Complete Guide to the American Mastiff

The term Mastiff often conjures the image of a massive dog with a history of health problems and a propensity to drool. While some of this is true, it’s also true that Mastiff dogs can make wonderful companions to owners who understand and are prepared for them.

There are several different types of Mastiff dogs available, which means that with time and research, you are much more likely to find a Mastiff type that suits your lifestyle and personality type.

Of course, not all Mastiff dogs are recognized by most major breed clubs, and there is a newer Mastiff to the scene that’s drawing a lot of attention.

That’s right, we’re talking about the American Mastiff.


The American Mastiff – A Breakdown Of The Breed Overview

1 two American Mastiff dogs
American Mastiffs are giant dogs with giant personalities.

The American Mastiff is, no surprise, huge. He is a Mastiff, afterall, and Mastiffs are famous for their giant-dog status. But just what is the breed’s standard? Take a look.

Height: 28 to 36 Inches

Weight: 120 to 200 Pounds

Coat Colors: Brindle, Apricot, Fawn, White

Coat Type: Smooth, Short, Shedding

Hypoallergenic: No

Temperament: Proud, Devoted, Attentive, Protective, Gentle

Ideal For: Experienced Dog Owners, Active Families, Singles, Couples, Homes With Large Yards

Lifespan: 8 to 12 Years

Health Issues: Cardiomyopathy, Mitral Dysplasia, Subaortic Stenosis, Cardiomyopathy, Pulmonic Stenosis, Hip Dysplasia, Elbow Dysplasia, Gastric Torsion (Bloat), Obesity, Entropion, Ectropion, Corneal Dystrophy, Progressive Retinal Atrophy, Retinal Dysplasia, Cystinuria, and Lymphosarcoma

The Origin Of The American Mastiff

2 an american mastiff looking to his left
American Mastiffs were designed by mixing the Anatolian Shepherd with the English Mastiff.

The American Mastiff is a newer mastiff to the canine kingdom. In fact, this dog hit the scene just around the time other hybrids became so popular, which was around 20 years ago.

Originally developed in Piketon, Ohio by a breeder and Mastiff enthusiast named Fredericka Wagner, the American Mastiff quickly caught on as an affectionate, mild-mannered, and much less drooly Mastiff type.

He was officially recognized as a purebred in 2000 by the Continental Kennel Club, (CKC). That said, most other major breed clubs like the American Kennel Club and the United Kennel Club have yet to recognize this dog as a breed.

Instead, he is still considered by many to be a hybrid or a purebred in the making. A mix between the English Mastiff and the Analtolian Shepherd, American Mastiff dogs were created for a few different purposes.

The ideal American Mastiff would be healthier than his purebred counterparts. He might also be more mild-mannered, and would produce much less drool. In fact, by design American Mastiffs have tighter jowls and lips. This is highly attractive to Mastiff lovers who love the breed but don’t love the slobber.

That said, the American Mastiff still maintains a number of Mastiff-like qualities that enthusiasts adore.

Let’s find out more!

American Mastiff Temperamental Traits

3 an American Mastiff Puppy in bed
When properly trained and socialized, the American Mastiff makes a calm, happy companion for experienced dog owners.

The American Mastiff is large, but his size doesn’t equate to his energy-level. In fact, this is a breed that is relatively laid back and calm. However, he does maintain some guarding instinct that Mastiffs are known for, and he will stop at nothing to protect his family and home.

Still, the American Mastiff can make a friendly companion when properly trained and socialized. He is highly affectionate and people oriented. For this reason, it’s important to note that the American Mastiff is not an outdoors-only dog.

He fancies himself a giant lap dog and will demand all the snuggles and scratches you have to offer. If left to his own devices for too long, the American Mastiff can become bored, depressed and destructive.

American Mastiffs are not inherently shy, but they can be wary of strangers. They will need lots of socialization early on to help them grow up happy, healthy and well-rounded. And while these dogs are devoted and loving companions, they can be stubborn.

Novice dog owners or impatient dog owners could find that the American Mastiff requires too much repetition, commitment and attention for their liking. However, more experienced dog owners who have time on their hands will find that, though the American Mastiff may require work, that work is well worth the resulting reward.

The American Mastiff And Children – Is This A Good Family Dog?

4 a side profile of an american mastiff
American Mastiffs are calm and gentle. They can do excellent with children and other dogs when raised properly.

