Recommendations on the care of your Bullmastiff By: Virginia Rowland, Blackslate Reg'd
When I first started writing these recommendations twenty five years ago, they were a couple pages long. Since then these recommendations which were designed to answer the questions that the owner of a new puppy might have have grown significantly and now include recommendations on the care of the teenage
and adult Bullmastiff.
A puppy has to get a series of vaccinations - instead of just one shot - because it is impossible to safely predict when the puppy will lose the immunity he acquired from his mothers colostrum. The youngest age at which the vaccination may be effective is six weeks. Some puppies will not develop an immunity from the vaccine until they are twenty weeks old. As long as the puppy has some of the immunity he got from his mother, the shots will not be effective. The last one to two weeks, the puppy has a slight immunity that is strong enough to make the shots ineffective but not strong enough to fight off the parvovirus. For that reason, until the puppy is at least four months old, you should be very cautious about allowing him to interact with other dogs (except for dogs that are family members) or taking him to places where other dogs have been because he may be exposed to parvo or other viruses he has not yet developed an immunity against. When you take your puppy to the vet, carry him, don’t let him walk on the floor where he may pick up viruses from other sick dogs and keep him in the car until your vet is ready to examine him because if he spends a lot of time hanging out in the waiting room he may be exposed to other viruses some of which are airborne.
For the puppies first two shots, at six and nine weeks, we now give Vanguard brand vaccine which does not contain lepto factor; it contains a type of parvo vaccine which is supposed to override the parvo titer the puppy has received from his dam. Despite the manufacturers assurances on the efficacy of the Vanguard, it is still wise to follow my recommendations for not exposing the young dog to parvo and other viruses.
When we have a litter that did not receive colostrum from the dam, we start the immunization program at four weeks with a measles shot; two weeks later they get a DHPP shot. Many experts think that if puppies (and adult dogs) get too many vaccinations with a lot of different ingredients this can compromise their immune systems so we wait for the puppy’s third shot at 12 weeks of age to use a vaccine that contains lepto.
Rabies vaccine is licensed for use in dogs over the age of three months. (For this reason, if a puppy is shipped at under three months of age, the vet will write on the health certificate too young for rabies vaccination.) If you live in an area where rabies is epidemic, like Massachusetts, it is important to get your puppy vaccinated for rabies right after his three month birthday.
As a general rule, if your Bullmastiff spends most of his time at home and doesn’t go to places where there are lots of other dogs, he only needs to get an annual DHLPP. The first rabies shot is only effective for a year so your puppy will need his second rabies shot between 15 and 18 months of age. This second rabies vaccination can be given nine months after the first shot; do not wait any longer than 364 days for this second rabies vaccination. Check the regulations in your state to see what is required for rabies protection. In Massachusetts, for example, if a dog or cat has the first two rabies shots more than 365 days apart and he is exposed to a rabid animal, the quarantine requirements are much more stringent than if his first two rabies vaccinations were administered correctly less than a year apart. Rabies is serious business for you and your dog: all you have to do to be exposed to it is to come in contact with the saliva of a rabid animal. This can happen in the country or in the city wherever there are raccoons, foxes, or bats; don't fool yourself into thinking that such wildlife does not exist in large cities.
After the Bullmastiff gets these first two rabies vaccinations, he should be vaccinated every three years for rabies. Parvo and distemper shots are given once a year. In areas where rabies is epidemic, vets may recommend giving a rabies shot once a year because of the possibility that the dog may come in contact with a rabid animal. Most of the vets I have talked to about giving yearly rabies shots feel that this is gilding the lily.
There are new strains of leptospirosis in certain parts of the US so if you plan to show your dog or take him out a lot in public areas, consult with your vet on vaccines that will protect the dog against the new strain of leptospirosis. The one we use is made by Fort Dodge.
There is a new type of high titer modified parvo vaccine being marketed by the various drug companies. I do not recommend you use these vaccines on Bullmastiff puppies as Bullmastiffs may like Dobermans and Rottweilers be more susceptible to contracting parvo from these high titer vaccines.
Most veterinarians agree that vaccinating against corona virus is unnecessary and may interfere with the distemper vaccine if it is given as part of a multi vaccine. Corona virus only causes disease in very young puppies that have not received colostrum from their mothers.
If you plan on showing your puppy or adult Bullmastiff or taking him to obedience or handling classes, you may want to consider giving him an intra-trac II infusion (check with your vet to see youngest at which he recommends doing this); this is given intranasally and protects the dog against bordatella and parainfluenza. Bordatella and parainfluenza are viruses that cause coughing and runny noses. Severe cases can lead to rapid weight loss and pneumonia. This infusion won’t protect your dog against all respiratory viruses.
Your veterinarian may recommend that you vaccinate your dog for Lyme disease. The vaccinations aren’t 100% effective and if the vaccinated dog gets the disease it can make diagnosing it with a blood test much more difficult. An option to vaccinating the dog for Lyme is to treat him with Frontline which protects the dog from tick (and flea) infestation. The best prevention against Lyme disease for you and your dog is keeping out of areas where you or the dog may pick up an affected tick. You should check your dog and yourself carefully for ticks whenever you go for walks in the woods or along the beach or anywhere you think you may come in contact with ticks. Lyme disease can be carried by deer ticks and the brown dog tick. If you live in an area where there are lots of ticks, the Frontline treatment will protect him against other tick born disease like Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.
It is important to remember that vaccines can vary significantly in the amount of immunity they convey. Drug companies that produce vaccines for animals are not required to test their products annually. They are not required by the USDA to prove the duration of the vaccine immunity. Until the USDA adopts new regulations, veterinarians will recommend vaccinating your dog more often than may be necessary to be on the safe side. If you don’t want to vaccinate your dog unless it is necessary, your vet can have your dog’s blood tested to see what the titers are for various diseases such as parvo and rabies. As long as the dog has a high titer he won't need to be revaccinated.
We usually worm our puppies for the first time at three weeks of age with strongid-t and reworm them every other week until they are seven weeks old. The puppy could still have worms when he goes to his new home so he should be checked when the new owner takes him to the vet for his 9 or 12 week vaccination. Some puppies when they are introduced to a new brand of food at their new home may have soft stools or diarrhea from coccidia. Coccidia is normal to the dog’s intestinal tract. When he gets stressed by being introduced to a new diet, there may be a flare up which causes diarrhea. You can treat the puppy with Albon or Prior for five days. Albon, a liquid, and Prior, a pill, are both sulfa drugs. Prior is considered a new generation of medication and has another antibiotic included with the sulfa. I think the Prior is slightly more effective. Another good drug for diarrhea in puppies (and adults) is flagyl. Flagyl would be effective for coccidia or giardia.
As a general rule, it is a good idea to have a stool sample checked once a year particularly if you show your dog, take him to class, leave him at a pet day care center, or walk him in areas where he may come in contact with other dogs.
We do not put our little puppies on heartworm preventative until they are three months old because the preventative we use works retroactively and they are indoors most of the time under eight weeks of age and don’t come in contact with mosquitoes.
We recommend that when you pick up your puppy and take him to the veterinarian for the first time, talk to the vet about putting the puppy on heartworm preventative. If you live in a warm part of the country, you will have to put him on heartworm preventative right away . If you buy a puppy in the winter and live in a colder climate like New England, you won’t have to put the puppy on preventative until the spring and you won't have to test him ahead of time for the presence of microfilaria. Generally, dogs have to be tested first to see if they have heartworm before they are put on the preventative. You can buy the heartworm preventative from your veterinarian; the medication you get should include information on the dosage. Dosage is based on weight so be sure and check your dog’s weight frequently to see if it is necessary to increase the amount of preventative he is getting.
In New England, dogs are kept on their heartworm medication through December 1 or January 1. In other parts of the country where the dog may come in contact with mosquitoes all year long, it is necessary to give the dog heartworm preventative all year long. Check with your vet to see what he recommends. To be properly protected during the heartworm season, a dog can be given decacide/nemacide every other day, or Heartgard 3C which is given once a month. I think the once a month preventative is preferable. Heartgard's active ingredient is ivermectin. If your dog ever has anything that resembles a seizure, do not give him anything containing ivermectin. There is another once a month preventative called Interceptor that does not contain ivermectin that is just as effective.
If your dog is negative for roundworm and hookworm at the time you put him on the preventative, it will prevent him from getting infested with these parasites for as long as you have him on the preventative.
is important. When we give puppies their first meal of dog food at four weeks of age, we use the food that we feed our adult dogs, Solid Gold formula, which is 23% protein. Solid Gold is not available in grocery stores. You can get it at some pet supply stores, and you can order it on line by going to their website and finding the closest local dealer. Other good brands are Canidae, Back to Basics, Natural Life, Natures Recipe and Nutromax. These are all good dry foods because they are as natural as possible and do not contain dyes and a lot of preservatives. Solid Gold, Back to Basics and Canidae use organic and USDA approved ingredients The question of how much to give and how many times a day can vary with the puppy. Be sure to buy your dog food from a dealer who has a rapid turnover of food and does not keep it in the warehouse so long that it is old by the time you get it - and gets moldy etc. before you can finish the bag.
