Are English Mastiffs Smart? Understanding the Canny Colossal Mastiff

English Mastiffs are indisputably smart! During puppyhood, this breed automatically becomes a curious four-legged pet who will show nosiness and interest in every affair he ends up witnessing. 

However, some owners contemplate how smart these dogs really are. Several accounts of Mastiff keepers tell us that these large canines are notoriously stubborn! One prominent trait they show is their strong-willed character in defying commands. Such cases often make these owners and even those who are eyeing this breed conclude that the colossal canine isn’t as smart as we think. 

To learn the truth, this article has been wholly dedicated to unraveling the intellectual capacity of the commonly misunderstood breed. Let’s find out why and in which area does the English Mastiff excel regarding his wit.

English Mastiff Intelligence Ranking

Stanley Coren, a psychology professor, is highly acclaimed for his research which mainly focused on determining a dog breed’s rank regarding intelligence. He has published his book “The Intelligence of Dogs” which highlights the obedience level of every dog breed on the list. 

The said variance aligns with the type of dogs breeders set out to breed. He also mentioned that the different groups such as herding, guarding, working, hunting, and sporting dogs would all need different training and have varying intelligence levels. 

The English Mastiff, in particular, is on the lowest degree of working and obedience intelligence. He shares the same spot as the Beagle which is 72nd. In Coren’s study, it took about 80 to 100 repetitions or more for the Mastiff to fully pick up what has been taught and his obedience level on the first command is 25% below. 

Although this is the case, he admits that every dog is an individual and training largely impacts the outcome of a dog’s intelligence. Nevertheless, his research just serves as a general overview of what prospective owners might expect on the said breed.

Top Reasons Why an English Mastiff Is Smart

Measuring intelligence is not easy. There’s no absolute answer that can fully describe how smart the English Mastiff is since several factors come into play. If we are going to focus on some major areas, we’ll be able to identify on which level the English Mastiff is.

  1. Emotional Intelligence

Branded as highly sensitive, the English Mastiff can read your facial expressions, sense your emotions, and understand your needs and gestures. A new study shows that having a pet dog, no matter the size, will not hesitate to comfort his human when he feels that something is off. Either that or he’s just upset about the uncomfortability the bluish atmosphere gives off. 

This behavior is shared by other dog breeds, but the level of responsiveness of the English Mastiff makes him react better and more unique to tears. On the other hand, he can also perceive if his owner is happy. Often, he will reflect it by wagging his tail and showing excitement. 

He can also recognize if he did something wrong. If he’s been caught chewing off an expensive pair of shoes, scolding him will make him feel guilty, thus, the display of his big soulful puppy eyes. 

  1. Social Intelligence

The size of the English Mastiff might scare you off, but if you know more about this breed, you’ll come to understand how friendly and social he is. Of course, this will depend if he has been exposed to other dogs and faces when he was still young, but ideally, this dog has an innate desire to socialize.

Approachable, gentle, and even-tempered. Three words that best explain why the English Mastiff is a good friend to everybody. As long as he’s familiar with whom he’s dealing with, he’ll be capable of forming deep relationships with those around him. This gets even better if you end up becoming his favorite family member. He’ll follow you wherever you go making him a velcro dog!     

Despite his friendly attitude, strangers will get to experience him differently. The English Mastiff will act shy or aloof, observant, and calculative. Remember, he’s wary of those he doesn’t trust yet, more so if his loved ones are near this suspicious person. 

  1. Instinctive Intelligence

This refers to the innate skill the English Mastiff was bred for. In the past, his primary purpose was to either hunt wild animals or guard the flocks. These roles are what made him belong to the working group. All the tasks he was assigned for, he did so with excellence. Thanks to his strength and cleverness, defeating dangerous predators became an easy task. 

As for the herd, the English Mastiff knew very well how important it is for him to ensure the safety of the cattle. With his presence and silent superiority, animals that lurk nearby can sense the danger of going up against him. 

Battles occurred before too. If not for his superb skills shown in war, Julius Caesar and Kublai Khan wouldn’t have taken interest in this dog breed.  

