The Bullmastiff is a large breed of guard dog and family pet. Affectionate, protective and loyal, this muscular dog, however, requires careful and consistent obedience training to bring out positive traits and reduce or eliminate destructive behavior. They love to accompany their families everywhere and remain devoted and playful into adulthood. With short, easy to clean fur, they require little grooming. They make excellent companions and are very good with children.
Where children are involved, it is advisable to introduce the Bullmastiff into the family after the children are born, as an established dog may see a new-born baby as competition for the owner’s affection. Adult males can weigh up to 60k.g, and therefore care should be taken to ensure that good behavior is enforced, praised and rewarded, while stern control is taken with undesirable acts.
Bullmastiffs are strong-willed and independent and therefore the owner must be ready and willing to spend quality time with the dog while exerting control and authority at all times. This is definitely not a dog for a busy, distracted owner.
Getting Your First Bullmastiff
It is always best to do some research before choosing a breeder and selecting a puppy. Visiting the breeder in person is important. You get to meet the person face to face, observe how they run their operation and meet the puppy. Look out for signs of abuse or mistreatment. With Bullmastiffs, this will show up in their behavior.
Keep in mind that inherited temperament and health problems may only show up after the dog has reached maturity.
Bullmastiff puppies are active and playful. They need only moderate exercise to keep them healthy, as their bones, joints and ligaments are soft while growing and prone to damage. This leaves them with energy to spare and they tend to be quite a handful unless closely supervised. They need gentle play and lots of companionship during this stage of their life.
Bullmastiffs develop close bonds with family during their early life. Training and socialization should begin as early as possible as this breed tends to be strong-willed and independent. Your Bullmastiff should respond well to obedience training as this breed likes to please. Praise, food rewards, and affection will enhance positive traits.
Families with young children have the option of adopting adult Bullmastiffs from a local shelter or rescue center. Before introducing an adult dog into the home, it is advisable to get to know the dog while still at the center. Bring family members and frequent visitors along, too, so the dog gets to know them before joining the family.
To familiarise the dog with family life, confine it in a crate located in busy areas of the house, where it can see, smell and hear the day-to-day activities of the family. Bullmastiffs respond well to food rewards and physical contact and children should be encouraged to get to know the new member of the family and make friends. Adult supervision is required at such moments in the first few days. When out of the crate for exercise, the dog should be on a leash, again controlled by an adult.
Adult Bullmastiffs require a little more exercise than puppies because of their size, although it is sometimes hard to determine the necessary amount of exercise when it comes to large dogs.
After about two weeks, the children can be allowed to play with the dog. An adult that has already been with a family before should adjust smoothly into the new home.
Bullmastiffs and Children
Adult Bullmastiffs, by nature, are gentle and tolerant. They adore and protect their families. The breed enjoys human companionship and will often become quite excitable in the presence of children. However, dogs should not be left unsupervised with younger children; children can be unintentionally cruel and the dog may snap back in self-defense. Bullmastiffs occasionally need alone time, and this should be taken into account when bringing one into the home. Provide a space that everyone knows is the dog’s “personal space” where they go when they need some peace and quiet.
One of the stand-out traits of excellent guard dogs is heightened intelligence and alertness. Bullmastiffs share this trait, along with devotion to their family and fearless protection of the family and their home. Obedience training should begin early and continue consistently throughout the dog’s life. Bullmastiffs can be trying; they are always looking to see what they can get away with, and firm control is required at all times.
Here are a few points to consider when introducing a Bullmastiff into the family.
Bullmastiffs are independent and wilful. They want to be in control and do things their way. This makes them harder to train than some of the docile breeds. They will make you prove that you can make them do your will. Training must be thorough, consistent and strict to get the best results. On the plus side, Bullmastiffs respond well to training once it has been established who’s in charge. Positive reinforcement through vocal praise, vigorous rubbing and snack rewards works well with Bullmastiffs.
Bullmastiffs are naturally suspicious of strangers. They should be exposed to frequent visitors to the home as soon and as often as possible. Friends, neighbors and extended family – the people most likely to drop in unannounced – should be on this list. This way, they learn to recognize friend from foe and tell what “normal” behavior is. Frequent socialization prevents the Bullmastiff from becoming suspicious of everyone, which can be dangerous.
The Pecking Order
Children should be included in the latter stages of training. This enables them to not only get to make friends with the family pet but also teaches both pets and children to respect one another. Once the Bullmastiff knows the pecking order in the family and accepts it, the chances of negative and dangerous behavior are reduced. However, this cannot be said often enough; never leave any dog alone with small children.
Your new Bullmastiff should be introduced to other animals in the household and neighborhood as early as possible. This can be done in stages to avoid overwhelming the dog, and his reactions to others noted carefully. Some Bullmastiffs have strong hunting instincts and may want to chase and bite cats and other animals and birds. Careful breeding, training, socialization, and management of this breed will prevent your Bullmastiff from becoming a danger to other animals.
For adult Bullmastiffs adopted from shelters, it is often advisable to place them in a crate – a form of quarantine – in a busy room, such as the living room or kitchen. This allows them to become accustomed to sudden loud noises that children make while playing; screaming, shouting, wrestling, singing and laughing. All these sounds may be new to the dog and he needs the chance to observe and differentiate “normal” behavior.
