The variety among dog breeds is wide: from toy to large in size and from companion to watchdog, guard, and hunting dog. It’s been my goal to own a specific breed as money and time permits. I consider myself an extreme person, tending to choose polar differences when acquiring anything: small to big, black and white, spicy and sweet. My family and I live in a medium size townhouse, which limits the size of my preferred dog. That is why I decided take care of world’s smallest dog, a Chihuahua. (My Poochie was featured in my June 2017 Animal Scene column.)
I had a Doberman and Belgian Malinois around year 2011. When my Belgian Malinois died, I was contemplating having a larger dog. I have been fond of boxer dogs since I’d taken care of one before. Boxers are medium size dogs and I wanted to try another breed. St. Bernards and Great Danes were on my wish list but not at the moment.
Browsing the internet to find puppies, I encountered an advertisement selling Bullmastiff puppies. As I contacted the owner, to my surprise, he was my batchmate in college from whom I’d bought my boxer dog years ago. I visited him and was convinced that the bullmastiff was the dog that I wanted. I purchased it and called him “Hulk.” My children became fond of him after a few days at home, but I needed to bring Hulk to his new home at my office. He was welcomed by my staff.
As puppies, Bullmastiffs have such great energy and are adorable. It is my practice to have all my dogs enrolled in basic obedience training. I am glad I did since Bullmastiff puppies are quite stubborn yet friendly and loving.
BRIEF BREED HISTORY
It is interesting to note how the Bullmastiff dog was conceptualized for development. The Bullmastiff was developed in England around the 1860s. The objective was to breed a dog to monitor large estates and keep thieves away, one that could cover short distances quickly while running, then be able to pin and hold down thieves without mauling them.
Mastiff dogs were the first candidates for the job, but they were too large, slow, and not naturally aggressive enough. The English bulldog was next in line, but it was too ferocious at that time and not large enough to fulfill the requirements for the breed. The owners of estates wanted dogs that were silent when thieves arrived and would attack on command. They wanted the thieves held, but not killed. So mastiffs and bulldogs were crossbred, creating the Bullmastiff, which was able to fulfill their requirements.
Bullmastiffs are still used to protect landowners, but are more popular as pets or watchdogs. They do not bark unless they feel the need to sound an alarm or defend their territory.
MEET THE BULLMASTIFF
The Bullmastiff is devoted, alert, protective, and a terrific family dog. Loyal, loving, good-natured, and sweet, they can nonetheless be aggressive when they feel that they or their family are threatened. They are also serious and self-assured.
When they have been properly socialized and trained, they are calm and dependable. Setting boundaries is recommended while young; they must be provided consistent training and exposure to people and situations. Hulk is housed in my office and all of my staff plays and socializes with him.
They are known to be aggressive toward dogs of the same sex, so it is not a good idea to let them walk or run outside off the leash. They are afraid of nothing, and once aroused, will seldom back off.
They want to be a part of the family and form very deep bonds with people. Avoid isolating them in the yard or the garage, leaving them alone, because it will make them unhappy. As a family member, they will be strong, mostly silent protectors for your home and children. Bullmastiffs usually love children, but given their size, they can unintentionally hurt a child. Be cautious and always supervise when a Bullmastiff is around kids.
Puppies two or three years old can be very active, and obedience training is beneficial at early age. As they reach adulthood, they grow calmer and need only moderate exercise to maintain their notable muscle tone.
Bullmastiffs drool: before and after eating, while drinking, during and after exercise, Drooling is a part of the Bullmastiff experience, although some drool more than others.
It is their trademark to drool; there is no way around it. Every time I pet Hulk, no way that my hand and arms all the way to the elbow will not have traces of his saliva. Be careful that you have no open wounds when petting a Bullmastiff; I make sure to thoroughly wash and clean myself up since the smell of saliva is quite pungent.
The Bullmastiff has a broad, wrinkled head and a short, square muzzle. The nose is black; the eyes, dark hazel; and it has a slight underbite. The ears are pendant shaped and hang downward. The tail is set high on the rear end. Most dogs will sport a handsome black mask. The coat is dense. Colors available are fawn, reddish-brown or brindle.
The Bullmastiff typically weighs between 100 to 130 lbs, putting it among the heaviest dog breeds.
- Male: 110-130 lbs.
- Female: 100-120 lbs.
- Male: 26 in.
- Female: 25 in.
As I walk along Tiendesitas and most commercial areas, I notice dog salons here and there. The price range for grooming is quite steep, especially when you take into account the fact long-haired dogs need frequent grooming. This is where you save a lot on the Bullmastiff. Regular brushing will keep their average-shedding coat under control. Brushing two to three times a week is all it takes to get the dead hairs out and minimize shedding.
Bathing is done only when needed. Dry shampoos can be used to keep them smelling fresh. As for ear cleaning and toenail trimming, I recommend you let veterinarians do the job.
These are the various health concerns I came across while researching the breed; I will share them and add comments from my personal experience.
The Bullmastiff has a life expectancy of 8 to 10 years. Their lifespan is much shorter than average for giant breeds.
- As a large dog, Bullmastiffs are prone to a number of joint and structural problems. Starting from when they are young, they should be kept lean and not allowed to exercise too strenuously or eat too much. We need to avoid obesity because it increases the chances for them to develop structural problems. Hulk is now slightly obese so I have given instructions to my pet helper to minimize food supply rather than adding exercise.
- They are susceptible to hip dysplasia and we cannot detect this by simply examining them. X-rays and manual manipulation of the hips usually helps diagnose this condition. A good idea is to have your Bullmastiff’s hips and elbows X-rayed at two years of age, regardless of whether or not they show symptoms of lameness.
- Bullmastiffs are also more likely to bloat, a condition in which the stomach expands with air. This can become a more serious condition, called “gastric torsion,” if the stomach twists on itself, cutting off blood flow. Gastric torsion is fatal. A dog which was fine one minute can be dead a few hours later. Be aware of signs such as restlessness and pacing, drooling, pale gums and lip licking, and signs of pain. Always check with your veterinarian.
- Bullmastiffs are also at increased risk for a number of cancers, including some forms of lymphoma and mast cell tumors.
- Allergies occur when there is an overreaction by the immune system to an allergen (any substance capable of inducing a reaction) in a particular animal. Hulk does not seem to be allergic to anything. He does have problems with other animals, and he is where he is surrounded by such as pigeons, small birds, and lots of water and fishponds beside his cage.
- Progressive retinal atrophy refers to a group of degenerative eye disorders that eventually lead to permanent blindness in both eyes. I am on the lookout for Hulk since my English bulldog Thor got one in his eye.
The Bullmastiff breed is not for the first time dog owner. They need constant reinforcement of leadership roles and must be properly socialized with people and animals. Having a Bullmastiff is a commitment to a progressive task. Consistency is the key ingredient to training a Bullmastiff.
Despite its size, the Bullmastiff can live in an apartment if you do not mind your furniture and appliance being bumped every now and then. They do not need much exercise, nor do they bark much.
Having Hulk as a pet has had many great moments. He was born the same date as my mother. When I reach the office, Hulk will always excitedly welcome me, barking and circling his kennel. He will show sadness when I am leaving to go home. The way he acts like a baby when I pet him really softens my heart and shows how lovable and a truly gentle a giant the Bullmastiff is.
This appeared in Animal Scene magazine’s October 2017 issue.