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Sally Anne Thompson, Animal Photography
The strong-willed Bullmastiff is not afraid of anything and would lay down his life for his family. Mild-mannered and sweet unless incited, this 130-pound guard dog will lean on your leg and sit on your feet while he snorts, snuffles and drools.
Although loving and sweet natured, the Bullmastiff is a large guard dog with a mind of his own. He needs an assertive, experienced owner. Bullmastiffs can be willful and are not likely to back down once aroused.
This powerhouse of a dog weighs between 100 and 130 pounds and has a mind of his own, with the muscle to back his intentions. He’s devoted to his human family, particularly children, so a well-bred, well-socialized Bullmastiff is an excellent family dog. Just be sure to set boundaries with him from a young age; he needs lots of firm, consistent training and exposure to all kinds of people and situations to develop the common sense and instincts to temper his strength and encourage his kindness.
The Bullmastiff is not highly active, but he successfully competes in obedience, agility, tracking and carting, and he makes a good therapy dog. He’s intelligent and a quick study, but he’s not big on repetitive training.
Bullmastiffs are guard dogs and will protect their family and property. They require a fenced yard and should never be allowed to roam.
The Bullmastiff does not love other dogs, especially if they are of the same sex. It's extremely difficult to house a male Bullmastiff and another male dog of any breed together. Even dogs that live in peace for years can one day become implacable enemies. Bullmastiffs also have a high prey drive, and many Bullmastiffs cannot live with cats for that reason.
Bullmastiffs drool. They drool after eating and drinking, exercise, while smelling food, when they're warm or hot, and when they're stressed. Drooling is a part of the Bullmastiff experience, although some drool more than others. A safe rule of thumb is that the longer the jowls are, the more drool you can expect from a Bullmastiff. Carrying a drool towel is a good idea, as is accepting the concept of drool streaks on your clothing and belongings.
Despite his size, the Bullmastiff can live in an apartment if you don’t mind constantly bumping into or stepping over him. He doesn't need much exercise, nor is he much of a barker. His grooming needs are modest, too: brush him a couple of times a week to keep shedding to a minimum, and make sure his ears are clean and his nails are trimmed.
What he does need is to be a part of the family. This is a dog who forms very deep bonds to the humans with whom he lives, and isolating him in the yard or the garage, or expecting him to spend most of his time alone, is guaranteed to make him a very unhappy dog – and a very badly behaved, destructive and possibly dangerous one based on his size.
Make him a family member, and he'll be a strong, mostly silent guardian of your home and children, and an intensely loyal companion. His training and socialization needs to be taken seriously, starting when he is a puppy, before bad habits have a chance to take hold. In particular, you need to teach your Bullmastiff not to pull on the leash or jump on people, or he'll be a hazard to anyone he's around when he's full-grown. This dog can knock an NFL linebacker off his feet.
Bullmastiffs usually love children, but the reality of a dog this big is that he can unwittingly hurt or scare a child. Be cautious and always supervise dogs and kids when they're together. If you have toddlers, consider waiting until they're older to bring a Bullmastiff into your family.
Bullmastiffs were developed in England to help gamekeepers protect the game on estates from poachers. The gamekeeper’s job was a dangerous one because poaching was a hanging offense. A poacher in danger of being caught wouldn’t hesitate to harm or kill the gamekeeper. Enter the Bullmastiff, circa 1860. As implied by the name, Mastiffs and Bulldogs were used as a foundation because the goal was to create a dog who was quicker and more aggressive than a Mastiff but bigger than and not as ferocious as a Bulldog (which wasn’t docile like the Bulldogs of today). Bullmastiffs were bred to track poachers quietly, run short distances rapidly, and then pin and hold the poacher without shredding him to bits. He was sometimes referred to as the Gamekeeper's Night Dog.
The American Kennel Club recognized Bullmastiffs in 1933. Today, Bullmastiffs ranks 42nd among the breeds registered by the AKC, an increase from 52nd in 2000.
