Training Your English Mastiff – Your Mastiff Training Guide

Training a mastiff can be quite different to training any other breed of dog. Their beautiful and soulful faces will complement good manners and behavior if you train them well from inception.

The fact that they enjoy pleasing their master makes them easy to train and makes it an enjoyable experience. They are a soft breed but can also be a bit dominant.

They do not respond well if you shout or yell at them or try any other kind of negative tactic or behavior whilst training.

They require consistent human leadership and direction and require extensive socialization to mature into well-mannered adults.

With the right techniques and strategies, a mastiff can turn out to be a very well-behaved dog.

How to train a Mastiff?

Mastiff dogs require gentle treatment and repeated positive reinforcements as they grow into enormous pets without any maladaptive behavior.

They require reasonable spaces to thrive but can also be brought up in good-sized apartments if you expose them to routine daily walks and playtime that they desire and require each day, to release all the energy that they build up throughout the day.

As is common with most big dogs, mastiffs are prone to bloating and some shedding, which can both be controlled by scattering their meals throughout the day and routine grooming respectively.

For a comprehensive training program, check out the Brain Training for dog program.

Why is training a Mastiff so important?

Training your mastiff puppy is very important as they grow into very large dogs with natural instincts that require them to guard.

Their size, strength, and urge to protect can be counterproductive for the owner and hence, dangerous if they are not controlled from a young age.

Once you develop a bond during the dog training, they develop a natural and safe way to protect you, and at the same time, will also be a safe proposition for others around them.

The focus should always be on behavior training as opposed to guarding.

Like most dogs, they can be stubborn to start with but tend to get gentle and docile with the passage of time, as you continue to provide them with the handling and care they need from a very young age.

How to train a Mastiff puppy? Here are some

Training Tips for your Mastiff

Train your Mastiff puppy from a young age

This is the obvious one – make sure you start training your mastiff puppy at a very early age, i.e. around 8 – 10 weeks, as before that they are supposed to be in their litter with the mom.

Training times and progress vary from one puppy to the other and hence you have to be patient and resilient at all times.

Socializing your Mastiff puppy

Expose your mastiff puppy to people (friends, family and neighbors) and other animals from a young age. This is the key aspect of training in your quest to ensure that your dog is well-rounded and well-behaved in personality when he grows up. 

When they socialize with others around them they make a lot of observations and learn good manners on how to conduct themselves around strangers.

They will be able to distinguish every time between the innocent strangers who should be comfortable and safe around them, as opposed to intruders and troublemakers.

Positive & fun training

Mastiffs are not genetically wired to take commands as is the case with a lot of other dog breeds.

The natural instinct of the English mastiff is to guard and think about themselves, which is an admirable quality but requires a different training method from other dogs.

The training process must be enjoyable, and engaging and motivate them to continue doing it for it to be a success. Along the process, they require heaps of praising, good treats and specific positive statements when they do well.

Make note of and try using the commands and signs of affection that make them happy and confident about themselves.

For any inappropriate behavior, you should try raising your voice or giving them the look that they do not like and that would serve as sufficient punishment or deterrent for them not to do it again.

Give them regular attention

Dogs, like humans, react positively and with humility when they are praised and loved. The basics of attention require calling the mastiff puppy by their name in a loving manner and devoting a lot of time to them.

Short Training Sessions

Mastiffs will learn best if you keep your dog training sessions fast and short (up to 15 minutes) and at regular intervals throughout the day. This will be a workable solution for their limited attention span and stubborn tendencies.

Training Order

It is vital that you show them respect but at the same time the firmness that you are in control. You need to strike this balance with them. You will be expected to lead them through house training.

With these basics in mind, you can start with external training such as walking on a leash or introducing them to other dogs, etc.

House Training

They should have a fixed feeding schedule. Immediately after their food or drink, they would feel the urge to go outdoors. Do not delay this and help them with this habit.

You can wait at a distance once they have relieved themselves and then praise them for this practice like you would do to a little kid who is being potty trained.

If there is an accident within the home, then only reprimand him when you caught him in the act and not afterwards as he wouldn’t know what he did wrong.

No Harsh Training

Always be calm and composed with mastiffs and never lose patience, even if they are not improving on a certain behavior or not fully following your instructions.

They are naturally defensive in nature and can feel threatened, which may lead to aggressive behavior.

Good Training Treats

Some good treatment options are always the healthier ones – cut-up banana slices, various types of fruits such as seedless orange slices, cheese and any nutritious and organic dog treat.

Whenever in doubt about the specific eating needs of your mastiff, always consult your local vet as to what is best for him.

How much exercise does an English Mastiff need?

