IS THE MASTIFF THE BREED FOR YOU?
This guide has been written to help you learn about the Mastiff Ė what to expect from a Mastiff, how to care for a Mastiff, the good points of the breed, the bad points, where to buy a Mastiff and how to go about selecting your puppy.
The most important points that you should consider as you read through this guide are
Will a Mastiff suit you?
Will it fit in with your lifestyle and what you want from a dog?
For example, the Mastiff does not need a great deal of exercise and this will suit some people but, if you want a dog to go jogging with you, the Mastiff is not the dog for you.
Will you be able to give it the care it needs?
For example, will you be physically strong enough to
control a dog that, as an adult, may weigh more than you?
Mastiffs are wonderful and loving dogs but they are not the breed for everyone. If you own a Mastiff and it suits you, you will probably find you will always want Mastiffs around you. But, if you buy a Mastiff puppy without really considering whether it will suit you, you may find you have made an expensive and heartbreaking mistake.
Is your property suitable for a Mastiff?
As Mastiffs are not very active dogs, they do not require a very large property. While Mastiffs are quite happy living on a rural property, you will probably find that they do not stray far from the house without you as they simply want to be with you, where ever you are. Mastiffs are equally at home in a suburban setting and there are even Mastiffs who live happily in town houses with only a court yard sized garden. The smaller the area they live in however, the more outings they should have though to avoid the problems that arise when any dog becomes bored.
Regardless of where your Mastiff is going to live, you need to ensure that your Mastiff is securely contained on your property. Mastiffs have a tendency to rush over to greet people they see. However, the sight of a Mastiff approaching, no matter how hard its tail is wagging, can be extremely intimidating to some people. You should therefore never allow the situation to arise where your Mastiff is outside your property and not under your direct control and supervision. The recommended means of containing your Mastiff is to ensure that your property is securely fenced. Under no circumstances should you secure your Mastiff by chaining it up. Any dog that has been chained up is at risk of getting itself tangled up and, as some Mastiffs have a tendency to panic, they can all too easily suffer a serious injury while chained up, even for a very short time.
One other thing to consider when deciding if your home is suitable for a Mastiff is whether you have steps or slippery floors. As with any giant breed, Mastiff puppies are very susceptible to joint and bone injuries. Mastiff puppies grow so much and so fast that they donít have a chance to keep up with their own growth and they are clumsy as a result. That, combined with the fact that their bones are still very soft and the fact that they are heavy, means that they can risk doing a lot of damage to themselves with a simple fall or slip.
It is therefore recommended that they always be supervised around steps and slippery floors. You will probably find that most breeders in fact recommend that steps be fenced off so there is no risk that a puppy will fall down them or off them and the same for slippery floors so that there is no risk that a puppy will slip. Even adult Mastiffs should not be allowed to play on steps or slippery floors.
To find out more, please take the time to read the "About the Mastiff" page.
If you decide a Mastiff is the breed for you - What next?
Once you have decided that the
Mastiff is the breed for you,
you still need to make a few more decisions. What colour do you want, do you
want a dog or a bitch, do you want a dog you can show or breed from or one that
is solely a companion/pet? Flexibility may be the key to you actually obtaining
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, donít think they are all necessarily going to be brindles because they often very dark. Even fawn Mastiffs are nearly black when they are born.
Dog or Bitch
Whether you want a dog or a bitch is again really a matter of personal preference. Bitches are generally smaller than dogs so you might decide that you will get a bitch because they will be easier to handle physically. However, there are plenty of large bitches and small dogs so there is no guarantee as to the likely adult size of the puppy you pick.
Show Potential or Companion Only
If you want to show your Mastiff, you will need to buy one that is sold as show potential quality as opposed to companion only. There should be no difference in terms of the health of the puppy in regard to whether it is for showing or as a family companion. One difference is that the breeder will have decided that, for cosmetic reasons, some of the puppies are more suitable for showing than others. For example, the breeder might designate a puppy as companion quality because its muzzle is a little too long in comparison to the proportions of the rest of the head or because it has fur that is longer than usual. However, a puppy sold as a companion only puppy should still be recognisable as a Mastiff. Some breeders will only sell puppies that they decide not to keep for companions. Puppies sold as companions are generally sold at a cheaper price than the show quality ones and should be on the Limited Register.
Breeders will not want a Limited Register puppy used for breeding, and this is one of the terms of being on this register. They may also require you to sign a contract agreeing to have the puppy de-sexed at a designated age. If you think you may wish to breed with your Mastiff in the future, you will need to buy a show quality dog and it must be registered on the Main Register, not the Limited Register.
One word of warning about breeding. Mastiffs are not easy to breed with and the costs of breeding are very high. Do not expect that you will be able to recover some of the money you have spent on your dog by breeding with it and selling the puppies. Any one who has ever bred a litter of Mastiff puppies will agree that, in purely financial terms, they are running at a huge loss.
As to whether you get a Mastiff
"with papers", the answer should always be yes but they must also be
the right sort of papers. There are two sorts of "papers".
The first sort is a pedigree. This usually shows the parents and grandparents of a dog going back three generations. The second type is a registration paper. It confirms that the dog in question is registered with one of the canine associations in Australia.