The intelligent Bullmastiff is a terrific family dog. He is loyal, loving, good natured, and sweet, although he can be aggressive when he feels that he or his family is threatened.
When he has been properly socialized and trained, the Bullmastiff is calm and dependable. Set boundaries with a Bullmastiff while he is young and give him consistent training and significant exposure to people and situations. A Bullmastiff raised this way is docile and easygoing and will accept strangers welcomed by his people. However, he is frequently aggressive with dogs of the same sex, so it’s not a good idea to take him to dog parks or to ever let him roam or run off leash.
Start training your puppy the day you bring him home. Even at eight weeks old, he is capable of soaking up everything you can teach him. Don’t wait until he is 6 months old to begin training or you will have a more headstrong dog to deal with. If possible, get him into puppy kindergarten class by the time he is 10 to 12 weeks old, and socialize, socialize, socialize. 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 Bullmastiff doesn’t spring fully formed from the whelping box. He’s a product of his background and breeding. Whatever you want from a Bullmastiff, look for one whose parents have nice personalities and who has been well socialized from early puppyhood.
All dogs have the potential to develop genetic health problems, just as all people have the potential to inherit a particular disease. Run, don’t walk, from any breeder who does not offer a health guarantee on puppies, who tells you that the breed is 100 percent healthy and has no known problems, or who tells you that her puppies are isolated from the main part of the household for health reasons. A reputable breeder will be honest and open about health problems in the breed and the incidence with which they occur in her lines. The Bullmastiff is prone to certain health problems. Here’s a brief rundown on what you should know.
As might be predicted, given their large size, Bullmastiffs suffer from a number of joint and structural problems. It's important that young, growing Bullmastiffs be kept lean and not allowed to exercise too strenuously or eat too much, as this will lead to developmental bone problems that can be crippling down the road. In fact, all Bullmastiffs need to be kept lean, as obesity increases the chances they'll develop structural problems, and makes them more painful when they do occur.
One such structural problem is the genetic hip deformity known as hip dysplasia. The head of the thigh bone doesn't fit properly into the hip socket, and over time the cartilage on the bone surface begins to wear away. The constant inflammation leads to arthritis. In severe cases, it's treated with surgery, often total hip replacement, at the cost of thousands of dollars per hip. Untreated, the dog will suffer pain and lameness.
It's impossible to know if a dog has hip dysplasia simply from examining him or watching him move. Nor can hip dysplasia be ruled out entirely just because the parents were free of the condition, although it reduces the risk.
This condition is usually diagnosed by X-rays and manual manipulation of the hips. It's a good idea to have your Bullmastiff's hips and elbows X-rayed at two years of age, regardless of whether or not he shows symptoms of lameness or stiffness.
The Bullmastiff is also at risk for heart problems, such as pulmonic stenosis, which is a narrowing of the valve between the right ventricle of the heart and the vessel that carries blood to the lungs.
An annual heart exam is critical in catching these conditions early. The sad reality, however, is that a dog who tests fine one day can develop heart disease the next, and the puppy of two parents without heart disease can still develop it.
Bullmastiffs are also more likely than many breeds to bloat, a condition in which the stomach expands with air. This can become the more serious condition, gastric torsion, if the stomach twists on itself, cutting off blood flow. Gastric torsion strikes suddenly, and a dog who was fine one minute can be dead a few hours later. Watch for symptoms like restlessness and pacing, drooling, pale gums and lip licking, trying to throw up but without bringing anything up, and signs of pain. Gastric torsion requires immediate veterinary surgery, and most dogs that have bloated once will bloat again. That means it’s wise to opt for the procedure known as "stomach tacking," which will keep the stomach from twisting in the future. This procedure can also be done as a preventive measure.
Cystinuria is a condition that leads to the formation of urinary tract crystals stones that are difficult to manage with diet or medication and often require surgery both to remove the stones from the bladder and to relieve urinary blockages. There may be no advance signs that the dog is forming cystine stones. Urinary blockage is a life-threatening veterinary emergency. There is no genetic screening test, so it's impossible to determine if a dog is a carrier or not.
