Friday, January 27, 2012

How to find a quality English Mastiff puppy and a reputable breeder

When looking at any English Mastiff breeder these are the things I suggest:

Be sure to ask to see all the health testing.  At absolute minimum the parents (and hopefully) grandparents should have:

  • OFA Pennhip testing done on the hips.
  • OFA done on the elbows
  • Thyroid testing
  • Cardiac testing
  • Cystinuria testing
  • PRA DNA (either the actual test or clear through parentage)
  • CERF (eye examination)
Ask to see copies of the parents registration papers.  Puppies will only be registerable if both parents have their AKC papers.

Does the breeder show their dogs?  While it is not imperative that a puppy’s parents are champions it is important that the breeder understands the breed standard and that their breedings strive to improve their dogs.  Conformation is important, many things in the Breed Standard directly link to health, form and function.  For example, a mastiff with a straight rear could be prone to cruciate problems; or a mastiff with too long a back may be at risk for Wobbler's.  Showing also is a test of a dog’s temperament – can they handle stressful situations?  Are they dog /people aggressive away from the home?  We are seeing more and more temperament problems coming from poorly bred mastiffs.  If they aren’t shown in conformation do they do therapy work; have temperament testing done (i.e. CGC, TDI or a working dog title)?  Mastiffs are large dogs and temperament is essential.

Ask why they have chosen to do this breeding.  How do they hope it will improve the breed? Are they keeping a puppy from the breeding?

Visit their home.  What are the living conditions?  Meet both parents if possible and get a feel for their temperaments.  Make sure you feel comfortable with the breeders as you should have a relationship with them for the life of the dog. If I am going to financially support a breeder I want to be darn sure I know what kind of environment the dogs are kept in.

Do they belong to a breed club?  Most reputable breeders will belong to the Mastiff Club of America which has a Code of Ethics that a breeder must adhere to.  

What age are the parents?  I wouldn’t breed before 22 months (for both males and females) when you are able to see how the dog has matured and all health testing can be completed.  I’ve seen many mastiffs that were nice as puppies and teenagers that never matured into half decent adults.   Girls should not be bred after 6 years (preferably much younger).

Ask about how often the female has been bred are they pumping out puppies not allowing the female to recover in between breedings?  How many litters does the breeder produce in a year?

How are the pups socialized?  What age do they let them go?  Pups should never, ever leave before 8 weeks, I prefer a little longer as long as they are staying with their siblings.  Dogs learn a lot about bite inhibition and how to be a dog from littermates and their mother.

Ask to see the contract beforehand and read it carefully.  If there’s something you don’t agree with don’t be shy.  Mastiffs from a quality breeder should be sold on non-breeding contracts – these can be lifted when certain health/showing requirements are met.  If you are asked to enter into a co-ownership, think about it carefully before agreeing.

And ask for references and follow up on them.  Ask around the mastiff community, as well.

Please have a look at the Mastiff Club of America website for further information about the breed, health and much more.  They also have breeder referral lists that they will send you upon request.  That's a great place to start looking for a breeder.  Another website I recommend is  There are  a ton of Mastiff resources there as well as a nice listing of health tested stud dogs and upcoming litters from all across the US.  If you need further assistance finding a quality puppy or even a rescue, please contact me and I would be happy to help you in your search.


  1. I have a question for you, maybe I missed it in one of the other posts :-(
    How does a breeder decide which pups are first picks? Are there certain qualities in a puppy that are indications that they are a good representation of the breed or would do well in shows?

    1. This is a great question. Every breeder does things a little bit differently. Some start out with what they call a wet pick, literally as the puppies are born you record everything about them and do your pick puppy then. You reevaluate at 8 weeks to see how the litter is turning out and many times it's the wet pick that is still the best candidate. Many people also say that what you see at 8 weeks as far as structure, angulation, etc are what you will see when the dog is full grown. I think this is probably a 'best guess', but when you have a breed that is literally 150 times bigger than it was a birth there are no real guarantees. Breeders just do the best they can to stack the deck in their favor. They do this with picking the best possible stud, studying pedigrees, littermates of the stud, dam, grandparents, etc.

      As far as temperament goes, generally a puppy's temperament will start to come out at 8 weeks. Brinkley was the reserved watchful puppy (according to my breeder). She is now the guard dog of my home and my 'protector'. She really could care less about showing, even though she is beautiful. Some puppies are super outgoing and they generally reflect that as a 'showy' nature in the show ring.

      All in all I would determine what you want in an adult and try and match the best you can the puppy at 8 weeks with your ideal Mastiff. You want to look at angulation, topline, bite, feet, etc. Many breeders (newbies like me) bring in people that have been in the breed for many years or show dog handlers to evaluate their litter and help them pick their keeper puppy.

      It's no exact science, and at the end of the day you just hope your dog turns out like you imagined it would. Even if they don't end up being the next National Champion, they still have so much love to give :). I hope I gave at least a little bit of insight.