Dogs with large heads, large jaws, and a history of guarding can be concerning to those with families. However, if you have children, you shouldn’t let that stop you from bringing an American Mastiff into your home.

These dogs can do wonderfully with youngsters when properly trained and socialized. They are calm, patient, and incredibly gentle. This makes them especially good for very small children, as American Mastiffs are not overly excitable and will not jump up onto people or children or play too roughly.

That said, all dogs have the potential to bite, especially if they are handled or treated too roughly. It’s important to never leave very small children alone with the family dog and to ensure you teach age-appropriate children how to respectfully interact with an American Mastiff.

Working with your family to understand basic canine body language will not only make you a happier dog owner who is able to better understand your dog, but it will also help reduce the chances of a dog bite or other behavioral issues down the road.

American Mastiffs are not only good with children when properly raised, but they also do well with other pets.

This is great news if you have other pets in the home, including both dogs and cats. While the American Mastiff does best with pets he is raised with, a properly trained and well-socialized American Mastiff is unlikely to behave aggressivly towards new pets he meets throughout his lifetime.

How To Train And Socialize The American Mastiff

5 an american mastiff puppy in grass
Training and socialization can begin as early as eight weeks, and should continue with your American Mastiff throughout his lifetime.

American Mastiffs are known for a number of wonderful traits. Unfortunately, they are not known for being the brainiest of breeds. But don’t make the mistake of assuming the American Mastiff is a dumb dog.

These guys are simply independent thinkers with a stubborn streak.

American Mastiffs are also inherently relaxed (or should we say lazy?), which can make training even more difficult. American Mastiff dogs also don’t respond well to harsh training or punishment techniques.

So, no matter how frustrated you get with your dog, barking orders at him is not a good motivation. Like all dogs, the American Mastiff responds best to positive reinforcement techniques like treats and praise.

Training An American Mastiff

Because these dogs are so big, it’s best to begin training them as early as possible. In fact, it’s never too early to begin training your American Mastiff, and you can start implementing short, game-like training sessions from the moment you bring your puppy home.

American Mastiff dogs are highly food motivated, so investing in quality dog treats that are low in calories can help ensure you keep your American Mastiff dog’s attention.

Zuke’s Hip Action And Joint Treats

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We love it when treats are infused with ingredients that boost your dog’s overall health, and that’s why we recommend Zuke’s Hip and Joint dog treats for the American Mastiff.

We like these treats because they are not only made with quality ingredients that are healthy, but they include chondroitin and glucosamine to improve your American Mastiff’s hip and joint health.

You can also use these treats to help when socializing your American Mastiff.

Socializing An American Mastiff

Although the American Mastiff is commonly referred to as a gentle giant, it’s important to remember that he comes from a long line of breeds who were designed as guard dogs. For this reason, your American Mastiff could potentially have guarding instincts.

These instincts, if not properly harnessed, could lead to territorial and even aggressive behaviors. It’s incredibly important to ensure you implement proper socialization beginning at an early age with your American Mastiff to reduce potential behavioral problems and to grow confidence in your dog.

Dogs that have not been properly socialized are much more likely to develop behavioral issues like anxiety and fear-based aggressive tendencies.

To avoid these behavioral issues, experts recommend you introduce your American Mastiff to as many new experiences as you can while he is still a puppy.

Try and ensure that first impressions are positive for your dog, and reward him often with treats, praise and gentle encouragement when he tries something new, greets a stranger or another dog appropriately, or allows people to handle him.

While socialization should ideally begin at eight weeks, you can work to socialize a dog at any age. Training and socialization should also be implemented and carried on throughout your dog’s lifetime.

Exercise And Mental Stimulation For An American Mastiff

6 an american mastiff running in the woods
Though they are large, American Mastiffs don’t require as much exercise as you may think.

Though huge, the American Mastiff only requires a moderate amount of exercise. In fact, over-exercising your American Mastiff can lead to serious health issues and joint damage. For this reason, experts recommend only around 30 minutes of routine exercise a day.

This exercise could include a light walk through the neighborhood or fun play time in the backyard.

However, while the American Mastiff isn’t too energetic, he can be prone to pulling on leash. For this reason, we recommend working with your American Mastiff early on with leash training as well as investing in the proper equipment for your daily walks.

