome. Dividing the meals into many smaller portions may help reduce the risk.
The lifespan of Mastiff dog breed ranges from 6 years to 10 years. These massive dogs are prone to obesity, which in turn may lead to metabolic diseases like diabetes and heart disease. It also reduces their lifespan and exacerbates musculoskeletal disorders. Dogs with a kidney disorder called cystinuria are prone to developing kidney stones and should be checked often to detect the same. Bone cancer is occasionally seen in this breed.