When the Bullmastiff becomes acclimatized to the home, usually after about 2 weeks, rough play, such as “play-biting” should be discouraged. Caution should also be taken with small children; don’t forget that the Bullmastiff is large and powerful and could cause harm unintentionally. The large wagging tail can be quite painful if it catches a child in the eye, to give an example.
Rough play and chasing games should be discouraged. Hiding treats, playing fetch, going for a walk with the dog on a leash or just relaxing and giving the dog a rub and a scratch. Small children should not be allowed to hold the leash on walks; the powerful Bullmastiff can easily drag a child into trouble!
What Children Must Know:
Dos and Don’ts.
Encourage your children to:
- Make friends with the Bullmastiff. Teach them basic obedience training and help them practice it. Bullmastiffs respond well once they accept a person’s authority and food and praise rewards strengthen the bond further.
- Respect the dog, but realize that the Bullmastiff is a member of the family, while it may not be human, it is not a toy and each individual has a distinct personality.
Be observant and discuss any concerns they have about the dog’s demeanor and behavior with you.
Do not allow children to:
- Engage in rough play with a Bullmastiff. Teasing, hitting, smacking, pulling the ears/tail, jumping on the dog can lead to disaster and should be strictly forbidden. Chasing games tend to bring out the breed’s hunting instinct and it may forget to be gentle.
- Sneak upon and disturb or frighten a sleeping Bullmastiff, especially if he’s in his “alone-time” space.
Approach a Bullmastiff while it is eating.
- Walk adult Bullmastiffs in public.
The Pros and Cons of Owning a Bullmastiff
- The massive and powerful Bullmastiff is usually mild-mannered and calm. Intelligent, self-assured and serious, this breed is a natural guard dog and, like all guards, tends to be intensely loyal to family and their home, fearlessly protecting them from any threat – real or perceived. They will seldom back down when aroused.
- Adult Bullmastiffs are usually calm and quiet, but always on the alert. Their coat is short and easy to groom.
- Bullmastiffs are generally sensible with strangers, as long as their family is in the vicinity and also comfortable with the stranger(s). If socialized early, Bullmastiffs will generally be patient with other family pets such as cats and other dogs.
- The Bullmastiff is a large dog who loves family and doesn’t like being excluded from the family. They need lots of space and small, confined living arrangements do not suit this breed. Neither do tiny cars! These dogs are very affectionate and will often want to sit on their owners’ feet and heavily lean their weight against their legs.
- Between two to three years of age, Bullmastiff puppies are rowdy and like to play. If obedience training does not begin early enough, this behavior can be extremely destructive. The same applies to bored puppies when they are left alone with nothing else to do. Their powerful jaws can devastate a room in a very short time.
- Natural guardians of family and property, these dogs can potentially be aggressive towards strangers, be they people or other animals. They may be aggressive with strange dogs of the same sex, especially if they are not neutered and it happens to be mating season.
- Bullmastiffs tend to be stubborn and independent. They want things to go their way and will always be on the lookout for boundaries they can push. Early, consistent obedience training is vital for this intelligent breed. Cheerful praise, food rewards, and firm leadership during training usually produces satisfactory control of this intelligent and obedient dog. However, owners have to be assertive and prepared to dedicate constant time and effort to training, socialization, and supervision in order to consistently benefit from the splendid, affectionate and loyal friend of this excellent companion and protector.
- Toddlers and small children should never be left alone with any large dogs. This especially applies to Bullmastiffs. Large and powerful, the dog can knock down and injure small children by simply turning its head suddenly. A happy dog can easily injure a child with vigorous wagging of its long tail. While generally patient and tolerant, the Bullmastiff sometimes needs time alone to rest and may react negatively if pushed beyond the limits it can tolerate.
- For neatness freaks, it pays to be aware that Bullmastiffs snort, snuffle, grunt and snore loudly. They also tend to wheeze and are constantly slobbering and drooling.
- Like all short-snouted dogs, Bullmastiffs gulp down a lot of air while feeding. This air has to exit the body eventually, meaning that they also suffer from flatulence, which some people just can’t tolerate. Moving away from processed food to home-made meals of natural ingredients goes a long way in reducing the flatulence.
- Bullmastiffs suffer from a battery of serious health problems and their life expectancy is relatively shorter than other breeds of the same size and personality traits. Despite their size and muscular body, they have soft bones, which lead to all sorts of problems. Older dogs are also at high risk of contracting various forms of cancer.
- Because of the territorial nature and protective instincts, Bullmastiffs can be a source of legal liabilities. There are movements to ban the breed in certain areas of the US and Europe. Public perceptions of the breed differ from location to location, so this should be taken into consideration before acquiring the dog. Friends, neighbors and even visiting family may be suspicious of Bullmastiffs and homeowner public liability insurance may be denied. The breed is known as a fierce guard dog, and people are quicker to pursue legal action if the dog causes even the most trivial damage.
Bullmastiffs make great family and guard dogs. They are naturally affectionate and fearless protectors of their families. The breed, however, requires careful planning and a commitment to consistent, lifelong training and firm control for all involved to enjoy the fruits of the relationship. In the end, safety reigns supreme and the children should always come first!