Puppies usually prefer to have a little warm water added to their dog food dry just before they are fed, but some may continue to like it softened. You will have to experiment to see exactly how much your puppy needs. At eight weeks of age, we feed the puppies three times a day and they eat between ¾ to 1 cup a time. The puppy should be fed three times a day until he is six months old when he can be cut back to two feedings a day. The typical puppy at this time would be getting a total of six cups of dry food a day. Feeding the puppy free choice dry food is acceptable provided the pup maintains the correct weight. You will find that at six months of age your puppy will probably be eating as much as he will as an adult, between four to eight cups of food a day. The amount can vary with the exercise the dog gets, his size and metabolism. Please note: we do not recommend feeding puppies a high protein puppy food. The higher the protein count of the food you feed your puppy, the faster he will grow. If you feed a food that is between 22% and 24% protein you will prolong the growth period and reduce the risk of the Bullmastiff puppy developing skeletal problems. I have known some young Bullmastiffs that were growing so fast on the 22% protein dry food that they had to be put on a Senior Diet - 18% protein. Whatever you do, do not feed your puppy any food that is over 26% protein. Orthopedic specialists will tell you that the dogs they see with skeletal problems like osteochondritis dissecans (OCD) are typically dogs that have been fed a high protein diet. Disregard the advice of your veterinarian if he contradicts this suggestion. If your veterinarian were to talk to specialists in nutrition or orthopedics, they would agree with my recommendation that puppies from large and giant breeds be fed a low protein diet. Unfortunately some vets that are general practitioners spend more time listening to the salesmen selling the food and vitamin and calcium supplements.
A well balanced diet consisting mainly of a good dry food with a little water and canned added to enhance the tastes usually does not need to supplemented with extra vitamins. Too much supplementation can lead to structural problems such as OCD. No vet should encourage you to buy Pet Tabs or Pet Cal or their equivalents unless the dog is showing some sign of skeletal breakdown - such as being down in the pasterns or very cow hocked. If your puppy shows these symptoms it is best to take him to specialist for advice on how to correct the problem. It may be possible to help him by increasing the protein or he may require special vitamin supplements. If you do find it necessary to give your puppy a calcium supplement, make sure the calcium is in the form of calcium lactate; this type of calcium is excreted in the urine if you give the dog too much. Other forms of calcium stay in the body and form calcium deposits, something which you definitely don’t want.
We give Fresh Factors or Glyco-Flex to our puppies at least through the first year of age and if they are males throughout their life. Fresh Factors and Glyco-Flex are orally administered GAGs (glucosaminoglycan) that is a chondro (relating to the cartilage) protective lubricant. Evidence suggests that GAGs help prevent joint problems such as hip dysplasia and osteochondritis dissecans and are a great treatment for arthritis. Glyco-Flex is made from the green lipped mussel and the source of GAGs in Fresh Factors is bovine cartilage. The proteins in it are identical to the dog's cartilage and joint fluid components, and when they are ingested they migrate to the joints via the bloodstream, with the greatest amounts entering the most inflamed joints. Glyco-Flex and Fresh Factors are also thought to help with the manufacture of prostatic fluid and that is why we give it to our adult males.
Products containing GAGS are considered neutraceuticals, they are not sold by prescription so the quality can vary greatly between products. Fresh Factors, Glyco Flex, or Cosequin are excellent GAG products. Some of the other ones are less effective. GAGS can take as long as a month to start taking effect so be patient when you put your dog on them for some type of joint pain.
Another excellent joint lubricant - probably the best, but also the most expensive - is shark cartilage. It is also helpful to dogs and human with skin problems brought on by problems with the immune system. The dosage is one capsule per 15 pounds - the total divided so that it would be administered three times a day - for a total of 21 days after which time the dog would need 3 to 4 pills a day depending on the weight. This would mean that a 130 pound Bullmastiff would get three pills three times a day (for a total of 9 pills) for three weeks, and 1 pill three times a day for the rest of his life if his condition warranted it. Scientists have recently isolated a component of shark cartilage, known as squalamine, which appears to be effective in fighting cancer; it attacks tumors by suppressing the formation of new blood vessels.
Your Bullmastiff will enjoy and may benefit from nontraditional types of foods. Raw broccoli is high in vitamin C . Other raw vegetables like carrots and string beans are high in vitamins and make good between meal snacks for puppies or the overweight adult. Table scraps in moderation are fine and a little bit of canned food will help make the dry food more appetizing. Canned food and scraps have little nutritional value so don’t get your dog so dependent on them that he won’t eat the dry food, which is the most important part of his diet.
Every dog requires a different amount of food to maintain the correct weight. Adult dogs need less food than they did as puppies. It is important to always measure what you give your Bullmastiff. Do not necessarily follow the recommendations on the bag of dry food if you notice he is gaining weight, then cut back on what you give him. The typical active adult males should be fed three to four cups of dry food, twice a day; active bitches usually need two to three cups twice a day. The amount depends on the activity and metabolism of the dog. As the dog ages the amount of food he needs decreases, an older male may only need two cups of dry food twice a day (senior or lamb and rice) and an older bitch one and a half cups twice a day. They should always get a minimum of two meals a day. A Bullmastiff that only gets one large meal is not a happy dog and runs a greater risk of getting gastric dilatation (bloat).
Most puppies will exercise themselves running around the yard or playing with other dogs. They can be leash trained at three months of age - a flexi lead is a good way to begin. Once the puppy gets used to the collar and leash he can go for short walks. It is important not to allow your puppy to overdo it. Bullmastiffs grow very fast. Until they reach their adult size, their joints are not fully mature. Excessive exercise, pounding, and strenuous activity can sometimes do serious damage to their soft, growing bones.
A lot of puppies, some as young as three months old, will teach themselves to go upstairs. They are not as quick to learn to go downstairs, and you should discourage them from doing so until they are at least ten months old. When the puppy gets too big for you to carry him downstairs, and your living arrangement is such that he has to go up and down stairs, guide him down the stairs holding him firmly by the collar so that he does not slip and fall. Puppies that fall down stairs at a young age sometimes get elbow problems so take special care.
Encouraging or training the Bullmastiff to jump over things is not a good idea until the dog is an adult. Anyone interested in training their dog for an advanced obedience degree which requires that the dog jump over a high jump and a broad jump should first have the dog's elbows and shoulders and hips x-rayed to make sure that he does not have an orthopedic problem that would be aggravated by a lot of jumping.
Adult Bullmastiffs love exercise and enjoy being taken for walks. Remember to use caution in the summer when it is hot. If you exercise your dog in really hot temperatures you risk him going down with heat prostration. If it is really cold, be careful about ice or salt on the sidewalk that may hurt the dog’s feet. In a pinch, you can put sandwich bags on the paws as impromptu galoshes.
Hearken to the advice of Robert Frost, "Good fences make good neighbors."
Part of being a responsible dog owner is providing adequately for your Bullmastiff’s recreation and making sure that your yard is properly fenced or the dog run is big enough and high enough so that the dog cannot escape or jump over. Bullmastiffs cannot be trained to stay alone within an unfenced area. Your neighbors, guests, or a stranger walking outside your property may be scared of dogs. It is not fair to allow your dog to chase or jump at someone trying to walk past your property. If someone walks past your property with a dog on the leash, your Bullmastiff is likely to want to join the expedition. Chaining the dog up or putting him on a runner (because your property is not fenced) does not work with a Bullmastiff; most Bullmastiffs are big and strong enough to break a chain or cable. A dog that is chained is likely to become more aggressive and defensive than is natural. Invisible fencing does not work well either. For those of you who do not know what it is, it basically it is an underground electric fence. The dog has to wear a special collar and if he tries to cross the underground wiring, he gets zapped. The invisible fencing is only effective for dogs wearing the special collar. Part of the point of having fencing is to keep your dog and your children within the confines of your property and to keep strange animals and people out of your yard. Invisible fencing does not accomplish this - a dog or other animal can wander in your yard without a problem, particularly if you have a male Bullmastiff, he may not appreciate a strange dog or animal in your yard and the consequences could be serious. Another problem with invisible fencing is that in some models the collars that the dog has to wear are so sensitive that radios, microwave ovens and cell phones can set the collar off and give the dog a shock. Dogs that are prone to seizures can be set off by the stimulus of the shock collar around his neck.
Bullmastiffs do not normally try to jump fences or dig their way out. There are exceptions, however. Five feet is the highest type of fence or chain link you should have to install. My big corrals are made out of pressure treated four by fours as fence posts and keystone fencing. You can buy keystone fencing at most farm supply stores. It is intended for horse fencing and is long lasting because it is not welded; the wire is of a heavier gauge also than most of the welded fencing. If you notice your dog digging at the edge of the fence, put hardware cloth underneath - half on the inside of the fence and half on the outside - so that when the dog starts to dig he will hit the hardware cloth.