English mastiffs are large and powerful dogs however they do not need a lot of exercise. You will need to be careful not to over-exercise your Mastiff as you do not want to damage their puppy bones.

A good rule of thumb is 5 mins per month, so if your puppy is 5 months old you should exercise your puppy for not more than 25 minutes.

In addition, an English mastiff needs plenty of mental stimulation to keep it from becoming bored and destructive.

This breed loves toys and will respond well to puzzle toys, treat-dispensing toys, and tug toys.

Best exercises for training your Mastiff

Some of the best training exercises are pretty basic and the ones that you need to incorporate into your training schedule on a routine basis. Let us look at them in detail.


Mastiffs learn to sit by listening to the ‘sit’ command and concurrently pushing their rump down. The pushing may require more force (by using an arm behind his knees and pushing the rump with the other arm) if the mastiff is strong.

When he is close to the sitting position, you can reward him with words and a little tidbit, so he understands that this is the right thing to do and not just a simple act of sitting.

Repeat this act until he fully learns to sit on your command.


The same principles apply here as we mentioned in the above ‘sit’ section, by using both hands and dragging his forelegs ahead and down.

This will enable him to lie down and that is when you use the word ‘down’, and often repeatedly whilst he learns to perfect this.

It will be much easier if you start the ‘down’ exercise from a sitting position as it is both easier and more comfortable for a Mastiff, given his big size.

Once he comes down, you need to give him a reward and let him stay in the down position until you ask him to get up.

Repeat this exercise by reducing your physical assistance each time. Sometimes hand gestures of going down can also help that he can learn by watching you.

The signs of good training include the fact that he listens to your command in the first instance, rather than multiple commands.


One of the charming tricks that a mastiff can learn is waving with one of his front legs. The basics of this involve lifting up his leg, similar to when he is pleading (or begging) to you.

This is a natural way for mastiffs and can be learned with ease.

Try to stay at a distance from him when you are expecting him to wave and the wave itself should be several times and not just a one-off leg movement.

Make him sit and you can then stand in front of him making him ‘beg’ with his leg. Ask him to stay and then make him beg again.

Keep moving back and repeat this process until he perfects it, without spending more than 2-3 minutes each time. Now replace the word ‘beg’ with ‘wave’ until he knows the difference.

Roll Over

This is one of the cutest things you can teach your mastiff. The basic of this exercise starts with ‘down’ (see above).

Some dogs can be uncomfortable rolling over if you keep forcing them to do it, so begin slowly and patiently and always remember it is meant to be fun for mastiffs too.

Once he is lying down, help him roll by saying the words ‘roll over’ and holding a treat in your hand. Do not let him get up.

Keep helping him with your hands until he gets the drift, and give him breaks in between rather than forcing him to learn it in one go.

If you are in a good mood, those vibes will be noticed by your dog and he will stay interested and motivated.


Once the mastiff has learnt “Sit!” and “Down!”, he can then move on to the very useful “Stay!”. This training starts with telling them to sit.

When they sit, you need to move back a few steps from him with your hands open towards him.

If he tries to get up, say “No!”, and put him back in the original position. Repeat the word “Stay!”, and keep saying it as you move.

Stay put for a few seconds and then go back towards him without offering any treats until you are close to his side.

With the passage of time, keep increasing the distance between you and your mastiff to ensure he understands the concept well.

The “Stay!” command’s importance cannot be emphasized enough in the day-to-day life of your mastiff. It can be a lifesaver!

This is the command that you use when you want to stop him from running on a busy road or to move back from hazardous places or situations.

This is also helpful when your mastiff is interacting with new people and animals. This command is delivered well to the mastiff if he stands still and waits for you to come to him and release him from the command.


This is an agility-based exercise and quite fun to watch, as the mastiff jumps over an obstacle in front of him.

The heavier the mastiff the tougher it will be for him to jump, but that doesn’t mean you can teach him this trick.

The idea is to start with very low items that are literally inches tall. The idea is to let the dog know that he is meant to jump over it and not walk. Reward him if he attempts a jump.

Repeat the command ‘jump’ with the obstacle in front of him and help him in getting a direction by dragging him with the collar.

Keep rewarding him verbally during this process. Once he understands the concept, keep raising the obstacle length slowly and gradually.

If the mastiff has joint or bone conditions, then you may not want him to excessively engage in jumping or even learn this trick.

If you are ever in doubt, always consult your local vet and be particularly careful with smaller pups.


This exercise can be clubbed with the ‘stay’ command. Once you have asked him to ‘stay’ from a certain distance, you can then follow it up with a ‘come’ in a firm and positive tone.