To be registered, a dog must be a pure breed dog and it must be possible to trace its breeding back three generations.
Therefore all registration certificates also show the dogís pedigree going back three generations.
The only way to guarantee that the puppy you are about to buy
is a pure bred Mastiff is to buy a registered dog.
Any dog can have a pedigree and a dog can be pure bred but not be registered.
So to be sure you are getting a pure bred puppy, always make sure the puppy comes with registration papers not just a pedigree.
If you have doubts about whether the puppy you are interested
in is registered, then contact your canine association
or the Mastiff Club of Victoria Inc. for help.
Finding a Breeder
Never buy a puppy from a pet shop. Always buy your puppy from a breeder who is registered with the canine association in your state. In Victoria, the relevant association is the Victorian Canine Association Inc. Breeders who are registered are required to abide by a code of ethics which protects the wellbeing of the dogs they use, the health of the puppies they breed and you as a purchaser. Registered breeders are not presently allowed to sell their dogs to pet shops so you wonít find puppies from registered breeders in a pet shop. If you have doubts about whether a breeder is registered, ring your canine association and check.
The Mastiff Club of Victoria Inc. can send you a list of members who breed Mastiffs. All the breeders on the list are registered breeders. The canine association in your state can also refer you to registered breeders in your state. Another way to make contact with breeders is to attend dog shows where Mastiffs are being exhibited. That way you will not only get a chance to talk to various Mastiff breeders and owners but you will also be able to see some of their dogs. Shows are held regularly and you will be able to get details of when and where they will be held by contacting the Mastiff Club of Victoria Inc. or the canine association in your state.
Breeders with web sites can be found here.
What should a Breeder do for you
All breeders should be registered with their states canine control body. Each body has a set of rules and regulations that breeders must comply with. The easiest way to check what these rules are is to look at the respective states canine control bodies web site. There are links below that should take you to the correct place within their web sites. As a general guide you should get the following:
Dogs NSW (go to code of ethics section)
Dogs NT (go to code of ethics section)
Canine Control Council of Queensland
SA Canine Assoc.
Tasmanian Canine Assoc.
Dogs West (select 'documents' then 'code of ethics'
The MCOV recommends that any puppy buyer who finds a breeder not following these rules that they report them to the respective control body.
SELECTING A PUPPY
Once you have the names of some breeders, ring them and try and go and see as many of them as you can so that you can look at their dogs. Make sure you meet the mother of the puppies you are interested in and, if possible, the sire. If the sire is not owned by the breeder, see if you can arrange a visit through the breeder. If the sire is interstate or overseas, ask for photos or video footage of the sire. Also see as many other Mastiffs as possible. Try and assess the dogs you see against the breed standard. Spend time asking the breeder about the parents and the other dogs related to them. Ask what health problems the breeder has seen or knows of in the dogs they have bred or own and any dogs related to the puppy you are considering. Also ask what testing has been undertaken on the dogs they have bred and those they have used for breeding. Ask to see the results of all testing of the parents of any puppies and, if possible, any testing done on grandparents and other relations. Most important of all, consider the temperament of the dogs you see and ask the breeder about the temperament of their dogs, those they have used for breeding and the dogs related to the puppy you are considering.
Try very hard not to buy the first Mastiff puppy you see. All Mastiff puppies are loveable and cute so this is not easy but remember, you are going to be investing a lot of time, money and love into the puppy you pick and it has to be right for you. You will be surprised by how much you learn by looking at various dogs and talking to their owners and breeders so even if it takes you some time to decide on a puppy, you will not be wasting your time.
No reputable breeder will mind you wanting to make sure you are making the right decision because they are equally as anxious to make sure that their puppy goes to a good home. In fact, you will probably find that the breeder wants to know as much about you and your lifestyle as you want to know about their dogs. Also consider that, particularly if you are new to the breed, it is going to be important that you feel comfortable contacting the breeder for the advice and reassurance that every new Mastiff owner needs. Do not be surprised if the breeder has a written sale contract that they want you to sign. Read the contract carefully and make sure you are agreeable to what is in it before you sign. If there is anything you are told about the puppy that is important to your decision to buy it, then this should also be mentioned in the contract. For example, if you want to show your Mastiff and the breeder says the one you are buying is of show quality, the contract should say this.
As Mastiffs are not very common, sometimes you may have to wait to get a puppy. It is sometimes the case that there are no puppies around for a while and then there are several litters born close together. Sometimes too, it is a case of being in the right place at the right time. The more breeders you contact, the more people will know you are looking for a puppy and the greater your chance of hearing about any litters that are available.
The following books are recommended for those who would like to read more about the breed:-
The Complete Mastiff
- Betty Baxter & David
Blaxter (Ringpress Books Ltd.)
Mastiff - Christina de Lima-Netto (Interpet Publishing)
The History & Management of the Mastiff - Betty Baxter & Patricia Hoffman
Mastiffs - Marie A Moore (T.F.H. Publications)
Mastiff: Aristocratic Guardian - dee dee Andersson (Doral Publishing Inc.)
The Mastiff and Bullmastiff Handbook - Douglas B Oliff (by Howell Book House)