In every one of my corrals and runs, I have a platform for the dogs to lie on that is made out of pressure treated lumber. This keeps the dog off the dirt in the summer and the snow and frozen ground in the winter.
Some Bullmastiffs like to dig. I have never found a totally satisfactory solution to this. Don’t expect the dog pen to look perfectly manicured. If you are concerned that your dog may dig his way out of the pen you can put hardware cloth under the fencing or if the pen is small enough you can cement it. Most of my pens that are smaller than 20 by 20 are cemented. I prefer not to use stone because some dogs will eat stones and it can also cut their feet; I have not found a way of training dogs not to eat stones except to move them away from a place where they will have access to them. I try to keep grass growing and healthy in my larger pens and keep them mowed weekly in the summer. If they start to smell of urine, which usually is not a problem, I sprinkle the area with lime and water it down (or do it just before I know it will rain).
Some Bullmastiffs do not like the noise of lawn mowers, snow blowers and other noisy motors such as motor cycles. Particularly after your dog has eaten, be careful that you do not put him outside without watching to make sure he is not being agitated by the noise of the neighbor’s lawn mower or snow blower. If you do not exercise the proper precautions you may discover that your dog has got gastric dilatation - bloat - from running up and down the fence barking at the neighbor while he is mowing the lawn. Bloat can lead to death if you do not do surgery immediately.
Dog owners have to be concerned about what to do with their dogs when they are at work or not at home. If your dog likes to chew on the furniture; he is better off left in a large crate when you are gone. He can have his toys with him and a pail of water and you won’t have to worry about coming home and finding the piano with a missing leg. It is better to leave him inside where you know the dog can’t get too hot , too cold, or too wet, particularly if you live in the city where you also have to worry about dogs getting stolen or poisoned when they are outside. When I am away, I do not leave my dogs outside in pens where they are visible from the street. Bullmastiffs do not normally bark a lot. They are most likely to be noisy when they are left alone outside. Most often they bark when they hear other dogs or animals. They are less likely to bark at people. You should not allow your dog to do a lot of barking; your neighbors will not appreciate it. To be on the safe side, it may be best to take your dog’s collar off when you are not around.
Dogs can get their collars caught on their crates, furniture etc. and if you are not at home, the dog may strangle. If you leave two dogs together, it is best to take their collars off when you are not around because often dogs like to play by grabbing on to the other’s collar. Sometimes they can get their teeth caught in their buddy’s collar and this can lead to disastrous results if you are not home to cut the collar off. Inside or outside, your dog should always have access to water.
Bullmastiffs can experience severe allergic reactions to spider bites and bee bites. Their body becomes covered with hives and their head swell and their breathing may be compromised. It is a good idea to have Benadryl on hand in case of such reactions. If you give the dog Benadryl right away, the hives and swelling won’t become so severe as to cause respiratory failure.
The idea of walking your dogs in the woods far away from the smoke and pollution of the city may seem idyllic but it is important to take precautions before you and your dog go off trekking. Number one you would never do it in hot weather and you would have to remember to take plenty of water for yourself - and your dog. Most streams and rivers are polluted with acid rain and are not good for your dog. Many parts of the country have Lyme disease and it is really important to avoid woods where you and your dog could be bitten by a tick carrying Lyme disease. If you find a deer tick on your dog and you live or have been in an area with Lyme disease, the best thing to do is to remove the tick and put the dog on a short course of antibiotics such as tetracycline. Do not give tetracycline, however, to a dog that does not have all his adult teeth. Your dog can also get a severe skin problem - scabies aka sarcoptic mange - by coming in contact with an effected fox or by eating the scat of a fox or coyote with scabies. So try to keep your dog from eating or sniffing scat in the woods or anywhere you may walk with your dog where foxes may have been.
Puppies get their baby teeth between three and four weeks of age. Their adult teeth start to come in around four months of age, starting with the incisors. The canines break through around five months of age followed by the premolars and molars. Teething is very painful for the puppy. You usually can tell a puppy is teething by his behavior because it usually coincides with his wanting to chew on bones - and other things you don't want him gnaw on. It is important to check the puppy’s mouth frequently when he is teething. Sometimes the adult teeth will come in before the baby teeth have fallen out. When this happens, the baby teeth will keep their place and the adult teeth, particularly the incisors and canines, will come in out alignment or crooked. If you notice this occurring, have your vet pull out the baby teeth. If you don’t do this in addition to the cosmetic problems of having misaligned teeth the puppy may get abscesses if the baby canine doesn’t fall out soon enough. When the Bullmastiff puppy teethe, he frequently will carry his ears in a folded or flying ear carriage. If he does this, you may have to tape his ears so that they stay flat.Sometimes if the ears are not taped, they will stay folded for the rest of the dogs life. A dog with folded ears cannot be shown.
Do not give your Bullmastiff - whether he is a puppy or adult - any animal bones. The Bullmastiff has such powerful jaws that he can pulverize even the largest steer’s knuckle. In doing so, he may swallow a bone splinter that can perforate his stomach wall or become lodged in his throat. I do NOT recommend raw hide bones (except possibly for puppies only - adult dogs can strangle on them); chew hooves (actual cows hooves that are much harder than raw hides and I think much better), and pigs ears are OK for puppies not adult Bullmastiffs. Raw hide bones can be very dangerous if your adult Bullmastiff chews them quickly, softens them, and then tries to swallow them. Our bitch, Sarah - just before going into the group at Westminster - swallowed a raw hide bone we had given her as a reward for going BOB; in the group ring, her handler noticed that she was having trouble breathing and had to stick his hand down her throat and pull out the bone which had become lodged in her larynx. Without the prompt attention of her handler, she might have suffocated to death. Some adult dogs become very possessive when chewing on rawhides and may snap at anyone trying to disturb them when they are chewing on them which is another good reason for not giving rawhides to adult Bullmastiffs. I give Galileo bones to my adult Bullmastiffs. They are made by nylabone and are available from RCSteele and most pet supply stores.
If you have trouble with your dog chewing on furniture, bedding or any other objects you think inappropriate for such use, get Bitter Apple. This is a terrible tasting liquid which you can spray on furniture, rugs, bedding etc. and discourage the puppy from chewing. You should always check your dog’s mouth whatever age he is to see if he teeth are clean and in tact. If there teeth have plaque on them you should have your vet clean them. If a dog breaks one of his teeth, usually it is one of the canines, he still can be shown as long as you don’t do anything to correct the injury. If the vet does a root canal or makes a cap for the broken tooth, this is considered the type of corrective surgery that disqualifies a dog from being shown in breed conformation.
Breeders all have the favorite ways of taping Bullmastiff’s ears. I have found that duct tape works very well; elastoplast adhesive tape, an expensive type of adhesive that you usually have to special order through your pharmacist also is good. Be sure to use tape that is at least two inches wide. Make a pattern of the dogs ear on a piece of paper and use it to cut two pieces of tape in the shape of the dog’s ear, one to put on the inside and the other on the outside of the ear so that the ear is made to lie V-shaped and cannot be folded. You may need to attach a strap of duct tape to each ear, making the two straps long enough so that you can tie them together under the dog’s chin. This will discourage the puppy from shaking his ears or scratching the tape off his ears.
Some breeders like to glue a weight to the inside of the taped ear; I don’t recommend this because if the weight comes off and you are not around to pick it up, the puppy may swallow it. The advantage of using duct tape is that is very sticky and usually stays on long enough to correct the ear carriage.
Some breeders prefer to use Dr. Scholl’s callus pads instead of tape. The callus pads are tear shaped and fit perfectly inside the ear. If you spray ether (car starter) on the adhesive before you put it on the ear, it will make it even stickier.
There is a wonderful booklet on Bringing up a Bullmastiff Puppy by Mona Lindau Webb that I urge every prospective puppy owner to memorize before he gets his new dog. If you have done this, you can disregard this section on housebreaking and socialization. If you follow Mona’s recommendations you can’t go wrong. For what they are worth, these are my recommendations as far as housebreaking and socialization are concerned. The best way to housebreak your puppy is to start putting him outside to go to the bathroom as soon as you get him. Paper training him first is a big mistake, it confuses the puppy to be taught first that he should go to the bathroom on newspapers and then taught to go outside. Newspapers are dirty (from printers ink) and aren’t much fun to pick up when they are all wet and shredded. (I never use newspapers in raising a litter. I use towels and the fake lambskin blankets because they are very easy to wash with bleach.)
Housebreaking is always more effective when it is done in a positive way - praise the puppy when he does the right thing, don’t punish him for going to the bathroom inside. Often the puppy urinates inside because you have not taken him out soon enough. When you punish the puppy for defecating inside, he may interpret that as meaning that he is being punished for going to the bathroom - not for where he goes. If you are having problems with frequent urination or defecation - in the house, the problem can sometimes be aggravated by the fact that the dog has worms or a urinary tract infection. Don’t allow the housebreaking process to be come such a big deal that the puppy figures out that this is a way he can get a rise out of you.
