Are You Buying True Bullmastiff Quality?  Alternative methods of adopting a Bullmastiff, what Registration Papers really represent, etc. Behind the Bullmastiff Breeders Sales Pitch - Identifying vague warranties, interpreting flashy ads, etc. Your Bullmastiff, Your Responsibility - Interacting with Children, Lawsuits, Liabilities, Expenses, etc. Your Money, Your Entitlement - What you should expect for your money, Interview Sheet for Bullmastiff Breeder Hunting, etc. Your Investment, Was It a Wise One? Bullmastiffs - What the Prudent Buyer Should Know....

More and more cities and towns are passing anti-dog legislation.  More and more boarding kennels are refusing to take bull breeds.  Newspapers and TV have a field day with every unfortunate dog-related event.  If we want our breed to be welcome in public and ease the fears of the general public in regard to our breed, we have to be sure our dogs understand their place in this world, and first and foremost, in our household.

Some may think the worst thing that can happen to a puppy is that it go to an abusive home.  That would be terrible, but it’s not the worst fate a strong willed puppy can endure.  The worst fate is going to an overly permissive home where discipline is nonexistent.

Bullmastiffs are strong willed dogs.   Yes, there are those whose main goal in life is to be king of the Coach Potatoes.  Mainly, the breed is extremely intelligent, healthily active, and strong willed as the devil.  STRONG WILLED DOES NOT TRANSLATE INTO “AGGRESSIVE”.  Strong willed simply means that no matter how sweet your little darling is, he or she wants his own way and will use any number of ploys to get it.  These include sudden deafness, temporary idiocy, tears and begging, coyness, or even flat out defiance.

In truth, in a very small puppy, all of these behaviors can be hysterically funny, and an owner has to steel himself against falling down laughing instead of seeing that the dog does what it is told to do.   What is so funny in a tiny puppy can be the path to hell for that dog, because very few of these behaviors are acceptable to people when the dog grows up.

Bullmastiffs are so clever that getting away with something once is the incentive to try ten more times, even if all ten are failures.

I have become extremely cautious where I sell male dogs.  I’ve always looked for good homes for all my dogs.  However, with males, it is a bit more important to be sure of the new owner’s ability to offer the dog a loving home with DISCIPLINE.  Female dogs tend to try coyness when they want to get away with something.  Male dogs tend to pout or push.

In 29 years with Bullmastiffs, I have never had one of my dogs seriously challenge my authority.  That is because the problem was settled at a very early age, sometimes as early as six weeks.  Most puppies with any spunk at all will try to get their way.  Some will accept a strong “No!”  Others will take a little shake of the neck.  And then there is that rare puppy who, had it been born in the wild, would have been destined to be the leader of the pack.  These pups usually take a severe reprimand and a “downing” to settle the matter.  That is what the adults of a pack would do it, and that is what it understands.  I have never had to prove a point with a puppy more than once.  The problems arise when the puppy leaves its breeder and goes to a new home.

The puppy’s nature is obvious from the day it is born.  The breeder should be able to tell which puppies are the stronger willed and screen new owner prospects very carefully for these babies.  There is nothing wrong with a strong will dog.  It simply needs a strong will owner willing to mix affection, consistency and discipline.

In the first place, the Bullmastiff is not the breed for everyone.  Dogs and people should be temperamentally suited.  Otherwise, the relationship will be short-lived and disastrous.  There are plenty of qualified owners for every Bullmastiff born in this country.  A breeder just has to sort out the unqualified ones.  Selling a dog to someone who insists it is just what he wants when that person leaves you with that little tingle of doubt is a big mistake.  Believe that feeling!

If a husband and wife come to your home with children in tow, WATCH THE BEHAVIOR OF THE CHILDREN AND THEIR INTERACTION WITH THEIR PARENTS.  If BOTH parents are not capable of controlling their children, or worse yet, don’t even try, DO NOT SELL THEM A PUPPY.  The children will torment it.  The housebreaking will be only semi-successful.  The dog will be blamed for everything that happens in the household, including the leak in the roof, because these people have to blame someone for the total lack of control in their lives.

Many breeders can tell horror stories of families descending on them, and having to divide their time between interviewing the parents and rescuing their dogs from ill-mannered, uncontrolled, and sometimes downright nasty children.  What is even worse is that some don’t even try.  They sit there beaming at their little darlings.  It is like a trip to the zoo for them.  Just another outing.  What makes you think that if these people can’t control their children, who speak the same language, they are going to be able to control a dog who is probably smarter than they are?

If someone is away all day and nobody else lives at their home, who is going to be there to train a puppy they buy?  Puppies left on their own can come up with some fascinating methods of killing boredom.  I remember selling a lovely pup to a man who told me he lived very near his job and would be home at lunch daily to care for the baby.  He forgot to add “when he was even in town.”  He traveled a great deal, which he did not disclose until a problem arose.  The dog was destroying the plants around his pool and playing games with his TV cable connection on the outside of the house.  He told me he beat him any number of times, and it didn’t change anything.  Of course, I was thrilled to hear that.  The final straw was when the dog pulled up a small, new tree and sat in the Jacuzzi eating it.

