The Bullmastiff is a mighty pup who is a true gentle giant. But, try to mess with his family, and he’ll step in to protect them ferociously. This big softie is a well-balanced pooch for most family homes. There are also some important factors to consider that some dog owners aren’t prepared for.
Bullmastiffs need lots of room and attention. They also fit best with an experienced dog family that understands how to handle large, guardian dog breeds. There are some traits within their DNA that are difficult to train out of, and first-time dog owners can find that to be a challenge with dominant breeds. Unfortunately, that can lead to Bullmastiffs ending up in shelters, which is a horrible experience for both the dog and their former owners.
By understanding what you can expect when adopting a Bullmastiff, you can properly prepare for “big dog” ownership. When trained properly, there are few breeds that can rival their loyalty, dedication, and unconditional love for their family. Let’s dive in and see if this gentle giant is the perfect canine companion for your family!
The Bullmastiff originates from England during the 19th century. Gamekeepers struggled to protect their vast country estates from poachers despite intruders facing the death penalty. To protect their lands, they sought to create a perfect protection dog. They mixed bull and mastiff-type dogs, and the Bullmastiff that we know and love today was born. This is why he is known as the ‘Gamekeeper’s Night Dog,’ and it is believed that he is 60% Mastiff and 40% Bulldog.
The result was a large dog that would scare most poachers away. But those that dared to sneak past them discovered that he was courageous and athletic in capturing them. But also obedient enough to listen to his master Gameskeeper when told to hand them over. That way, they would face justice.
It is not known when Bullmastiffs officially made their way over to America. But in 1933, he was accepted into the American Kennel Club breed book. He is not all that popular, mainly due to his size, but he is amongst the top 60 most popular dog breeds in America. The Bullmastiff featured in the git film Rocky as Sylvester Stallone’s 140-pound pet dog called Butkus. He is still used as an estate guard, but he is now more commonly found napping on the sofas in family homes.
Bullmastiffs are innately protective dogs. If not properly trained, they can become aggressive. Unfortunately, this is something that you will never train out of him. Just like you couldn’t teach a Border Collie not to herd sheep, Bullmastiffs will always be alert to strangers. With the protective personality trait comes responsibility. So, if you have no experience with large protective dogs, this breed might not be the best option as a starter pet.
If you are looking for a guard dog to protect your yard and alert you to strangers, this is the perfect breed. His suspicious nature means that he is not overly keen on having visitors to his house. But if you allow them in, he will sit by your side and snooze with one eye open. Regular visitors might be lucky enough to get a belly rub every now and then. But nothing compares to the love he has for his family.
As a lower-energy dog, thanks to his Bulldog genes, Bullmastiffs are partial to lazy days. His docile nature in the home means that he is happy to lie about while you work at home. He is not too demanding for constant play, and it is this that is a big appeal of his. Just expect to be around your pup consistently, as they can suffer from separation anxiety.
Despite his love for humans and the need to be around them, he is an independent dog who has little interest in pleasing his masters. He is more interested in doing whatever it is that he wants to do. This is another reason why he is best homed with experienced dog owners. But we’ll discuss how to tackle this in the training section.
Size & Appearance
This is a giant-sized dog often confused with his Mastiff relative, but he isn’t quite as big. He measures between 24 and 27 inches tall, and he weighs between 100 and 130 pounds. His huge frame shows great strength and power, and he is symmetrically shaped. His head is square, and his nose is big and fleshy. He has droopy jowls, which lend him to lots of dribble and drool. That’s right, if you don’t like drooly dogs, we’d suggest finding another breed.
Males are usually larger than their female counterparts, but their breed standard favors larger dogs over smaller ones. He has a deep chest. His muzzle is flat like the Bulldog but not quite as squished. The more flat his face is, the more likely he will suffer from the brachycephalic issues that face flat-faced breeds. This includes trouble with heat regulation and breathing.
Their ears are V-shaped, wide, sit aside his cheeks, and are often darker in color than the rest of his body. His medium-sized eyes are alert but full of love. His tail is long and thick and reaches down to his hocks. Watch out for it when it wags because it’ll leave bruises on your legs!
Coat & Colors
Bullmastiffs have a short and dense coats. He sheds moderately throughout the year and slightly heavier during the shedding seasons. But not much compared to other dogs, and his short coat is a big appeal of his. The texture of his jacket is of medium softness but not silky shiny.
He has a few coat color options, which are fawn, fawn brindle, red, red brindle, red fawn, and red fawn brindle. The red fawn coloring is also referred to as “apricot” by many breed enthusiasts. Their different shades of brindle colored coats are typically also referred to as just “brindle” people not entering their dogs into shows. Many Bullmastiffs have a black mask, also with darker colored ears and a darker back. Some Mastiffs have a small white mark on their chest.