No-Pull Freedom Harness

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We are big fans of no-pull dog harnesses, but we especially like the Freedom Harness above by 2 Hounds listed above for the American Mastiff. This is an adjustable harness that is designed to reduce pulling by gently redirecting your dog back to you when he gets ahead of himself.

The harness not only reduces pulling on walks, but it also reduces potential health issues by reducing the pressure put on your American Mastiff’s chest or throat.

Along with routine exercise, the American Mastiff will also need a good amount of mental stimulation to prevent him from becoming bored and destructive. For the most part, he can have his mental needs met while you are around and offering him attention and time.

When you’re away, it’s a good idea to invest in interactive toys like KONGS, puzzle toys and treat balls.

Grooming, Diet, And Health Issues – Keeping Your American Mastiff Healthy

7 an american mastiff standing on a porch
Proper exercise, diet and routine grooming will help ensure your American Mastiff is healthy and happy.

One of the reasons the American Mastiff was created was to reduce the chances of serious genetic health issues prominent in giant dog breeds. As a combination of both the English Mastiff and the Anatolian Shepherd, the American Mastiff does come with some potential Hybrid Vigor.

However, he also has a longer list of health concerns he may be predisposed to, and this can lead to some serious complications for both the American Mastiff and his owner, especially if that owner is unprepared.

With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at the American Mastiff’s lifespan, overall health issues, and how you can keep your American Mastiff in ship-shape.

The Average Lifespan Of An American Mastiff Is 8 to 12 Years

The Most Common Health Issues Seen In An American Mastiff Include:


  • Cardiomyopathy
  • Mitral Dysplasia
  • Subaortic Stenosis
  • Cardiomyopathy
  • Pulmonic Stenosis
  • Elbow Dysplasia
  • Gastric Dilatation Torsion (AKA GDV or Bloat)
  • Entropion
  • Ectropion
  • Corneal Dystrophy
  • Progressive Retinal Atrophy
  • Retinal Dysplasia
  • Cystinuria
  • And Cancers Including Lymphosarcoma

Since the American Mastiff can be prone to obesity and Bloat, experts recommend owners invest in a slow feeder.

Outward Hound Slow Feeder

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A slow feeder like the above feeder by Outward Hound is designed to reduce the chances of Bloat and obesity by ensuring your dog slows down when he eats. This reduces the chances of air filling your dog’s intestines (which can lead to Bloat) and also encourages healthy eating habits.

Slow feeders are also great for keeping dogs mentally stimulated. These feeders offer your dog a fun and engaging challenge during mealtimes, which can feel like a rewarding game.

Other Tips On Preventing Health Complications In The American Mastiff

Since the American Mastiff can be prone to such a long list of serious and potentially devastating health issues, it’s incredibly important to have him health screened at an early age. If you go through a reputable breeder to get your American Mastiff, that breeder will usually have your Mastiff health screened already.

If you choose to rescue your American Mastiff, you do have the option of getting him tested through your veterinarian.

Early health screening goes hand-in-hand with preventative care, and can help you not only catch potential ailments early before they become too serious, but also give you a good idea about what your American Mastiff is predisposed to so you can work to prevent these issues.

Keep Up With Routine Vet Visits

Along with having your American Mastiff health screened at an early age, we also recommend scheduling routine vet visits. Like people, dogs develop different ailments as they age, and a yearly checkup can help you keep on top of your American Mastiff’s overall health.

Vets recommend that large breed dogs be seen once a year for routine wellness checks up until they are seven years of age. They should then be seen at least twice a year, as senior dogs tend to develop health issues more rapidly than younger dogs.

The Importance Of A Healthy Diet

All dogs require a healthy diet in order to thrive, and quality dog food is especially important for giant breed dogs like the American Mastiff. This is because American Mastiffs grow quite quickly when they are puppies, and the wrong diet can be detrimental to their bone, joint and muscle development.

A proper diet for an American Mastiff will be specified for large breed dogs and will be rich in real animal protein, contain proper carbs, fatty acids, vitamins, minerals, and have a good source of water.

American Mastiffs can do well on raw, wet, or dry dog food, but they will also do well having meal supplements and vitamins with their meals to increase bone, joint, and muscle health. Heart supplements can also help keep your American Mastiff healthy, especially considering the American Mastiff is so prone to heart issues as he ages.

While the American Mastiff is not prone to obesity in his youth, it can become a concern in the breed as he ages. This is especially true if your American Mastiff is not kept on a quality diet and is not particularly active.

