Bullmastiff

Owners who bring a large-breed dog into their lives are a special "breed" themselves. Though the Bullmastiff is definitely a large dog, who will take up a large space in your home and a huge space in your heart, it may be one of the easier large breeds to care for. This is primarily because the Bullmastiff is relatively low-energy and also happens to be independent. A home with a yard is perfect for a Bullmastiff, but they could easily live in an apartment as long as you take them on a couple or walks each day. In addition, because they are independent types, mature dogs are generally happy to stay home alone all day when you are at work. Add that to a low-maintenance grooming routine and the Bullmastiff appears easy to care for.

Brown Bullmastiff puppy
Original image by user michal37 on pixabay. CC0.
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However, there are a few things to think about if you are considering a Bullmastiff. Any large dog eats more, costs more for regular veterinary services, and requires more space. They are simply more expensive in general. The Bullmastiff in particular, while intelligent, has an independent streak that makes training a daunting task for an inexperienced owner. Any owner of a large breed should understand the responsibility to train a well-mannered and well-socialized dog. The somewhat protective Bullmastiff may not welcome other dogs and this is another consideration. Finally, they may not shed terribly, but that extra hair is replaced by drool. Overall, the independent Bullmastiff is loyal and brave and an affectionate dog that is well-suited for a low-key environment.

Key Breed Stats

Alternative names: The Bullmastiff breed is also commonly known by the names Bully, Bullie.

Popularity: Popular

Life expectancy: 8 - 10 years

Breed group: Designer Breed

Size: Extra large

Male Female
Height 0 - 0 in 0 - 0 in
Weight 108 - 128 lbs 99 - 119 lbs

Coat: Short

Colors: Red, Brown

Key Breed Facts

Shedding: Not a heavy shedder at all

Grooming requirements: Minimal

Good with children: Definitely

Good with other pets: Yes

Intelligence / Trainability: Average

Exercise needs: Average

Tolerates being alone: Not really

Hunting drive: Average

Suited as Guard dog: Average

Sensitivity: Very sensitive

Good for novice owners: Not really

Hypoallergenic breed: No

Drooling: Very high

Barking: Frequent

General health: Below average

Cost to keep: Average

History

Known as "The Gatekeeper's Night Dog", the Bullmastiff has a history as a protector, though that history is relatively short. The breed originated in Great Britain in the mid-1800s and was bred specifically for their size, strength, and surprisingly, their speed. It was a Bullmastiff's job to quickly and efficiently track poachers and hold them until a person could arrive. Their sheer size was likely to deter poachers and trespassers to some extent. At this time, the preferred color of the Bullmastiff was brindle, as it helped to camouflage them, especially in the dark.

Bullmastiffs are the result of breeding the more aggressive Bulldog of that time period with the larger, but less aggressive Mastiff. When poaching became less of an issue, Bullmastiffs became mostly guard dogs, the brindle color became less popular and was replaced with the currently recognizable fawn with a black mask.

The Bullmastiff was recognized by the English Kennel Club in 1924. The American Kennel Club accepted Bullmastiffs in 1934 and in 1935 the original AKC breed standard was adopted. Though they were once fierce protectors and exhibit some protective behaviors, a modern Bullmastiff is kind and loyal.

Appearance

The Bullmastiff is a large, impressive dog who carries himself with confidence and courage.
Typical characteristics are:


  • A large, broad head, dark, medium-sized eyes, V-shaped ears, and an alert, intelligent expression.

  • A powerful, athletic, and well-balanced body.

  • A high-set tail.

  • Short, dense coat.

  • Colors: red, fawn, or brindle.

Temperament

Intelligence/Trainability

Bullmastiffs are intelligent dogs but they have an independent streak and can be stubborn when training. These dogs require a steady, consistent hand and an assertive trainer and training should start as early as possible. Training a Bullmastiff requires time, patience, and the ability to set proper boundaries. Because of this and their size, a Bullmastiff may not be appropriate for a first-time owner.

Early leash training is important, as this dog will grow to be quite large and any pulling behaviors should be dealt with as soon as possible.

As with all intelligent breeds, Bullmastiffs require an outlet for their energy and intelligence. In short, they do best with a job, even if that job is simply chasing a ball or accompanying you on walks.

Activity

Bullmastiffs are not considered high energy and require only about 20 minutes of exercise twice per day to be happy and healthy. They are not generally excitable and are quiet and low-energy when indoors. But, a complete lack of exercise and mental stimulation can lead to undesirable and even destructive behaviors like chewing and barking.

Keep in mind that Bullmastiffs are large dogs and puppies mature slowly. Because of this, they are susceptible to certain bone disorders. Keep your puppy on soft surfaces like grass and keep play on hard surfaces to a bare minimum until your puppy is at least two years old.

