If you are considering taking on a new dog, while often you may have a specific breed in mind that you have a passion for, don’t forget that there are lots of wonderful mixed breed dogs out there that can also make great pets.
If you are looking for a large breed dog that can make a great family companion, then you may find just that in a Pitbull Mastiff Mix. It is also a mix that will often be overlooked in the shelter because of their size, strength, and the unfair stigmas that are attached to Pit Bull type dogs.
If you are an experienced dog owner though, and you want a loyal and affectionate companion, you could offer them the perfect forever home.
If you don’t know much about either of the breeds, it can be useful to understand what sort of personality traits and lifestyle requirements this mix may have, to help you make a sensible decision on whether this dog could be right for you.
When talking about Pit Bulls in this article, we will be talking about the breed most commonly associated with this term; the American Pit Bull Terrier (APBT). The shortened name ‘Pit Bull’ is one that is often used to encompass several bully breeds; like the American Staffordshire Terrier and even some of the Bulldogs.
The American Pit Bull Terrier originated in England in the 19th century. They were used for bull, bear and dog fighting because of their strength and courage. At the end of the 19th century, the UKC classified the breed as the American Pit Bull Terrier.
In America though, enthusiasts wanted to focus on developing the breeds companionable traits, and get away from the breed’s reputation as a fighting dog, and the American Kennel Club did not recognize the breed. In the 1930s the AKC recognized the American Staffordshire Terrier as a breed in its own right. This dog is very similar to the APBT. Pitbull Terriers are also commonly confused with the American Bulldog as well.
Because they have often been used as fighting dogs or as a power status symbol by irresponsible owners, the American Pit Bull Terrier has developed an unfair reputation. With the introduction of Breed Specific Legislation across many States, this has only helped to perpetuate this problem leading them to commonly be banned in many states.
APBTs can actually make fantastic family pets if they are from a responsible breeder and they receive the right socialization, and this has earned them the affectionate nickname of ‘Nanny Dogs’. This is also why they are often mixed with other purebreds like the labrador to make the labrabull, the husky to make the pitsky and are also commonly crossed with boxers as well.
The Mastiff is another dog which originates from England, but their ancestors date back to much earlier times. Because of their size and strength, they were used as fighting dogs and were famously used in the Roman Gladiatorial rings. Mastiffs and bullmastiffs are both notoriously amazing family dogs.
In the 19th century, the Mastiff was bred predominantly as a working watchdog. Although they were used in fighting rings in the mid 19th century, when dog fighting and bull baiting became illegal, the breed enthusiasts focussed on temperament rather than on aggression. This has meant that today’s Mastiffs tend to be gentle and laid back. The American Kennel Club recognized the breed way back in 1885, and they are also sometimes referred to as the Old English Mastiff or English Mastiff.
Without any doubt, with this mix, you are going to have a big and powerful dog. The Mastiff is considered one of the largest dog breeds in the world and can weigh anything from 120 to a whopping 230 pounds. While Pit Bulls are a lot smaller, usually not weighing more than 70 pounds, they are still very muscular and powerful.
You are also going to have a dog with a short, sleek, single coat. Coat coloring could vary greatly, though. The APBT comes in a variety of solid colors (blue, red, black, fawn, grey, tan and brown), and also in brindle. The Mastiff only comes in three colors; apricot, fawn or brindle, and they usually have a black mask on their face.
While both breeds tend to be square around the face, the Mastiff has much droopier jowls. If your Pit Bull Mastiff Mix inherits this aspect, then you can expect more drooling.
While every breed tends to have expected temperament traits, don’t forget that every dog is an individual, and also socialization and training play a big part in shaping your dog’s personality too.
Looking at generally expected traits though, despite the size and strength of both breeds, when it comes to a Pit Bull Mastiff Mix, you will likely have a dog that loves people. They are both known for being steadfastly loyal, companionable and affectionate with their family.
While their size and strength may mean that they are not suited to a home with small children, just in case they accidentally bowl them over, they are both breeds known for enjoying all human company, and they are very tolerant with children. They can make excellent family pets, but parents should still make sure that their children are taught to be respectful of the dogs in their household.
They should always give them space when they are eating and sleeping, and they should be taught how to interact appropriately. Even the most patient of dogs can be pushed to their limit with a child that is not being respectful, and a bite from a dog with such powerful jaws could be devastating.