Obesity in an American Mastiff can lead to a number of complications and increase the risk of heart issues, diabetes, and bone, joint and muscle problems in your dog. These issues are not only devastating to your dog’s quality of life, but they can also be financially devastating to you as well.

Be Careful With Exercise

As we mentioned briefly above, exercising your American Mastiff is important but should be done carefully. This is a dog that can be prone to a number of exercise-induced illnesses and injuries, so taking care to ensure your American Mastiff is having his exercise needs met safely is imperative to his health.

American Mastiff Grooming Requirements

The American Mastiff is a shedding dog and he requires routine grooming and upkeep. His coat should be brushed once a week or so with a quality deshedding tool to keep loose hair from building up and causing doggy odor and skin issues.

He should also be bathed once every six weeks with a dog-safe shampoo that will not strip his skin and coat of his natural oils. Like all dogs, the American Mastiff should have his nails trimmed or ground down regularly and his ears should be routinely cleaned with the proper ear cleaning solution.

American Mastiffs can also be prone to dental disease, so we recommend brushing your dog’s teeth once a day with a dog-safe toothpaste and toothbrush.

What Is The Ideal Home Type For An American Mastiff?

8 a woman and an American Mastiff
American Mastiffs are sensitive dogs that require a lot of time and commitment from their owners.

American Mastiffs make affectionate, devoted, and gentle companions to families, singles and couples. However, they are very large dogs and require a lot of routine care and upkeep. These are certainly not low maintenance dog breeds and for this reason they are best suited for more experienced dog owners.

The ideal owner of an American Mastiff will be an owner who has plenty of time to commit to training, exercise, socialization and attention.

And while American Mastiffs do get along well with children and other pets, it’s important for owners to monitor younger children and dogs when they are together in the household.

It should also come as no surprise that, due to the American Mastiff’s height and weight, he is not an ideal apartment dog. This is a canine who needs lots of space both inside and out, and could become bothersome to you if your home is not conducive to his size.

The American Mastiff will do well with a large, securly fenced backyard. Though he is not overtly energetic, he still enjoys being outdoors and playing gentle games of tug of war with his family.

And though American Mastiffs are huge, they seem to have no concept of it. This is a dog who is very people- oriented and requires a lot of attention and time from his human family.

He can become destructive if left on his own for too, so it is best that the American Mastiff is in homes with owners who have flexible schedules and can be around often.

How To Go About Finding An American Mastiff Puppy Or Rescue

9 an American Mastiff PuppyGoing through reputable sources to get your American Mastiff is key to ensuring you get the healthiest rescue or puppy possible.

Are you wondering how to get your hands on an American Mastiff? We don’t blame you. If you have the room for one of these amazing dogs, you’re in for a real treat. However, American Mastiff dogs don’t come cheap, especially if you plan on getting an American Mastiff puppy through a breeder.

On average, American Mastiff puppies can cost between $1,000 to $1,500. However, it’s important not to cut corners in an effort to find an American Mastiff at a bargain price. Avoid going through backyard breeders, unqualified online sellers, or other less than responsible sources.

Remember, the American Mastiff is a dog that can be prone to a variety of serious and costly health issues. These health issues can be compounded if responsible breeding practices are not implemented. This means that even if you find an American Mastiff puppy at a fraction of the average cost, you could still wind up paying much more in the long run if your puppy ends up sick.

With that noted, you should not only avoid sellers offering American Mastiff puppies for prices that are too good to be true, but you should also avoid sellers offering puppies at ridiculously high prices as well.

Pick a breeder you trust and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Remember, a responsible breeder will be able to provide you with paperwork proving your puppy has been health screened and cleared of any serious health issues.

Of course, you also have the option of adopting or rescuing an American Mastiff through a shelter. Rescuing a dog is generally a fraction of the cost of going through a breeder, but there are plenty of benefits to rescuing that go beyond price.

Rescuing an American Mastiff generally costs between $250 to $500. Included in this fee may be an initial vet exam, basic vaccinations, and even some behavioral testing. If you adopt an adult American Mastiff, you may also luck out with a dog that has already been spayed or neutered, and potentially even microchipped.

That said, finding an American Mastiff at a rescue or shelter near you could take some time. Still, it will take some time to find a good breeder, so you really shouldn’t let this stop you.

Whichever route you choose to take when obtaining your American Mastiff, it’s important that you do plenty of research, investigate your sources, and trust your instincts.

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