Remember also that a dog does not have the musculature around his bladder to hold his urine until he is six months of age. Before this there is no way to stop him from going to the bathroom when he has to go unless you are around to take him outside.
Once your Bullmastiff puppy has finished getting the vaccinations he requires, between four and five months of age get him out as much as possible for rides in the car, introductions to new people and places. This is also a good time to take him for beginners obedience.
There are a variety of ways to locate a good obedience class. If you have a friend with a young dog, ask if the dog attended training class. There may be information on your vet’s bulletin board. You can also telephone the American Kennel Club and get information on the licensed and member obedience clubs in your area.
Puppy kindergartens are good for you and your puppy if you have not had a puppy in a long time. They are usually designed to teach new owners about crate training and housebreaking and don't do all that much training of the puppies themselves. The puppies spend most of the time playing while their owners learn. Puppy kindergartens can be really good for puppies that come from single puppy litters.
Try to check out the obedience class before you enroll your dog in the class. You may not like the training methods of the instructors or decide that a particular trainer is very heavy handed. Some trainers do not like working with large dogs. I recommend trainers and classes that use positive methods of training the dog.
When you and your puppy start the class, your Bullmastiff may not have the endurance to keep up for the entire session. Don’t be embarrassed to stop when you think your dog is tired and not able to concentrate or enjoy the class. If your Bullmastiff is hard to control on a regular choker collar, a pinch collar is effective and humane and will make it a lot easier to control and teach the dog.
Bullmastiffs are a very intelligent breed. Each individual dog will have a slightly different aptitude, but as a general rule, Bullmastiffs don’t like lot of repetition. Try and make the training interesting and varied. Your dog will be much a better worker if he enjoys the class and the training you do at home. As a general rule, only give your dog a command once, and enforce the command if the dog does not do what you tell him. I don’t think it is a good idea to allow your children to give the dog obedience commands and get the dog to sit or down or any of the other instructions they may have seen you giving. A child is likely to be very repetitive - saying sit over and over again - and they are not physically able to follow through on getting the dog to do what he is told.
When you take your Bullmastiff to beginners obedience, you will see how he relates to other dogs. If you have a male puppy, don’t introduce him to older males. He should get along with the other bitches in the class. In tact males do not get along as adults and adult males may not like young male puppies. Don’t ever think that your male Bullmastiff could be an exception. Bitches usually get along with other dog - males and females - but some bitches that have an alpha type personality may not like other bitches and will try and boss the males. Most males are willing to be bossed by a bitch. When you are out in public with your dog, it is better to avoid contact with strange dogs. You don’t know what their temperaments are or if they have some infectious disease or parasite.
In addition to the obedience class, make an effort to introduce the young dog to different people and different situations. Some Bullmastiffs are particularly sound sensitive and others seem to notice things much more keenly than the average dog. If your puppy appears a little sound sensitive, expose him to noise, loud noise, so he get used to it. Airports, malls (that allow dogs) or any place with a loud speaker system are good places to take your dog so that he can get used to noise. Sit with the puppy and reassure him if he is anxious about the noise.
Some Bullmastiffs are very sensitive to what is going around them visually. They may be scared of things at eye level such as hydrants or garbage cans. If your Bullmastiff is "sight sensitive", try walking him up to whatever concerns him and have him sit or stand in front of it, praise and reassure him, and he will realize that what he sees won’t hurt him.
Many people are afraid of dogs, and the larger the dog the more afraid they usually get. Your Bullmastiff should not take advantage of this fear, but he may sense it right away. If you want to introduce your dog to the postman, your in-laws etc. it is wise to ask first if they like dogs. It is better for you and your dog if you do not make the effort to introduce him to someone who is afraid of him and does not appreciate or want his company.
No matter how well trained your dog may be, how beautifully he does the recall in class or in your backyard, we recommend that you never allow him to run loose in the street or a public park. You have no way of anticipating if your dog is off leash when he is going to meet an unfriendly dog or car. The best outdoor set up for a Bullmastiff is a fenced-in yard. Tying any dog up is a very bad idea and not recommended at all, except for emergency situations where the dog needs to go to the bathroom, and in such emergencies the dog is much better off being exercised on a leash. If you can’t fence in all or part of your yard, a free standing chain link pen works well and if you move you can take it with you. You can have these pens made to order by a fence company, or buy the pens at pet supply stores, Home Depot, etc.
No breeder can accurately predict the adult size of a seven-week-old puppy. He can’t tell with any certainty if he will be the size of the parents or one of his grandparents. The puppy that is the largest one in a six week old litter of eight puppies won’t necessarily be the largest at one or two years of age. The owner of a puppy should do everything he can safely do to prolong the growth period of the dog. The most effective way to do this is to use a low protein (22%) diet and to keep the puppy lean. His ribs should not show and he should not have any extra puppy fat. Excess weight puts unnecessary stress on the growing dog who is already experiencing the normal stress of growth and teething. The dog’s adult size - his height and his bone structure - is programmed by the dog’s genes. A dog on a high protein food that promotes rapid growth may be slightly taller at six and nine months of age than he would be on a lower protein food. He will probably be heavier at these ages on the higher protein diet and he is more likely to have skeletal problems. Whether or not he gets OCD because he has grown so fast, this dog will not be taller as an adult than he would have been if he had been fed a lower protein food.
By the time the puppy is six months of age, depending on how he is being fed, he should be at least 60% of his adult weight. By nine months of age he should be within an inch and a half of his adult height. He will continue to grow in height until he is between fifteen and eighteen months old. When a dog gets his preliminary hip evaluation done between 12 and 18 months of age, the radiologist should be able to tell if his growth plates have closed or if he will continue to get more length to his long bones and more heights.
A Bullmastiff may take up to three years to get his adult body - the substance, depth of chest, spring of rib that typifies a Bullmastiff. His head will take almost as long to mature. The dog’s head at a year will be a lot narrower than it will be at two years, and at two years of age with more width to the back skull, the muzzle will appear shorter and the stop may be more defined.
Bullmastiffs are a short hair breed so they are relatively easy to keep clean and nicely groomed. They should be bathed regularly, their nails should be trimmed, and their ears and teeth checked to see if they need attention.
Every dog should have a bath at least once a year depending how dirty they are allowed to get. Some dogs love to roll around in the grass or sand and will get dirty quicker than a Bullmastiff couch potato.
You can buy dog shampoo at the vet, hardware store, or pet supply store. Do not use human shampoo! The pH of a dogs skin is different from ours and human shampoo may give the dog dermatitis. If you do not have any shampoo designed for dogs, you can use a mild dish washing soap such as Ivory or El. It is best to be cautious about using products that are not specifically designed for use by dogs. Some dishwasher detergents contain ethanol, which can cause problems when absorbed through the skin. If you notice that your dog has dry skin when you give him a bath put a teaspoonful of vegetable oil in his food. If he has callouses, put hemorrhoidal ointment on them to keep them soft.
During the winter, some dogs will get a "snow" nose. Their nose and the pigment in their mouth turns pink. The best way to treat this is to add kelp to the dog’s diet or to give him Silica which will darken the pigment.
If your dog should be sprayed by a skunk the thing to use is either vinegar (diluted in water), or Massengils douche solution. Any one of these acidic products will effectively get rid of the odor though it may require a couple of bathes before the smell goes away completely.
It is important to keep your dogs ears clean. Use mineral oil or witchhazel and a cotton swab. Do not use a q-tip since you might puncture the dog’s eardrum. Some Bullmastiffs produce an excessive amount of wax. In that case your vet may provide you with a special solution to use to keep his ears clean. Quite a few Bullmastiffs have chronic ear problems. You should check your dog’s ears regularly. Inflammations or infections can usually be successfully treated either with panta or gentocin drops.
Some Bullmastiffs will wear their nails down somewhat walking on cement. Others don’t. If you want to show your dog, it is crucial that he have short nails, the better to show off their cat feet, no dog should be allowed to have excessively long nails which will cause the feet to splay. If you let the nails grow very long without ever cutting them the quick will grow as well, and the only way to get the nails back to their proper length is to have the vet anesthetize the dog and cut/saw the nails - and quick - back to the correct length, cauterize the tips, and put the dog on antibiotics to prevent the nails from getting infected. This is a drastic solution to a problem that can easily be prevented.
We recommend that the dog’s nails be clipped or filed at least once a week, starting when you get him as an eight week old puppy. A guillotine type nail clipper or a Big Dog Nail Clipper works well; the nice thing about the Big Dog Nail clipper is that the blade stays sharp and does not have to be changed. Buy some Quick Stop at the same time you get the clippers to use if you accidentally cut the dogs quick. If you do make one of the nails bleed and there is no Quick Stop handy, cornstarch or softened hand soap can usually stop the bleeding. I find filing the dog’s nails with a bastard file is just as effective. and you are much less likely to cut the quick I start filing the puppy’snails when the pup is three months old and do it at least twice a week. This way he gets used to having his paws handled as well as his nails manicured. If you start trimming your dog’s nails when he is young and easy to immobilize, he will become used to having it done and won’t fight it as an adult.