American Pit Bull Terriers can have a high prey drive, and so care must be taken if you plan to introduce them to a household that is already home to other small furries. They are not always huge fans of other dogs, especially those they don’t know.
Mastiffs, on the other hand, tend to be generally more friendly with other dogs, making them popular to cross breed with other dogs like labs. Some APBTs love other dogs though, and will happily integrate into a multi-dog household. You should just be aware that they are not a breed that is as widely known for getting along with other dogs.
While all dogs need appropriate socialization and training from an early age, because of the size and strength of a Pit Bull Mastiff Mix, this is something that will be even more important.
If they have not been taught to walk well on a leash, they could easily pull someone over and cause injury. If they are aggressive towards other dogs and you do not have full control of them when out on a walk, this can be irresponsible and potentially dangerous.
Working on good loose leash walking skills and helping them to form new associations when they see other dogs can be extremely beneficial. In cases where their reaction is extreme, we would recommend working with a qualified dog behaviorist that uses force-free training techniques. They will be able to guide you through a behavior modification plan. Usually, this will involve counterconditioning and desensitization techniques. The goal will be to teach your dog that other dogs are actually good things and that a calm reaction towards them will be rewarded.
Even if your dog loves other dogs, depending on the State you live in, Breed Specific Legislation sometimes mandates that a muzzle be worn on any Pit Bull or Pit Bull Mix when they are out in public spaces. If you do need to do this, then you may also need to work on getting your dog comfortable with wearing a muzzle. By teaching them to associate the muzzle with positive things (usually yummy treats), and gradually building up their contact with it, this will help them to be more relaxed wearing it over longer periods.
Both breeds are also known for their powerful jaws and desire to chew. It will be important that you provide them with plenty of appropriate, tough and interactive chew toys to satisfy this urge and to save them turning to your table leg or slipper instead.
The Mastiff can be a bit more protective of their family and, if this is encouraged, there is a risk they could start guarding their family and territory against strangers they perceive as a threat. It is best not to encourage this type of behavior and instead, encourage positive interactions with new people, with lots of praise and rewards whenever they give a friendly greeting.
The exercise requirements of your Pit Bull Mastiff Mix could vary. The APBT is known for being an energetic and athletic breed. A short walk around the block a couple of times a day is not usually enough for this breed, and if they don’t get enough exercise, this can lead to problem behaviors and sometimes even destructive chewing in the home. They are a breed that enjoys plenty of activity and even enjoy dog sports like agility.
The Mastiff, on the other hand, does not have such demanding exercise requirements. They are actually often referred to as lazy as they mature into adulthood. Their size and jowly face also mean that they do not tend to cope as well in hot temperatures. If your mix inherits more of the Mastiff appearance, then care will need to be taken to ensure that they do not overheat during warm summer weather.
Taking on a Pit Bull Mastiff Mix, you should be prepared to give them plenty of daily exercise if they need it, but not be disappointed if they would rather laze around on the sofa for most of the day.
You are not going to have a dog with an intensive grooming regime. No expensive trips to the groomers will be required, and a good brush out of the coat to remove dead skin and hair and keep it in good condition will generally be enough.
Both breeds are considered moderate shedders, so you should expect to have to vacuum and have a lint roller on hand for those hairs embedded into your clothes, but, other than that, it should be a pretty minimal grooming regime.
Most breeds can be associated with certain inheritable conditions. Of course, if they come from a responsible breeder, the chances of them developing some of these issues are reduced as they will have carried out appropriate health checks on the parents.
It is always helpful to be aware of some of the conditions that these breeds can be prone to and, when you have a Pit Bull Mastiff Mix, you should be aware that they could inherit conditions that are associated with either breed.
Pitbull Health Conditions
Skin Conditions: APBTs are commonly associated with Canine Atopic Dermatitis. This is a skin condition that is brought on by allergic reactions, usually to things within the environment. It can range in its severity and sometimes can be easily controlled by a combination of medication and exclusion of allergens from the environment. In severe cases, a specialist veterinary dermatologist may recommend trying a course of immunotherapy injections. This works by the dog being injected with a small amount of the allergen that causes the reaction over a gradual period. This can help the dog to become desensitized and no longer react with such severity. If this works, it will usually be a lifelong solution, but the amount of times they will need to be injected will decrease in frequency.
