BullmastiffInfo.org: Tell us about your training facility and
Currently, I conduct classes in a city parks and recreation
facility. Private lessons are usually conducted at the client's
I have acquired 12 obedience degrees on Shetland
Sheepdogs, an Irish Setter and a Bullmastiff. I have championed 7
Bullmastiffs; 1 Bernese Mountain Dog; and pointed another
Bullmastiff, a Stafford Bull Terrier and a German Shepherd Dog.
For approximately 10 years I was a trainer for Blue
Springs 'N Katy-Did Dog Training Center in Englewood, CO. To become
a trainer for BSKD I went through their 9 month Trainer's Course, a
unique program including study and practical application of training
principles followed by a one year apprenticeship before becoming an
I taught KPT (Kindergarten Puppy Training), Beginner
Obedience, Novice Obedience and Conformation. These were all-breed
BullmastiffInfo.org: Please describe your interpretation of the
inherent behavior of the typical Bullmastiff.
My interpretation of the inherent behavior of the typical
Bullmastiff is that he is deliberate, stubborn, intuitive, calm,
intelligent (in the manner in which we define intelligence in dogs),
extremely loyal, independent and frequently dominant. I find their
inherent behavior to be sensitive but also alpha if given half a
chance. My interpretation is based on those Bullmastiffs I have
known well, most of which have come from good breeding. However,
most of these traits are also found in the majority of rescue dogs I
have placed. The key word here is typical. There can always be
extremes either direction.
BullmastiffInfo.org: Do you believe that the temperament of a
Bullmastiff can be inherited from their parents? Why or why not?
Temperament is inherited, period. Temperament is the mental
peculiarities of the invidual that are endowed by nature
(genetics). Manifested characteristics of temperament that we
easily recognize are timidity, aggressiveness, nervousness,
calmness, fearfulness, submissiveness, dominance. Most dogs have
varying combinations of the above traits.
DISPOSITION is the sum total of inherited temperament
plus the effect of life experiences.
Inherited temperament cannot be substantially
changed. It may be slightly modified but you will not take a dog
who is genetically programmed to be submissive and make it a
dominant dog. Nor can you make a dominant aggressive dog timid or
submissive. About the most you can do with inherited temperament is
attempt to modify and control it.
Disposition on the other hand, can be largely
controlled within the constraints of the dog's inherited
temperament. Since, thankfully, most puppies are born
middle-of-the-road dogs, not being extreme in any of the above
mentioned temperament characteristics, an astute and attentive owner
can mold the dog's disposition with timely and effective
conditioning and training.
In applying this to Bullmastiffs, given an
understanding of the breeds involved in the development of the
Bullmastiff breed, an owner must realize the need to establish
himself/herself as the authority in the dog/human relationship early
The "Bull" in the breed's name should immediately
bring to mind adjectives such as stubborn, tenacious, determined.
The "Mastiff" in the breed's name immediately conjures up the image
of a LARGE dog. Hence, you can reasonably conclude you will most
likely have a large stubborn dog on your hands!!
BullmastiffInfo.org: A common characteristic of the Bullmastiff
temperament is their propensity for animal aggression. Is it
possible to control this natural instinct? How?
Yes, it is possible. But it depends on many factors starting with
the individual Bullmastiff's inherited temperament. If it is born
with a high prey drive; or is very dominant; or aggressive, the job
will be a tough one and such a puppy should be placed with a very
knowledgeable and dominant owner.
Starting with a puppy, it MUST BE socialized very
early on (the critical learning period is 8 to 16 weeks, see
Clarence Pfaffenberger's book The New Knowledge of Dog Behavior) to
ALL entities it will be expected to live with during its life. So,
all puppies should be taken to KPT classes and additionally,
socialized with other species of animal such as cats, horses,
gerbils, etc. This may take some doing on the part of the owner,
especially if they do not have those other species, but the effort
is worthwhile in the long run.
An older dog that was not socialized as a puppy may
have a very difficult time adjusting to other animals, and in many,
many cases, will not ever become SOCIAL with other animals (they may
tolerate another pet, but not willingly). Sometimes, an older dog
can be taught to accept other animals in the household -- we've seen
it happen. But, it takes dedication and determination on the
owner's part to do so, plus no small measure of experience with dogs
and how to accomplish such a feat.
