Are English Mastiffs Good Guard Dogs? 4 Qualities of a Good Guard Dog

There is this common misapprehension that having any type of dog will guarantee that homes and properties are secure. Although all dogs, except the Basenji, will mechanically bark at strangers or whenever there is a suspicious noise during the night, this trait alone doesn’t make a good guard dog. 

People who are experienced with dogs are aware of this fact. There are various breeds you can go for if a guard dog is what you are looking for and one of them is the good old English Mastiff. He can defend and protect his loved ones- a prowess that deserves no underestimation.

If you have seen the English Mastiff, you should know that it isn’t just his size that makes him intimidating. Moreover, despite his safeguarding skills, this canine isn’t for everyone. To see if this is the right dog for you, we have laid out significant details that will help you with your decision-making. 

Why Is the English Mastiff Naturally Protective?

The English Mastiff was bred to protect. In understanding his history, this canine was widely used for different purposes which highly emphasized their need to guard someone or something. 

The most remarkable part of it all is his participation in various battles witnessed by notable individuals such as Julius Caesar. In context, when a dog is used for war, he will be ingrained with a mindset to fight for his people. When enemies try to go after an English Mastiff’s company, this large dog will not hesitate to intervene and go after the opponent.

Guarding flocks was also one of the primary jobs of the English Mastiff in the old times. Farmers found his build and stature as an advantage, therefore, they made him the guardian of their fields day and night. Before, wild animals roamed free. They would mercilessly attack sheep and cattle to fill up their hunger. With the presence of the massive English Mastiff, predators would think twice before they pursue the prey.

With all these in mind, even though the English Mastiffs of today are mainly no longer workers of the fields or warriors in battles, the purpose of which they have been bred remains in their blood. This is why when the English Mastiff arrived in England where he got further developed, the British people found him a good fit to guard estates and other kinds of properties.  

4 Qualities That Make the English Mastiff a Good Guard Dog

In choosing a good guard dog, we may sometimes end up with the wrong one due to misconceptions that lead us to believe that by going for a large dog, we are guaranteed safe from threats and dangers. However, this trait does not come close to a fraction when compared to the actual list of desirable characteristics of a good guard dog.

This is why it is necessary to thoroughly assess every dog breed you are eyeing for. Here are the major qualities every potential owner should look for in a guard dog:

  1. Moderately Aggressive

This is primarily one of the first signs a potential dog owner looks for in purchasing or adopting a guard dog. However, aggression alone without determining how hostile the canine is can become a recipe for disaster. It is not a great scene as well if the dog’s aggression is too low. Timidity and fearfulness will manifest, making him an unreliable protective dog.

What’s great about the English Mastiff is that he’s gentle and at the same time able to defend your kids from home intruders. The side he shows the most, however, is his amiability. Aggression will only be awakened when the situation calls for it.

There are other more things to be observed regarding the English Mastiff considering that each dog is different. To see if he has a healthy aggression level, he must exhibit the following characteristics:

  • Alertness when approached by a human
  • Calm when surrounded by friendly neighboring dogs
  • Initiates active play with other dogs
  • Calm attitude when handled by a familiar person
  • Shows a reasonable stature when approached.
  1. Loyalty

Loyalty is not innate at all. It is, in fact, an acquired trait. This can be developed during puppyhood depending on how he was trained by the owner. Dog trainers and fanciers all highly suggest that in puppy ownership, training should always be given high importance. 

This routine does not just instill survival skills and basic commands to your pet. In the process, trust is also established. Moreover, when the dog learns to obey his human, their relationship will be less likely strained. 

When the dog becomes loyal to his owner, when his human gets to face a threatening foe, the dog will not hesitate to jump between them and take matters into his hand. English Mastiffs are not overly dangerous dogs. They prefer to deflect the situation by either pinning the stranger down the ground or against the wall. If the Mastiff knows whose side he’s on, it is guaranteed that you will be safe.

Just a word of caution, avoid spoiling your pet as this will affect his ability to protect your family and home. Nevertheless, ensure that he’s appreciated and he develops a sense of belongingness as this will, in turn, make him a faithful home defender. 

  1. Dominance

Dominance naturally emanates a good guard dog. You may notice that it is usually the smaller breeds who tend to show hostility toward others while the larger canines remain silent, watchful, and calculative before doing a move. This is the same with the English Mastiff. He behaves and he would only spring into action when needed.

Confidence affects dominance level. Other dogs will highly sense how superior your English Mastiff is without the need to constantly defend his territory.

