Giants of All Dogs: All About the 6 Mastiff Dog Breed Types

probably a neapolitan mastiff

Two words: Mastiffs rock. The gigantic mastiff dog breed is an ancient breed with an interesting and varied history that dates back thousands of years. They are a beloved breed of dogs, thanks to their size, lovable expressive faces and gentle demeanors. 

Mastiffs weren’t always gentle giants. Ancient civilizations bred mastiff “war dogs” for the battlefield. 

Currently, the American Kennel Club recognizes six types of mastiffs: the bullmastiff, mastiff, Neapolitan mastiff, Pyrenean mastiff, and the Tibetan mastiff. 

How Many Mastiff Dog Breeds Are There? 

The AKC tends to be the governing body in the U.S. about what is and isn’t a breed; however, that doesn’t mean there aren’t other types of breeds. In fact, sometimes there are breeds that the AKC doesn’t recognize, simply because the breed founders and clubs choose NOT to submit them for AKC consideration. Here are the six AKC-recognized mastiff dog breeds and their differences:

  • Bullmastiff: A bullmastiff is a cross between a bulldog and a mastiff. Although not quite as big as the mastiff, a bullmastiff is still a large, well-built guard dog that stands about 24 to 27 inches tall and weighs 100 to 130 pounds. Life expectancy is about 7 to 9 years.
  • Mastiff: The mastiff is one of the largest mastiff breeds, standing 27.5 to 30 inches tall and weighing up to 230 pounds. The most popular (ranked 29) of the AKC-recognized mastiff breeds, mastiff dog breed has a lifespan of 6 to 10 years.
  • Neapolitan mastiff: A Neapolitan mastiff, aka “Neo” weighs 110 to 150 pounds and stands anywhere from 24 to 29 inches tall. Life expectancy for a Neapolitan mastiff is 7-9 years.
  • Pyrenean mastiff: The Pyrenean mastiff reigns near the top of the mastiff breeds in both height and weight, coming in at 25 to 31 inches and 120 to 240 pounds. Its lifespan of 10 to 13 years is also greater than the other five AKC-recognized mastiff breeds.
  • Spanish mastiff: A spanish mastiff averages 28 to 35 inches in height and weighs between 140 and 200 pounds. Life expectancy for this breed is 10 to 12 years.
  • Tibetan mastiff: The Tibetan mastiff (TM) stands between 24 to 26 inches tall and weighs around 90 to 120, making the Tibetan mastiff the smallest mastiff breed. Its average lifespan is 10 to 12 years.

The bullmastiff, mastiff, Neapolitan and Tibetan mastiff dog breeds belong to the AKC working group, while the Pyrenean and Spanish mastiffs belong to the AKC foundation stock service group. Other mastiff-type breeds include cane corso, dogue de Bordeaux, great dane, and the Boerboel.

Do Mastiffs Bark a Lot?

Generally speaking, the mastiff dog breeds is quiet and doesn’t bark excessively. As guardians, when they do, it’s for a reason. On the other hand, some mastiff dog breeds are very vocal, typically at night when they are most attentive. While you don’t want to stop your mastiff breed from alerting you to trouble, if he goes off on a rail and barks excessively, there are a few things you can do to quiet him down.

How to stop a mastiff from excessive barking?

  • Ensure your mastiff dog gets enough daily exercise, which isn’t a crazy amount for these large dogs. However, lack of regular exercise causes mastiffs to become bored and destructive. It’s best to exercise the mastiff in the morning and evening when they are active. Consider temperatures before heading out for a walk because mastiff breeds can overheat easily.
  • Although the mastiff dog breed makes excellent guard dogs, they are sensitive to scolding, harsh corrections, and punishment. Use positive reinforcement dog training.
  • If you need to distract and redirect your pet, a handheld ultrasonic training tool can get your dog’s attention with the push of a button. Be sure to give a “quiet” command and praise and reward once your dog complies and stops barking.

Facts About Mastiffs 

Centuries ago, many of these ancient mastiff breeds were bred to safeguard farms and livestock. They all are loyal, protective guardians as they are watchful, imposing, and intimidating. While large in stature with undeniable strength and striking, powerful features, they all are patient, loyal companions that can make an excellent addition to a family. However, it is also their physical characteristics that make early training and socialization a must, as they can easily injure a young child or frail adult. What else do these breeds have in common? They are all droolers, so daily slobbering should be expected if you welcome a mastiff breed into your home. 

possibly a pyrenean mastiff taking a break

Are Mastiffs Easy to Train?

Obedience training starting in puppyhood is a must for these giant breeds. A lack of such training for any mastiff breed can lead to an ill-mannered and unmanageable dog. In general, mastiff breeds are easy to train and perform well with positive reinforcement, including praise and plenty of healthy dog treats. However, you may find a few differences between the breeds.

