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Picture the following scenario: you’ve always wanted a dog of your own, once you had your own home and your own family. But now, imagine that the time has finally come: you and your spouse have purchased your first real house (and are no longer living in an apartment), and you’ve already added a child or two to your family. Should you get a dog? And, if so, should you consider getting a mastiff?
If you’ve ever owned a mastiff before, then you know that taking care of these dogs is very rewarding. Mastiffs are gentle and lovable, and they are a ton of fun to have around. But if you have owned one, then you also know that they are not the easiest dogs to get along with. They are large on the physical scale, and—if not cared for properly, or left to their own devices for too long a time—they can develop separation anxiety, or, worse yet, become aggressive. As well, they shed a lot, and will sometimes knock things down as they move throughout a home.
In this article, I'm going to discuss the factors you should consider if you're thinking about adopting a mastiff for your household. But before I get into meat of this post, it will be helpful to define what a mastiff is, exactly. Many people consider them to be dogs with floppy, wrinkly skin, and of course that's mostly true. But what makes a mastiff a mastiff and not, say, another wrinkly dog, like a Shar Pei or a pug?
In the past, mastiffs and their ancestors, the 5000-year-old molossus, were bred to be fierce warrior dogs. Today, this couldn't be further from the truth: mastiffs are gentle giants, well-loved by everyone for their sweet temperaments and personalities. The term actually refers to the larger varieties of molosser dogs, which have muscular necks, hanging ears, a heavy bone structure, broad build, and short muzzles. In general, their faces are short and flat. All kinds of mastiff breeds are encompassed in the mastiff category, including the Fila Brasileiro, French Mastiff, Bullmastiff, Kangal, and Argentinian Mastiff. Mastiffs have coats in all colors, including white, brown, and black-thick coats which, it must be said, shed a lot of fur. They often have wrinkly-looking skin, especially around the neck and face. In terms of longevity, mastiffs generally have shorter lives. Even so, it is not unknown for some mastiffs to have lived up to eighteen years or more.
Mastiffs are particularly known for their large size; they are easily among the some of the biggest dog breeds. Their size affects the amount of exercise they need: they need a lot of exercise to remain in good shape, and to work off excess energy. They're good with children, and will happily play with them and spend time with them; many breeds of mastiffs are playful and energetic. They are devoted to everyone in their household, really: they will enjoy being with the members of your family, and will seek to do good for them.
Mastiffs also have a noted protector instinct for those humans with whom they share the household, and can be territorial. This makes them a good choice for watchdogs, to scare away any potential intruders to your living space. Last, as (often lazy) homebodies with an easy-going temperament, mastiffs enjoy spending time at the home-whether "the home" is a noisy apartment, filled with people, or a quiet country cottage-and will be pleased to lie about the house with their owners, not unlike an undemanding, pleasant house cat.
However, do note that-if mastiffs do not get enough opportunities to socialize with either humans or other dogs-they may become lonely and sad. Alternately, they might go the other route and become destructive, damaging the property and items in your home. For this reason, you will, as with all breeds of dog, really, need to spend time with them to socialize with them, make them know that they are loved and that they are an important part of your family.
If you're looking to own a dog, then a mastiff could be a good choice for you, or it might not. Regardless of what decision you end up going with, if you get a mastiff or another breed, or if you forsake getting a dog entirely, you'll have to consider a number of factors. Some of these factors (among others, not listed here), include your living situation, your dog-owning experience in the past, and how long the mastiff will live. Other factors will naturally apply; we encourage you to consider as many of them as possible before making your final decision.
While lovable, the size and potential aggression of mastiff breeds means that they are not a great fit for first-time dog owners. If you haven't had one before, you might have taking care of him or her: they require lots of positive reinforcement, including hugs and praises, to be trained properly. Their size and strength also ensures that raising them can be intimidating for novice dog owners. As well, a novice owner might not know how to be assertive enough to train them to the fullest extent possible.
Mastiffs can be a good idea for a small apartment: after all, if you love a dog, you love a dog, regardless of the messes they might create as they move around. This is also the case for small apartments that are well-organized, where everything has its own place. But for many apartment renters-or the owners of small houses, mastiffs are not ideal because of the fact that they can bowl things over or knock them about as they move throughout their living space.
For the same reasons, you might want to hold off on getting a mastiff until your children are old enough to walk around on their own. You should also only get a mastiff if you have adequate space to walk them around, like a city park, for example. Mastiffs need their exercise.
Mastiffs are an expensive family of dog breeds. This is because-as larger dogs with relatively short lifespans, and a number of possible health problems that might crop up, including hip dysplasia and arthritis-going to the vet will not be an uncommon experience for them. All of the normal care associated with dogs, including vaccinations and other medical expenses, food, and toys, will need to be bigger and more expensive, again owing to their size. In other words, don't adopt a mastiff if you're not sure if you'll be able to care for him or her. Instead, get a smaller breed that is a little bit easier to manage, to save yourself some heartache.
Mastiffs can become afraid of unusual sights or strange situations; they need to be socialized properly to deal with this, and with humans as well as dogs. So, if you live in a place where there aren't a lot of other pet dogs, such as a sleepy little retirement community, you might find that Fido won't spend much time with his own kind, causing him to be fearful and get stressed out. On the other hand, he might even become aggressive or destructive, toward humans, dogs, and property. You need to train and socialize your mastiff carefully so that this isn't an issue.
It's not uncommon for mastiffs to become overheated on account of their thick fur. As such, mastiff breeds might not be ideal for those who live in warmer climes, such as the southern United States and Central America. In contrast, however, a mastiff would be perfect for those places which are colder, the Northeast and the PNW, Western Europe, and the Midwestern United States. If you do choose to get a mastiff in a hot environment-and there is nothing wrong with that, you'll want to doubly make sure that Fifi has enough space to move in, preferably within your own home, so that she can cool herself off. As well, you'll need to ensure that she doesn't stay in the sun for too long.
Mastiffs drool a lot, which (we admit it) can be a little gross. They also shed a lot, which will require additional cleaning of your living space. Beyond that, many mastiffs fart a lot, which has the potential to smell up your home. If you have an aversion to strong scents, a mastiff might also not be a good choice, again for the same reasons. Last-perhaps unsurprisingly at this point-they are great snorers, meaning that the noise of their lungs can wake you up in the middle of the night (or during an afternoon siesta).
If you plan on getting a dog anytime soon, be sure to do your research on what kind of breed you want before you make a decision. This way, you can choose the breed that not only fits in with your needs, tastes, and desires, but which you and your loved ones will consider a real part of your own family. But for what it's worth, mastiffs are often a perfect fit for many households: they are the loving, sweet protectors of every member of the household.
When not writing about himself in the third person, Andy spends many an hour walking his mischievous, mixed breed rescue Mr Wox, aka Soxy Woxy. A leading authority on all dog-related topics, Andy is highly respected, deeply appreciated and widely admired.