Owners who get a puppy and never take it out of their
back yard and make no attempt to expose the dog to other animals is
doing that dog a great disservice. That owner is presuming he/she
will always own that dog and the dog will never need to be around
other animals. But, what happens if that owner dies, or for other
reasons cannot keep that dog forever? We've all seen that statement
about dogs needing a home "without other pets." Well, pet lovers
generally like to have more than one pet and it is very difficult to
place a dog in a home without other pets.
Lastly, in the extreme, is the adult dog that has
never been socialized with other animals and for reasons usually
unknown, has a phobia about other animals and will go through doors,
windows or fences to get at and kill another animal. The only
reasonable option, in my opinion, for such a dog is the euthanasia
needle. I always wonder if such dogs (and I've known and known of
several Bullmastiffs in this category -- all bitches) were simply
unsocialized, or if their owners had a sick mentality and encouraged
such an attitude thinking it was macho or funny until it got out of
control and then was too late. In all such circumstances, the dog
suffers. In some of these cases I wonder if there weren't another,
more aggressive breed's influence in the genetic makeup of these
While Bullmastiffs certainly can be aggressive to
other animals, a well-bred dog with a docile temperament as
described in the standard, should be able to be taught to accept
other animals in its home -- even new ones that come in when the dog
is an adult -- if it has an authoritative, knowledgeable owner.
I have all kinds of dogs coming and going from my
house (as well as having cats) and I have no problems with my dogs.
I don't tolerate fighting and being nasty and my dogs know it. This
is true even for any intact animals I have in my household. My
Bullmastiffs have always been acquired from good responsible
breeders who breed true to standard dogs that have solid, stable
Breeding tells. If you buy a puppy, be an educated,
discerning buyer. GO TO THE BREEDER'S FACILITY and see the litter
with the dam. Try to see the sire also. What kind of temperaments
do the parents have? Do you think you could, or would want, to live
with either of the parents? If not, what makes you think the pups
will be much different?
In a nutshell, you CAN control animal aggression in
your Bullmastiff by socializing the dog very early in life and then
being the absolute authority in your dog's life.
BullmastiffInfo.org: What is an obedience class/school?
An "obedience class/school" is where one goes to train one's dog by
participating in a set of classes (anywhere from 6 to 9 weeks long)
in the company of other owner/dog teams. These classes are taught
by knowledgeable, experienced instructors (or at least they should
be). The ratio of instructors to student teams should optimally be
1 to 10. Classes are usually about an hour long once a week. The
instructor teaches the owners HOW to train their dogs and the owners
work with their dogs every day at home utilizing the methods taught
in class. A good training school will have a well developed course
that, each week, builds on previous lessons taught. Typically, in a
beginner obedience course the following exercises are taught: heel
on lead; sit and sit-stay; down and down-stay; stand stay; recall
(dog coming to owner).
BullmastiffInfo.org: What is the advantage of attending an
obedience school versus just teaching your Bullmastiff basic
commands at home?
Why attend a class? They are generally more
economical than private lessons, but more importantly, your dog
learns to obey with the distraction of other people and dogs
around. Again, that socializing influence is so important. Even
though your dog is not actually visiting the other dogs, he learns
to behave in the presence of other dogs and people. You MUST get
your dog out of the back yard and into the world in order to have a
BullmastiffInfo.org: The word “socialization” is commonly used in
conjunction with proper ownership of a Bullmastiff. What does this
mean? How would a typical owner accomplish this task?
One definition of socialize is "to make friendly, cooperative, or
social." In dogdom this requires the owner provide opportunities
for the puppy to play with other puppies, meet other species such as
cats, ferrets, hamsters, goats, horses, etc., and meet and be
handled by lots of people. All of this should optimally be done by
the time the puppy is about 16 weeks old and MUST be done in a
controlled environment so that nothing happens to traumatize the
puppy. ALL encounters must be happy and rewarding for the puppy.
The best way to accomplish the above is to attend KPT
classes taught by a well qualified instructor in a controlled
environment. Of course, there won't be livestock or ferrets at the
classes, but there will be other dogs and people.
If there are no classes available within a reasonable
driving distance, then the owner must make every effort to find safe
places to take the puppy to play with other dogs -- puppies
preferably, but patient, kindly adult dogs will do also. And, the
puppy should be taken out as much as possible to experience all
kinds of sights and sound such as traffic, babies and small
children, as well as meeting a variety of adult humans. The
owner's pocket should be stuffed with very yummy treats (NOT hard
dry biscuits) and people who pet the puppy should be asked to give
him a treat.