  • Establish rules and routines early on and follow them through the life of a bullmastiff. This breed excels at agility, obedience, tracking, scent work, and rally. 
  • Although mastiffs want to please and learn quickly, they get bored just as fast with repetitive tasks. It can help to keep the sessions short and the training fun and varied. This breed excels at reading body language and communicating with their eyes. Make eye contact with your dog and use praise and rewards. Be careful not to raise your voice as you can easily hurt his feelings.
  • Training Neapolitan mastiffs during puppyhood is ideal as it is the period this breed is active and curious. Exercise patience and remain consistent with this breed to make dealing with their strong, stubborn teenage personality phase easier. By the time they are three to four years of age, a well-trained Neo will display more of a laid-back adult personality.
  • Pyrenean and Spanish mastiffs can be stubborn, so start training early, keep sessions short and make them fun. Praising and rewarding spontaneous actions like sitting or coming to you can go a long way with this breed.
  • Forget traditional obedience training with the highly intelligent Tibetan mastiffs. They learn quickly and are likely not to repeat a task they know. If a TM trusts and respects you, they will follow your command. However, this breed will go with its own instincts over your training if they have doubts. Tibetan mastiffs aren’t food driven and don’t consistently respond to treats as a training tool. They lack reliable recall and tend to show off in class only to ignore their owner’s commands at home.

Are Mastiffs Good Dogs? Do They Make Good Pets?

Mastiff breeds are good dogs; however, their temperaments are unique to their individual breeds. For example, the word “challenging” is often used when discussing the independent, stubborn Tibetan mastiff. Although he is aloof with strangers, this breed is eager to please his humans. With that said, Tibetan mastiffs have their own agenda and require reminders of the task at hand.

  • Bullmastiffs are loyal, intelligent, reliant, fearless, and very quick to respond if their family or home is threatened.
  • While reserved around average strangers, well-socialized mastiffs are quick to step between you and anything they deem a threat; this could even be family members arguing or a parent punishing a child.
  • Neapolitan mastiffs are more of a steady guardian than an attack dog. They are affectionate toward their humans and accepting of people you welcome into your home.
  • A Pyrenean mastiff tends to have a calm personality and gets along well with children and other dogs, providing he has been well socialized. This breed is self-reliant and can be overly protective, even aggressive, if they feel their family or home is threatened.
  • Aloof, calm, and fiercely loyal to their family best describes the Spanish mastiff personality. Don’t be fooled by this breed’s love for the couch because they are quite agile and athletic, making them ideal dogs to play fetch within a big backyard.

Related: Looking for a good guard dog? Read our list of dog breeds that make the best (and worst) guard dogs.

Do Mastiffs Need Grooming?

Although the mastiff breeds have many characteristics in common, their coats tend to be quite different, which means their grooming needs will vary as well. 

Bullmastiff grooming needs

bullmastiff playing with elmo
Bullmastiff

The short coat of a bullmastiff comes in fawn, red, or brindle. This breed sheds moderately year-round. Regularly brushing with a bristle brush or grooming glove a few times a week and a bath every few months will help keep the loose hair from your couch.

Mastiff grooming needs 

mastiff dog breed
Mastiff

The mastiff’s short double coat can be fawn, apricot, or brindle stripes. This breed tends to shed quite a bit. Regular brushing several times a week can prevent loose hair from falling everywhere. For the wrinkled mastiff, Neapolitan, and bullmastiff, a daily wipe down of their wrinkles with a damp cloth can help prevent bacterial infections. Be sure to dry them thoroughly. You’ll also need to clean around the mouth after eating. 

Neapolitan mastiff grooming needs

probably a neapolitan mastiff
Neo

The short-coated Neo comes in various shades, including solid black, gray, mahogany, and tawny or tan brindle. For this average shedder, a weekly brushing keeps the coat clean and free of loose or dead hair. Bathe as needed. Don’t forget to clean and dry his facial wrinkles and folds every day.

Pyrenean mastiff grooming needs

possibly a pyrenean mastiff
Pyrenean mastiff

As a seasonal shedder, the Pyrenean mastiff benefits from brushing two to three times a week during shedding season; you might find routine visits with a professional groomer helpful. A rake can make removing loose hair from this breed’s thick double coat easier. Brushing every three days can help keep the coat free of mats. The coat comes in many colors, including white and beige, white and brown, white and black, and white and silver.

Spanish mastiff grooming needs

possible spanish mastiff

The Spanish mastiff’s medium-length double-coat comes in an array of colors, including black, fawn, red, yellow, and gray, with brindle or white markings. A weekly brushing and occasional bath should keep your Spanish mastiff looking his best. This breed is a seasonal shedder, so adding an extra brushing every week might help keep the dead hairs from covering you and your furniture.

Tibetan mastiff grooming needs

possible tibetan mastiff
Tibetan mastiff

The double-coated Tibetan mastiff has a heavy mane that covers the neck and shoulders and a thick, long coarse topcoat with a soft, woolly undercoat. Coat colors include black, brown, gold, and blue. They may also have tan markings around the face, legs, and tail and white markings on the chest and feet. TMs don’t tend to shed much, and depending on the climate, they may or may not shed seasonally. Brushing a few times a week will help ensure the coat is free of mats, tangles, and loose or dead hair. Bathe when needed.

What If My Breed Is a Mastiff Dog Breed Mix?

The mastiff dog breed types can make for some cute, lovable, interesting mixes. While there’s no guarantee that a mix will have all the characteristics you want, researching the parent breeds can give you an idea of what to expect. One thing’s for sure, no matter the mastiff mix, you’ll get a loyal companion. 

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