Choosing your Mastiff: A few things to consider
So, you’re thinking of getting a Mastiff? There are a few things you should be aware of before doing so. First of all, an English Mastiff is a giant dog. Most people experience such a giant as a combination of shocking, scary, ugly, beautiful and impressing. There IS a big difference between having a Labrador or a German Shepherd, and a Mastiff. A grown male often weighs about 200 lbs. / 90 kilos. It is not unusual for a male to weigh even more. About 220 lbs. / 100 kilos isn’t all that rare. The size varies quite a bit within the breed, though. If your Mastiff ends up weighing “just” 155 lbs. / 70 kilos, most people will still talk about your friend as if he was an average sized pony.
So, why talk about his size at all? Well, no one has ever bought a Mastiff without being impressed or attracted to the breeds size and massiveness. It is also a fact that large dogs eat more than small dogs. This means more money for dog food. Large dogs also need space. Large dogs need to be trained, unless you want to live with the feeling of having no control when you walk the monster. When you don’t dare to walk your Mastiff until after everyone else in the neighborhood has fallen asleep, you can be sure of you something went wrong on the way. Are you strong enough, or rather experienced enough, to train a fast growing giant pup? What about your car? How do you plan bringing the dog with you? Do you have the room for him at all?
There are several things to consider when you’re looking for a new dog, most of them apply whether you want to buy a puppy or a rescue dog. You can get some more input about this by reading the puppy-page at MASTIFF-WEB. You should also take the survey “Is the Mastiff the right breed for you” at MASTIFF-WEB, in order to get an idea of whether getting a pup is a good decision or not. GOOD LUCK!
Looking for a puppy already? If you are, please don’t rush things. Even though Mastiffs are pretty rare, you don’t want to take the first one you find without doing some real investigation first. This might sound unnecessary, but as a matter of fact, it’s something you won’t ever regret doing. All over the world, you will find people calling themselves breeders, but what they really are, is someone who thought it would be nice to earn an extra buck or two. So they let their Mastiff bitch give birth to several litters without much thought about whether she is fit to being bred at all. The minimum requirement for a bitch that is being used for breeding, is that she is a show champion in her home country. This means that judges has agreed that she is a quality Mastiff, and that she is a typical Mastiff in both temper and body. The father should also be a champion.
Depending on where you live, and what quality you’re looking for, the prices vary quite a lot. The average price in the US for a quality Mastiff puppy with good parents is between $750-$1200. In Europe/England prices are between £500-£800. The rest of Europe is normally at the same price level. Prices are normally high if the parents have proved to be of breeding quality by achieving good results in dog shows etc. A documented good health also makes the prices rise, and health is something that is worth paying some extra money for. If you don’t care much about health or type (which you should…), you can always get a pup from a backyard breeder. Just remember that by doing so, you are partly responsible in bringing the quality of this rare and vulnerable breed down. This is not what you want to do. If you don’t have the extra money, start saving now. You might discover that those extra $300 weren’t that hard to raise after all. You should keep in mind that you’re paying for a very special living creature, that will stay by your side the next 8-10 years. It’s worth it!
What is a breeder really? No one becomes a breeder just because their Mastiff bitch gets puppies. If you let your Mastiff become a father or mother without knowing much about the dog’s health or type, you are not bettering the breed. Actually the chances are big you are doing the opposite. Not everyone is aware of this, and we should never judge a family that has let their Mastiff become a parent. The puppies may grow up to become great family dogs, and every now and then there might also be a champion dog from such litters. Nevertheless, this will unfortunately not be the case with most of them. Once you’ve dealt with Mastiffs or other rare dog breeds over a certain period of time, you should be aware of that only a few bad litters can harm a country’s Mastiffs. There are simply not enough Mastiffs to maintain a high standard if we are not being cautious.
A breeder can not become a good breeder until he/she has many years of experience. You can be a breeder if you have only one bitch, and you can be a breeder if you have 20 Mastiffs. No matter the number of dogs, the breeder carefully plans what male dog is the right one for a certain bitch, giving a lot of thought about what particular qualities can be past on to the next generation. The good breeder considers the state of health of both the male and the bitch to be very important, and is always cautious using a dog that is mentally unstable, aggressive or especially nervous/afraid. There should be certifications from a veterinary showing that both parents are free from the most common deceases, and that they are generally healthy. If a strange male is being “hired”, the owner of the male will get paid for his dog’s services. It’s common to receive as much money as the breeder will get for one of the puppies.
Once the puppies are born, the breeder takes good care of them. This means quality food once they’re able to eat, staying with the mother and the puppies more or less 24 hours a day the first 2-3 weeks, giving them the common shots before they’re sold at the age of 8 weeks. In addition, a responsible breeder will not let you get the puppy until it’s at least 7 weeks old. The mother has some important dog-things to teach her children before they’re moving into the human world for good.