It is really important to keep a record of every trip your dog makes to the doctor. The form at the back of this handbook will help you keep track of when the dog has been vaccinated and wormed. Whenever you are at the veterinarians for a routine visit or the diagnosis of a special problem, don’t hesitate to ask him what he is doing, what lab tests he is having done, what medicine he is prescribing, and what is the exact name and nature of what he is diagnosing. If it is your local vet, ask him in a gentle way how often he has seen the problem. If this is the first time he has diagnosed this particular problem, you may decide you need a second opinion. Write down what the veterinarian says, so if you want to discuss it with another vet or with me you will have the specifics.
The adult Bullmastiff should only have go to the vet’s once a year for his heartworm check and distemper and parvo booster if he is otherwise healthy. If you live in an area where parvo is a problem or if you show the dog, your vet may recommend vaccinating the dog twice a year and check the dog at least this often for parasites. It behooves you to take the trouble to locate a vet who if not experienced with Bullmastiffs knows about large and giant breeds.
When your dog gets his second rabies shot, between 12 and 18 months of age, you should schedule him for a preliminary hip and elbow evaluation. When you have these x-rays done be sure to have a copy of the dog’s AKC registration papers which can be kept with his records at the animal hospital. The veterinarian will need the dogs AKC registration number to put on the plate and the dog’s registered name as well as his AKC number to fill out the OFA application. Getting a preliminary evaluation done by the OFA is very worthwhile. It takes less time than when you submit them at two years of age for certification and the OFA’s evaluation of the x-rays is likely to be more expert than the one you get from the veterinarian who took the X-rays. Sometimes the OFA will return the x-rays and say that the dog has not been properly positioned. The vet should be willing to reoccur the dog for little or no charge. When the hips and elbows are x-rayed, the dog is sedated, not anesthetized. He will only be knocked out for a few minutes and should be able to walk out to the car within minutes of the x-ray. If you have trouble clipping his nails, you should get the vet to do this when the dog is sedated. If these is any problem with the preliminary x-rays, when the dog is old enough to have his hips certified (two years old), find a Board certified radiologist who is an expert and correctly positioning the dog. The positioning of the dog is crucial. When it is done by an expert, it usually will mean that the dog will get a rating of good instead of fair or may mean the difference between getting a passing evaluation instead of failing to be certified.
As I mentioned earlier, if you bought your puppy as a pet and do not intend to breed or show him, neutering him will prolong his life and will not affect his temperament (he or she will be just as good a guard dog and companion neutered). Neutering can make dogs more stable and should prolong their life. A bitch can be spayed at six months of age before she comes into heat. Bitches that are neutered at a young age do not get breast cancer. It is a good idea to neuter male at eight months or younger because he will not have testosterone in his system yet - and will never get it. Such a male usually will not be a problem with other in tact males. A neutered male will not develop prostate problems, which can be a problem in intact males starting around five years of age. If you suspect your adult intact male Bullmastiff has prostate problems - you may notice blood in the dog’s urine - ultrasounding the prostate is the best way to diagnose a problem. The only truly effective treatment of an enlarged prostate is castration.
A spayed bitch is likely to have fewer health problems. If you do not spay your Bullmastiff, she risks they chance of getting pyometra a month to two months after every heat. The older she gets, the greater the risk becomes. An unspayed bitch should also be routinely checked for lumps in her breasts.
It is important to read and learn about health problems in dogs and Bullmastiffs, in particular. There are some problems that if detected early are simple to treat at home without going to the vet, such as taking care of a hot spot. As a general rule, however, do not think that you know more than the vet and decide that you can diagnose and medicate your Bullmastiff without consulting your veterinarian. It could have disastrous results. If you dog’s coat is dull, for example, and you think he may be hypothyroid, do not put him on synthroid for the hypothyroidism without having the necessary testing done to confirm his thyroid levels. If you medicate your dog without getting him properly diagnosed, you may make it more difficult for the vet to come up with the correct diagnosis and in some cases you may do serious damage to your dog’s prospects for recovery. Hypothyroidism sometimes can contribute to cardiac arrhythmia’s; if the dog has both conditions, he has to be put on an extremely low dose of synthroid because it may make the heart arrhythmia’s worse instead of better. A normal dose might kill the dog. If you think your dog has an infection, don’t put him on leftover antibiotics that you may have at home. They may not be sensitive to what is causing the infection and once the dog is on the antibiotics the blood testing to determine what the infection is being caused by will be compromised.
I do not intend to list in this section all the health problems your Bullmastiff might develop. I am not a veterinarian and your veterinarian should be able to help your Bullmastiff with minor problems. As a general rule I would urge you to follow the advice you would follow for yourself. If your dog appears to have something more than a minor health problem, go to a specialist. Veterinarians can be certified as specialists in orthopedics, dermatology, ophthalmology, cardiology/internal medicine, oncology and neurology. These specialists have received special training in their area of expertise, training and diagnostic skills your local veterinarian is unlikely to have; these specialists also have access to much more sophisticated equipment with which to make their diagnoses and have knowledge of the newest treatment methods. Typically they are to be found at veterinary schools or large animal hospitals like the Angell Memorial in Boston or the Animal Medical Center in New York City. In the long run, you will probably not pay much more to go to a specialist than to see if your local veterinarian can come up with the correct diagnosis because the specialist will be quicker to recognize the symptoms and may not have to do as much testing to determine what is wrong with the dog.
The most common problem that Bullmastiffs experience between six months and a year experience is lameness. Don’t ever wait more than a couple of days to talk to your vet and make an appointment to have it diagnosed. If possible have the dog - or his x-rays - evaluated by a Board certified orthopedic surgeon. I can’t tell you how many horror stories I have heard about dogs (not all of them bred by me, mind you) who have been misdiagnosed by a veterinary general practitioner or by the breeder. Some vets who I describe as general practitioners may not even be able to figure out what is the correct joint or bone to x-ray. If and when your Bullmastiff becomes lame, the best advice to follow until you see the vet is not to let him get a lot of exercise - do not take him for walks or allow him to play with another dog; check to see the per cent of protein in the dry food you are feeding him. Consider switching him to something lower (18%) to try and slow down the growth process if the dog is young (under a year)
Some breeders and some owners try to avoid x-raying their dogs when they are lame and too often attribute lameness to panosteitis. Panosteitis is a long bone lameness and typically affects the forearms, upper arms, shinbone and thighbones. The disease has a tendency to reoccur, either in the same leg or in different legs. It is a self-limiting disease of varying duration that does not require surgery. Most dogs do not get it after 18 months of age. Generally the more severe the lameness the longer the time period during which the dog is lame. It can be tricky to diagnose with x-rays since unless they are taken at the right time, the increased, mottled density in the bone medullary canal cannot be seen. Vets typically prescribe buffered aspirins (not coated since dogs do not digest the coatings, which are designed to be dissolved by the acid in a human’s stomach which has a different pH from the dog’s stomach), phenylbutazone, steroids, and Adequan. None of these work very well, and some vets have found that treating dogs with Albon or Bactrovet which are sulfadimethoxines eliminated the clinical signs within two days. These are antibacterial drugs which suggest that the disease is infectious.
When a dog first develops an orthopedic problem you are most likely to notice it when he is trotting. As the problem develops, you will see it at all speeds including walking.
If you notice lameness in the dog’s front, particularly at six months of age, have the dog’s elbows and shoulders x-rayed. Six months is the age when a puppy will develop ununited anchoneal process or ununited coronoid process in one or both elbows. These processes are small chips of bone, which are supposed to fuse with the elbow when the dog is about six months old. If they fail to unite for some reason, then they have to be removed. Surgery is the only treatment and should be done as soon as possible so that the joint does not develop a lot of arthritis. Have it done by a specialist. Ask him ahead of time where he is going to make the incision, how long it is going to be and if there will be any stitches. A good surgeon may be able to glue the incision instead of stitching it up, and he may be able to make it from the back of the leg so the scar is not as obvious.
If the puppy is lame in the front after seven months of age it is more likely to be a problem of OCD in the shoulder. It is really important to get this checked out right away. OCD starts as an inflammation of the cartilage. If OCD in the shoulder is diagnosed at the initial stages, the dog can be treated with crate rest and a lower protein food (18% senior diet). If you wait a month or two the piece of affected cartilage will get bigger, it will start to break away from the end of the scapula like a lid to a toilet seat, and eventually the piece of cartilage will totally break off. The only treatment at this stage is surgery. Again it is best to go to a specialist for the diagnosis and surgery if necessary. A good surgeon will not use a lot of stitches and won’t make a huge incision.
Dogs can also get OCD in the hock. Orthopedic specialists disagree on whether surgery actually helps.
