Are English Mastiffs Aggressive? Learn How to Cope With Mastiff Aggression

As we all know, English Mastiffs tend to be aggressive when someone or something pulls the trigger. However, hostility is not something that is ingrained in this dog breed so he is not unfit to become a family dog. There is a reason why he is labeled a gentle giant and that’s because of his calm and even temperament!

English Mastiffs generally dislike conflicts. At home, if family members argue, expect him to step between those who are arguing to deflect the situation. Dog aggression in this particular breed doesn’t happen very often, especially when he was socialized properly. 

But, in case growling, snarling, and teeth showing manifest on your Mastiff, you have to make it clear to him that these are inappropriate.

Learn how to cope with your Mastiff’s belligerence as well as know the underlying causes that make him show undesirable behaviors through this article.  

Old English Mastiffs Were Bred to Protect

Centuries ago, the primary purpose of an English Mastiff was to guard the livestock of their owners. Several predators lurk in the fields waiting to take their chances to get their prized meals for the day, but with the presence of the fierce colossal Mastiff, the indulgence is either delayed or impossible to happen. 

The size and ability of this dog breed to take down any wild beasts or even humans were taken advantage of by the people in the past. The old English Mastiff served as a warfighter and his contribution brought so much significance that even notable historical people like Kublai Khan and Julius Caesar took interest in him.

English Mastiffs have a bloody past and although the modern ones were developed to have a gentler temperament, what they were bred to do may still show when a situation calls for it. 

English Mastiff Features That Make Him Dangerous

Aside from the kind nature of the English Mastiff, his general facial expression emanates a soulful look. With the general idea that this breed is ideally gentle, people might tend to downplay or mock his capability to show aggression.

Always remember, each dog has features that can harm you, so never underestimate the old Mastiff by being complacent when dealing with him. 

Here are the physical features that make this enormous canine a potentially dangerous one. 

  • Size. English Mastiffs, depending on gender, can reach an astonishing height of 27.5 inches and above. Along with this is a complementary weight of 120 to 230 pounds! Take note, these are just estimates. Mastiffs can be heavier than that. The bigger this dog is, the easier it is to take you down.
  • Large & Heavy Head. It is impossible to cover the English Mastiff’s entire head with your bare hands. Not only is it heavy, but he can tilt it by force and find a way to secure an attack against you.
  • Mouth. Sparking aggression on an English Mastiff is not a good idea. Aside from his build, perhaps what most people are afraid of is getting a dog bite. For the Mastiff, the bite is not just a common one. It could be the most painful and damaging bite you can ever experience from a domestic dog with a 550 PSI bite force. This isn’t far from a lion who has 650 PSI.
  • Muscular Physique. The English Mastiff isn’t big because he’s fat but rather because he’s composed of hard and strong muscles when well-fed. Although he can’t run fast after a provoker, those who don’t know the Mastiff well will find him intimidating, especially with his displayed broad and robust chest.

With these prominent physical features, many would instantly mention the words ‘aggression’ and ‘English Mastiff’ in the same sentence. However, for those who very well know the breed, a typical Mastiff is friendly. The appearance was simply a result of purpose breeding and ancestry which involved the gigantic Molosser. 

What Causes Aggression Problems on Your English Mastiff?

There is not one absolute root cause that will explain all types of Mastiff aggression. The growling, barking, and biting can be caused by several reasons and every Mastiff owner should be able to identify the triggers so these behaviors can be avoided in the future.

  1. Same-sex aggression. Some English Mastiffs can be tolerant toward other dogs, but some won’t ever love to have anyone around them, more so if they are of the same sex. Mastiffs would fight for dominance and create a sort of hierarchy. In most cases, conflicts can be severe.
  1. Vexation. This happens when the dog is being forced to do something he doesn’t like. Out of exasperation, he is most likely to snap as a sort of warning.
  1. Learned behavior. Dogs can be manipulative. If an English Mastiff learns that he can get what he wants by inflicting fear by aggression toward his owner, the behavior will highly likely happen again at one point.
  1. Harsh training. Mastiffs are sensitive dogs who need proper training without punishments or verbal abuse. Anyone who deliberately uses pain as a tool in training will make the dog learn aggression as a mechanism to fight off pain.
  1. Guarding. Dogs usually have a favorite toy and can often become possessive. Attempts to take away his things or food will annoy him, so to avoid anyone from doing that, he’ll be as threatening as he could be.
  1. Protective instinct. Mother Mastiffs always secure the safety of her puppies. Any suspicious individual who tries to take even just one from a litter will activate her protective instinct. 
  1. Fear-induced aggression. Usually, the automatic response of an English Mastiff who is severely concerned or threatened is aggression. His flinching will, at times, include biting.
  1. Pain-induced aggression. This is why it is necessary to regularly check the health of your English Mastiff. Internal pain can set the dog on the edge if they are touched. No matter how loving your Mastiff is, if his temperament changes due to his physical health, he’ll get easily irritated.

