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A photo collage of different Mastiffs

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Mastiff dog breed profile

Mastiffs are massive and can weigh well over 200 pounds.

Whether your dog is a purebred Mastiff, or a Mastiff mix, learning about their breed can explain a lot about your pet’s personality, habits and overall health. Or maybe you're looking to adopt a Mastiff and want to do a bit of research first — we can help with that.

If you’re a sucker for giant dog breeds like the Mastiff, you’re not alone — it’s hard not to love a dog that’s practically big enough to ride (although you shouldn’t try). And what’s better than cuddling with a canine that can stand on their hind legs and give you a legitimate hug?

Mastiffs are one of the biggest dog breeds, but they're not always as docile and easy-going as other giants like St. Bernards or Newfoundlands. So before you jump on the giant-breed bandwagon and bring a Mastiff or Mastiff mix into your home, it’s important to learn about their unique traits and strong personalities.

The history of Mastiffs

“The Mastiff, whose complete name is the Old English Mastiff, has a very long history throughout the world,” Dr. Emily Singler, VMD, a veterinary consultant for Fetch by The Dodo, says. “They’re thought to have originated in Southwest Asia.” The breed has popped up quite a lot throughout history, including in Egyptian drawings, Chinese writings and even through writings by the historic Roman general Julius Caesar. 

Clearly, Mastiffs have been around for a while, but Dr. Singler explains that the breed became officially recognized in 1885. The first Mastiff club in the U.S. was formed in 1879, while the existing club was later created in 1929.

What do Mastiffs look like?

Mastiffs’ massive size is likely the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about this breed. Males can weigh between 160 to 230 pounds and reach 30 inches or taller at the shoulder, Dr. Singler says. Females tend to be smaller but are no slouches in the size department. They tend to weigh between 120 to 170 pounds, with a shoulder height of around 27.5 inches or more. 

“At the upper end of their size and weight, Old English Mastiffs are often larger and heavier than other dog breeds,” Dr. Singler emphasizes.

These muscular dogs have big floppy ears and facial folds that lead to drooling. “They drool a lot, so having a towel or rag on hand to wipe their mouth is a good idea,” Dr. Singler says. “Their ears should be flushed every 2 to 3 weeks, and their facial folds should be checked and cleaned at least 2 to 3 times weekly.”

And just because they have a short coat doesn’t mean their grooming needs are super low, either. “Mastiffs have a thick double coat. So even though they have short hair, they shed,” Dr. Singler says. “They benefit from being brushed every 2 to 3 days and shouldn’t be bathed more often than every 2 weeks, but once a month is usually sufficient.”

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What are Mastiffs’ personalities like?

Mastiffs benefit from experienced pet parents because of their big, strong bodies and need to be well-trained. However, they can be great family dogs with proper socialization and training. 

“A Mastiff isn’t a good first dog for someone without experience in proper dog behavior and training,” Dr. Singler explains. “They also may not be a good fit for a home with young children. Although Mastiffs are very friendly with children and very loyal to their families, they can have a protective and wary nature. Since they’re such large and powerful dogs, an inexperienced dog parent may not be able to adequately socialize, train and control a Mastiff to prevent injury to other dogs and/or humans.”

These pups benefit from daily exercise — so if you’re planning on welcoming a Mastiff into your home, it’s essential to set aside time every day for physical activities to keep them healthy and happy.

“Exercise needs vary, but they can be high, particularly in younger Mastiffs,” Dr. Singler shares. “Daily walks are recommended. However, they don’t need to be long walks, and Mastiffs need nothing more strenuous than walking.”

You might be surprised to learn that Mastiffs actually make great dogs for apartment living (with a few caveats) even though they’re considered a large breed. “Mastiffs can be good apartment dogs, as long as they have sufficient space to be comfortable and get walked regularly,” Dr. Singler says.

What health issues do Mastiffs face?

Like other giant breeds, Mastiffs are prone to musculoskeletal issues. “Mastiffs are at higher risk for developing hip dysplasia and elbow dysplasia. These developmental problems can lead to arthritis, pain and trouble walking in the affected legs over time,” Dr. Singler explains. 

Pet parents should look for limping, trouble getting up or lying down, hesitancy to jump or climb on furniture or stiffness when moving around. Some of these issues are hard to prevent completely, but Dr. Singler shares that managing a Mastiff’s healthy weight when they’re a puppy can help minimize the risk of musculoskeletal issues. 

Mastiffs are also predisposed to inherited eye diseases like retinal dysplasia and atrophy, which can cause blindness, Dr. Singler says. So if you notice your Mastiff running into things or having difficulty figuring out where they are, be sure to get your dog to the vet for an eye exam.

When keeping an eye on your Mastiff’s health throughout the years, look out for signs of skin allergies, hypothyroidism, cranial cruciate ligament rupture (ACL tears) and gastric dilatation-volvulus (aka GDV or bloat). GDV is critical to be on the lookout for, as it can be a life-threatening emergency. “Look for a distended abdomen, vomiting up foam, heavy breathing, seeming very lethargic and like they’re in pain,” Dr. Singler instructs. And when in doubt, if your Mastiff is showing new or unusual symptoms, it’s always best to have a vet check them out.

Adopting a Mastiff

Are you interested in adopting a Mastiff, Mastiff mix or any pet at all? Check out our shelter partners to find your new best friend.

The Dig, Fetch by The Dodo’s expert-backed editorial, answers all of the questions you forget to ask your vet or are too embarrassed to ask at the dog park. We help make sure you and your best friend have more good days, but we’re there on bad days, too. Fetch provides the most comprehensive pet insurance and is the only provider recommended by the #1 animal brand in the world, The Dodo. 

Photos by Valerie Elash on Unsplash and Borina Olga and Ricantimages on Shutterstock

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