Bullmastiff Guard Dog Breed Guide

Bullmastiff focused

If you’re looking for a large, companionable guard dog to join your family, you may be wondering if a Bullmastiff is right for you.

The Bullmastiff is a massive, confident, and muscular breed originally bred by gamekeepers to prevent poaching on great estates in England. They’re often called the “silent watchdog” since they use their imposing size and strength to deter or confront intruders instead of barking. But don’t let their size fool you. They are quick, agile, and courageous.

When properly socialized and trained, Bullmastiffs are loyal, obedient, and loving toward their owners. They are known to be patient with children, although their size can be intimidating to small kids.

Adult Bullmastiffs are typically mellow and as a result, can do well in an apartment. However, they’ll do best in a home with a fenced-in yard. They have a short, easy to care for coat, but beware: these dogs drool.

If you don’t mind drool and are looking for a large, loving dog who will protect your home and family, this breed could be right for you. 

Bullmastiff Quick Facts

  • Although giant, these dogs enjoy being inside the house with their owners.
  • They do best in cooler temperatures and can overheat easily, so be careful when it is hot or humid outside.
  • The Bullmastiff makes snorting, grunting noises that many people (but not all) find adorable.
  • They don’t bark much as they were bred to be silent protectors.
  • Adult Bullmastiffs are mellow and can stay healthy on about two walks a day.
  • They slobber and drool, so keep a hand towel nearby.
  • Bullmastiffs have a shorter lifespan and tend to only live 8 to 10 years, unfortunately.

Why Were Bullmastiffs Bred?

This breed was developed as a cross between Bulldogs and Mastiffs by gamekeepers in the mid-to-late 19th century to provide a solution to poachers. At the time, the estates of the English aristocracy were plagued by poachers.

Gamekeepers wanted a large, swift, fearless dog who would be able to pursue and pin a poacher wandering on estates grounds. They found the perfect combination in this breed. These dogs were intelligent enough to work on command, able to detain a person without mauling them, and large enough to intimidate intruders.

Their utility and loving nature resulted in them being sought out as pets even after issues with poachers declined. Bullmastiffs were recognized by the Kennel Club (England) by 1924 and given full recognition by the American Kennel Club in 1933.

Related: Top XL Dog Houses for Giant Breeds

Bullmastiffs Personality

The Bullmastiff is known as being gentle giants with their loved ones and is incredibly loyal. They typically are good-natured, loving, and enjoy being around their family. While they do have strong guarding instincts, they are less aggressive now than when they were first bred.

These dogs can be stubborn and headstrong. They were bred to be able to think and act independently from their owners when used by gamekeepers in the 19th century. Training is critical to ensure this large dog responds well to you and recognizes his family as being in charge. Otherwise, your Bullmastiff will try to be the boss!

While they can do well in households where all adults work during the day, it’s essential in this situation to give them lots of attention when people are home. This time together is important to keep them bonded with the family. They won’t do well if left alone all the time.

This breed does best as an indoor dog, but they can be outside by themselves for part of the day, weather permitting. Overall, they want to be with their families.

Are Bullmastiffs Good Guard Dogs?

Bullmastiffs are excellent guard dogs due to being bred to guard land against poachers. Since they were bred to be silent guard dogs, they typically don't bark much. These dogs are a protective breed who would put themselves in harm's way to protect their family.

Given the massive size of these dogs, socialization is essential, so they aren’t suspicious of all strangers. With proper socialization, they can learn which behaviors distinguish an intruder from a friendly stranger.

This is particularly important in today’s world, given potential legal liabilities owners can face when they own an intimidating looking, large dog.

Before bringing a Bullmastiff into your home, talk to your neighbors. Offer to let them meet your dog (once you’ve done some training!). This could help make your neighbors comfortable with the dog's size and allow your dog to get to know neighbors you trust.

Additionally, check with your homeowner’s insurance and local government or Home Owners Association to ensure Bullmastiffs aren’t considered a banned dog for your area.

Are Bullmastiffs a Safe Family Dog?

Bullmastiffs can be loyal and loving companions. They want to be around people, which is excellent for families. However, small children can find the adult dogs intimidating, so keep that in mind. If you start with a puppy, eventually that puppy will grow to become very large!

While this breed is generally patient with children, they can accidentally knock over small kids. You'll want to supervise your children with the dog. This breed may be best for families with older children, such as age ten and up. 

Raising a Bullmastiff puppy with your children can help ensure a good fit with your family, so the dog knows how to be gentle with others. If you are concerned about the size of the dog with smaller children, this breed may not be the best fit for your family.

Do Bullmastiffs Get Along with Other Pets?

Overall, this breed is not a good fit for families with multiple pets. They are highly territorial and have strong instincts to chase and catch fleeing animals such as cats. The Bullmastiff will confront any animal who enters their territory. Additionally, they don't tend to get along well with other dogs. Males don't live peaceably with other male dogs of any breed.