If he doesn’t get it, then you have to persistently repeat it with a bodily gesture that suggests that he needs to follow you.

Positive reinforcement is very important with all exercises and the same applies here. You need to convey the message to him that he has been quite intelligent in following the instructions, then repeat it a few times, and then give him treats (in moderation) in the beginning phase of this exercise.

The more used to he is with your instructions to ‘come’ the fewer treats he will need. You do not want to carry these threats all the time with you which will eventually spoil him.

Your mastiff should be able to obey the ‘come’ command even when he is busy doing something else or distracted.

Try using this training method in various environments and conditions such as a busy city, with and around other animals and humans, or even when it is just the two of you.

It is an important and useful command that you will need to use often every day as the mastiff puppy grows up.


A heavy mastiff can pull the leash quite strongly and this is not very comfortable for the owner whilst walking him.

Always teach the mastiff to learn on your left side with your head aligned and even with your knee.

This, like all other training, should start from a very early age. If he is going too fast or pulling your leash often, then prompt stop in the way and say to him a simple ‘no’ and then ‘heel’.

Wait to see his reaction then and do not give up until he goes back to his normal position. Once he does, you can start walking again.

If he does it again, you can pull the leash with a sudden jerk accompanied by a firm ‘no’ and the usual commands as explained above.

This is time-consuming and frustrating at times, but an exercise that you must teach your mastiff puppy to avoid any future behavioral problems.

Shake Hands

Dogs naturally shake their owner’s hands to beg or request things. This makes it easy for the owners to teach them a handshake on a command.

Hold a treat and ask him to ‘shake hands’, and then wait. Repeat the words by grabbing one of his forelegs and lifting up and down in a shaking position.

Then reward them. Do not let him get up and if he does, then say ‘no, sit’ and after that repeat ‘shake hands again.


Are Mastiffs hard to train?

Mastiffs are not easy to train because they are very strong-willed dogs. Mastiffs are a very hard-headed breed of dog.

They have a strong sense of independence and will not do well if they are forced to obey someone else’s commands. 

Because mastiffs are so independent, it is important to reward them when they obey your commands. It may take several weeks or months for your Mastiff to learn new behaviors.

If you want your mastiff to listen to you, it is essential that you give it positive reinforcement when it obeys your commands.

Positive reinforcement can take many forms. You can simply say “good dog” or “good boy” when your mastiff obeys your commands.

You can also use treats or toys to reward your mastiff when it obeys your commands. 

How to discipline a Mastiff?

Like any dog, they need to know who’s in charge. They will respond well when you take the time to establish rules and boundaries with them.

It’s important to set up a routine for them, especially if they lack social skills or training. You also want to make sure they’re getting enough exercise and nutrition.

How to train a Mastiff puppy not to bite and nip?

If you have a Mastiff puppy that is determined to bite you, it is important to understand what is likely to be causing this behavior.

Mastiffs are alert and wary dogs that are quick to react when they feel threatened. Biting can be a result of a variety of factors, including fear, anxiety, playfulness, or excitement.

It can also be a reaction to your interaction with the dog. For example, if you make faces at your dog, it may interpret this as a sign of aggression and bite in response.

If your dog has bitten someone in the past or if an owner has cut off its access to food or toys at home, there is a good chance that your dog may be responding to these cues as well.

One of the most important things to remember is that Mastiffs were bred to protect humans and livestock.

As a result, they have a strong prey drive which means that they will try to guard their owners at all times.

To prevent this from happening, it’s important to keep your dog on a leash when you go out and to socialize with him or her from an early age.

You should also give your dog plenty of toys and chewable treats so that he or she has something else to do when you aren’t around.

Training Bordeaux Mastiff
Picture: Training Bordeaux Mastiff

Closing Thoughts About Mastiff Dog Training

This guide to training your Mastiff is not meant to be a comprehensive obedience and exercise tutorial.

However, these dog training tips aim to provide sufficient information for beginners as well as experienced mastiff owners, on how to train your Mastiff in an efficient and effective manner.

For more advanced obedience training, you can always consult your local dog clubs or vets or a dog trainer for further information that will guide you about the structure, offerings, agility, tracking and payment-related aspects of these classes.

One of the best resources for obedience training for your mastiff should be available from the all-famous American Kennel Club, which may put you in the right direction.

For other jurisdictions, there may be similar clubs or associations that are meant to assist and guide you on matters relating to dog training and exercises, and you should write or speak to them directly.

These clubs can often provide you with collateral benefits of socialization for yourself as well as your mastiff.

We wish you all the best with your Mastiff training and hope that you will be able to reap the rewards and benefits of all the hard work that you have put in, once he grows up.