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Do You Really Want a Mastiff?

Many people see a Mastiff and fall in love at first sight. It's easy to see why. They have big soft eyes, gentle dispositions, and love nothing more than a hug (which they solicit by leaning their huge heads against your leg and gazing longingly into your eyes).  Irresistible -- right?

What many people do not understand is how much goes into raising and caring for one of these gentle giants. They're more expensive to buy, care for, feed and treat medically. Generally speaking, Mastiffs have shorter life spans than many smaller breeds. They require a lot more "socialization" -- that is, they need lots of exposure to new environments early on. Just imagine trying to control a rambunctious 6-month-old puppy that weighs in at 100 pounds or more and is determined to jump up on an approaching stranger or startled by a sudden loud noise.So, if you are considering your first Mastiff puppy, I hope you will take time to consider a few things before making a commitment.


Mastiff puppies are not cheap.  You can pay from $1,200  to $5,000 for one Mastiff puppy. If you see one advertised for much less than this, there is usually a reason.  Sometimes, ill-informed people will purchase a male and a female, knowing little to nothing about their health, history, ancestors or AKC status.  They will allow the dogs to breed at will and produce as many puppies as possible, knowing they can sell for less than a breeder who is selective about his/her breedings.  They won't know whether these puppies will be predisposed to any number of genetic health problems, many of which can now be avoided with good screening. You won't be able to get a good idea of the temperaments of the parents as they will may have been raised in small outdoor pens (or worse) without any socialization and little to no human contact.  Is this really what you want -- a toss of the dice?


Weights will vary widely, but the average adult Mastiff female will weigh 130-180 lbs, while the average male will weigh in at 170-250 lbs.  Are you up to training your puppy early so it won’t be taking you for a walk when it’s fully grown?  Have you considered how you will get your dog to the house or to your car if it is sick or injured (or just doesn’t feel like getting up right now)?  By the way, these guys have enough to carry around at a healthy weight.  You can take years of life away from your new best friend by letting him/her get overweight!  No matter what the scales say or your adoring eyes see, if you can’t see a couple of ribs, your dog is FAT and probably not feeling its best.  



While adult Mastiffs don't eat as much as you might expect for such a large dog, they do consume a lot of  food, especially while they are growing and gaining five pounds a week or more!  Your breeder will probably recommend a good quality food (probably a specific brand or even a natural diet) to support the pup's nutritional requirements. 

Veterinary costs will be higher, as will medication costs -- count on it. 

Monthly  Heart-worm preventative medication as well as Flea and tick prevention are needed and costs for this are double that of a smaller breed dog.

A typical active clumsy Mastiff puppy can easily injure itself simply playing or bounding down the stairs, tearing a ligament that will require surgery that can run several thousand dollars to repair. 

Simple antibiotics for a minor skin infection may be four or five times what you would pay for a smaller breed because of dosage requirements of this massive breed.

Consider also, that not every vet is prepared to treat a Mastiff. 

Any vet you use must be very familiar with treating emergency situations such as 'torsion' or 'bloat'.

There are considerations like the sizes of medical supplies and equipment, knowledge of giant breed peculiarities with things like anesthesia, even sufficient staff to move an injured or immobilized Mastiff into an exam room or onto a surgical table or x-ray table, etc.  You could find yourself searching outside your own area to find a vet equipped to handle your new puppy.


Do you have an active family with lots of extracurricular activities?  Always on the go?  If so, you should plan on having your Mastiff puppy attend all of your activities with you or find some other breed.  Mastiffs are decidedly "people dogs."  They do not do well left alone.  They want more than anything else to be with you.  Their desire to be with "their" people is bred so deeply into their roots that many people who own Mastiffs call them "Velcro" dogs.  It can feel as if they are permanently attached to your side.  While some people enjoy this level of loyalty, others may find it annoying.


Don't have time for ongoing socialization or training classes for your Mastiff?

Think that just won't really matter?

Think again.

Granted, some temperament is inherited. But just getting your dog from a breeder whose sire and dam have GREAT temperaments does not guarantee that your Mastiff will not develop shyness or fears at various ages and need to be worked through what are often developmental stages.

Consider that many Mastiffs have a tendency to become shy and can easily become a 'one family dog' if they do not receive consistent socialization from puppy-hood on. 

Living with a 'shy' Mastiff can be very difficult especially if they are fearful of strangers approaching them.

Any fearful dog can become a biting dog ultimately which would be a huge liability to any owner.

And the dog would ultimately end up paying the ultimate price for your lack of time to 'socialize' them.

Want a dog to jog along with you or play "fetch" in the park?  Might want to look somewhere else. 