Aggression Towards People

Owners who are unsuitable to raise a dog, especially a giant English Mastiff are most likely going to pave the way for this canine to become an aggressive one. Homes, where there is maltreatment, abuse, neglect, and punishment toward the dog can make him develop fear-related aggression. 

Once this behavior is developed, it is going to be hard for the Mastiff to unlearn it.

Moreover, there are physical interactions that a dog might perceive as confronting. Prolonged eye contact or walking over him can vex him and lead to one ferocious bite.

To avoid this, make sure your dog gets exposed to other people regularly. Let him understand that human contact is okay as long as he’s treated with respect as well. 

Aggression Towards Other Dogs

English Mastiffs are excellent house protectors. However, some may become too territorial and hostile toward other dogs despite the familiarization. Most of the time, the overprotective nature of the Mastiff has already developed during puppyhood and was not properly reinforced. 

To solve this behavioral problem, keep a distance between him and other dogs. Identify as well the stimuli that can cause reactions in your dog. If ever you walk with your Mastiff and you encounter another dog, keep the greeting short and quickly make him focus on you again.

Aggression on Food

No matter how affectionate a dog is, many have observed that when they get near their pets’ food bowls, an instant growling can be heard. This comes down to the English Mastiff’s tendency to guard what’s his. 

The best way to handle this type of aggression is by determining the causes first. Enforce discipline as well by making him wait until his meal is prepared and feed him at the right schedule. To increase the chances of making him a calmer dog, consult a dog behaviorist.

Aggression During Puppyhood

English Mastiff puppies can play quite rough with their puppy-mates, but this is not aggressive behavior at all. Hostility only kicks in when a puppy in the litter experiences neglect, abuse, or is fighting for dominance in a sibling rivalry.

One of the things you could do about this is to supervise how they play and intervene if needed. Socialize them properly and guide each puppy on how to nicely interact with each other.

How Likely Is It That an English Mastiff Can Kill Someone?

Between 1982 to 2014, there have been 28 attacks made by the English Mastiff. 23 of them inflicted children while the remaining number led to 5 deaths.

I can’t emphasize enough the importance of proper training and socialization should you own the great English Mastiff. When this dog knows what’s wrong and what’s right, he’ll be able to create a boundary for himself which will also protect others from his potential capacity to take down anyone. 

Since most of the statistics are composed of children, Mastiff parents should ALWAYS supervise the interaction between their kids and dogs. No matter how evenly tempered this dog is, leaving them alone is a foolish idea.

Signs Your English Mastiff Is Close to Becoming Aggressive

Most dogs don’t usually proceed to attack someone. Most of the time, there are obvious signs that are enough to warn you to keep your distance from an English Mastiff. Being aware of what these hints are and knowing how to address them will keep the situation from aggravating.

Here are the common indicators that your English Mastiff is close to becoming aggressive:

  • He’s taking an offensive position
  • Making harsh-sounding barks
  • Lunging backward and forward to the person
  • Showing teeth
  • Intense growling
  • Making quick nips and bites
  • Snapping 

Tips to Stop Your English Mastiff From Being Mean

Now that you are cognizant about the marks of aggression typically shown by an English Mastiff, the next best action to take is to properly deal with it. Others try to even taunt the dog to show that they are more dominant than the canine, but this seems to worsen the event.

To solve things quickly and long-term, here’s what every Mastiff owner should do when dog aggression manifests:

  • Relax and take a deep breath. Being a temperamental dog, the English Mastiff can absorb the energy you give off. If you are dealing with him anxiously, he’ll copy the same vibe. We all know that an anxious or nervous dog can become aggressive when it’s driven by fear.
  • Assess the situation. Learn why your dog acts that way. Is he trying to tell you something? Does he want something from you? What caused him to be like this? Once you determine the reasons, you’ll end up with possible answers such as that he only needs more exercise, mental stimulation, love, or socialization.
  • Talk with your vet. The friendliest of English Mastiffs can become aggressive if he’s suffering physically. Once treated, the subsiding pain will no longer make him more irritable when touched, petted, or approached.
  • Hire a professional. Whether it be a behaviorist or a professional trainer, know which one’s more suitable in the case of your Mastiff.
  • Don’t punish your dog. This makes his behavior worse. He’ll become more aggressive to prove his dominance over you.
  • Evaluate. Judge all the options you have in dealing with your dog’s aggression. Is it solvable? Can you handle it? Find out what’s best for you, your family, and your dog, then arrive at a conclusion.

Final Thoughts

English Mastiffs were developed to have a calmer temperament compared to the older generation. Aggression will only show when these dogs lack training or if they are not handled properly. 

Simply put, what you are as an owner will reflect the kind of dog your Mastiff will become. If you are a responsible one, he’ll grow up to be the most patient, gentle, and loving dog you’ll ever have!