This article is reprinted with kind permission from Sharon Medforth of Island West, Old English Mastiffs.  Sharon is the breeder/owner of Cdn/Int Ch West Coast Skipper, CD, DD, DDX, TT, CGC, CGN, MCOA DD; the first Mastiff in Canada to get a draft dog and draft dog excellent title. Skippy is possibly the most titled Mastiff in Canada in the history of the breed.



The Mastiff and Children

I often get asked if Mastiffs are good with children. My answer is, if the Mastiff is raised with children they are wonderful with children. I am going to be very frank and honest in this article.

I have sold Mastiffs to homes with children and in every circumstance the Mastiff has been gentle and loving towards children when raised with children. I have even sold a Mastiff in 2 situations where the child was handicapped and both these Mastiffs were the perfect dog to have in a household with a handicapped child.

The Mastiff owners had nothing but praise about how good the Mastiff was with their children.

But I have found that if a Mastiff is not raised around children they can sometimes find children frightening. Children tend to move faster and be louder and more unpredictable then adults. If a dog is unfamiliar with children it can cause any dog to be nervous with children. If a dog is nervous of children there is the possibility of a fear bite.

As a Mastiff owner you have a responsibility to make your dog safe around all people, especially children.
I highly recommend all Mastiff puppies to be exposed to young children. When you have a Mastiff puppy, fill your pocket full of doggy biscuits and walk past a few schools in the morning or at lunch time. Get children to be gentle and pat your puppy ON THE SHOULDER, NOT THE HEAD, and feed treats to your Mastiff puppy, get your Mastiff accustomed to having a good experience with children. Go visit friends with children and closely supervise your puppies experience with the child. Make your puppy think children are a jackpot of wonderful treats and lots of love. Teach the children how to walk slowly when approaching a dog, how to pat a dog and how to behave around dogs.

CHILDREN SHOULD ALWAYS BE SUPERVISED AROUND ANY DOG.

Here is what children should be taught about meeting a new dog:

1) Never disturb a sleeping dog.

2) Never bother a dog when it is in its crate, let the child know that the dogs crate is the place a dog goes when it does not want to be disturbed and the dog should be left alone when it is there.

3) Never approach a dog that is eating a bone or food and never try and take food from a dog.

4) Before giving a dog a treat make sure the dogs owner is present and you have asked permission first.

5) Approach all dogs slowly.

6) Play quietly around strange dogs.

7) Do not pat a strange dog without permission.

8) Always speak to a dog before patting a dog so it knows you are going to pat it.

9) Do not ever reach out to pat a dog on top of its head. Always pat a dog on the shoulders and body.

10) Never put your face near a dogs face.

11) Never blow in a dogs face, many dogs take this as a direct threat and may bite.

12) Never run around dogs, the dog may get excited and nip. Also many herding breeds or protection breeds will chase and may bite in the excitement of the chase.

If you have children and want a Mastiff I would say the Mastiff is a good choice in breeds, but please teach your children to respect the dog and to treat it well. Do not allow a child to sit on a Mastiff, no matter how large the dog. Never allow a child to play tug a war with a Mastiff. I also highly recommend that the children partake in obedience training with the dog. When your pup has learned to sit on command give your child a dog biscuit and have the child instruct the dog to sit for the treat. Make it a rule that the children never give the dog a treat without the dog first performing a command for the child. This teaches the dog that it is not dominant over the child. Include your children in as much training of the dog as possible. The teaching of recall is a good way to include your child in the training aspect of dog owning.

Have the dog on a 10 foot leash and have the child hold the leash. Let the dog wander about on the leash and then have the child say Duke come. If the dog comes the child gives the dog praise and a treat, if the dog does not come directly to the child have the child pull the dog in close to him, once the dog is close enough to touch have the child praise and give the dog a treat. NEVER ALLOW A CHILD TO PUNISH A DOG. A child should only use praise and reward forms of training with a dog.

Never allow a child to take a dog for a walk without an adult present. Teach the child if they are ever around a dog fight, to stay clear of the fight and to NEVER try and stop the fight, but instead to run for adult help.

By Sharon Medforth

Great article, Sharon! And some good advice!