Independence

Bullmastiffs are fairly independent and most are fine home alone during the day, though puppies will need to go outside more frequently. When you are home, however, a Bullmastiff is likely to be a loving, if drooly companion.

Protective

Bullmastiffs can become strongly bonded to their family members and be protective and territorial. They are calm and watchful but will let you know if there is an intruder and will most likely defend those people they view as part of their "pack". Proper socialization is important to ensure that they become used to meeting new people. Bred to be silent watchdogs, they rarely bark.

Living Conditions

Even though a Bullmastiff is a large dog, they are not incredibly active, so they can live in an apartment with the proper care and training. However, because of their large size, they are best suited for a home with at least a small, securely fenced yard.

Because of their flat muzzles, Bullmastiffs are sensitive to heat and will need a cool, air-conditioned place in the hotter months. They are definitely indoor dogs.

Children and Other Pets

Bullmastiffs are generally good with children, but because they are large dogs, they are not recommended for homes with young children. They could lean on and push children, which could result in knocking over a toddler or child. Socialization and proper training are important for any dog. Special consideration should be taken with young children (under the age of 6):


  • Young children may unintentionally invade the personal space of your dog and are unable to interpret the warning signals of your dog.

  • Dogs consider the family as a pack, and may consider the younger children as subordinates and may try to correct them.

  • Young children are very time-consuming. They may take away from the time you have to spend with your dog and he may become bored or frustrated.

Keep in mind that all children should be taught how to interact correctly with ANY dog and should never be left unsupervised.

Bullmastiffs can be aggressive with other dogs and early, proper socialization is extremely important. They are most likely to tolerate another dog of the opposite sex.

Health

The average life expectancy of a Bullmastiff is between 8 - 10 years. Like all breeds, the Bullmastiff is prone to certain hereditary health conditions. A responsible breeder will only breed with dogs that have been cleared for these conditions. A Bullmastiff is prone to these diseases:
  • Skin Problems (hereditary)
  • Panosteitis (hereditary)
  • Cancer (hereditary)
  • Ruptured Anterior Cruciate Ligament (hereditary)
  • Gastric dilatation-volvulus (GDV) (hereditary)
  • Cystinuria (hereditary)
  • Subaortic Stenosis (hereditary)
  • Entropion (hereditary)
  • Hypothyroidism (hereditary)
  • Elbow Dysplasia (hereditary)
  • Canine Hip Dysplasia (hereditary) : Canine hip dysplasia (CHD) is a very common genetic orthopedic trait, which is affected by environmental and dietary factors. Canine hip dysplasia occurs when there is an abnormality in the development of the hip joint. More info»

Grooming

Though Bullmastiffs have short, easy to groom coats, a weekly brushing with a rubber curry is still recommended. They are low shedders, and regular brushing will help to minimize the amount of shedding hair around your home. In addition, a weekly grooming allows you to notice any sores, rashes, or signs of infection so that they can be treated easily.

They don’t really need a bath too often, once a month or less should suffice. When you bathe them, make sure to use a dog-specific shampoo that maintains the skin's natural PH balance.

Ears should be checked regularly for dirt, redness or a bad smell that could indicate an infection. Clean your dog's ears when needed with an ear cleaner made specifically for dogs.

Some dogs wear their nails down on their own with exercise, but many do not. Long nails will require regular clipping and all puppies should be introduced to nail clipping early on so that it will be easier when they are older.

Consider brushing their teeth with a soft toothbrush and dog toothpaste two or three times a week. Daily is even better. All puppies should become accustomed to having their mouths and teeth checked regularly.

Feeding

Feeding Recommendations: 3-4.5 cups of high-quality, dry dog food fed in two daily meals is a good starting point, but other factors need to be taken into consideration. Higher quality dog foods may require less food, as more of the food is digested properly. In addition, higher energy dogs will require more food, while more sedentary dogs may require less. Bullmastiffs can be prone to obesity, so special attention should be paid to ensure that your dog doesn't become overweight, which can cause health issues in both the short and long-term.

Puppies have special feeding requirements. Use food specifically designed for large breed puppies. Adult dog food contains too much calcium, which will increase the risk for hip and elbow dysplasia. Don’t overfeed your puppy, as overweight puppies also have an increased risk for dysplasia. Puppies need to be fed 3 to 4 times a day. This might seem like a hassle, but it will help when it comes to housebreaking. A puppy’s digestive system works very fast. Five to 30 minutes after his meal, he will need to go out to do his business.

Just like any other breed, they need to have free access to fresh, clean water at all times.

Older dogs, like puppies, might need a diet adapted to their needs. In some cases, it is advisable to feed them smaller portions 3 to 4 times a day.

When changing your dog’s diet, it’s recommended to do it gradually over a period of a few days to avoid stomach problems.

Avoid exercise 1 hour before and after the meal, to reduce the risk of gastric torsion (bloat).