This breed is also prone to brachycephalic upper airway syndrome, a number of anatomical deformities that can make breathing difficult.
Bullmastiffs are also at increased risk of a number of cancers, including some forms of lymphoma and mast cell tumors.
The American Bullmastiff Association participates in the Canine Health Information Center, a health database. Before individual Bullmastiffs can be included, the breeder must submit test results for these conditions. You can search the CHIC website yourself to see if a pup’s parents are listed.
Breeders must agree to have all test results, positive or negative, published in the CHIC database. A dog need not receive good or even passing scores on the evaluations to obtain a CHIC number, so CHIC registration alone is not proof of soundness or absence of disease, but all test results are posted on the CHIC website and can be accessed by anyone who wants to check the health of a puppy’s parents. If the breeder tells you she doesn't need to do those tests because she's never had problems in her lines and her dogs have been "vet checked," then you should go find a breeder who is more rigorous about genetic testing.
Careful breeders screen their breeding dogs for genetic disease and breed only the healthiest and best-looking specimens, but sometimes Mother Nature has other ideas and a puppy develops one of these diseases despite good breeding practices. Advances in veterinary medicine mean that in most cases the dogs can still live a good life. If you’re getting a puppy, ask the breeder about the ages of the dogs in her lines and what they died of.
It can be difficult sometimes to grasp when your Bullmastiff is not feeling well because the breed has an unusually high tolerance for pain. If there are any changes in his regular eating, drinking, urinary, or bowel habits, or a change in temperament, take him to the veterinarian for an ADR (“ain’t doing right”) appointment.
Remember that after you’ve taken a new puppy into your home, you have the power to protect him from one of the most common health problems: obesity. Keeping a Bullmastiff at an appropriate weight is one of the easiest ways to extend his life, which only averages 10 years as it is. Make the most of your preventive abilities to help ensure a healthier dog for life.
The short smooth coat of a Bullmastiff is essentially wash and wear. A quick daily or weekly brushing is all it takes to get the dead hairs out and reduce shedding.
Bathe your Bullmastiff as you desire or only when he gets dirty. With the gentle dog shampoos available now, you can bathe a Bullmastiff weekly if you want without harming his coat.
Drool. There’s no way around it: Bullmastiffs drool. Get in the habit of carrying around a hand towel so you can wipe his mouth frequently.
The rest is basic care. Keep the nails short, and brush the teeth regularly for overall good health and fresh breath.
Whether you want to go with a breeder or get your dog from a shelter or rescue, here are some things to keep in mind.
Finding a good breeder is the key to finding the right puppy. A good breeder will match you with the right puppy, and will without question have done all the health certifications necessary to screen out health problems as much as is possible. He or she is more interested in placing pups in the right homes than in making big bucks.
Good breeders will welcome your questions about temperament, health clearances and what the dogs are like to live with and come right back at you with questions of their own about what you’re looking for in a dog and what kind of life you can provide for him. A good breeder can tell you about the history of the breed, explain why one puppy is considered pet quality while another is not, and discuss what health problems affect the breed and the steps she takes take to avoid those problems.
While most Bullmastiffs have sound temperaments, because of their size a breeder who has American Temperament Test Society (TT) certification on her dogs is to be preferred over one who does not. A good breeder will welcome you to meet her dogs as well.
Find a breeder who is a member in good standing of the American Bullmastiff Association. Choose a breeder who is not only willing but insists on being a resource in helping you train and care for your new dog.
Avoid breeders who only seem interested in how quickly they can unload a puppy on you and whether your credit card will go through. You should also bear in mind that buying a puppy from websites that offer to ship your dog to you immediately can be a risky venture, as it leaves you no recourse if what you get isn’t exactly what you expected. Put at least as much effort into researching your puppy as you would into choosing a new car or expensive appliance. It will save you money in the long run.
Lots of reputable breeders have websites, so how can you tell who’s good and who’s not? Red flags include puppies always being available, multiple litters on the premises, having your choice of any puppy, and the ability to pay online with a credit card. Those things are convenient, but they are almost never associated with reputable breeders.