You'll be lucky to get your Mastiff to fetch your Frisbee or tennis ball for you once or twice before he decides to take a rest.  And, after jogging a time or two around the block, your Mastiff will probably decide it makes more sense to find some shady spot and wait for you to complete your laps so he can go back to the house and sleep.  Oh --  and, yes, --they do snore!  And, while we’re on the topic -- their other ends can produce a fair amount of noise too -- along with enough fumes to clear a ballroom!  

And how about your house?  Is it ready for a Mastiff?  True -- Mastiffs do have short hair, but it falls out (sheds) with regularity and you'll find it everywhere.  Even if you don't allow the puppy on the furniture, you'll still find plenty of hair when you sit down on the sofa.  How do you feel about slobber, slime and drool? 

While most Mastiffs don't drool all the time, the mere thought of food or a quick drink from the water bowl can produce remarkable foot-long "slingers" which can wind up in amazing places with the slightest shake of the head.  And remember -- your Mastiff won't care whether you're wearing your old jeans or your new white cocktail dress when it leans its head up against your leg to look at you with those adoring eyes.  (Mastiffs learn early that your leg is just right for wiping away those unsightly goobers.)

Are you ready to housebreak a Mastiff puppy?  Generally, Mastiffs housebreak very easily, especially if their breeders let them learn to relieve themselves outside in the grass.  But they're still puppies and they will have "accidents."  And you won't be able to clean them up with a tissue like you would if you had a Chihuahua puppy, especially if puppy has had a little tummy ache.  Something to consider.


Will a Mastiff fit into your family both now and in the long term?  Do you have children?  If so, are they big enough that they won't be knocked over by that big wagging tail?  Just as important, are they old enough to know to treat a puppy gently regardless of its size?  Mastiffs may be huge but, even as puppies, they're terribly patient and take an awful lot of abuse, especially from the hands of the children they love.  Will your children know not to try to ride on "Max's" back or pull too hard on "Minnie's" big soft ears?

Do you want a puppy that can grow up with your toddlers and see them off to college?  At best, a Mastiff may live to 13 or 14 -- and most become geriatric much earlier.

Alternatively, do you have older people in your family who will have difficulty stepping over your dog to get from one room to another.  Once settled in a comfortable position, Mastiffs aren't inclined to disturb themselves over something as inconsequential as courtesy.


Are you wanting a Mastiff to act as a fierce guard dog or to reflect your strong masculine side?  If so, you might want to look somewhere else.  While most Mastiffs will want to see that you are safe at their side, they won't be as wary of strangers or appear as threatening as the more traditional guarding breeds. 

And -- for you men -- many a disillusioned man has purchased a Mastiff puppy with dreams of having a huge macho dog strutting by his side, only to find his giant companion prefers the company of the woman in the home -- choosing gentle hugs over wrestling on the rug.

If all of this sounds like an attempt to dissuade you from getting a Mastiff pup, you're right.  A Mastiff is definitely not for everyone.  Just ask any member of the Southern States Mastiff Rescue (SSMR) how many dogs they receive annually from well-meaning people who purchased a Mastiff puppy and realized too late what they were getting themselves into.  Sadly, they also see many Mastiffs who have been neglected, mistreated, caged, abused, or bred until their bodies are spent.  It's a testament to the breed that, even after this treatment, most of these dogs readily learn to trust and accept human comfort and seem to bond even more closely to anyone offering a kind hand.  So -- if you're considering a Mastiff but don't feel the need to experience the "joys" of puppy rearing, consider contacting the good folks at:  Southern States Mastiff Rescue

Rescue Or Puppy

Whatever you decide, take your time.  Talk to lots of owners and breeders; talk to your veterinarian; read about the breed; ask lots of questions.  


Ask for copies of Health Testing results on the sire and dam.

Health testing is a tool that quality breeders utilize in deciding which of their dogs should be used for breeding.

Health testing should include OFA Hips, Elbows, Patellas, Cardiac (preferably via an echocardiogram), Thyroid

Eyes- should have a 'Cerf' rating as well as dna testing for retinal folds

Cystinuria DNA  (plus urine nitroprusside for males)

Degenerative myelopathy

Visit a Mastiff in his home. Find a breeder you feel you can trust -- someone who cares about their puppies and where they are going -- someone you can contact when you have questions or concerns.  

Be willing to wait for the right puppy to come along.

Once you start searching, you'll find lots of information and plenty of puppies out there but quality breeders may not have puppies as often

as others. 

You’ve visited the Southern States Mastiff Fanciers web site and read this far -  you're off to a good start.

Good luck and, when you decide you just can’t resist that one special Mastiff, join the club!

Photos below were all submitted in SSMF Mastiff Calendar Contests through the years...

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