Do other dogs give space when he walks between them? Do they show submissive body language when around the English Mastiff? If so, your pet is a good fit as a guard dog.

4. Intelligence and Alertness

It is simple to identify how alert your English Mastiff is. If an unfamiliar person walks into the house, does he continue playing with his toy? If yes, then he might have not been well-trained.

Being vigilant at all times is essential. It is not enough for an English Mastiff to be alert at specific times. He must be aware of his surroundings 24/7 as every second counts and there will always be an impending danger every owner should be warned about immediately.

A good guard dog should also be intelligent enough to assess every situation. You can tell if the English Mastiff is smart if he looks at you when you call him by his name. Engaging with your dog verbally is vital. If ever you get to face an intruder, just a quick shout of your dog’s name to alarm him of the arising event will quickly summon your large canine to aid you in your crisis. 

Why Would My English Mastiff Protect Me?

Photo from: big_boy_paavo (IG)

Once the English Mastiff sees you as the leader of the pack, he will then have the mindset to always back you up whenever you need him. Anything he considers his, he will guard it with his life. Additionally, your pet would know who his family is. If you have treated him well and made sure he gets to receive a healthy amount of affection, the dog will surely return the favor in so many ways. 

There are sad instances like dog abuse in several homes worldwide. You might be curious if an English Mastiff who experienced physical or verbal abuse will still protect his cruel master. Generally, they might. Mainly, the reasons are:

  • Self-preservation (The owner provides him food, water, and shelter.)
  • People-pleasing attitude
  • He maintains hierarchy (He sees the owner as his leader and the alpha.)

Although it is still likely for the English Mastiff to protect a brutish owner, abuse is never acceptable in raising a guard dog. This will ultimately make it hard for the canine to trust new people if ever he ends up with a new keeper and along with this are hard-to-break behavioral problems.

Is the English Mastiff a Territorial Dog?

Yes, the English Mastiff is a very territorial dog. Whether it be his family’s car, yard, or home, he wants everybody to know that these are his. If he was properly socialized as a puppy, however, if familiar humans, dogs, or cats get near or into any of his owner’s property, tolerance will triumph. 

If ever you approach this colossal Mastiff, make sure that you do it appropriately. Don’t act dubious as dogs can pick up suspicious movements in a jiffy. He can deter anyone just by his size alone, but this breed is generally peaceful.

Still, be wary and observe the dog’s stature as you approach him. If he growls, shows teeth, and is in a defensive or offensive stance, it is better to back off. If you are the owner’s guest, text and wait for the owner to accompany you inside his home.

Will an English Mastiff Attack His Owner?

No, not necessarily, unless there are triggers that will prompt him to do so. English Mastiffs are not aggressive by nature as explained here: Are English Mastiffs Aggressive?

However, there are several reasons why a dog would end up attacking its owner in a general sense. The first is due to stress. What usually motivates dogs such as the English Mastiff to bite is fear. If he feels threatened by you, the worst reaction you can get is his belligerence.

Another factor would be ‘pain’. If your English Mastiff is feeling uncomfortable or sick, his once pleasant behavior will change dramatically. Tweaking a joint while pushing him off the doorway will cause him to wildly react.

Can It Be Dangerous to Own an English Mastiff?

It depends on you as an owner. A dignified and cultured Mastiff will result from proper training which includes socialization, basic commands, and obedience training. The way you interact and treat your dog will also play a role in how he will act as he grows up.

Many people who find his enormous size intimidating will assume that owning this dog is dangerous, but this is far from the truth. English Mastiffs are great family dogs who know how to properly treat the members of the family with utmost care and unconditional love.

He will only become dangerous if you adopt or purchase a dog of this breed even when you know that you aren’t compatible with him. 

Male vs Female: Which Is the Better Guard Dog?

Female English Mastiffs tend to be inclined to protect their family members. This gets better if your pet just became a mother. She will be a better guard dog when she knows that she’s got a litter to protect. Meanwhile, the male English Mastiff is more of a figure who will serve as a protector of your homes.

Either way, they are excellent in this area. It just boils down to which gender suits you more.

Is the English Mastiff the Right Dog for You?

Evaluate yourself if you are someone who can handle this colossal canine. Are you firm and authoritative when it comes to training lessons? Can you be consistent, patient, and generous in giving praises and rewards? Is giving him the appropriate lifestyle such as sufficient food and healthcare not a problem for you? If so, then yes, the English Mastiff is the right dog for you. 

However, even though you are capable of owning such a giant breed, you also have to think if this is the dog you need. One thing is for sure though, and that is the English Mastiff continues to excel in guarding thousands of American homes.