  1. Adaptive Intelligence

Due to the English Mastiff’s stubbornness to learn, learning new behaviors might pose a challenge to every owner. However, this highly depends on how the drill is conducted. With the right owner, he’ll pick up lessons in no time!

On the other hand, it’s sure that the Mastiff can decipher what’s right from wrong. With his agreeable attitude that shows sometimes, he will refrain from doing things that upset his owner. 

Also, dogs, in general, may exhibit stress if there are various changes made inside the house. Your English Mastiff may feel the same way depending on how big the transformation is. If he shows anxiety and he’s comforted right away, the dog will eventually stay calm and more relaxed. After three weeks or so, he’ll adapt to the new changes.

Can My English Mastiff Learn Tricks Fast?

If you think it would be as easy as teaching a Golden Retriever, then no. However, if you apply certain rules in training the English Mastiff, he will learn new drills faster than you would expect. Some rules which you can try are:

  • Train him when he’s 8-12 weeks of age.
  • Keep every session short for about 10-15 minutes.
  • Go for drills that are physically and mentally stimulating. 
  • Use positive reinforcements like food and praise.

Is the English Mastiff’s Smartness an Inherited Trait?

Professor Coren claims that 51% of your English Mastiff’s intelligence is inherited and the remaining 49% is based on environmental circumstances. This will tell us about nature vs nurture intelligence. Various researches on different subjects have shown that while the genes play a role in your Mastiff’s cognitive development, the external factors such as the kind of training he receives will largely give an effect on the genes. 

To put it simply, Mastiffs are inherently smart to a point, but for that to manifest, they have to be taught how to awaken their intelligence. 

Tips on How to Nourish Your English Mastiff’s Intelligence

Socialization, crate training, or teaching your English Mastiff basic commands aren’t enough to keep him mentally stimulated. Training isn’t the only area every owner should focus on if improving his intelligence is on your mind. To let out your pet’s bigger potential, here are other factors you should consider:

  • Food. The craze about giving fish meals to dogs is found to be reasonable! The omega-3 fatty acids which give out DHA help during developmental stages which result in increased learning and better vision. Feeding him a DNA-rich diet once he can eat on his own is vital to nourishing his intellectual capacity.
  • Exercise. When done regularly, your English Mastiff’s body will produce the chemical endorphin which is responsible for boosting memory and brain function. Accompanying your pet in sweating out isn’t overwhelming since he requires moderate activities. Let him indulge in the benefits of moving!
  • Health.  Stubbornness to follow commands is sometimes caused by underlying health problems. If you ask him to open the door or pick up a toy yet he remains to be laying on the ground, it could be that he’s suffering from joint issues or other health concerns. Ensure that he’s in his top health so he can learn things with ease.

Smart Toys for Your English Mastiff Boys

Tools are essential in aiding your English Mastiff in learning all drills. Aside from your hand gestures, you must get creative and succumb to buying him appropriate toys that will spice up his training.

Here are some toys your English Mastiff will surely enjoy:

  • Starting with a simple toy is the key to better learning progress. An interactive toy would be a great option such as the Dog Food Puzzle Feeder designed to provide an extension of your pet’s feeding time as well as help the dog learn the habit of tapping the button on top to let out a few treats. This is also a great pastime for him if you ever have to leave the house for a while. 

Instead of him developing separation anxiety, this toy will keep him preoccupied whilst rewarding his behavior!

  • Another toy that could spark more of your English Mastiff’s intelligence is the Tarvos Puzzle Toy! Your pet will eventually come to understand that by rolling the centerpiece of it, rewards will fall on the bowl. This will teach him the lesson that by doing a certain behavior, he’ll receive delicious treats.

Is the English Mastiff the Right Dog for You?

The English Mastiff’s smartness is on a unique level incomparable to that of other dog breeds. He is an individual breed blessed with the potential to be exceptional only if he ends up with the right owner who can provide him with adequate exercise and training as well as grant him the right meals and support his medical needs. You can learn more about him through our English Mastiff guide.

He may not be as smart as the other dog breeds in certain areas, however, the English Mastiff will never fail to amaze you with his perks that can fill up your home with laughter and enjoyment!