Whether you’re planning to get your new best friend from a breeder, a pet store, or another source, don’t forget that old adage “let the buyer beware”. Disreputable breeders and facilities that deal with puppy mills can be hard to distinguish from reliable operations. There’s no 100% guaranteed way to make sure you’ll never purchase a sick puppy, but researching the breed (so you know what to expect), checking out the facility (to identify unhealthy conditions or sick animals), and asking the right questions can reduce the chances of heading into a disastrous situation. And don’t forget to ask your veterinarian, who can often refer you to a reputable breeder, breed rescue organization, or other reliable source for healthy puppies.
The cost of a Bullmastiff puppy varies depending on his place of origin, whether he is male or female, what titles his parents have, and whether he is best suited for the show ring or a pet home. The cost of well-bred Bullmastiff puppies is $1,000 to $2,000. For that price, the puppy you buy should have been raised in a clean home environment, from parents with health clearances and conformation (show) titles to prove that they are good specimens of the breed. Puppies should be temperament tested, vetted, dewormed, and socialized to give them a healthy, confident start in life.
Before you decide to buy a puppy, consider whether an adult Bullmastiff might better suit your needs and lifestyle. Puppies are loads of fun, but they require a lot of time and effort before they grow up to become the dog of your dreams. An adult Bullmastiff may already have some training and will probably be less active, destructive and demanding than a puppy. With an adult, you know more about what you’re getting in terms of personality and health and you can find adults through breeders or shelters. If you are interested in acquiring an older dog through breeders, ask them about purchasing a retired show dog or if they know of an adult dog who needs a new home. If you want to adopt a dog, read the advice below on how to do that.
There are many great options available if you want to adopt a dog from an animal shelter or breed rescue organization. Here is how to get started.
1. Use the Web
Sites like Petfinder.com and Adopt-a-Pet.com can have you searching for a Bullmastiff in your area in no time flat. The site allows you to be very specific in your requests (housetraining status, for example) or very general (all the Bullmastiffs available on Petfinder across the country). AnimalShelter.org can help you find animal rescue groups in your area. Also some local newspapers have “pets looking for homes” sections you can review.
Social media is another great way to find a dog. Post on your Facebook page that you are looking for a specific breed so that your entire community can be your eyes and ears.
2. Reach Out to Local Experts
Start talking with all the pet pros in your area about your desire for a Bullmastiff. That includes vets, dog walkers, and groomers. When someone has to make the tough decision to give up a dog, that person will often ask her own trusted network for recommendations.
3. Talk to Breed Rescue
Networking can help you find a dog that may be the perfect companion for your family. That’s why breed clubs have rescue organizations devoted to taking care of homeless dogs. The American Bullmastiff Association’s rescue network can help you find a dog that may be the perfect companion for your family. You can also search online for other Bullmastiff rescues in your area.
The great thing about breed rescue groups is that they tend to be very upfront about any health conditions the dogs may have and are a valuable resource for advice. They also often offer fostering opportunities so, with training, you could bring a Bullmastiff home with you to see what the experience is like.
4. Key Questions to Ask
You now know the things to discuss with a breeder, but there are also questions you should discuss with shelter or rescue group staff or volunteers before you bring home a pup. These include:
What is his energy level?
How is he around other animals?
How does he respond to shelter workers, visitors and children?
What is his personality like?
What is his age?
Is he housetrained?
Has he ever bitten or hurt anyone that they know of?
Are there any known health issues?
Wherever you acquire your Bullmastiff, make sure you have a good contract with the seller, shelter or rescue group that spells out responsibilities on both sides. Petfinder offers an Adopters Bill of Rights that helps you understand what you can consider normal and appropriate when you get a dog from a shelter. In states with “puppy lemon laws,” be sure you and the person you get the dog from both understand your rights and recourses.
Puppy or adult, take your Bullmastiff to your veterinarian soon after adoption. Your veterinarian will be able to spot problems, and will work with you to set up a preventive regimen that will help you avoid many health issues.
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