Are Bullmastiffs a Good Choice For First Time Dog Owners?

If you’ve never taken care of a dog, the Bullmastiff may not be the best fit for you and your family. While its a wonderful, loving dog, it will take charge if it doesn’t have an alpha leader. You don’t want to struggle with a 120 pound or larger dog when it’s time to take a bath!

If you’re hoping to raise a puppy, be prepared to devote a lot of time to training and socialization. If you put the consistent effort into training your puppy, the rewards can be tremendous. However, without proper training, they’ll be hard to handle and won’t mind you when they’re at their full weight and height.

If you’re set on getting a puppy, prepare yourself first. Read training books, watch videos, and talk with trainers. You’ll want to be confident that you can handle the puppy’s needs before getting one. Otherwise, you and your dog may not have the healthy, loving bond you both deserve.

Bullmastiff Care

Bullmastiff puppy

Bullmastiff puppy |  Source CC BY-SA 2.0

Adult Bullmastiffs can grow to be as tall as 26 inches at the shoulder and weigh between 100 to 130 pounds. They are a powerful dog. You’ll want to make sure they’re used to having their paws and mouths handled to help make grooming and caring for your dog easier.

Grooming

Bullmastiffs are short-haired dogs with coats that are easy to manage. They do well in the wet and cold since their coat is weather resistant. To help cut down on shedding, you’ll need to brush them about once a week with a bristle brush, fine-toothed comb, or a hound glove.

Your dog will need baths and their nails trimmed periodically. As with any dog, it’s recommended to brush their teeth a couple of times per week. You'll also need to check their ears to clean excessive ear wax and debris.

Given how powerful this breed is, getting them used to being handled for grooming as a puppy can be helpful.

Exercise

These large dogs need daily exercise to stay fit and healthy, but they’re not a highly energetic breed. Giving them a couple of walks a day should be sufficient.Proper leash training as a puppy is vital, so they don’t pull on the leash when they’re an adult. Adult Bullmastiffs are powerful, and you don’t want them to knock you over or pull away if they decide to chase something. You’ll need to have good control. While the breed loves walks, they’re prone to overheating due to their short snout. 

They have trouble with hot and humid weather and shouldn’t be left outside all the time. Because they tend to overheat easily, this breed isn’t the right choice for people who are looking for a canine running partner. Lastly, dog parks may not be a good option for them in general, as they don’t always do well with other dogs.

Training and Socialization

As with any dog, proper training and socialization are essential. These are particularly important if you are going to own a Bullmastiff given their instincts and drive to protect.

You'll need to be consistent and patient. These powerful dogs are intelligent but can be strong-willed, so you'll need to instill consistent rules and routines that the dog will use throughout its life.

Teaching your pup to be obedient can be an excellent way to build a bond between the two of you. Sending your puppy to kindergarten classes to learn basic obedience commands may be helpful if you are new to training dogs. 

Be sure to expose your young pup to a variety of people, animals, and situations to help it remain calm around strangers.

Feeding

Adult Bullmastiffs should be fed twice a day. Puppies do best with multiple small meals a day, so they don’t eat too much at once. Avoid exercising your dog right before or after eating to help reduce the risk of bloat.

Because they are a short-faced breed, they are more prone to gassiness due to gulping in air as they eat. Feeding your dog a high-quality food designed for large breeds that minimize fillers and additives can help reduce some of their gassiness.

How much food your dog will eat per day will vary based on the particular dog and their exercise habits. The amount they’ll eat will change throughout their life. Check-in with your veterinarian to determine how much food your pet needs to keep them a healthy weight.

Keeping this breed at a healthy weight is vital, as obesity can shorten their lifespan.

Should You Get a Bullmastiff Puppy or an Adult Dog?

When deciding, keep in mind how much time you have to train and socialize your dog and your overall lifestyle.

By getting a dog, you’re committing to care for that dog and give it a safe and loving home. The dog doesn’t have a choice, but you do. By knowing what you can and can’t handle and what you want, you can ensure a long, caring relationship between you and your pooch.

Bullmastiff Puppies

These adorable puppies will melt your heart, but until about age two, they will also keep you busy! Bullmastiff puppies are energetic and need owners who are patient and consistent with training to have a dog that fits your family’s lifestyle and needs.

While pups are energetic and need enough exercise to keep them lean and healthy, you also don’t want to over-exercise them either. Too much exercise can cause the puppies’ soft growing bones, joints, and ligaments to get over-stressed and damaged. To help them from rampaging through your house, use toys to help engage their interest, so they don’t destroy your furniture!

Bullmastiff puppy sitting in grass

While pups are energetic and need enough exercise to keep them lean and healthy, you also don’t want to over-exercise them either. Too much exercise can cause the puppies’ soft growing bones, joints, and ligaments to get over-stressed and damaged. To help them from rampaging through your house, use toys to help engage their interest, so they don’t destroy your furniture!