What about contracts? It’s usual that a breeder registers the puppies in a Kennel Club, i.e. the AKC in the US or another reputable dog club. The vaccine- and registration papers should be given to you when you get the pup. You may have to wait a few weeks to get the registration papers, though. If the pup gets one of the common but feared problems like HD when he grows up, you should have a guarantee that you will get some of the money back, or that you will get another puppy for free if you have to put your Mastiff to sleep as a result of the decease. One clever thing to do, is to check out what kind of promises other breeders give to the buyers. Go to the link-page at MASTIFF-WEB and read some of the breeder’s policy on this before you buy anything. You might think that buying a living thing shouldn’t be that much about money and rights, but believe you me, if you get any problems, you will be glad you spent the necessary time to get these things sorted out.
If possible, make sure you meet both the mother and the father of the puppies. The mother is the most important one, since she is the one raising them those first very important weeks of their lives. How does the mother respond to you when you meet her the first time. Is she nervous? Calm? Excited? Shy? Aggressive? Happy? Will she let you pet her without any problems? Will she let you touch her puppies without any problems. Look at the mother as if she was your future Mastiff. You can be pretty sure of that her babies will inherit a lot of her personality. She is the most important teacher the pups will ever have. The father is more important then you might think, even if he may not ever meet his offspring. His genes are past on to all of the puppies. Some will become a lot like him, while others will not. You can think of him also as your potential future Mastiff. Keep that thought in the back of your head when you meet him.
You should be aware of how the parents move when they’re walking (or even better, running). This often tells a lot more about their general health than a piece of paper from some vet. Most health problems are invisible, though, so you should definitely ask to see some health-certifications signed by a veterinary. This is a very large topic, which I will not discuss on this page. There are lots of information about dogs and health on the Internet. The problems you find with Mastiffs, are often found with other giant breeds as well.
So, the breeder should show you the registration papers, papers from the vet, and the pedigrees of both of the parents. If you don’t know what you’re looking for, ask the breeder about it. You can also ask someone in the local dog club, a knowledgeable neighbor, or you can call a kennel club. If you have access to a library, you can find loads of info about most of your questions. The time before you get your new pup, is the best time to read and study. Your curiosity will never be greater!
Some are charmed by the apparently absent-minded puppy personality. Normally this is not a problem, but it could be a bad sign if the pup seems unaffected by most of what you do to get it’s attention. This could be a very stabile and mentally harmonic pup, that simply won’t bother with things that are not interesting enough. On the other hand it might be a dog that will develop problems communicating and socializing with people and other creatures in general. It might also be a sign of lack of social intelligence. If you feel this might be the case, do not choose this pup. You will be much better off with a more outgoing one.
A certain amount of dominance might be exactly what a dog needs to live a happy and harmonic life. The problem first arises as the dominance grows to aggressiveness. Males should be able to stand up for themselves, and so should the bitches. You are better of avoiding the bossy puppy of the litter if you’re not an experienced dog owner. If you get the feeling that this pup is harassing with the others, this is a certain sign of strong dominance. A very dominant grown up male Mastiff might cause you problems bigger then you are able to handle when meeting other male dogs.
What happens when you meet the puppies for the first time? Take a good look at which of the puppies seem a bit scared, and on the other hand; which seem quite happy about your visit. If a certain pup walks straight up to you and greets you with a lick in the face etc., you can be pretty sure this is a pup with a good portion of self esteem. This is a good sign, and a behavior you should look for in your future pup. Just remember that too much of everything isn’t necessarily a good thing. Any desirable behavior has it’s upper limit before it becomes a disturbing factor rather than something positive. What happens the second time you visit the puppies? Does the same puppy greet you just like the last time? What about the others that didn’t greet you? Do they recognize you, and greet you this time? It would be a plus for those that do so.
This pup might be the opposite of the social one. Most of us seem to think of shyness as something innocent and sweet. The “innocent pup” is therefor the one that does NOT greet you, and that does NOT play a lot with the other puppies. The innocent pup often watches the others from a distance, which might make him look a bit wise or thoughtful. Don’t let this behavior fool you! Do NOT choose this pup. The chances he will develop serious social problems with both people and other dogs are quite big! Don’t let that “motherly” feeling decide which puppy is the best for you. You can fix some of these problems with social training and a variation of dog classes, but you will most likely never ever have the harmonic, social Mastiff you have been dreaming of. Do not choose the innocent pup!
If you’re looking for a puppy, finding a so called “Rescue Mastiff” is not the easiest thing to do. If you are willing to get a grown up Mastiff, though, a rescue Mastiff might be a good alternative. Many of these dogs might come from homes where the owners for some reason couldn’t take care of them anymore. You can get a fantastic Mastiff by contacting a rescue organization. The mere size of this breed might be the only reason that the owner gave up his friend. Things like divorces, deaths, obedience- or social problems, illness and change of occupation are also regular reasons why Mastiffs and other dogs are sold or given away for free as rescue dogs.
If you choose this solution, make sure you learn as much as possible about the dog’s past before you bring him with you. Such information can help you avoid a lot of problems, and answer a lot of questions that might never would have been answered unless you were told about the Mastiff’s good and bad experiences throughout his life.
STILL HAVE QUESTIONS OR CONCERNS?
Try sending a message to the “English Mastiff Message-board” here at MASTIFF-WEB. The other visitors might have experiences dealing with the same things that you are wondering about!
GOOD LUCK WITH YOUR FUTURE MASTIFF!