The Bullmastiff is a moderately active dog who needs around 45 minutes of exercise every day. They may try to persuade you that he doesn’t need any. Instead, he’ll act as though he is exhausted and in desperate need of a snooze. But you need to get this big boy moving and his heart ticking to keep him in shape.
Intense exercise isn’t needed with this breed. And, in fact, intensity shouldn’t be a factor at all. This guy does not make a great jogging partner, and anything impactful should be avoided because of his joints and facial structure. Long leisurely walkies around the park are ideal. When pushed too hard, breathing can be an issue for brachycephalic dog breeds.
When at home, he’ll love a good romp around the garden, and this will be enough to stimulate his mind and keep him entertained. He will also appreciate a few toys to get his teeth stuck into, and giant toys like a Jolly Ball are likely your best bet. If not, he’ll only take it out on your personal belongings and furniture.
The Bullmastiff loves children, but he would be better suited to a family with older children due to his size. Although he is calmer in the home, he is still boisterous and bulky. This means that accidental bumps with infants can happen. He loves each family member equally, but he is easily persuaded by those who spoil him with treats and neck scratches.
For a dog this size, it’s typically better to be situated in a bigger home with access to a large yard. While they can handle apartment life, their size will make your living space “feel” a little smaller. Especially because, typically their favorite place to rest will be right at your feet.
While Bullmastiffs can survive in apartment living or small homes, it’s not optimal for their living situation. But they may get cabin fever, and you may get fed up with everything being knocked over. If you have a larger yard, it should be secured to keep your pup contained. A Bullmastiff roaming through the neighborhood is sure to scare the locals, even if your pup is extremely well-behaved.
Bullmastiffs are sometimes considered unintelligent but they really are just very stubborn dogs. As common with dominant breeds, they will test you as an owner. He still needs to be taught who’s the family leader. Otherwise, he’ll be an unruly giant that causes more mischief than most could manage.
To maximize your chances of him learning basic commands, start training with him as soon as you get him home. Enroll him in puppy obedience classes, too. Not only will this be fun for both him and you, but it will also strengthen your bond and teach him the basics. The trick with stubborn dogs is to never give in to their diva demands or naughty antics. Because the second you give in, the second he’ll know he can get away with it again.
As a naturally protective dog, the Bullmastiff needs to be socialized from day dot. This will begin with reputable breeders, who will mix him with his parents and littermates. And as soon as you get him home, it’s important to continue mixing him with other dogs, humans, and other animals. You’ll want to start positive reinforcement training as soon as they are old enough.
Start leash training early. Being pulled around by a 130-pound pooch is not fun for anyone. Get him used to walking on the leash from a young age. This will increase the chances of him understanding that he walks with you, not walks you. You should also be physically fit and strong to be able to handle him. A situation will inevitably occur at some point in his life when he doesn’t like something or something scares him, just like any dog. And you need to be able to take control.
Bullmastiffs are giant-sized dogs. Unfortunately, like many other gentle giants, he has a shorter lifespan than most. On average, they will enjoy a lifespan of seven to ten years. So, to make the most of his time with you, you need to do everything you can to keep him healthy. This includes feeding him the best quality food that you can afford, attending regular vet checkups, and exercising him well.
Just like all pedigree breeds, the breed is prone to several health conditions more so than others. Although the below list isn’t exclusive, they are a good place to start. Learn about the symptoms to look out for and what you can do to prevent them if you can.
Hip & Elbow Dysplasia
The breed is prone to hip and elbow dysplasia, which is a common issue found in many giant dog breeds. It occurs when the bones grow too fast, and as a result, causes uneven bone growth. This unequal growth causes accelerated wear and tear, causing issues with his mobility and arthritis in later life. Symptoms of joint dysplasias are struggling to stand, climb stairs, or have stiffness in his limbs.
The breed can deal with various eye concerns, with the most common being entropion. This is the rolling inwards of the eyelids, and it usually begins around the age of six months. This leads to soreness and eye infections. As soon as you notice that his eyelids have folded inwards, redness, or itching his eyes more than normal, be sure to take him to the vet.
Subaortic stenosis and heart disease are common in the breed. They both require his heart to work harder, eventually putting too much strain on his cardiovascular system. They are diagnosed early with vet checkups, but fainting or sudden death are signs of cardiac conditions if not diagnosed.
Hypothyroidism is another condition that affects the breed. This is caused by a deficiency of the thyroid hormone, and it has several effects on his body and quality of life. Extreme tiredness, hair loss, tight skin, and mental dullness are symptoms of this condition. It can be treated with daily medication.
Unfortunately, cancer is quite common in Bullmastiffs. The most common cancers found in the breed are lymphosarcoma, osteosarcoma, hemangiosarcoma, and mast cell tumors. Dogs with cancer should not be bred.