I went to the house and saw a perfectly lovely LARGE yard on one side of the house with shade and plenty of romping room.  It was divided from the pool area by a narrow opening, easy to fence, with just one or two fence panels.  I suggested that would solve the problem.  But no, that wouldn’t do.  He didn’t want the dog fenced off.  He wanted him to have access to the whole area but not do anything wrong while he was bored to death, having someone come in once a day to feed and water him.  I did solve that problem.  I got the dog the heck out of there before I strangled the man.  He simply didn’t have a clue about handling a dog properly.

Another situation to avoid in selling a puppy is if one member of a husband-wife team is crazy to have the dog and the other is reluctant, disinterested, or downright opposed.  If one says, “Oh, I just know he/she will come to love this dog,” think long and hard before you let the dog go with them.  Maybe the less interested party will learn to like the dog, but don’t be on it.   There is more going on here than a small disagreement over whether or not to buy a dog.  One or both are not giving much consideration to the other’s feelings.  A dog living in this situation becomes a pawn in a war game.

All of the above situations can create dogs that are undisciplined.  Some may just have annoying habits, like climbing into your guests’ laps while they are sitting on the couch with a cup of coffee; or eating everything you plant, or never paying the slightest attention to a word you say if it wasn’t their idea first.

The real problem is the “pack leader type” that would be a wonderful dog in the hands of a “good owner.” But the worst advertisement any breed could have in the hands of the people described above.

DOGS ARE PACK ANIMALS.  DON’T TREAT THEM AS HUMANS!  That does not mean you can’t shower them with affection.  Affection and permissive stupidity are not the same thing.  If it is in a dog’s nature to be on the low rung of the pack hierarchy ladder, probably nothing will make him very aggressive.  It is the bright, strong willed, dominant dog that runs into trouble (this is not saying that passive dogs aren’t bright, too).  IF YOU DON’T TEACH HIM HIS PLACE IN THE PACK.  HE WILL PICK HIS SPOT HIMSELF.  That will probably be the TOP SPOT or SECOND IN COMMAND.  That creates a massive problem, since the dog loves his people, no matter how misguided or dumb or hopeless they are, so he feels he has to protect them.   If he is in the top spot, he is going to make the decisions on whom to protect them from:  the mailman, the meter reader, guests he didn’t invite!  Soon the people decide the dog is incorrigible, and it must be bad breeding because they NEVER do anything wrong.  Actually, they’ve done little if anything right.

The answer to these situations that make large dogs so feared and despised of late is not all that difficult to achieve.   For breeders – sell puppies to “GOOD OWNERS.”  For buyers – “BE GOOD OWNERS.”

What is a good owner?  A good owner is a person who has done some research into the breed he or she is about to purchase, understands the nature of the breed, is temperamentally suited to the breed, and TAKES CHARGE FROM THE FIRST MOMENT HE OR SHE IS HANDED THE PUPPY TO TAKE HOME.

There is absolutely no reason a puppy can’t be treated with great love and affection, cuddled and held and still be disciplined.  Some dogs require stronger discipline than others.  Discipline should fit the nature of the dog.  Some puppies are actually crushed if they are yelled at; others just act that way, and when the owners, feeling guilt-ridden over upsetting their little darling, practically apologize for correcting the dogs, the puppies merrily go back to doing what they got scolded for.

There is another important key in properly raising a dog.  CONSISTENCY.   What will not be acceptable at two years of age is NOT acceptable at two months of age.  The dog cannot be allowed to do something on Tuesday and get laughed at and patted and then do it on Wednesday and get spanked or screamed at.  That is the formula for raising a psycho.  If you want him to sleep on your bed when he is older, that’s fine.   But if you don’t want him to, don’t let him up there as a baby, and three or four months later start punishing him for the same behavior.  The dog is not a college graduate.  RULES MUST BE SIMPLE AND FAIR.  RULES MUST BE CONSISTENT.

Obedience school is highly recommended for the average dog owner.  That is not a place one sends a dog for a trainer to train.  That is a series of classes that a single person or both husband and wife attend with the dog to LEARN HOW TO TRAIN THE DOG.  Of course, the dog will work for a professional trainer.  It’s just not going to live with the trainer.  Owners need to learn with their dogs.

The formula for raising a well-adjusted, socially acceptable dog is simple:  a combination of LOVE, CONSISTENCY, and FAIR DISCIPLINE.  It is just that easy.

 - written by Carol Beans

This article is written and contributed by Carol Beans of Tauralan Bullmastiffs in Santa Ana, California. Carol Beans can be reached at

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