There are other orthopedic problems the young dog can get including hypertrophic osteodystrophy which is uncommon in dogs and requires the diagnosis of an expert who has seen the symptoms before. HOD usually develops when the dog is four months of age and is characterized by overwhelming pain and an elevated temperature; it is usually accompanied by some sort of infection. Rimadyl, a newly approved nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory sold by Pfizer, has been found to be a good way of treating HOD. Steroids previously were the only option and Rimadyl is more effective and doesn’t have the side effects of steroids.
Rimadyl has also been used very effectively to treat OCD and arthritis caused by elbow and hip dysplasia, ruptured cruciates, etc.
If your teenage or adult Bullmastiff becomes completely lame in the rear all of a sudden, he may have a ruptured cruciate. The cruciate is a ligament of the knee. Initially the dog may tear only a few of the fibers and he may be slightly lame. The fibers may heal if the dog is rested. If the dog is not rested and if he is given medication to mask the pain, he most likely will tear the entire cruciate. When the cruciate tears, synovial fluid is released which encourages arthritic changes. It is really important if your dog does have a torn cruciate that he have the surgery done to repair it as soon as possible. There are different types of procedures that surgeons can do to repair ruptured cruciates. There can be a tremendous variation in cost depending on the type of procedure. The most expensive involves putting a metal plate in the knee. I personally think that this type procedure is not absolutely necessary for a Bullmastiff. It is recommended for giant breeds. Bullmastiffs are a large breed, not a giant breed. Orthopedists prefer to do only one type procedure so if the first vet you consult insists on doing the more expensive procedure with the metal plate (cost $1200 and up) you will probably have to find another surgeon to do the simpler old fashioned (and much less expensive) procedure. Don’t be surprised if the vet tries to talk you into the more expensive one with the argument that the "old fashioned" procedure may not be effective. I don’t have that much experience with dogs that have had cruciate surgery, but what I have had suggests that the simpler procedure works fine as long as you do the post surgical rehab as the surgeon prescribes and do not allow the dog to get overweight. Dogs who have had cruciate surgery can be shown but the surgery should be done immediately so that the dog doesn’t get arthritis.
There are lots of new medications that help treat pain caused by osteoarthritis. Arudis KT is now available without a prescription and can help ease the pain of arthritis from OCD, torn or partially torn cruciates etc. Rimadyl is really effective at treating arthritis and joint pain. Bear in mind, it is not always appropriate to mask pain. When a dog has a partially torn cruciate and you give him something - such as Arudis KT. This is not necessarily a good idea as it will mask the pain so the dog may over exercise and rupture the ligament completely. Arudis KT can only be given for two weeks in a row and then has to be discontinued for a certain period of time. Rimadyl can have side effects which you should test the dog for at your vet’s recommendation.
One of the big killers of dogs is cancer. Bullmastiffs commonly get mast cell tumors. These are cancerous skin tumors that can be removed successfully by your local vet. The tumor should be sent to a lab to see if it has been completely removed. If it has not been completely removed, the oncologist may recommend chemotherapy. I personally feel that any form of chemotherapy over and above the administration of prednisone does nothing to improve the quality of the dog’s life. The dog may become so sick from the chemotherapy that he will not enjoy the few extra months of life it may be giving him. One natural supplement that is supposed to slow the course of cancer is shark cartilage and is the only type of chemotherapy I would try.
Bullmastiffs can also get cancer of the bone and connective tissue, lymphoma, and other types I don’t even know about. Usually by the time they are diagnosed the cancer has metastasized and it is too late to cut the cancer out.
If your dog has something that seems like a seizure, try and locate a veterinary cardiologist or neurologist. Some seizures may really be tachycardias, caused by heart arrhythmia’s. These can be regulated with medicine. If the dog’s seizure is caused by a neurological problems there are new treatment methods that may be better than the Phenobarbitall your local vet most likely would prescribe.
Bullmastiffs can have skin problems. One of the most common of these is hot spots, a type of moist eczema which Bullmastiffs usually get in the summer. If you notice a hot spot right away, you can treat it at home by cleaning it thoroughly with hydrogen peroxide or witch hazel and then putting Gold Bond powder on it. One of the places a hot spot can start is under the ear flap and if you don’t check there, you may not discover the hot spot until it so large that the hair around it has to be shaved and the dog may require a shot of prednisone.
As youngsters, Bullmastiffs may get pustules on their muzzles, it is like teenage acne. If you put your dog on Fresh Factors or shark cartilage these should disappear. Sometimes the feet of the Bullmastiff will become inflamed either from licking or a finagle infection. A good way of treating their feet is to clean them thoroughly with Tucks medicated hemorrhoidal pads and then putting Gold Bond powder on the feet, particularly between the toes, so that the inflammation will go away. If the dog has sores on his feet, Hydro Plus, a solution that you have to get from your veterinarian, is wonderful at drying up and healing the sores; it is a combination of Domboro, gentocin, and banamine.
Occasionally a Bullmastiff will develop sores or pustules on his body that will not respond to the antibiotic therapy your vet may prescribe. Such dogs most typically have a staph allergy. It is easy to treat - and relatively inexpensive - with injections of staph lysase. Once the allergy is treated the antibiotics will clear up any skin problems and usually the problems go away completely. If you do not treat the allergy the skin condition will worsen and sometimes the infection will go into the blood or bone with disastrous results. This should never happen because the allergy is so easy to take care of.
If your dogs get fleas he may develop an allergic reaction to the flea bites. He might get open sours on his body, experience some hair loss, and his skin will look pink and irritated. The way to treat this is to get rid of the fleas. If you live in an area where fleas are a problem, you should put your dogs and cats on Program, a once a month treatment that can be started as soon as your animals are clean of fleas (and your house and possibly your car has been sprayed or bombed to kill the fleas). The only dog that cannot be given Program is a nursing bitch because the medication will concentrate in her milk.
Some dogs have allergies to dust, fungus, pollen etc. They will lose the hair on their legs and other parts of the body and be in tremendous discomfort if the allergy is not treated. There is a blood test that can be done that will diagnose what the dog is allergic to and then a bactrin can be made especially for your dog, which will treat the dog’s allergy. Diagnosing the allergy with the blood (eliza) test is just as effective as the alternate procedure where the dog has to have a portion of his coat shaved.
Allergies usually have to be treated for the lifetime of the dog. If you do not keep the dog clear of fleas or if you are not conscientious about giving him the bactrin, the skin problems will return. One thing you should do with any Bullmastiffs with skin problems or allergies is have them tested to see if they are hypothyroid.
Some Bullmastiffs have food allergies. The symptoms would be dry or scaly skin, ear and feet problems. The most common food they can be allergic to are chicken and wheat. There are special diets that are great for dogs with food allergies. They are prescription diets that you have to get from your vet - either fish and potatoes, duck and potatoes or venison and potatoes. If you think your dog has food allergies and you put him on one of these special diets, don’t give him treats such as milk bones that may contain ingredients that he is allergic too.
Virtually all the inquiries I get about Bullmastiffs include questions such as how are Bullmastiffs with children? or Isn’t it true Bullmastiffs will take a lot of nonsense from children? Usually my answer to such questions is something to the effect that Bullmastiffs are usually fine with children, provided the children are good with them.
When I get an inquiry from someone who wants to buy a puppy, I prefer to interview the entire family at my home if it is at all possible. This is the best way to see how the whole family interacts with dogs and each other. If one of the children appears to be overly afraid of dogs or will not obey the instructions of the parents, I will not sell the family a puppy. This is the type of family situation in which problems can develop down the road.
It has been my experience that parents whose children have no manners including no manners around dogs, are the type of adults who also don’t teach manners to the family pet. In such an environment, you cannot expect the dog to be well behaved around the children and via versa. If parents do not teach their children how to act around their own dog and allow them do whatever they want to the dog - interfere with the dog while eating, throw things at the animal or do any of the things listed below - then the child - and his family - may have to deal with the consequences. It may not be the consequences of how the family’s dog reacts, but the neighbor dog or a friend’s dog who is not used to being challenged by a child.
Some children are too young to accept responsibility for their actions and to be trusted around pets. Such children should be supervised around pets - otherwise they may get into trouble.
There has been a number of highly publicized cases of children getting hurt or killed by dogs and wolf- hybrids. Many of these incidents occurred when these young children were unsupervised. If the child had been properly supervised by his parents, baby-sitter, teacher or whoever was supposed to have been responsible for him at the, the incident might never have occurred.
These are my recommendations on how to handle the issue of Bullmastiffs and children. If you take the trouble to teach your child how to behave around your dog, then you will know that when your child is visiting the neighbor, he should know how to deal with the neighbor’s Rottweiler or his friend’s Chihuahua. If you haven’t taught your child how to behave around your own dog, you won’t be able to trust him around someone else’s dog who may be highly unpredictable and not used to being around children.