The Bullmastiff is a big boy with an even bigger appetite. He will need between three to four cups twice a day. The breed is always at risk of bloat, which is the swelling of the abdomen. It is a potentially fatal condition that needs immediate medical attention. The risk is heightened when fed immediately before or after exercise, so be careful not to do this.
Because this is a giant dog breed, he should be fed a kibble that is specifically designed for large or giant breed dogs. This is especially important during puppyhood when his body is developing and growing. If not, the risk of him developing joint dysplasia and other bone problems is increased without it. This is because large breed kibbles contain particular nutrients that help to control their rapid bone growth.
It’s important to feed your pup the best nutrition that you can afford. This doesn’t mean spending the earth, but it does mean choosing food that is better quality than budget store kibble. High-quality kibbles provide a well-balanced diet, including real meat protein, fiber, healthy carbs, omega fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals.
The Bullmastiff is a gluttonous dog, and he will eat everything in sight. This means that you need to keep food under lock and key. Otherwise, he will become even bigger than he already is, and this will put too much pressure on his already heavily laden joints. Be sure to monitor his treat intake. And if he starts to put on too much weight, switch him to a weight management kibble.
The Bullmastiff has a short and dense coat that only requires weekly brushing to manage his jacket. You might want to brush him twice a week during the shedding seasons, but this is dependent on each pooch. The best brush for his coat is a rubber mitt. This will help to spread his natural coat oils and keep him looking his best. His coat is short, straight, and relatively easy to groom.
Typically, expect to bathe your pup once every 8 to 12 weeks or as and when he needs it. Do not wash him any more than this because you risk damaging his natural coat oils. Always use a doggy shampoo made from natural and soothing ingredients, such as oatmeal or coconut milk. If he has lots of skin folds around his face, he will require extra skin fold cleaning to avoid infections. His skin folds are a perfect breeding ground for bacteria, but every dog is different.
The Bullmastiff can also be a drooly dog, and this is something to bear in mind when inviting him into your life. Drool is something you might not be able to escape, and it can annoy homeowners more than anything. He’s also quite a gassy pooch too! Other than this, his grooming schedule is relatively simple. Other grooming tips include brushing his teeth weekly and trimming his nails as and when they get too long.
Breeders & Puppy Costs
Bullmastiffs aren’t the most popular dog breed, so for this reason, you might need to travel out of state to find a reputable breeder. You should also plan in advance because there are also likely to be waiting lists for pups. The average price of a purebred puppy will set you back around $1,200 and up. If you are looking for a dog that comes from an award-winning lineage, you can expect to pay much more than this.
Always look for a reputable breeder who will talk you through the entire process and answer any questions. They will provide you with health certificates and welcome you to meet the pups in their environment. A good place to start is the AKC’s Bullmastiff reputable breeder list. If none of these breeders are suitable, look for a breeder with a professional website. And with years of breeding experience.
Working with a reputable breeder will ensure you only adopt a healthy pup. Breeders raise their puppies with love, and they will both handle and socialize them. This means that they are more likely to grow up to be polite and well-balanced dogs. This is particularly important for protective dog breeds.
A Bullmastiff puppy is expensive to set up with large crates, beds, harnesses, and everything else he needs. And as a giant-sized dog, he is costly in the long run, too. He requires a lot of food, and his medical and insurance bills can be expensive, too. So, you must be sure that you can financially meet his needs for the next decade.
Rescues & Shelters
Rescuing a Bullmastiff from your local shelter is another option if buying a puppy isn’t for you. Go to your local animal shelters and speak to the staff there, who can talk you through the adoption process. There are also breed-specific rescues that focus their efforts entirely on the Bullmastiff breed. Be sure to check out Bullmastiff Rescuers Inc and the American Bullmastiff Association website which list adoptable dogs and rescue contacts.
As Family Pets
- The Bullmastiff is an extremely independent dog.
- This means he will be better suited to a more experienced dog owner.
- The Bullmastiff is very protective of his family and home.
- They are well known for protecting their family with their life.
- Typically they are aloof with strangers.
- While more active than an English Mastiff, they can be lazy as well.
- Typically, 30 to 45 minutes of daily exercise is all that’s needed.
- They love to cuddle up for an afternoon nap on the sofa.
- As co-dependent dogs, they don’t do well when left alone for long periods.
- The Bullmastiff needs a large family home, preferably a larger yard.
- They can live with older children and other family pets.
The Bullmastiff might be stubborn, but he is charming, handsome, and downright lovely. He is fun and playful when outside and calm and cuddly in the home. He craves attention and is a gentle giant with his family, which contradicts his formidable demeanor.
The Bullmastiff is an independent dog who needs an experienced family to take care of him and show him the ropes. He is also a protective pooch who needs an equally strong-willed master that can train him. If you think you provide him with these two main things, along with everything else mentioned in this guide, you are sure to fall head over heels in love with him.