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English Mastiff vs. Golden Retriever: Breed Differences & Similarities

Thinking of adding a new pet to your household but can't decide between a Golden Retriever or an English Mastiff? These two pups are both excellent family companions, but that's about where the similarities end. Outside of their size, there's a number of differences between these two dog breeds. Read on to find out more!

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Last Updated: July 14, 2021 | 10 min read

English Mastiff Compared to Golden Retriever

Are you trying to choose between the English Mastiff and the Golden Retriever as your next pet? These two pups are quite different, but they do share some similarities. Both pups can do quite well when placed with the right owner. But, with the wrong owner, they can cause more problems than they solve.

The Golden Retriever is the more common pup of the two breeds, but that doesn’t automatically mean that he is the better option for you. Sure, Golden Retrievers are better for first-time dog owners, and they need less room. But they also need a lot more exercise than some people first think. Mastiffs make a better guard dog, but they can also be less obedient and drooly.

In this article, you’ll learn about both of these family-friendly canines. From how their personalities and appearance differ, to what their exercise and nutritional needs are, and much more. So, let’s look at what kind of family each of these pups need, and how you fit into that.

Breed Comparison

English Mastiff

  • Height 27 – 30 inches
  • Weight 120 – 230 pounds
  • Temperament Courageous, dignified, good-natured
  • Energy Low
  • Health Average
  • Lifespan 6 – 10 years
  • Puppy Prices $1,000 and up

Golden Retriever

  • Height 21 ½ - 24 inches
  • Weight 55 – 75 pounds
  • Temperament Intelligent, friendly, devoted
  • Energy High
  • Health Average
  • Lifespan 10 – 12 years
  • Puppy Prices $1,000 and up

Breed History

Taking a look at the history of a dog breed is crucial in learning about them. Because not only will it tell you about their original breed purpose, it will help you gain an understanding of how your dog might be as a family pet. Both of these pups were bred for different reasons, so it’s important to understand what tendencies they may have before welcoming one into your home.

English Mastiff

Large Tan Dog Laying Down in Grass
The Mastiff was originally used to protect estates and help hunt big game.

The English Mastiff descends from one of the oldest dog breeds in the world. In Julius Caesar’s journal, he documented large, beastly Mastiff-type dogs that guarded the British Isles and just how impressed he was. So he took them back to Rome to showcase their incredible power in the fighting ring against men and lions. But, of course, these guys were much larger than the dogs we know today.

Fast forward to medieval England, and noble landowners used these dogs to protect their estates and hunt big game. As you can imagine, the Mastiff has a huge appetite. And during the World Wars, their numbers dwindled to just 14 because families couldn’t afford to feed them. Thankfully, American breeders sent their specimens over to England, and breed fanciers recouped their numbers.

The American Kennel Club (AKC) ranks the English Mastiff in the top 30 most popular dog breeds out of 197 breeds. Making them one of the most popular gentle giants in the canine kingdom. In addition, Mastiffs, with their gentle but protective nature, are popular dogs to mix with other breeds.

Golden Retriever

Golden Long Hair Dog Laying Down
Golden Retrievers were originally bred to help hunters.

The Golden Retriever is one of America’s canine sweethearts. They are what springs to mind when many families think of the original family pet. Their journey began much later than the Mastiffs, and these guys originated from the United Kingdom in the 19th century.

Gamekeepers wanted to develop the perfect gun dog. An obedient, hardworking pup capable of collecting quarry without damaging it. And joining the family in the evening for companionship and cuddles.

These pups are special dogs, so it wasn’t long until they traveled the world. They first arrived in America in the 20th century, and they’ve always been popular with families and hunters alike. They are also regularly chosen for assistance and therapy work too.

Plus, they are familiar faces often featured on the big screen, such as Bud in ‘Air Bud’ and Comet in ‘Full House.’ For many years, these guys have been ranked as the 3rd most popular dog breed in America.

Appearance

Large Brindle Dog and Long Hair Tan Dog Laying in Grass
These two breeds are very different in appearance, the biggest one being their size.

These two pups are very different in their appearance. And this is usually the first thing that families use to decide between the two breeds. The Golden Retriever is a proportionately built dog breed, who is athletic yet soft in their appearance. The Mastiff is a huge breed with a massive head, chunky butt, and thick tail that hurts when it whips. Many people who don’t know the breed will assume that the Mastiff is a scary dog.

The Golden Retriever is a large pup. They weigh between 55 and 75 pounds and measure up to 24 inches tall, from paw to shoulder. On the other hand, Mastiffs measure up to 30 inches tall and weigh between 120 and 230 pounds.

