Spanish mastiff

The Spanish mastiff — the history of the breed

The country of origin is Spain. The Spanish mastiff is the result of continuous selection; the breed was raised for work and improved by cattle breeders who had used many different dogs of various breeds for ages.

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For a thousand of years cattle used to be the main wealth of the country and the main source of profit for the major part of its population. Due to the climate changes on the Pyrenean peninsular it was necessary to drive herds of cattle from one place to another. Sometimes the herds had to walk more than one thousand kilometers. Plenty of predators such as bears, lynx and particularly wolves made the driving and the pasture of cattle a source of permanent danger. Seasonal migration of cattle, wolves and Spanish mastiffs comprise an inseparable trio in the Pyrenean peninsular shepherd culture.

A good guard dog follows its herd without frightening or annoying it. It has to be sure of itself. Its independent spirit is very important, because at night the dog carries out its guard service independently without the shepherd’s assistance. Its protective instinct means that Spanish mastiffs do not have to be trained to protect their herd. Some of the dogs will go ahead and the others will accompany the shepherd behind. There are a lot of examples when mastiffs protected sheep in the absence of the shepherd without food and water for many days but did not eat them though they could die of hunger. Spanish mastiffs are greatly respected in their own country as shepherds and companions.

These dogs are sure of themselves, of their power and their hoarse barking is enough to keep off any enemies. Notwithstanding all its ferocity in critical situations, the heart of this big, king and powerful nomad is full of nobility and friendliness. Its well-known ferocity has been considerably decreased for the last centuries, mainly because the dogs have played more domestic roles than in the far way times. The Spanish mastiff has unbelievable strength and power from nature, and the dogs’ character is well matched with their exterior. They always keep calm and are seldom malicious. In any confrontation the Spanish mastiff has to do hard to be defeated. Even such a dangerous predator as a wolf cannot defeat a mastiff which has a weight of more than 100 kg and covered with its folded solid skin as an armour.

The Spanish mastiff always has to a powerful and big dog that height exceeds 77 sm for male dogs and 72 sm for bitches, with strong bones and deep breast, have proportional complexion and powerful movements. The first impression of the Spanish mastiff should be as an impression of a grandiose and stately dog with powerful complexion and a sense of self respect.

The head determines the main difference between the Spanish mastiff and dogs of relative breeds. It is big and is in harmony with the body. The passage from the forehead to the muzzle is not strongly expressed, the muzzle is powerful and the skull is wide. Free creases around the eyes give the muzzle the necessary expression.

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The skin must be thick and free. It creates an impression of volume around the dog’s neck, breast and bottom line similar to bulls used for corrida. The hair is thick, of medium length a little curly, and clings close to the body. The thick undercoat protects the animal from bad weather. The hair length on the withers does not exceed 6 sm.

The body is rectangular, but not square with rounded, but not flat hips. The Spanish mastiff’s body should create an impression of enormous power. The small of the back is as wide and powerful at the croup. The stomach should not be drawn in too much, the bottom line is practically parallel to the upper line.

Its “cat’s” paws are a great advantage, usually they mean good ligaments. The paw must be in a lump and the fingers must have strong turned-in claws. One or two additional fingers are possible.

Any coloration is acceptable. Most widespread colorations are yellow, tiger and black. The yellow coloration can have several tints from almost white to red.

The Spanish mastiffs grow up late: male dogs — from 3 to 4 years old, bitches — from 2 to 3 years old. On the whole, all the dogs have good health, but there are some deceases which are peculiar to this breed. It is necessary to keep the dog physically fit giving it physical training for the muscles. The usual length of the dog’s life is 10–11 years. These dogs can live in any climate and can withstand heat and -30 degree frost, but it is practically impossible to keep a Spanish mastiff in a city flat.

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A small mastiff should not be allowed to run around, jump and go down or up any stairs a lot, because mastiff puppies grow up quickly and irregularly. For the period between 6 and 9 months a Spanish mastiff can easily put on about 50 kg of its weight and it takes time to make its ligaments and muscles stronger.

The Spanish mastiff shows great devotion to the owner and the family members. It also delicately reacts to love and caress, especially if it comes from the object of its adoration. Moreover, they have tender relations with children and old people trying to protect those who are weaker than themselves. A well-trained Spanish mastiff will become a reliable friend and an excellent protector for your child.

Any person entering your house with improper intentions brings tension and aggression, and the dog will notice this immediately. The animal’s reaction caused by this can be sharply different from its normal behavior. Sometimes it seems that the Spanish mastiffs understand people’s intentions clearly. You should never underestimate these dogs” ability to feel tension or unfriendly attitude to you. At night their guard instincts get sharper, perhaps because their ancestors used to work hard at night.

The Spanish mastiff will never attack anybody without warning by growling or deep low key barking. Therefore, training of the guard dog is a compulsory and a very complex subject and all the methods must be selected individually starting from the puppy’s age. Do not be afraid to over praise a Spanish mastiff, it will be very happy to give you pleasure. But keeping discipline be strict and inaccessible. All commands must be accompanied with stimuli and caress.

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One of the main characteristics of the Spanish mastiff is devotion to the owner and coolness. It is a very calm, affectionate and balanced animal. Its reaction level is very high, it is difficult to make the dog angry or to cause its aggression, but it will not sit quietly if the owner is in danger. They bark only if absolutely necessary, therefore if you hear a Spanish mastiff barking you should better go and see what has happened.

A well-trained Spanish mastiff gets on with other animals either they are small kittens or big dogs.

The Spanish mastiffs are social animals, they need human company, they want to be with the owner 24 hours a day and enjoy physical contact. Wherever you go, take your dog with you and use it in everyday situations. If the dog does not communicate with the human being, there will never be a true link with the owner.

Powerful exterior well noticed by surrounding people will be balanced by its wonderful obedience and devotion to the owner on condition that the owner constantly cultivates these qualities, but does not develop aggression.

In one word, if you need a guard and calm coexistence with a dog you should get yourself a Spanish mastiff!