BEAR IN MIND THAT ALL OF THE ABOVE ADVICE IS
PREDICATED ON THE PRESUMPTION THAT THE OWNER IS PROVIDING PROPER
VACCINATIONS PRECISELY ON SCHEDULE AND NOT UNDULY EXPOSING THE PUPPY
TO DANGEROUS ILLNESSES.
Socializing an adult dog needs to be done carefully
with a thorough understanding of the dog's temperament and
disposition. It requires the assistance of a qualified dog
trainer/behaviorist. Therefore, I prefer not to address that
subject in generalities.
BullmastiffInfo.org: Would socializing a Bullmastiff make them less
apt to perform their duties as a “guard dog”?
BullmastiffInfo.org: The Bullmastiff is
classified as a working breed primarily used for guarding. Would an
owner need to teach their Bullmastiff how to perform as a guard
dog? Why or why not?
This answer is totally my personal opinion derived from FEELINGS,
not scientific evidence. I am opposed to guard dog training for any
Bullmastiff whose purpose is to be a family pet. This attitude
stems from my long years of experience dealing with owners while
conducting training classes and doing Bullmastiff Rescue. I do not
believe the average owner has the knowledge, will or ability to
control and deal with a dog trained for protection.
do not believe that any dog of a breed created for guarding needs to
be taught to protect. I will tell you a true story omitting the
A woman who
owned (and probably still owns) a male Bullmastiff show dog stopped
at the grocery store while out doing errands. That particular day
she had taken her dog with her. She drove a large van. She did her
shopping and came out to the van. She opened the back doors of the
van and was proceeding to put her groceries into it. Unseen by her,
a man was approaching from behind with a tire iron in his hand.
Unseen by the man was the dog in the van who did see him
approaching. As the man raised the tire iron to strike her the dog
flew out of the van and attacked the man. After a tussle the man
managed to get away with the dog in hot pursuit. People who were
around came to her aid then and called the police. Her dog came
back. Obviously shaken, she told the policeman that her dog had
"rearranged the guys face a bit." Her dog had been struck with the
tire iron and lost a few teeth from the encounter, but was otherwise
no worse for the wear.
This dog was a
show dog -- bred, born and trained to like people and to accept all
manner of strangers touching him. But, he knew, instinctively, when
he needed to protect. I do not think this type of behavior can be
heard from more than one source that you cannot spank your children
in the presence of a Bullmastiff -- the dog will most likely take
your arm in it's large jowls and hold it there, gently but firmly.
One gets the message pretty quickly when that happens. How
humbling to have your dog tell you not to physically punish your
So, to answer
the original question: No, I do not think a Bullmastiff needs to be
taught to protect. The above should answer the "why."
BullmastiffInfo.org: As the popularity of Bullmastiff ownership
rises, so are the incidents of children getting bitten by
Bullmastiffs. With the media heavily publicizing dog attacks of any
nature - it has potential to bring an undesirable reputation to this
breed. How compatible do you think the Bullmastiff breed is with
young children and babies?
I think Bullmastiffs are very compatible with children including
babies PROVIDING the parents are knowledgeable, sensible people who
are in control of the the dog and their children.
One of the
reasons bite incidents rise with the popularity of any breed is
simply the fact that there are more dogs of that breed out there.
Add to that the fact that as a breed becomes popular the puppy mill
breeders jump on the "let's get rich from the ruination of this
breed" band wagon. They start producing puppies from ANYTHING that
has a paper saying it's a Bullmastiff without regard to temperament
or any other trait and then sell those pups to pet shops who sell to
ANY buyer with the money, and you have a recipe for disaster. No
education is imparted to the buyer, nor are buyer's screened for
appropriateness to own a Bullmastiff. There is no support for the
buyer as they would get from a reputable hobby breeder and no one to
take the dog back if things don't work out.
BullmastiffInfo.org: What do you believe may be the reason for the
increased incidents of Bullmastiffs, in particular, biting children?
Stupid irresponsible breeders and owners, and rotten children.
BullmastiffInfo.org: Are there any cautions you would recommend for
new Bullmastiff owners with children and/or who plan to have
children in the future after acquiring a Bullmastiff to prevent dog
UNDERSTAND dogs and in particular Bullmastiffs and be prepared to be
the type of owner who can handle a Bullmastiff. DO NOT spoil the
dog until you have a rotten, nasty beast that you can't deal with.