That’s an incredible size difference that might instantly prevent a family from welcoming a Mastiff into their life! The largest Mastiff on record weighed an incredible 343 pounds too, so they can weigh more than this.

The Golden Retrievers coat is thick and medium in length compared to the English Mastiff’s coat that is short and tight to his body. Their coat difference makes a big difference in their grooming, which we’ll take you through in the grooming section.

Golden Retrievers only have one color to choose from, which is any shade of gold. This shade can range from dark red to almost white. The Mastiff has a bit more color variety and has apricot, brindle, and fawn options, with or without a black mask.

Temperament

Large Tan Dog Laying Down and Golden Dog Smiling at Camera
These two breeds are both very gentle and sweet dogs making them amazing family pets.

The temperament of these two breeds is very similar and also different. But, there are more differences between them. And this is a great way to help families choose between these dog breeds. And despite their differences, both of these guys make brilliant family pets. They just require slightly different types of homes and families. So, let’s start with their similarities.

The Golden Retriever is a sweet pup, and the Mastiff is a true gentle giant. They are both loving and affectionate and like cuddles as much as the other. The only difference is that the Golden will sit comfortably on most family sofas. Compared to the Mastiff, who will easily take up half the sofa himself. You might want to consider how much room you have for the Mastiff if you like your personal space.

They are both fun family pooches. The Golden is ready and willing to play whenever you want to and makes a great canine sibling for children. The Mastiff likes to play games, but he’ll prefer to play games if he can lay on his lazy butt for a lot of the time. In addition, the Mastiff brings a lot of laughter into the family home with his dopey and clumsy antics.

In the Home

They are also both devoted and loyal to their families but in different ways. The Mastiff has a protective streak, and he will guard his home if he feels as though his family is in danger. Golden Retrievers are not protective and make a terrible guard dog. Letting anyone into his home if it means making a new friend. But he is devoted in the sense that he likes to spend every second of every day by his family’s side.

The Mastiff’s defensive side can be a problem if he isn’t socialized well as a pup. Not only could he become overprotective, but he could also become even more stubborn. Making it near impossible to train him. Mastiffs are best left to experienced dog owners who know how to get the best out of potentially difficult dogs. Golden Retrievers are a great option for first-time dog owners looking for a gentle introduction to the world of doggy ownership.

Exercise

Brindle Dog and Golden Dog Running
Mastiffs are low-energy and will need less exercise than high-energy Goldens.

Both breeds are totally different when it comes to their exercise needs. And this is often a big deciding factor for families trying to choose between them. The English Mastiff is a relatively low-energy dog breed who only needs between 30 to 45 minutes of steady exercise every day. Mastiffs are known for trying to get out of their daily exercise too!

Compared to the Golden Retriever, who is a high-energy dog breed. These guys need at least 60 minutes of intense exercise every day. Which should be challenging and lots of fun to burn up their physical and mental energy. There aren’t many Goldens who would turn their nose up at a chance to go exploring. Overall, this means he needs an active family who will exercise their pups come rain or shine.

Regardless of their energy differences, they both need stimulation throughout the day to keep themselves happy and healthy. As well as out of trouble! Because despite their angelic faces, they can be destructive and naughty pups when bored.

Dog toys are a simple but effective way to challenge their brain. The Golden Retriever will need a variety of toys that are challenging to stimulate his clever canine brain. And the English Mastiff will definitely approve of a durable XXL toy to chew until his heart’s content.

Training

Large Tan Dog and Medium Long Hair Dog Laying in Grass
Golden Retrievers are known to be much easier to train of the two breeds.

Training is another area where these guys are very different. The Golden Retriever is the prime canine candidate for therapy, assistance, and other employment roles. And that’s because the Golden takes to training like a duck on water. He is eager to please, intelligent, and always willing to learn. Of course, he still needs training. But novice dog owners shouldn’t have too much trouble with a Golden.

The English Mastiff is a lot more difficult to train and requires a patient and experienced dog owner. The Mastiff is stubborn and will only partake in training on his time, not yours! And even once you have ‘trained’ him, there will be days when he really can’t be bothered to be obedient. However, with the right owner, Mastiffs can be relatively obedient and charming. Just not all the time!

An important part of the training process for both of these guys is socialization. It will teach them how to interact with the world and be confident in it too. So mix your puppy with as many people, dogs, and new experiences as you can. The socialization process could be an ongoing aspect of training for the Mastiff, depending on how strong his guarding instincts are. But socializing your pup is the best way to minimize overprotection.

