Bull mastiffs are very large, very strong working dogs developed in England from a cross of bulldogs and mastiffs, and used by 19th century gameskeepers for tracking and capture of poachers. Easygoing and affectionate yet alert, bull mastiffs today are often quiet family companions and protectors. Weighing 100 to 130 pounds at maturity, these powerful dogs can suffer a number of heritable diseases. Their average lifespan is less than 10 years. Despite their size, their coats and their family bonds make them best-suited as indoor dogs. Care must include proper training, daily exercise, bloat prevention measures, and attention to special health needs such as temperature control and skin problems.
Training and Exercise
Start training your bull mastiff immediately to establish yourself and your family members as his leaders. A large, strong, intelligent and fearless adult bull mastiff who lacks proper training can be a hazard and a liability. The American Kennel Club notes that bull mastiffs “are independent thinkers and may not respond to traditional obedience training.” Consistency in training is key. Remember that training is not just a matter of formal sessions. When you are with your puppy or adult dog, you are either maintaining or undoing his training with every interaction during all of his life.
Consider working with a professional trainer familiar with the bull mastiff breed. Do not turn your dog over to the professional for training. He is not going to be the dog's leader. Rather, have the trainer work with you and your dog together, as you must ultimately be your dog's confident trainer and leader. Bull mastiffs can be a challenge, even for professional trainers. Consider joining a dog club, where you can properly socialize your dog while training him with the support and advice of other members.
Provide moderate exercise for your bull mastiff. Daily walks and playtime are sufficient, but your dog may perform well at activities such as tracking, obedience and agility, or as a therapy dog. Bull mastiffs need daily walks in cool temperatures. Exercise reduces excess energy so your dog can be content indoors, and helps maintain a healthy weight, reducing the potential for bloat. Look out for your dog. While bull mastiffs are agile and active, they can overheat easily due to their shortened muzzles. The breed is sensitive to both heat and cold extremes.
Brush your bull mastiff weekly with a slicker brush or bristle brush. The bull mastiff’s short coat is dense and weather-resistant, and it doesn’t shed much. Bathe your dog only infrequently to preserve his coat’s natural oils and weather resistance.
Check your bull mastiff's skin wrinkles for inflammation daily. If your dog has skin problems, wash affected areas using a clean, damp cloth. Dry the skin and coat thoroughly after washing, as moisture trapped in wrinkles can worsen skin problems. Signs of skin problems include redness, swelling and sores. Seek a veterinarian's help if your bull mastiff develops skin problems.
Consult your veterinarian regarding the proper method and frequency for cleaning your bull mastiff's ears. Clean his ears using a vet-approved solution.
Keep your bull mastiff's nails properly trimmed for comfort and to prevent him from developing structural or joint issues. These can occur when your dog must shift his weight to avoid nail discomfort. Get the help of a professional to trim the nails.
Review the common health issues affecting the breed so you are aware of the signs and symptoms of problems that can impact your bull mastiff. Bull mastiffs may suffer from skin issues and allergies; bloat; various cancers; cardiac issues including heart murmurs and sub-aortic stenosis (SAS); eye problems due to wrinkled skin, retinal disorders and degeneration; hypothyroidism; kidney failure and renal amyloidosis; hip and/or elbow dysplasia, and developmental bone diseases such as panosteitis.
Watch your bull mastiff for signs of distress, including changes in the dog's habits or routine. Bull mastiffs possess high pain tolerance and may not show readily recognizable signs of distress when injured or ill.
Consider buying some pet health insurance, as the size of your dog and the serious nature of some of the health conditions that may potentially affect him can drastically increase your veterinary costs over and above the cost of regular preventative maintenance.
Consult your veterinarian about a proper diet for your bull mastiff -- one that helps prevent bloat while providing your dog the necessary nutrition to stave off health issues. Bloat occurs when dogs suffer a gastric dilatation in which the stomach fills with gas and fluid and becomes distended, or a gastric torsion in which the stomach twists, causing obstruction, distention and compromised blood flow to the stomach. Bloat is an emergency. It can cause serious internal organ damage and rapid death if not addressed by a veterinarian immediately. Older dogs and larger dogs are at greatest risk of bloat, and bull mastiffs are among the breeds most at risk.
Prevent your dog from overeating. Divide his daily ration into three or more meals. Feed your dog a high-quality dry dog food. Added table scraps can include cooked meats with the bones and fat removed and cooked vegetables. Limit scraps in general to less than 10 percent of your dog's diet. Vegetables may replace up to 20 percent of your dog's food. Avoid feeding your pet garlic, onions, alcohol, yeast, chocolate, avocado, grapes or raisins, as they contain substances that are toxic to dogs.
Discourage your bull mastiff from eating quickly. Avoid exercising him immediately after a meal. Always provide him access to fresh water so that while he may casually lap some water after a meal, he feels no need to drink a particularly copious quantity.
Bull mastiffs do not generally pair well with other dogs and are frequently aggressive with them, according to the American Bullmastiff Association’s website. Consider a dog of the opposite gender if you must have more than one dog, and properly socialize your bull mastiff from the time he is a puppy to try to prevent development of negative behaviors. Always be alert to the possibility of aggression between your dogs. Before you get a second dog, know how you will deal with a fight if one eventually occurs, and how you will manage your commitment to both dogs from then on.
The bull mastiff breed’s high pain tolerance makes him tolerant of rough play and the attention of children; however, always supervise children around your dog, and teach them to behave properly around all dogs.
Items You Will Need
- Professional trainer
- Training collar
- Slicker brush or bristle brush
- Dog shampoo
- Vet-approved solution for cleaning ears
- Pet insurance
- Table scraps
- American Kennel Club: AKC Meet the Breeds: Bullmastiff
- The Bullmastiff Manifest: Alpha Dog Training
- American Bullmastiff Association: Information for Prospective Owners
- American Bullmastiff Association: Introduction to Bullmastiff Health Information
- American Bullmastiff Association: Common Diseases and Conditions in the Bullmastiff
- American Bullmastiff Association: Bloat