The Mastiff

Exercise Requirements  
Grooming Requirements  
Weight80 + Kg (approx)
Life Span8 - 10 Years (approx)

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Mastiff Club of Victoria Inc (MCOV).


Mastiffs come in apricot-fawn, silver-fawn, fawn and dark fawn-brindle. The one litter can have puppies with different colours in it. The colour you select is purely a matter of personal preference but if you are interested in a puppy of a particular colour, you will find that some breeders may be more likely to breed mastiffs in that colour so that may be a factor in deciding which breeders you approach. If you visit a breeder and see very young puppies, don’t think they are all necessarily going to be brindles because they are all very dark. Even fawn mastiffs are black when they are born.


The mastiff is sometimes known as the Old English Mastiff. Most breeds want to claim a long ancestry but ancient artefacts confirm that dogs of the mastiff type have existed in England since Roman times. These ancient mastiffs were not identical with mastiffs today. They are however recognisable as the ancient ancestors of the breed as we know it.

In England, the fortunes and popularity of the mastiff have waxed and waned over the centuries. The breed very nearly died out at various times, most recently, during the Second World War when it was only with the assistance of a small number of mastiffs imported from Canada after the war that the breed was saved.

It appears to be generally agreed that, with one exception (the famous Lyme Hall Mastiffs) it was during the early nineteenth century that mastiffs owners began to breed them to a plan and to keep records regarding breeding. While mastiffs had previously been bred for what they could do, breeders began to be concerned with what they looked like.

In 1873 the Kennel Club was founded in England and a formal system for the keeping of pedigrees began.

Mastiffs have been bred for all manner of tasks over the centuries. They were used as dogs of war, for gladiatorial contests in Roman arenas, for bear baiting and as draft animals. Their main use was as guardians of people and property.

Today mastiffs are bred almost exclusively as a superb companion animal and they are not generally regarded as a working breed. That having been said however, there are mastiffs today who compete in obedience trialing work, agility trialing, tracking trials and who work as therapy pets.

The first definite records of mastiffs in Australia date back to shows in Sydney and Melbourne in the 1850’s. After the turn of the century, numbers declined. It is only in quite recent years that numbers have begun to increase. It is not possible to say exactly how many mastiffs exist in Australia today but the number would probably be in the region of several hundred.


Because Mastiffs grow into such large and powerful dogs, their temperament is extremely important. A dog the size of an adult Mastiff which had an aggressive or nervous temperament could be extremely dangerous. A Mastiff should therefore be gentle, loving and loyal and their greatest pleasure should be to be with you.

To develop a good temperament, it is essential that a puppy come from a breeder who is aiming to breed a Mastiff with the correct temperament. It is also essential that the puppy you select appears to have a good temperament. These two things however, are only the starting point.

The greatest influence on the outcome of a Mastiff's temperament is the treatment, training and experiences it receives throughout its life but especially as it matures to adulthood. On this point, keep in mind that a Mastiff matures slowly. While this will vary from dog to dog, it may take up to four years for your puppy to mature into the calm adult described in the standard and you will have to do plenty to help it get there.

The first thing you will have to do to help your puppy will be to give it plenty of time. Your puppy needs to be allowed to be with you. It needs to be under your feet as you work around your home and snoring its head off in your lounge as you sit there at the end of the day. Your puppy will not develop its special Mastiff personality if it is left outside away from you other than while you are feeding it and taking it for a short walk each day. Mastiffs need your time and they will richly reward you for it.

Your puppy will also need to be taught what is expected of it. It might be amusing seeing a Mastiff puppy trying to drag you around when you put it on a leash but it is no longer funny when it does the same thing as an adult who weighs more than you.

You should try and get out and about with your puppy as soon as possible so that it can start to learn to interact with other people and animals. Once you have started, keep doing it but also keep in mind that that your puppy also needs to spend time at home getting used to its surroundings and that puppies need plenty of sleep. Outings do not have to be long ones but they should be regular. Your puppy is most likely to grow into an adult Mastiff who is well socialised if it has had exposure to different situations and people on a regular basis and from an early age.

Part of the socialisation training it will need is to meet and mix with other dogs, of all breeds and ages. Mastiffs are generally very compatible with other dogs and seem to be particularly patient with small dogs. However, any breed of dog will get excited on seeing another dog if it does not normally have the chance to meet and mix. It is therefore important to condition your Mastiff to all varieties of dog so that it will not be fearful, dominant or aggressive when it sees another dog.

Mastiffs are not always overly confident and they can panic in new situations. During their development, all breeds of dog go through stages where they frighten easily and Mastiffs are no exception so don’t be surprised if your Mastiff puppy suddenly starts to be scared of things that it has seen before. The best way to build up your puppy’s confidence is to gently introduce the puppy to all manner of situations and to keep on doing it throughout your Mastiff’s life. Introduce the puppy to different breeds and ages of other dogs, to travelling in the car, to children, to people in wheelchairs, people with walking sticks, people with umbrellas, people with hats, people with sunglasses, tall people, short people, loud people, crowds, traffic, trains, traffic overpasses – in short, anyone and any thing. But, don’t try and introduce it to all these things at once. Make sure that the introductions are gradual and gentle so that it learns that new experiences are interesting and pleasant and not frightening. Do not reinforce behaviour that you do not want by "molly coddling" or trying to reassure your puppy - this only rewards behaviour that you do not want!

