When you’re family is ready to buy a puppy, it’s important to make sure the dog breed is one that’s going to suit you; so if you’re thinking about getting an English Mastiff or a Neapolitan Mastiff, I’m here to help!…
Every single dog has its own personality, and I have owned an English Neapolitan Mastiff cross called Ziggy; and also a Neapolitan Mastiff called Loki; so I’m not a life-long expert in the breed, and I will be generalising based on my experience with our two mastiffs, but hopefully my advice will be useful if you’re considering bringing a mastiff into your home. There are definitely personality traits they both had, and I gather other owners of both breeds experience as well.
Should I buy a Neapolitan Mastiff?
Here are the pros and cons. Let’s start with the negatives first so we can get them out of the way!
- They are big and heavy and strong. They will knock over small children and have no idea they did it!
- They are very stubborn. If they decide they don’t want to do something (such as stand on the scales at the vets) then there is absolutely nothing you can do about it. They have the ability to double their (already heavy) weight and you can’t move them!
- They are extremely intelligent. You’d think that would be a positive thing, but it also comes under this category because they have the ability to reason and foresee consequences. For example, you’re calling him; he stands still for a minute while he weighs up how much he really wants to follow that scent, and how much he can put up with being told off afterwards. He’ll sometimes choose the more exciting option! Whilst even without teaching him, Loki will lift up each paw to be cleaned after a muddy walk; I could never train him to play dead or shake hands because he just wouldn’t see what the point of it is!
- They can hold a grudge. Both Ziggy and Loki have pooed on the floor the night after we’ve got back from leaving them during the day, or if we’ve left them with relatives while we’ve gone on holiday. You have to get very cross with them about this sometimes!
- They aren’t great with strangers and they are quick to pick up on when other people don’t like big dogs. They won’t like them back! So it’s very important when they’re young to get them used to people coming into the house.
- Surprisingly, they do actually shed a lot of fur. You will need to get that hoover out more often, particularly in spring.
- Their size and weight can obviously be an issue as they aren’t the most spritely of dogs. Ziggy did manage to jump into the back of my car, but Loki can’t. We have to get him in through a back door with the seats down, and that isn’t easy. Dog walks are sometimes scuppered by stiles as he can’t jump over them or fit under them.
- Mastiffs are creatures of habit. They’ll immediately know if something different from routine is going on in the household, and they’ll let you know their displeasure by getting in the way or whining. If there’s anything you’ll want them to do when they’re older, such as walk up a ramp to get into the car, then start them off as a puppy. Loki simply refuses to try anything new like that. Also, if we’d moved the wheelie bin somewhere different, Ziggy would be very nervous about it and take ages to walk past it!
- Vet bills are high. Simply because he needs so much of everything – even the flea treatment is double the price of a small dog’s. It’s about £100 if he needs antibiotics.
- English Mastiffs and Neapolitan Mastiffs have a very short life-span. Ziggy died from a heart attack aged just five, and apparently the average life-span is six years. Loki is now seven, and the other three dogs of his litter have all died. It’s a horrible thought. Such a large dog takes up a lot of space in the household physically (as well as emotionally) and when they are gone, the place doesn’t half feel empty.
- Here’s the biggy. This is the one that gets me the most: The slobber. Oh the slobber! It gets everywhere. When I grow up I’d love to have a clean house with fabrics that don’t need to be wipeable! Don’t even think about having a suede settee! You will have to have something wipeable, or at least covers that are removable and changeable! You will need various towels about the house ready to catch it. They shake their head and flick it everywhere, and of course, you’re not always there with a towel. Or, after the fiftieth time that day of wiping their chops, you’ve just had enough, so you let them do it. And it sticks to the walls, the doors; it hangs off the ceiling; it trails over lampshades; it clings to the telly – it gets everywhere. Once, Ziggy shook his head and it somehow landed on the inside of the glasses I was wearing – now that’s quite an achievement! Every Christmas we go over the living areas of the house and have a big wipe-up. It takes several hours and you still spot more afterwards. Mastiffs are probably not the dog for you if you have expensive wallpaper! Seriously the slobber. Be prepared for the slobber.
It is important that you’re aware of the downsides if you’re considering buying a mastiff breed of dog, as I was quite surprised to find out how many mastiffs are left in dog shelters, and I suppose it’s because their owners weren’t prepared for them.
Ok, and here are the positives to owning an English Mastiff or a Neapolitan Mastiff:
- They are very loving and affectionate dogs and love a cuddle, and particularly love sitting on your feet or lap!
- They are excellent guard dogs. It is after all what they were bred for originally. The Neapolitan Mastiff is from ancient Rome where they would lounge in the shade on the porch of the villa. They will bark and let you know when there’s someone around who they’re not expecting.
- Mastiffs don’t actually require much exercise. So this may be a negative thing if you’re fairly active, but as I mentioned, they were bred to lie around, and that’s what they do best! A short walk three times a day is perfect for them.
- Mastiffs are very intelligent, which makes them excellent companions and easy to train. Ziggy and Loki both learned what to expect from each member of the family and understood us very well. Children should get involved in puppy training so the dog learns they are at the bottom of the pack, and not above them, even if they are bigger!
- English mastiffs and Neapolitan mastiffs are very loyal to their family and very caring. When I hurt my ankle walking Loki and had to sit on the ground for a while, he came and sat close to me to keep me warm, which was lovely! Both of them, but especially Loki are also emotionally intelligent and can read facial expressions and body language and will try and cheer you up if needed. If you’re having a cuddle with someone, he’ll cuddle up too, and if you’re having an argument, he’ll bark and tell you to stop!
Now, I realise my list of positives looks shorter than the list of negatives, but believe me, if you can stand the slobber, then the wonderful things about mastiffs far outweigh all the rest. They are utterly gorgeous dogs to own. One last thing. If you go out in public with your Neapolitan Mastiff, be prepared to say the following over and over and over again; to the point of considering walking around with a sign:
“He’s a Neapolitan Mastiff.”
“It’s the same breed as Hagrid’s dog in the Harry Potter films.”
“He doesn’t actually eat as much as you might expect.”
*Laugh politely when they say something about putting a saddle on him to ride him.*
“Yes, he does have very big feet.”
Here’s the YouTube video I made about whether you should buy a Neapolitan Mastiff: (Lots of cute clips of Loki included!)