These puppies need lots of attention beyond bathroom breaks and walks. You want your dog to bond with you and your family. Make sure you have time to spend with your puppy regularly.

Bullmastiff puppies are smart and responsive to proper training and socialization. However, the breed can also be a little stubborn and headstrong at times. Keep in mind; this breed has been known to go through a stubborn period, especially as a puppy.

If a stubborn phase happens, don’t panic. Go back to the basics of training and require complete obedience from your puppy. Don’t let them get away with not minding your commands. With a little time, the stubborn phase will pass, and your bond will be even stronger.

Adult Bullmastiff

If you’re not sure you’re ready to potty train or fully train a Bullmastiff puppy, then consider adopting an adult dog.

One advantage is that you’ll know the dog’s general health and temperament. Additionally, the dog won’t have quite as much energy to burn. Adult dogs tend to need only moderate levels of exercise.

You’ll be able to talk to the organization or breeder you’re getting the dog from to learn it’s personality and temperament to ensure it will fit with your family’s lifestyle. Because they are an intelligent breed, the dog will be able to learn new behaviors you want as well. 

How Much Does a Bullmastiff Cost?

Costs will vary based on whether you adopt versus purchase from a Bullmastiff breeder.

Depending on where you live, you can adopt this breed from a shelter or rescue group for around $300 on average. This money helps cover the cost of the dog’s care while they were with the organization. Buying from a breeder can be much more expensive, ranging from $1,000 to $2,000.

Once you own your pet, keep in mind there are annual costs to maintain their health and wellness. You’ll have everyday expenses such as food, treats, and toys. There are one time purchases such as a collar, leash, dog bowls, and grooming materials. You’ll also need medications regularly to protect them from heartworm, fleas, and ticks.

Even healthy pets need a regular checkup at the vet once a year. The cost of an annual vet checkup, including vaccinations, will vary depending on where you live and the health of your dog. Even a healthy dog can cost around $300 or more a year.

Common Health Problems

All dog breeds have certain health problems they're prone to get. Just because a breed is susceptible to a health condition, doesn’t mean your dog will get it. However, it’s something to keep in mind, so you know the types of conditions to look out for.

Common health problems for Bullmastiffs include:

Hip and elbow dysplasia. These are common health problems in many large dog breeds. In these conditions, the hip or elbow joint grows abnormally, preventing the joint and socket from joining smoothly. These dysplasias can cause pain, stiffness, and arthritis. Surgery can fix the problem if it's detected before arthritis sets in. About 16.2% of Bullmastiffs will have elbow dysplasia, and 25.7% will have hip dysplasia.

Eye diseases. This breed can have eye diseases such as eyelid or eyelash abnormalities, cherry eye, or progressive retinal atrophy (PRA). PRA is inherited and results in the loss of vision in dim light and peripheral vision. It can eventually lead to complete vision loss, though this can take years. The good news is that you can detect PRA with a simple DNA test.

Bloat. Bullmastiffs are at increased risk for bloat, which is a life-threatening condition requiring emergency surgery. Bloat causes a severe distention of the stomach resulting in loss of blood flow to other organs.

Cystinuria. Cystinuria is an inherited kidney disease that can cause kidney and bladder stones.

Hypothyroidism. Similar to hypothyroidism in humans, this condition is due to low thyroid hormone. In dogs with this condition, their fur may become coarse, brittle, and fall out, and their skin may darken and become hard. Fortunately, this condition is controllable with medications.

Other. Like many dogs, Bullmastiffs can have cancer and heart disease. This breed is also prone to allergies that can cause skin irritations.

Where Can You Buy or Adopt Bullmastiffs?

Rescue groups can be a fantastic way to adopt by giving a dog a permanent home. Additionally, a rescue group will be able to talk with you about the dog you are interested in to ensure it will be a good fit for you both. They’ll be able to provide you information on the dog’s health and temperament.

You can search your area for local Bullmastiff rescue groups or contact the American Bullmastiff Association to learn more about rescue opportunities.

If you prefer a breeder, ensure they’re reputable. Be sure the breeder does genetic testing on their animals and verify the puppy’s health. Also, ask if the breeder will take the puppy back and find it a home if the puppy ends up not being a good fit for you.

If you’re looking for information on breeders, you can go to the American Bullmastiff Association's website or go to the American Kennel Club Marketplace website.

Is a Bullmastiff Right for You Family?

Bullmastiffs are large, loving, family-oriented protectors who make a wonderful pet for some families, although they may be too big for small children. If you feel comfortable training and socializing a large, powerful indoor dog and don’t mind slobber, a Bullmastiff may be right for you.

Be sure to check out the top extra-large dog houses for giant breeds like Bullmastiffs in this article.

Featured image viaccho/Flickr/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

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