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Is a Mastiff Good for a First-Time Dog Owner? Care & Traits Explained

Written by: Nicole Cosgrove

Last Updated on April 11, 2024 by Dogster Team

english mastiff dog on the grass

Is a Mastiff Good for a First-Time Dog Owner? Care & Traits Explained

Mastiffs are majestic, large dogs and some of the oldest breeds known to man. They’re among the first dogs to be companions to humans on global migrations and took on roles ranging from war dogs to livestock guardians to fighting dogs.

Is a Mastiff a good pet for a first-time dog owner? Generally, no, the Mastiff is not ideal for first-time dog owners. Find out why.

Traits of the Mastiff

“Mastiff” generally refers to the English Mastiff, a massive breed that descended from ancient mountain breeds like the Alaunt, Pugnaces Britanniae, and the Alpine Mastiff. The modern version of the English Mastiff was established in the 1880s and continues to be refined today.

One of the most desirable aspects of the English Mastiff is the blend of courage and gentleness. These dogs are brave and powerful, making them ideal for guarding buildings and livestock, yet they’re gentle enough to live with small animals and people.

They’re highly trainable but can be stubborn, which can be a disaster with a dog of this size in the hands of an inexperienced owner. Without proper training, boundaries, and discipline, the Mastiff can become a handful. They’re especially unsure of strangers, which can lead to aggression without proper, consistent socialization at an early age.

The Mastiff thrives with a job and requires space, which is why they’re best suited for life in the country or in a rural home with land or a large yard.

Male English Mastiff
Image By: Ricantimages, Shutterstock

Should First-Time Dog Owners Have Mastiffs?

Though it is not an ideal breed for a first-time owner, it’s not a lost cause. These dogs make excellent companions in the right conditions, but you need to put in the work.

If you’re committed to researching the breed, providing the ideal environment for a Mastiff (read: not an apartment or small urban home), and learning the right training techniques, you can be a successful Mastiff owner without experience.

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Types of Mastiffs

The English Mastiff is often referred to simply as a “Mastiff,” but there are other breeds that are mastiff-type dogs and share their ancestry with the English version.

Here are some other types of Mastiffs:

  • Neapolitan Mastiff: An Italian Mastiff breed that dates back to the Roman dogs of war
  • Bullmastiff: An intelligent and brave dog derived from Bulldogs and the Old English Mastiffs in England
  • Tibetan Mastiff: A massive, heavy-coated mountain dog with an independent streak
  • Spanish Mastiff: A Spanish dog breed created as a livestock guardian dog
  • Alpine Mastiff: An extinct dog breed that contributed to both the modern Mastiff and the St. Bernard
Neapolitan Mastiffs
Image By: Christian Mueller, Shutterstock

There are other breeds that, while not technically Mastiffs, are believed to share common Mastiff ancestry, including the Great Dane, St. Bernard, Dogo Argentino, Tosa, and Sarabi Dog.

Regardless of the differences between these dogs, these breeds are known for their massive size. Historically, they have been used for hunting, livestock guardian duties, and fighting. Differences in the breeds, such as a thick, long coat vs. a shorter, smooth coat, are a result of the climate and their cross-breeding.

The different Mastiff breeds have different personalities and temperaments, but they’re generally suited to experienced owners—or owners who are willing to commit to working with a professional dog trainer.

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Mastiffs can be gentle, patient, and fiercely loyal dogs, but their sheer will and size can present a problem with an inexperienced owner who doesn’t train them properly. If you want a powerful, giant breed like a Mastiff, it is a big commitment to training and providing the right environment to ensure your dog is safe, happy, and healthy.

Featured Image Credit: Waldemar Dabrowski, Shutterstock

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