Old English Mastiff Temperament

Old English Mastiff Temperament
What’s Good About ‘Em,
What’s Bad About ‘Em

English Mastiff Temperament, Personality, Behavior, Traits, and Characteristics, by Michele Welton. Copyright © 2000-2015


The AKC Standard says, “A combination of grandeur and good nature, courage and docility. Dignity, rather than gaiety, is the Mastiff’s correct demeanor.”

Indeed, the Old English Mastiff is calm and quiet (as an adult!), but he belongs in a roomy home with a spacious fenced yard so that his massive body has stretching room. To stay fit, he needs daily walks (whether he seems to want them or not), but he isn’t a jogging partner.

He also needs companionship — lots of it every day. To ensure a stable, confident temperament, Old English Mastiffs need earlier and more frequent socialization than many other breeds, and it should continue throughout his life.

Most Old English Mastiffs are polite with everyone, but there is timidity and extreme shyness in some lines, and aggression in others. Watchfulness should be discouraged, as it is best for all concerned if the Mastiff intimidates by size alone, rather than by behavior.

Some Mastiffs are peaceful with other animals, while others are dominant (even combative) with dogs of the same sex.

Though mildly stubborn, this good-natured dog responds well to patient obedience training.

Mastiffs tend to be “gassy” dogs. They snore, drool, and slobber — big time! — and are not for people who must have a tidy household.


If you want a dog who…

  • Is massive and powerful
  • Has a sleek easy-care coat
  • Is calm and quiet indoors (as an adult)
  • Needs only moderate exercise
  • Is usually mild-mannered, yet makes an imposing watchdog because of his enormous size and self-assurance

An Old English Mastiff may be right for you.


If you don’t want to deal with…

  • A huge dog who takes up a lot of space in your house and car
  • A heavy dog who wants to sit on your feet and lean his weight against your leg
  • Rowdiness and exuberant jumping when young
  • Destructiveness when bored or left alone too much
  • Potential aggression or fearfulness toward people in some lines, or when not socialized enough
  • Potential aggression toward other animals
  • Strong-willed mind of his own, requiring a confident owner who can take charge
  • Snorting, snuffling, wheezing, grunting, loud snoring
  • Slobbering and drooling
  • Gassiness (flatulence)
  • Serious health problems and a short lifespan
  • High price tag — $1000 and up
  • Legal liabilities (public perception, future breed bans, insurance problems, increased chance of lawsuits)

An Old English Mastiff may not be right for you.

But you can avoid or minimize some negative traits by

  1. choosing the RIGHT breeder and the RIGHT puppy
  2. or choosing an ADULT dog from your animal shelter or rescue group – a dog who has already proven that he doesn’t have negative traits
  3. training your dog to respect you
  4. avoiding health problems by following my daily care program in 11 Things You Must Do Right To Keep Your Dog Healthy and Happy



More traits and characteristics of the Old English Mastiff

If I was considering an English Mastiff, I would be most concerned about…

  1. Providing the proper balance of exercise. Young Mastiffs need enough exercise to keep them lean and healthy, but not so much that their soft growing bones, joints, and ligaments become over-stressed and damaged. Similarly, adult Mastiffs need enough exercise to keep them in shape, but not running or jogging, and not in hot or humid weather for fear of overheating. The proper amount of exercise can be difficult to regulate in giant breeds.

Since you have to minimize their exercise, young Old English Mastiffs can be very rambunctious. They will romp with uncoordinated gawkiness all over your house. You need to substitute extra quantities of companionship and supervision. Otherwise, left alone, young Mastiffs become bored and destructive — and their powerful jaws can literally destroy your living room.

