Play with your Mastiff
– how to have great fun with your English Mastiff –
This page will give you some ideas of how great your Mastiff can be to play with. Despite of his size and strength, he is fully capable of playing with only the power he needs. He IS a gentle giant, even if he is fully aware of his own might. Let’s play!
Your Mastiff needs to be activated. Unless he’s living outside, free to go where ever he pleases, you need to make his life worthwhile. Just imagine how boring and depressing your life would be if you never got the chance to do anything else then sleep, eat and sleep again. Of course you should walk your Mastiff every day. You should do this for two reasons: Because of the exercise, and because of the variation from relaxing all day long. So, what if you walk your dog every day? Isn’t that good enough?Well, let’s put it this way: You’re already doing a great job, but you can make your friend’s life even better. The good news is that by doing this you will have lots and lots of fun, too!
Playing with a Mastiff is something you need to experience to understand. No matter where you live, how old you are, or what physical state you’re in, you CAN play with your Mastiff in many ways. He will know how to adjust his strength, just the way you do, if you teach him what is acceptable and what is not. It’s easy, and it’s the best you can ever do for your Mastiff!
What can you do to have fun with your Mastiff? If you use your imagination, I’m sure you can figure out lots of “games” for yourself.
There are three things you should remember before you start planning your Mastiff games. Firstly, you need to think of what your friend usually finds entertaining. If he likes to run, make up a game that involves running. If he likes to search for hidden things, make up a game that involves searching. If he likes to bath, play with him in the water (if you can).
The second thing you should keep in mind, is that games can be very educational. Is there something you’d like to teach your Mastiff? Try to combine it with a game. Learning something can be real fun if the teacher knows how to teach. The good thing is that Mastiffs aren’t very picky pupils. They are easy to please!
The third thing you need to consider, is what rules you want to set for the game. How crazy will you allow your giant to become until you tell him to be careful. What consequences will there be if you don’t have any rules? Is it necessary to teach your Mastiff to play gently (important if you have any children that you want to keep…)?
One fun thing you can do, is to create some kind of an agility-track. Unless you are living in the middle of the city, unable to get out on the countryside, you should be able to find a good place in the forest, etc. for such activities. Hide things (a toy will be fine), create hinders to jump over or crawl under. You can also include a short obedience department during your track, play hide and seek, and a go and fetch part. You can also have an area that you use for “lay on the ground and play” activities. You may want to be more competitive. If you do, you can make a track with exercises that can be judged. Give your Mastiff points from 1-10 depending on how well he’s doing each exercise, or solving each challenge. What your track will look like is really only up to you. It all depends on your Mastiff, and what you want to do yourself. Remember that both of you should have fun doing this!
Just like people, Mastiffs need challenges to grow to their full potential, and to find life meaningful. If you never have to use your brain for more than the most trivial things, sooner or later you will find life boring and static. Since your Mastiff, and most dogs in general, is your (voluntary) prisoner, you are the one to decide whether he gets the chance to use his brain. Let your activities and games with your Mastiff include challenging parts. Force your friend to THINK for himself. Let him solve problems that are new to him as often as possible. It’s just great to watch that wrinkled skin on a Mastiff’s forehead when he concentrates on something! The more often you see those wrinkles, the happier your Mastiff will become! Keep that in mind, as well!
Some people think that a Mastiff shouldn’t get used to playing rough games with the owner. One of the reasons for this is that the alpha leader of the tribe doesn’t have that kind of contact with the other dogs. The leader keeps a certain distinguished distance to the others, saying “I’m on a different level than you are, so I won’t play like the rest of you”. This may be true, but there is no doubt about that a Mastiff loves to “fight” with the owner. Just notice how careful he is with you when doing so! A fully grown male could have beaten any man if he wanted to, but the point is that he respects the owner so much that he would never even consider doing so! To me this proves that playing rather rough games with your Mastiff is not a wrong thing to do, unless you forget to draw the line. You do need to tell your Mastiff what is ok and what is not ok. He should be allowed to grab your arm gently, just as you grab his legs with your hands. On the other hand, he should NOT be allowed to bite you, not even gently. Remember that grabbing and biting are two different things! You should teach your Mastiff the meaning of the word ‘careful’ as soon as you can. If you have children, a normal Mastiff is able to understand that he has to be more careful with them than with you. If you are afraid that he won’t, I suggest you do not teach your friend to play rough games at all. That kind of playing is great fun for the both of you, but if he doesn’t understand the difference between you and your kids, you are all better off if he’s taught that rough playing in general is not allowed, no matter who his playmate is.
Rough playing with your Mastiff can be lots of fun, but there are some things you should take under consideration before you teach your giant that this kind of activity is ok. If you don’t, you might end up with spending a lot of time correcting the bad habits you’ve taught him!
There are lots of toys for dogs on the market. It’s really up you and your economy what you end up with. Since Mastiffs are very strong dogs, any chewing device must be extremely solid. There is a very good toy called “Kong” that is fairly easy to find in the US. Playing with a ball can also be lots of fun. You will learn that the Mastiff have no idea whether the toy is bought in the shop, or something you made at home. He will love to play with a stick, and he will love to play with a plastic bag. It all depends on you, really.
If you’re looking for a cheap (or free) chewing device, you should try the local butcher to get a large and solid bone. When the meat is gone, you can boil the bone in meat broth (bouillon). This will add a tempting taste and smell to the bone, and your dog will find it attractive once again. When he starts to loose interest, just put it in the kettle again! A bone like this is also very good for the dog’s teeth. He needs this kind of toys in order to exercise his jaws and teeth, since he is not living a “natural” life in the nature.
Play whenever you have time for it. The best thing for both of you, is to play at certain times. Since both Mastiffs and people are creatures of habit, you will find it more easy to find the time if you plan things a little. Let’s say you visit your private agility track every Wednesday and Saturday afternoon, and play hide and seek every Monday. The only one who knows how to plan this is you, so there’s actually no need for further advises on this matter.
The most important person to play with is you, the owner. Playing games and having fun together will strengthen your relationship a lot. You will develop a contact that never would have existed otherwise. Of course, the rest of your family should be able to play with the Mastiff as well, but this may not be as fun for the dog as playing with you. As stated earlier, you should teach your Mastiff to understand the difference between you and others. What he is allowed to do to you, may not be very nice to do to others. Your friend should know that there is a difference between you and your children. He has to be more careful with them. Normally he will know this by instinct, but if this seems to be a problem, you better teach him to be equally gentle with everyone.
Play in the garden, in the forest, in your own personal agility track, in the house, on the lawn, on a field, in the bathroom, in the lake…. In other words, play wherever you find it suitable. As long as you’re not bothering anyone (read neighbors), the whole world is a potential playground!
HAVE FUN WITH YOUR MASTIFF!