They can also be more prone to Demodex Mange. All dogs have a small number of microscopic Demodex mites on their skin, and their immune system stops this number from getting out of control. The APBT can sometimes have an immune system that does not work as effectively at keeping the numbers at bay, and then they can suffer hair loss and skin irritations as the numbers grow and it can spread aggressively. Often this is a condition that is seen in puppies and is just localized to certain areas on the body, and they can grow out of it. In adult dogs, if the condition becomes generalized, it can affect internal organs as well as the skin, and aggressive treatment is often required. There can be a guarded prognosis in these cases as it can majorly impact on the quality of life.
Hip Dysplasia: APBTs, like a number of other breeds, are prone to developing hip dysplasia. This is when the sockets of the hip are loose or ill-fitting, and it can lead to arthritis and joint pain. Maintaining a sensible weight, managing the dog’s lifestyle (no high impact sports), and pain medication can all help to minimize the problems. In severe cases, surgery may be considered to help alleviate discomfort and mobility issues.
Hypothyroidism: This relates to an underactive thyroid, which causes a reduction in metabolic rate. It can result in the dog experiencing rapid weight gain, becoming lethargic, and losing condition in their skin and coat. While, if left untreated, it can be extremely debilitating, once diagnosed, it can usually be well managed through medication.
Mastiff Health Conditions
Mastiffs are also prone to hip dysplasia, and the following conditions are also more common in this breed:
Bloat: Also known by its scientific name; Gastric Dilation-Volvulus (GDV), or Gastric Torsion. This is a condition that is common in large, deep-chested breeds. It can be a very serious, fast developing and life-threatening condition. It results in the stomach becoming dilated and twisting. If your dog is showing signs of having a distended abdomen, being in distress and not being able to lie down or settle, retching without being able to vomit, and showing signs of extreme lethargy, then you should get your pet to the vet as soon as possible. The quicker they are seen, the better chance they have of surviving.
While studies are still ongoing around the exact causes of the condition, it is recommended that large breed dogs should be fed multiple smaller meals throughout the day rather than one large one, and that, if they guzzle their food, it could help for them to eat it from a slow feed bowl.
They are also more prone to Progressive Retinal Atrophy and Heart Disease and a good breeder will health screen for these conditions.
If your Pit Bull Mastiff Mix has inherited the Mastiff size, then it is vital that they are not overfed as a puppy. Large breed dogs are often fed too much of a nutrient dense food while they are growing, and this can cause musculoskeletal problems as they mature and aggravate issues like hip dysplasia.
In general, a high quality and appropriately portion controlled diet is important throughout their life. Obesity is a huge problem for dogs in the United States, and it is suggested that over 50% are overweight. This is a problem for every dog, and for bigger breeds, it can put even more of a strain on their joints.
Finding a Pitbull Mastiff Mix
We would always urge you to consider adoption. There are so many deserving dogs looking for their forever home in rescues across the country. The unfair stigmas around Pit Bull type dogs mean that APBTs and mixed of the breed can languish even longer in shelters without getting a home. Taking on a rescue dog can be a hugely rewarding experience.
If you are concerned about taking a dog from a shelter without knowing their history, take the time to visit the dog regularly before adopting, getting to see the dog outside of their kennel environment. Or why not consider adopting a dog from a rescue organization that has the dogs assessed in a foster home before they go to their forever homes?
If you plan on buying a Pit Bull Mastiff mix, it is crucial that you do your research and buy from a responsible breeder. Being a mixed breed, there will not be any accredited breeders that you can search for. The breeder must allow you to see mum and her pups living together in a safe and nurturing home environment. The pups should not be released to their new homes until they are fully weaned and at least eight weeks old, and they should have had their first health checks too.
If you are looking for a loyal and affectionate dog that will be at the heart of your family, then a Pitbull Mastiff mix could be for you. Their potential strength and possible aversion to other dogs means they are likely not suited to a novice dog owner, and they are a dog that will need a lot of space, so they are perhaps not suited to apartment living.
You will also have to consider bigger feeding bills and be aware that your dog may need a lot of exercise or could turn out to be a couch potato. If you are not able to fit in with these demands with your lifestyle, then perhaps considering another dog would be a better option.