I sometimes get calls from people saying they want to get a Bullmastiff puppy for their son or daughter. Little Mary has been so good at home or done so well at school that they want to reward her by giving her the new puppy she has requested. If you are planning to get a Bullmastiff for your child, don’t get a dog if you expect your child to assume total responsibility for taking total care of the new puppy. An adult Bullmastiff will probably going to weigh more than your child, and a child is physically and intellectually too immature to assume responsibility for the care of a dog. It is highly unlikely that any teenager that is given total responsibility for the new puppy is going to be able to pay for the dog’s veterinary care, particularly if he needs some kind of surgery, like neutering or spaying. The teenager should be encouraged to save his money for college, not for the dog’s vet bills or show expenses. It is great if you decide to get a Bullmastiff for your family, but the parents are the ones who must assume responsibility for the dog. You must explain to your child that the dog is a new member of the family and, as would be the case with any other new member of the family, the parents are the ones who make the final decisions affecting the dog. Obviously you will listen to the child’s recommendations about the dogs care or training but you need your ultimate approval.
A well socialized Bullmastiff will generally not care if he is disturbed or interfered with when he is being fed - he will not be insecure around food because he should know that when he is being fed it is not going to be his last meal. However, I think children should be taught not to disturb the dog when he is eating. When you give the puppy/dog his dinner, you want him to concentrate on eating. If your kids are allowed to tease or distract him when he is supposed to be eating, he may not finish his meal and he may not want a child interfering with him as he is trying to find every kernel of food that have escaped from his bowl as a result of his eating so fast and feverishly. If a parent teaches his child to leave the family dog along while he is eating his dinner, then he can feel reasonably confident that when his son or daughter is visiting a friend, he will remember that it is not proper etiquette to disturb the friends dog when he is eating.
It is important that parents and their children understand that the parents are the ones who make the following rules: when to let the dog in or out of the house (the child should not open the front door to allow someone in if that means that the dog will have the opportunity to run outside where he can either escape from your property or interfere with some activity in the back yard that you don’t want him to be around); when to let the dog out of his crate (if he sleeps or eats in his crate); who is allowed to take the dog for walks; who handles or trains the dog.
Children are usually physically too small to reinforce a command such as sit or down. To train a dog correctly, a command should only be given once and then enforced if not obeyed. A command is only given when necessary and if the dog is told to sit he must be made to sit. If a dog has been naughty, it may be appropriate to put him in a down and make him stay down for ten minutes. If the puppy/dog does not do what is asked, the command should not be repeated over and over again, as children typically like to do, as this may give the puppy/dog the impression he is getting away with something.
Most Bullmastiffs know that the child cannot make them do what they want and probably won’t obey a child’s instructions. It teaches the dog bad habits - of getting away with a command they should obey - if you tolerate your child’s repeatedly telling the pet to do something that the pet won’t do at least initially until he gets the proper reinforcement. Besides, there are lots of occasions when a child may think it’s appropriate for the dog to sit, when it’s really not necessary. If a person really want’s to involve his child in obedience training the family pet, he probably should invest in a breed that is not as independent a thinker as the Bullmastiff.
Children usually do not like it when the dog chews on their toys. Parents and children should all learn to keep the toys away from the dog. Do not allow the dog access to the play areas where the toys are scattered around on the floor. Likewise, children should learn that the dog has his toys - his bones and other chewies. Parents should be very firm with their children in explaining to the that they should never try to take the dog’s toy away from him when he is playing with it and that they should not jump on the dog, grab at him or put their head on the dog’s shoulders when the dog is chewing his bone. In all probability the dog (any dog) won’t do anything if the are disturbed while chewing on a bone, but sometimes they are so absorbed in enjoying the toy or like it so much (such as a rawhide chewy which I think is a BIG mistake to give any dog - and not just for this reason) that they may snap at the child as if to tell them, leave me alone. In cases where the dog snaps at a child who is disturbing him while he is chewing on a bone, the dog is always the one blamed, and the child may end up with a temporary or permanent fear of the dog. In a situation such as this, blame should be divided equally, but unfortunately some of the time the reaction of the child, and the dog’s verbal inability to defend himself, create an untenable situation.
Children should not get at eye level with the dog to play at seeing who will blink first. Direct eye contact is very threatening to some dogs who will feel challenged.
It should not have to be reiterated, perhaps, but you should remind kids (and adults!!) not to blow air in a dog’s face (the dog’s reaction most likely will be to snap back), to run away from a dog (the dog’s instinct will be to chase and immobilize), to spray water at the dog, throw things at him, or ride him like he’s a pony. Do not tease or interfere with a dog that is tied/chained up.
It is unwise for parents to allow their children to play unsupervised with their friends around the family dog. Parents cannot be sure if these friends are afraid of the dog or will tease him. They cannot be sure if the friends will poke the dog in the eye, pinch his testicles, jump on him unexpectedly etc. etc. If something happens to one of your children’s friends when the parents are not around, the dog is going to be blamed, even though he may not be totally at fault.
Parents of a new baby/young child use common sense in supervising the introduction and resulting relationship between their two babies (the human one and the canine one). Some dogs get very attached to the baby and will not like it if you attempt to correct the child or spank him when the dog is around, he may try to get between you and the baby and take your arm in his mouth to prevent you from spanking the baby.
There is nothing more frustrating as a breeder and someone who is the ultimate Bullmastiff lover to hear of a situation where a Bullmastiff has been punished because a rule that seems so logical has not been followed. I was involved in a rescue case of a four-year-old Bullmastiff male. He was adopted by a family that had had a Bullmastiff in the past and I was assured that the children who were young teenagers were very good with dogs. They were really excited about getting this new Bullmastiff and bought him a lot of new toys. The second day the dog was in his new home, the teenage son decided to put his head on the shoulder of the dog while he was munching on the rawhide chew toy. This may have been the first time the dog had ever had his own bone or his own rawhide bone - even better! The teenager made no noise as he approached the dog and when the dog felt the weight of the kid’s head on his shoulders, he turned his head and snapped - scraping the skin on the boy’s forehead - nothing very serious, nothing that required stitches or hospital care. The laws of the state in which this occurred were that whenever there was an incident in which a dog bite occurred, the dog had to be put to sleep right away and his head necropsied to see if he had rabies - it did not matter what the history of rabies vaccinations was. This incident should never have happened. The kid should have been taught to leave the dog alone while he was enjoying his bone.
Bullmastiffs love to be hugged and petted by children - provided they do not interfere with him when he is eating or chewing on his toy. Bullmastiffs love to play with children. Some Bullmastiffs will play fetch with children. All love to give kisses and get kisses and hugs back. Bullmastiffs love to snuggle and go for walks and rides in the car. If your child is allowed to be rough with the dog, he probably will display the same manners with his friends and his friend’s dog, neither of which are desirable - in my opinion. The properly trained Bullmastiff is proud and respectful of his family and will willingly put his life on the line to protect those he loves. The profits of a child’s relationship with the family pet should far outweigh the responsibility of teaching these special rules that the child must observe when he is around the dog.
When I first start writing these Recommendations, my advice/suggestions were based on my experience as a breeder/exhibitor. This has been enhanced by my experience as a judge of Bullmastiffs and other working and non sporting breeds. I have had the thrill of judging Bullmastiffs all over the world. Bullmastiffs are successful whatever their homeland because their exhibitors/owners follow commonsense guidelines.
A lot of advance preparation and training is required to show your Bullmastiff in conformation. It is critical that you check him carefully as he is maturing from a puppy into an adult. The bite is important. If you do not insure that the baby canines have fallen out before the adult canines broken through the gums, then the adult teeth may end up in the wrong position - permanently, and he may end up with a wry bite or with a canine out of position.
It is also important to tape his ears if necessary. Not all puppies have to have this done, but if he folds one or both ears for more than a few days, take action. If the dogs ears are folded and you wait too long - until he is more than six months of age - the cartilage in his ears may stiffen, and it may be impossible to get rid of the fold.
You should make sure your dog is used to having his nails trimmed, and keep them short.
You should not have trouble locating a class that teaches breed handling. Some all breed clubs offer such instruction. If there are none in your area, you should start by doing beginning obedience. Putting your dog through beginner’s obedience will not ruin him as far as his behavior in the show ring is concerned. If your dog is familiar with the verbal or hand signal for stand, you should not have too much trouble keeping him standing in the breed ring as required. This will also get your dog used to being around other dogs and other breeds. Sometimes it works better if one person works the dog in obedience and another shows him for conformation points.
Classes that teach attention training can be really helpful, plus going to shows and watch what is being done.
You may want to enter your puppy in a match to give him a taste of the dog show experience. All breed clubs put these on at least once a year, and in some parts of the country, there are match show bulletins which list the dates, locations, and judging panels for the matches. Matches are a good way for you to perfect your handling skills and to get some experience in a show situation. Most of the judges are novices so take what the judge says about your puppy with a grain of salt since this may be the first time the judge has ever examined a Bullmastiff.