ALL DOGS need to be treated with firm discipline as well as love and
fairness. There are many good books to read that delve into dog
psychology that will help one understand the dog's mind and there
are numerous books/tapes that teach how to train a dog. Anyone
wanting to get a Bullmastiff must thoroughly research the breed,
reading everything available and talking to many breeders and
trainers. Visits to meet and spend time around Bullmastiffs should
be arranged prior to purchasing one.
As I've said
before, buy a Bullmastiff from a RESPONSIBLE, REPUTABLE HOBBY
BREEDER who breeds only to improve the breed and strives faithfully
to breed to the AKC Standard. Meet as many relatives of any puppy
you are considering as you can and be objective about the dogs'
considering a dog for a pet with children, NOTHING is more important
prepared to be a good "parent" to the pup. The good breeder will be
there for you with support and information to help in any way
BullmastiffInfo.org: As the popularity of Bullmastiff ownership has
exploded, the need for public education on this breed is more
important than ever – particularly when it comes to how the
Bullmastiff interacts with the general public. With the threat of
breed banning always in our midst, what information can you give the
public about proper Bullmastiff ownership?
Proper Bullmastiff ownership involves making a thoughtful, well
researched decision about one's ability to own a powerful, stubborn,
LARGE, guardy type dog. No dog should ever be obtained on impulse,
but especially one as large and powerful as the Bullmastiff. Every
dog owner has the responsibility to insure that his/her dog is safe
for people to be around starting with one's own family and extending
to the general public.
should be neutered before they are a year of age and females should
be spayed before their first heat cycle.
The dog must
be trained to behave at all times whether in the home or in public.
It takes a
strong-minded person to handle a strong-minded dog. If you are
wishy-washy, weak willed, lazy, or macho you will most likely end up
with a Bullmastiff that is not a pleasure to be around. And, in the
end the dog will suffer because you failed to fulfill your
responsibility to it and your community. The dog may well end up
having to be killed because it takes control of your household and
think you can send the dog off to someone else for training. Yes, a
professional trainer can train the dog, but he/she can't instill
RESPECT FOR YOU in the dog. YOU MUST DO THAT. If the dog does not
respect you he/she will assume the role of alpha and that is the
beginning of the end. YOU, THE OWNER, must train the puppy/dog.
BullmastiffInfo.org: What classes do you offer at your training
facility? Include the type of class/name and duration.
I am currently teaching KPT (Kindergarten Puppy Training) and
Conformation classes. My partner teaches Beginner Obedience. The
KPT and Beginner Obedience are both 8 week courses. The
Conformation classes are "drop-in" classes where students pay as
BullmastiffInfo.org: How can interested parties contact you to
sign up for a class?
Anyone in our area may contact me at 719-784-6666 or e-mail me at
BullmastiffInfo.org: What future would you like to see happen with
the Bullmastiff breed in general? Do you think it this future is
What I would like to see happen is only responsible hobby breeders
breeding Bullmastiffs (puppy mills and bad backyard breeders would
not exist) and there would be a permanent, responsible home waiting
for every puppy born.
No, I do not
think that is reachable, but we keep trying.
wonderful dogs, but they are not for everyone. Before I bought my
first Bullmastiff I had trained dogs for about 15 years and had
lived with dogs my entire life. I researched the breed and talked
to numerous breeders. From the time I decided I wanted a
Bullmastiff to the time I bought my first one was 4 years!! I
really had to think hard about having a dog that slobbered a lot,
but having had them for 15 years now, that trait is relegated to a
minor nuisance. Their wonderful attributes so far outweigh any
slobbering that it just doesn't matter any more.
I think anyone
considering a Bullmastiff as a pet must do the following:
believing in the "Lassie syndrome." Dogs DO NOT understand every
word you say and DO NOT have the ability to
reason as humans do. They are DOGS -- love them for what
they are; don't try to turn them into
people -- it can't be done. They are
the most marvelous of creatures and you can't improve on what God
Be willing to assume the role as alpha
dog and work hard to earn
the right to be the alpha dog. That means going to classes
and spending whatever is necessary in
time, money and effort to make your
Bullmastiff a pleasant member of your family and community.
Bullmastiff a member of the family. They MUST have
social interaction and your family is the only pack they
Make sure ALL responsible adults
in the family WANT a Bullmastiff. In a
wife/husband household, if one doesn't want a Bullmastiff, life
will be miserable for everyone and the dog will be the one to
BullmastiffInfo.org would like to
personally thank Linda Thompson for taking the time to share her
thoughts and experience with our readers! If you would like
more information, please contact Linda
Obedience Trainer ~Conformation Trainer ~ Handler