As a general guide to what to expect from your puppy’s temperament as it develops, there are roughly three main phases to expect.

The first stage is the puppy stage from the time you get your puppy (usually at about 8 weeks of age) up to 9 months or so. During this stage you can expect that, in general, you will have a happy friendly puppy. There will be periods when it may be scared of going near certain objects (for example, rubbish bins or grates in the footpath) but, in general it will recover quickly from these phases and you will enjoy watching its antics.

The second stage is from about 9 months through to 2 1/2 years or so and is equivalent to the human teenage years. While there are plenty of exceptions, your puppy may go through a period during this time which you will later refer to as the terrible teenage years. Your puppy will be reaching sexual maturity and will be trying to sort out its place in the scheme of things. As a result, it may sometimes behave in ways you did not expect it to.

You may find your previously friendly puppy starts guarding you or your property or its food or that there are some altercations with other dogs that it well with. You has previously gotten on may find that it starts testing you out by, for example, not coming when it is called.
You may also probably find that your puppy starts behaving skittishly, taking fright at things or barking at people as they approach.

You will need to be patient but consistent in continuing to teach your puppy what is expected of it and to introduce it to different people, places and situations and other dogs. Don’t be surprised if, even though in many ways, your Mastiff is more loveable than ever, you sometimes wonder if you have made a mistake getting a Mastiff. Always speak to your breeder or other experienced Mastiff owners if you feel like this and they will be able to help you decide if you have a problem or whether your Mastiff is just being a teenager.

The third stage is from about 2 1/2 years of age on (but it could be later in some Mastiffs) when your puppy will hopefully have matured into the calm adult described in the standard. It will only have got there with a lot of hard work and help from you but you will now be sure that it was all worth it.

Care / Grooming

Mastiffs are a relatively easy care breed. Their short coat needs only a quick brush a few times a week and may be a wash every few months to keep it looking good.

Mastiffs do moult however. Some moult only a couple of times a year while others seem to moult continuously. If you happen to have a mastiff who moults continuously, get used to the idea that you will always have mastiff fur on your clothes, furniture and floors.

The only other aspect to grooming a mastiff is to trim your mastiff’s nails from time to time. You should start doing this from an early age so they get used to it. Your breeder will explain to you how to trim the nails and how much to trim off.


As with any breed of dog, there are certain diseases and health problems to which the mastiff is more prone than some other breeds of dog.

No breeder can guarantee that the puppy you buy will be disease free because the causes of many diseases are not fully understood. However, for diseases which are to some extent hereditary, there are tests which can be carried out on adult dogs which may help determine if puppies bred from those dogs are likely to be at risk from those diseases. Cruciate injury is not uncommon.

The main types of hereditary or partly hereditary diseases to which mastiffs are considered to be at risk and for which adult mastiffs can be screened are hip and elbow dysplasia, eye disease and thyroid disease.

Hip Dysplasia is a condition involving the abnormal formation of the hip joint. This can result in abnormal wearing of the hip joint causing lameness and pain in the rear legs. Generally symptoms will not appear until the puppy is 5 to 9 months old. X-rays are used to diagnose the disease and to try and screen for it in dogs to be used in breeding. However, some dogs who's X-rays show evidence of hip dysplasia never develop any actual symptoms of the disease while other dogs who's X-rays indicate normal hip formation may develop symptoms. Nevertheless, it is recommended that puppies should only be purchased from breeders who have had the mastiffs they breed with hip scored. Ask to see a copy of the hip score report and discuss it with the breeder and your vet.

Elbow Dysplasia is a term used to describe a condition with a number of different possible causes. All of them cause abnormal wearing of the elbow joint resulting in stiffness, limping and pain and are believed to be caused, at least to some extent, by abnormal formation of the elbow joint. As for hip dysplasia, X-rays are used to diagnose the condition and to try to screen dogs to be used for breeding. Again, symptoms will not generally be apparent in young puppies. Most breeders have their dogs elbows X-rayed at the same time that they are hip scored. Ask the breeder whether this has been done and, if so, ask to see a copy of the X-ray report and discuss it with the breeder and your vet.

There are a number of eye diseases and conditions which are (at least to some extent) hereditary and can affect mastiffs. They include entropion (which involves a rolling in of the eyelid resulting in the lashes rubbing on the eye), ectropion (which involves a rolling out of the eyelid), cataracts, persistent pupillary membranes (PPM) and progressive retinal atrophy (PRA). Each of the last three diseases can cause vision impairment and blindness. Screening for eye and thyroid diseases is often undertaken in the United States and some mastiff breeders in Australia are now also starting to undertake such screening.

Other Diseases
Other diseases which seem to affect mastiffs more than some other breeds include bloat and cancers.

Bloat is a build up of intestinal gasses which, if left unnoticed and untreated, can kill a dog within a very short time. Most deep chested breeds of dog are considered to be susceptible to bloat. Signs to watch for include swelling of the stomach, a hollow drum sound when the stomach is tapped, distressed pacing, restlessness and excessive panting. If you suspect bloat, take your dog to the vet immediately. Do not delay. Any delay may reduce the chance of successful treatment. To decrease the risk of bloat occurring, do not exercise your mastiff for an hour before and after meals and feed an adult dog two smaller meals per day rather than one larger one. Be careful when selecting dry foods as some brands swell up more than others once they have been eaten. Some owners soak dry food so that it expands before the dog eats it.

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