  1. Providing enough socialization. Some Old English Mastiffs have protective instincts toward strangers. They need extensive exposure to friendly people so they learn to recognize the normal behaviors of “good guys.” Then they can recognize the difference when someone acts abnormally. Without careful socialization, they may be suspicious of everyone. Some Old English Mastiffs go in the opposite direction — without enough socialization, they become spooky and fearful of strangers, which could lead to defensive biting.
  2. Animal aggression. Many Old English Mastiffs will not tolerate another dog of the same sex, and some won’t tolerate the opposite sex either. Some Old English Mastiffs have strong instincts to chase and seize cats and other fleeing creatures. If anything goes wrong in the breeding, socializing, training, handling, or management of this breed, it is capable of seriously injuring or killing other animals.
  3. The strong temperament. Old English Mastiffs have an independent mind of their own and are not pushovers to raise and train. Many Old English Mastiffs are willful, obstinate, and dominant (they want to be the boss) and will make you prove that you can make them do things. You must show them, through absolute consistency, that you mean what you say.
To teach your Old English Mastiff to listen to you, “Respect Training” is mandatory. My Old English Mastiff Training Page discusses the program you need.
  1. Mastiff sounds. Old English Mastiffs snort, grunt, and snore loudly. The sounds are endearing to some people; nerve-wracking to others.
  2. Slobbering. Most people are not prepared for how much Old English Mastiffs slobber and drool, especially after eating or drinking. When they shake their heads, you will be toweling saliva and slime off your clothes, furniture, and walls.
  3. Gassiness (flatulence) that can send you running for cover. Fortunately, Mastiffs who are fed a natural diet of real meat and other fresh foods have much less trouble with gassiness. See my Old English Mastiff Health Page for more information.
  4. Serious health problems. The lifespan of an Old English Mastiff is short and an alarming number are crippled by bone and joint diseases and/or succumb to cancer in middle age.
  5. Legal liabilities. Mastiffs may be targeted for “banning” in certain areas, or refusal of homeowner insurance policies. Your friends and neighbors may be uncomfortable around this breed. In this day and age, the legal liabilities of owning any breed that looks intimidating and has a history as a guard dog should be seriously considered. People are quicker to sue if such a dog does anything even remotely questionable.
Frankly, most Old English Mastiffs are “too much dog” for the average household. This is a serious working dog with tremendous strength. Very few people really have the knowledge, facilities, or skills necessary to manage this breed.

To learn more about training Old English Mastiffs to be calm and well-behaved, consider my dog training book,
Teach Your Dog 100 English Words.

It’s a unique Vocabulary and Respect Training Program that will make your Old English Mastiff the smartest, most well-behaved companion you’ve ever had.

Teaches your dog to listen to you, to pay attention to you, and to do whatever you ask him to do.

My dog buying guide, Dog Quest: Find The Dog Of Your Dreams, will teach you everything you need to know about finding a healthy Old English Mastiff puppy. Health problems have become so widespread in dogs today that this book is required reading for ANYONE who is thinking of getting a purebred, crossbred, or mixed breed dog.
If you’d like to consult with me personally about whether the Old English Mastiff might be a good dog breed for your family, I offer a Dog Breed Consulting Service.
Once you have your Old English Mastiff home, you need to KEEP him healthy — or if he’s having any current health problems, you need to get him back on the road to good health.

My dog health care book, 11 Things You Must Do Right To Keep Your Dog Healthy and Happy is the book you need.

Raise your dog the right way and you will be helping him live a longer, healthier life while avoiding health problems and unnecessary veterinary expenses.

Please consider adopting an ADULT Old English Mastiff…

When you’re acquiring an Old English Mastiff PUPPY, you’re acquiring potential — what he one day will be. So “typical breed characteristics” are very important.

But when you acquire an adult dog, you’re acquiring what he already IS and you can decide whether he is the right dog for you based on that reality. There are plenty of adult Mastiffs who have already proven themselves NOT to have negative characteristics that are “typical” for their breed. If you find such an adult dog, don’t let “typical breed negatives” worry you. Just be happy that you found an atypical individual — and enjoy!

Save a life. Adopt a dog.

Adopting a Dog From a Dog Breed Rescue Group

Adopting a Dog From the Animal Shelter


Dog Training:
What Works, and What Doesn’t
Puppy Training Schedule: What To Teach, and When
Why Homemade
Is The Best Food
For Your Dog
Teach Your Dog Words
The Second Best Food For Your Dog When Buying a Dog, Are AKC Papers Really Necessary?


Copyright © 2000-2015 by Michele Welton. All rights reserved.
No part of this website may be copied, displayed on another website,
or distributed in any way without the express permission of the author.

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