To be successful in the show ring, the more serious you are about it, the more likely you are to achieve your goal which presumably is for your Bullmastiff to get his championship title (or obedience degree.) I am really only qualified to what I think can be done to insure your dog’s success in the show ring.
Some Bullmastiffs are ready for the show ring as young as seven or eight months. There is no experience equivalent to being at an all breed show so you are better off entering your puppy when you feel he is almost ready to win. If he is almost ready win, it may be he can win, if you have done your homework ahead of time. If he doesn’t win, taking him to the dog show will help you see what problems you still have to work on inside and outside the show ring. Outside the ring, you may have to spend time getting him used to walking under the tent or teaching him to disregard the noise of the public address system. Inside the ring, you may find you are not quite as fast at setting him up or attentive at listening to the judge’s instructions as you can be with more practice.
The best way to learn about upcoming shows is by subscribing to the AKC Gazette. Its Events Magazine lists all the information you need to know about the shows and also includes the names, address, and phone numbers of the dog show superintendents from whom you can request a premium list for the show. If you have access to the internet, you can get detailed show schedules through the AKC website and the websites for the different show superintendents.
Before you take you Bullmastiff to any show or match, be sure your dog is clean. Sometimes if the show grounds are dusty you will have to wipe the dog off with a damp cloth just before he goes in the ring. Bullmastiffs are shown with their whiskers trimmed or in tact. Whether you cut the whiskers off, I think depends on what the whiskers are like and how they may affect the appearance of this muzzle. If they are short and curly, I recommend cutting them off. If they are long and you don’t really notice them when you look at the dog, then leave them. The Bullmastiff should not be faulted one way or the other for presence or absence of whiskers. Use the lightest choker collar you can on the dog but make sure the collar is strong enough that you can control him. Pinch collars are not allowed at dog shows, nor can dogs be shown shaved (from some kind of surgery or hot spot) with or without sutures.
As a breeder and a judge, I think it is really important that anyone interested in showing his Bullmastiff be familiar with the Bullmastiff standard. This standard is more general than many breed standards. If you familiarize yourself with it, you will understand what the standard describes as ideal and can try to exhibit your dog in the most "ideal" fashion possible. It will also help you understand any comments the judge makes to you about your dog. You should also familiarize yourself with the AKC Rules and Regulations for Dogs Shows. There are certain surgical procedures that make you dog ineligible to be shown. Dogs that have surgery to correct entropion or dental surgery cannot be shown, and neutered dogs can only be entered in the veterans classes at independent specialties. Dogs that have had some kinds of orthopedic surgery, including cruciate surgery, can be shown, but other types of surgery disqualify the dog. If you have any questions, call the AKC. Judges do not like to be put in the position of being veterinarians trying to figure out if an exhibit has had some kind of "illegal" procedure. The best thing is not to put the judge in that position.
The day of the show, it is best to get to the show well before the Bullmastiffs are scheduled to be judged. Some shows have delays in getting dogs into the grounds or the parking area so you have to make allowances for this. It may take a while to walk with your dog to the show ring. If possible you should allow for enough time to watch the judge judging other breeds so you can see what ring procedure he use. The best thing to do is to leave the dog in the car while you do this. If possible leave him in a crate so you can roll down the windows to keep the dog cool, have a pail of water clipped to his crate, and if it’s really hot, you can clip solar blankets over your car windows and put one or two of the battery run fans on his crate to keep the dog comfortable.
As far as the actual judging goes, these are a lot of things that can contribute to the judge’s final selections.
When the judges starts to judge a class, he usually will ask that the dogs be brought into the ring and set up in front to back. The ring steward will tell the exhibitor where the dogs are to be set up and if they are to do it in catalog order. A lot of judges (myself included) feel the dog’s silhouette/profile is the best angle to assess the balance and structure of the dog and a good way to evaluate the head in profile, making sure its size compliments the body and that the relationship between muzzle length to overall length of head form occiput to nose is correct. This initial evaluation can be really critical. A judge often sees things he likes or dislikes about the dog when he watches the dogs being brought into the ring so that the judge can check off the armband. You should pay attention that when you bring your dog in the ring he looks at his best.
When you bring the dog into the ring and set him up, bear in mind that the standard requires that the dog be slightly longer than square because a Bullmastiff that is truly square - height at shoulder equal to distance from sternum to the pin bone - would have trouble moving because at the trot the back feet would interfere too much with the front feet. The Bullmastiff standard (unlike the standards for most working breeds) says nothing about the relationship between the length of leg - foot to elbow - to the distance between the elbow and withers at its highest point. In my opinion these distances should be equal. A male Bullmastiff can look particularly attractive if the distance foot to elbow is slightly longer than distance elbow to highest point of withers. Some dogs are able to set themselves up without your help but others need to be set by the exhibitor, first the front at the elbow (not at the pasterns) and then the rear by manipulating the dog at the knees. It is really important that you learn to do this quickly so that the dog is always properly set up when the judge may be looking at him. If the dog won’t hold his head up on his own, either free bait the dog so he keeps the head up and focused or hold the collar and if necessary the dogs muzzle from the side to make the overall silhouette of the dog look as attractive as possible. It is a courtesy to the judge that you and the dog are sufficiently trained that you do not keep the judging waiting- and- watching while you try to get the dog set up and ready for the judge to go over.
Once I (and most judges) assess the dog from the side, I will approach the dog from the front to inspect his head more carefully. Many breeders feel that the Bullmastiff head is the critical contributor to the overall type and quality of the dog. Bullmastiff Judges Education tries to get that message across to prospective judges. The ideal Bullmastiff head should be blocky (the back skull the larger block, the muzzle the smaller block) with good pigment and expression. Most Bullmastiff judges get used to examining the dog’s bite themselves but really appreciate the exhibitor who can do this himself. The standard says that the bite should be even to slightly undershot. Most judges will tolerate a dog that is more than slightly undershot if the Bullmastiff is otherwise pleasing. Some judges will put up dogs with scissors bites because that is what the standard for their breed calls for. The scissors bite is not mentioned in the Bullmastiff standard so I personally consider this unacceptable. A dog with a scissors bite usually doesn’t have a strong underjaw which is important in a brachycepahic breed. I also pay particular attention to eye color, expression, ears, pigmentation, wrinkle etc.
After that I (the judge) would proceed to inspect the body of the dog more closely.
For me it is a real help if the exhibitor has the dog trained to focus on bait or a toy so that he will stand still why I go over the body. If the dog is young and not attention trained yet, it is a courtesy to the judge to lightly hold onto the dog’s muzzle so he doesn’t turn around to see what the judge is doing once he start to go over his body. If the dog turns around or won’t stand still it makes it much harder to see if the dog has the appropriate depth of chest, level topline, slight arch over the loin, correct tail set, two testicles etc. If the judge can’t examine the testicles, the dog has to be excused.
Once the judge has gone over the dog, he should ask to see the dog to move. I ask for a pattern that will allow me to see the dog move from the side, front and rear. When looking at the Bullmastiff’s side movement, his top line should remain level as he moves and the tail should be level or lower than the top line, it should not be carried in hound fashion. If the Bullmastiff is entered in the puppy class a puppy that is a little high in the rear the judge may forgive this, but he will not forgive it in an adult dog. When the judge asks you to move the dog, you should move him at a slow trot. If you race the dog around the ring, a lot of judges - myself included - will suspect you are trying to mask something in the dog’s movement. When you are moving the dog away from the judge or back to the judge, move directly from where he is standing in a straight line away or back to the judge. The judge cannot evaluate the dogs front and rear action if you don’t do that.
Once the judge has examined and gaited the class of dogs, reexamined some if necessary to help make up his mind, he will make his placements. If your dog is not first, it’s not the end of the world. When you exhibit your dog at a show, all you are paying for one man or woman’s opinion. If you lose, do so graciously. Make a note of what the judge or the dog did so that ultimately it is not a total loss. You are entitled to ask the judge for his opinion of your dog, but I don’t really encourage it. You can do this when he is giving you the ribbon - and he probably will say just a few words - or you can ask after he is through judging the breed. If the judge is a breeder judge the critique is going to be more valuable than the evaluation of someone who is not a specialist.
To increase your chance of winning, remember no dog is perfect. Don’t get so hung up about some particular thing about your dog that you cannot appreciate his overall quality. You should try to present your dog as if you have the dog that is going to win Best in Show.
Lots of times you will be competing against dogs that are professionally handled. You must feel confident in the ring, listen to what the judge asks, and pay attention the entire time you are in the ring with your dog; you never know when the judge is going to glance over at the dog. Don’t be so busy talking to or watching another exhibitor or dog that you don’t notice the judge looking over at your dog when he is not at his best. Make sure that the dog’s mouth is clean. There’s not a judge alive who appreciates slobber. There may be times when your dog deserves to win but doesn’t. You may have been out handled by a professional handler. The judge may decide to put up an older dog or he may have his own prejudices - like certain color preferences - that may interfere with him making a truly objective decision. Just remember there is always another dog show and as long as you treat this as something you and your dog can enjoy together, you will.