Mastiffs are fascinating dogs with a long and rich history. With the proper care and training they can also make wonderful companions.
History of the Mastiff
One of the oldest recorded breeds in history, Mastiffs are documented as far back as Ancient Rome. Mastiffs were bred and raised to go into battle alongside the Roman legions until the late Middle Ages. It has been said that Henry VIII bestowed a battalion of 400 Mastiffs to Charles V of Spain to help defend his empire.
Later although still prized fighters Mastiffs were used to hunt and kill bears and wolves instead of people. Once the 19th century arrived and society began to frown upon these types of activities, the purpose of the Mastiff shifted towards companion and guard dogs.
Description of the Mastiff
Mastiffs are the heaviest breed of dog in the world causing them to be known as giant breed dogs. Recognized for their massive chests and necks they are truly impressive in stature. Males range from 30 to 35 inches at the shoulder weighing between 160 and 250 pounds on average. Females are slightly smaller but bear the same build.
Mastiffs have short and very dense coats with a thick undercoat. Colors can be fawn, apricot or brindle all typically with darker colored ears and faces.
Temperament of the Mastiff
Widely known to be gentle giants, mastiffs can be wonderful family dogs, tending to be intelligent and intensely loyal creatures that are very fond of children and good with other animals.
However due to their huge size mastiffs require intensive training and socialization to ensure that they are obedient and well balanced animals. Mastiff owners must be able to manage their dogs as serious injury and damage can be caused by dogs of this size.
Care of the Mastiff
Due to the amount of weight that mastiffs are carrying they are not jogging or running companions. Their speed comes in short and incredibly fast bursts but they should not be subjected to long periods of running. Aside from this they do require regular exercise to help them stay limber and in shape. Two walks a day accompanied by some play time are sufficient for most mastiffs.
Mastiffs require very little maintenance of their coat; a weekly brushing will suffice unless they are experiencing their bi-annual shed when more frequent brushing will help to speed up the hair removal process.
Mastiffs with natural (un-cut) ears should have their ears cleaned weekly as they tend to be prone to ear infections. Most veterinary offices carry inexpensive ear cleaner that is easy to use.
Most mastiffs have an aversion to having their feet touched and particularly dislike having their nails clipped, so time should be invested with younger animals to get them accustomed to regular trims and handling of their paws.
Due to their extreme size and weight mastiffs have a shorter than average life expectancy, ranging from 6 to 10 years.
Overall mastiffs are smart and fearless animals that will defend their companions without hesitation, making excellent guard and family dogs. With proper care and training they are wonderful canine partners.