Mastiff Temperament and Personality


Mastiffs are gentle with children and other animals, wanting only to take care of them. They are famous for having a “soft mouth,” or the ability to carry things like kittens and squirrels without damaging them.

Just because he’s gentle doesn’t mean the Mastiff isn’t protective and territorial. He barks — a big, deep, scary bark — when strangers approach and doesn’t let up his guard until he has been introduced to the person and assured that he or she is welcome. Mastiffs aren’t attack dogs, but they very effectively prevent intruders from entering the premises or, if they have gotten in, from leaving again until the proper authorities arrive.

Mastiffs have moderate exercise needs. A sedate walk will satisfy them, but if you want to compete with them in obedience, rally or weight-pulling, they’re up for that, too.

Mastiffs dislike change, so if you’re planning to bring one into your life, make sure it’s what you really want. A Mastiff will bond closely to you and grieve if you give him up to another home or a shelter.

The perfect Mastiff doesn’t come ready-made from the breeder. Any dog, no matter how nice, can develop obnoxious levels of barking, digging, countersurfing and other undesirable behaviors if he is bored, untrained or unsupervised. And any dog can be a trial to live with during adolescence. In the case of the Mastiff, the “teen” years can start at nine months and continue until the dog is about two years old. Fortunately, Mastiffs are sensitive, smart and want only to please. That gives you a head start in training them, especially if you start early.

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Start training your Mastiff puppy the day you bring him home. Even at three months old, he is capable of soaking up everything you can teach him. Never wait until he is six months old to begin training, or you will have a much bigger, more headstrong dog to deal with. A young Mastiff will test you to see what he can get away with. If possible, get him to puppy kindergarten class by the time he is 10 to 12 weeks old, so you can start building a strong working relationship and socialize, socialize, socialize. Shyness can be a problem in Mastiffs, so do your best to prevent it. However, be aware that many puppy training classes require certain vaccines (like kennel cough) to be up to date, and many veterinarians recommend limited exposure to other dogs and public places until puppy vaccines (including rabies, distemper and parvovirus) have been completed. In lieu of formal training, you can begin training your puppy at home and socializing him among family and friends until puppy vaccines are completed.

Talk to the breeder, describe exactly what you’re looking for in a dog, and ask for assistance in selecting a puppy. Breeders see the puppies daily and can make uncannily accurate recommendations once they know something about your lifestyle and personality.

The perfect Mastiff doesn’t spring fully formed from the whelping box. He’s a product of his background and breeding. Whatever you want from a Mastiff, look for one whose parents have nice personalities and who has been well socialized from early puppyhood.


Vet Street. (2001) Mastiff. Retrieved from