The positive reinforcement training method is the best way to train both of these guys. The only difference is that the Golden Retrievers are likely to be motivated by praise, toys, and treats. Whereas the Mastiff is probably only motivated to train when there are yummy treats in hand. But, it’s important not to spoil your Mastiff with never-ending treats!

Health

Large Brown Dog and Medium Long Hair Dog Laying in Grass
These two dogs are both relatively healthy dogs.

Thankfully, both pups are both relatively healthy dog breeds. However, like all purebred dogs, they are at risk of certain diseases because of genetic influence. The giant Mastiff has an expected lifespan of 6 to 10 years, compared to the Golden, who usually enjoys 10 to 12 years. Although you can never guarantee the best health, working with a responsible breeder can increase the chance of having a healthy pup for sure.

Responsible breeders of the Golden and the Mastiff will test for the same conditions. The first and usually most common are elbow and hip dysplasia. Therefore, it’s essential to ask for their parent’s hip and elbow scores. They are also prone to various eye conditions, with progressive retinal atrophy being the most common in both breeds. The Mastiff is also more at risk of ectropion, entropion, and cherry eye.

They should also both be tested for cardiac concerns. Dilated cardiomyopathy and subvalvular aortic stenosis are the most prevalent concern in these breeds. Early detection of cardiac concerns means there is a good chance of managing it and preventing potentially fatal heart attacks. This is another reason why you should keep your pup fit and strong with regular exercise.

Sadly, the rate of cancer is higher in these breeds compared to many others. But especially Golden Retrievers. The Golden has the highest rate of cancer compared to any other dog breed. And research shows that it is the highest in American Golden Retrievers compared to European gene pools. So be sure to speak to your breeder about cancer in the family. But ultimately, responsible breeders should never breed dogs who have had cancer.

Nutrition

Tan and Black Dog and Yellow Dog With Tongue Out
Expect to spend quite a bit more on dog food if you become a Mastiff owner.

The English Mastiff eats more of the two dogs, simply because of his size. And this can make a huge difference between the monthly food bill. The average English Mastiff can eat up to eight cups of food every day.

This is compared to the Golden, who usually eats up to three cups of dry dog food per day. It’s important not to overfeed either breed, but with trial and error with help from the kibble packaging, you’ll work it out in no time.

Both of these guys need to be fed a kibble designed for large dogs as the nutrition is optimized for their large breed needs. It is especially important during puppyhood because large breed puppy food will help control bone growth, which can minimize the chances of them developing skeletal problems such as hip and elbow dysplasia.

Grooming

Two Tan Dogs Shaking off Water
Mastiffs have lower grooming requirements of the two breeds.

Both dogs also have a very different grooming regime. Mastiffs have a short and sleek coat that only needs brushing once a week for him to look and feel his best.

Goldens have a much more intense grooming schedule and needs his coat brushing several times a week. And every day during their shedding seasons! Otherwise, his long, crinkly hair will matt, and you’ll have hair hurricanes in your home.

They both need bathing once every 8 to 12 weeks to keep them fresh and odorless.The Golden is likely to need more frequent bathing than the Mastiff due to his longer hair. Always use a doggy-specific shampoo. Although the Mastiff’s coat is generally easier, he makes up for it with his extra drool. If you are a doggy-drool-phobe, you will want to think twice before inviting a Mastiff into your home.

Puppy Prices

Two Tan Puppies Side by Side in Grass
Expect to spend around $1,000 or more for both of these breeds.

The price of a purebred puppy usually starts at around $1,000 for either breed. However, this price can rise significantly depending on the breeder you choose to work with, your location, time of year, and the bloodline of the pup. Alternatively, the prices can be a lot lower if you choose to adopt either a Golden or a Mastiff.

There are also ongoing lifetime costs to consider when buying a pup. And although the English Mastiff is the larger of the two and needs everything in XXL, plus extra food, and is usually more expensive for medical and insurance costs.  You also have to remember that the Golden lives a few more years than the Mastiff. So whichever breed you choose, you need to be in a position to take care of your pup no matter what life throws at you and Fido.

Final Thoughts

Golden Retrievers might be the more popular dogs, but English Mastiffs are equally as charming and lovely. The Mastiff needs more room, a more patient and experienced owner, and much more food. The Golden is the more active out of the two breeds and easier to train too.

Ultimately, both of these pups are wonderful dog breeds who make fantastic family pets. But as you can see from our comparison above, there are huge differences between them that might make one pooch better suited to you and your family over the other. So whichever breed comes out tops, know that you’ll find one of the best canine companions that you can ask for.

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