If you are hoping to have a champion obedience dog, then a Mastiff really isn’t the dog for you. That is not to say however, that Mastiffs are not suited to obedience work – Mastiffs love to please their human companions and respond exceptionally well to positive reinforcement. It is however, really important that a Mastiff begins its training at a young age in at least the basic obedience level – there is nothing worse that seeing an 80-100 kilogram dog dragging their handler along the street. Worse still to see a Mastiff being dragged or pulled in the direction the handler wants to go.
Most importantly, a Mastiff puppy must be well socialised from an early age. Most obedience clubs run special puppy socialisation classes and many vets run puppy pre-school classes. In order for your Mastiff to grow into a well-mannered and sociable dog that you can take anywhere with confidence, it is important that they be exposed to many different situations and surroundings at a young age. This should begin once your Mastiff has been given time to settle into it’s new home. Ideally, this should begin from the age of 7 to 12 weeks, which is one of the critical periods in the puppy’s development. You can also begin some basic training with your puppy in these first few weeks. A short 5-minute session with lots of positive reinforcement will produce far more beneficial effect than a long session; remember that the attention span of a young Mastiff is very short and they tire very quickly.
Mastiffs should also be taught to get used to a lead from a very young age. To begin with, attaching the lead to the dog’s collar and leaving it there for a few minutes at a time will very quickly get the dog used to having the lead and collar on. A correction chain should NEVER be used on a puppy at this age. Instead, most pet supply shops stock the soft nylon collars that are adjustable according to the size of your puppy. Once the puppy is used to the lead and collar and is old enough to begin walks outside the home, you can work on teaching your puppy to walk on a loose lead. Never pull or jerk your puppy as you could do irreparable damage to it’s young joints. The use of praise, pats and/or food as a reward for walking without pulling will teach your Mastiff what you want far more quickly than pulling in the direction you want it to go. Remember that your puppy will grow into an 80-100 kilo dog, which cannot be pulled around at will. Besides, using positive methods of training makes the learning experience far more pleasurable for both you and your Mastiff.
Mastiffs should be given both on and off lead exercise. The easiest way to have control over your Mastiff in an off lead situation is to start from a young age in an off lead park where they can also interact with other socialised dogs. If positive reinforcement such as food or a toy is used, your Mastiff will soon learn how to do a recall when out and about in the park.
Training a Mastiff to even a basic obedience level requires lots of patience and encouragement. You should never yell at your Mastiff, nor should you EVER use force of any kind to get it to do what you want it to do. The use of harsh training methods will break your Mastiff’s spirit and they will never enjoy training. The use of rough methods in training your Mastiff can also damage the young growing puppy’s joints and could develop into ongoing problems in later life. Mastiffs by nature want to please us and if you are clear and encouraging in your training you will soon find your Mastiff learns to sit, drop, stay and come when you ask it to. The most important aspect of training a Mastiff is to give it instant praise and encouragement as soon as it has done what you ask. If your Mastiff ignores your command, as they are often want to do, DO NOT yell at him/her; try something else in the meantime and return to the particular exercise later. If you are having problems with a particular exercise, do not automatically look for fault in your Mastiff. Ask yourself Have I been clear in my instructions? Does the puppy understand what I am asking it to do? In most cases, the fault lies with the trainer and NOT with the dog.
There have been very few Mastiffs to date who have competed in obedience trials with some success. Mastiffs can and will do obedience work at this level so long as you are prepared to practise, be patient and be prepared to give lots of praise and encouragement to your Mastiff. However, the higher levels of obedience competitions are very difficult for Mastiffs, as they are not bred for retrieving nor are they agile enough to do the jumping required for higher obedience titles. Most of us simply want our Mastiffs to be well-socialised and able to sit, drop, stay and some when required. It has been suggested in the past that you should not do obedience if you want to show your Mastiff (because it might sit in the ring etc..). This really is not the case and it is enormously beneficial in the show ring if your Mastiff knows how to stand on command and heel at fast pace. It gives you greater control over your Mastiff both in and out of the show ring and of course, having a well-socialised Mastiff makes it far easier to get in and out of the narrow entrance of a show ring.
The key to training a Mastiff is to be patient and use lots of praise and other positive reinforcers that your dog responds to. Each Mastiff is different and while some may respond to the use of food as a reward, others respond more to physical contact, praise or playing with a toy. In order to get the best out of your training with your Mastiff, you will need to find out what in particular your Mastiff responds to best and use this to your advantage. Do not expect your Mastiff to be as quick and agile as the smaller breeds – make training fun for your Mastiff and you will have enormous amounts of fun in the process. All Mastiffs love a cuddle – at the end of each training session (for that matter, as often as possible) give your Mastiff a hug – and you will have a well-mannered companion for life.
MCOV OBEDIENCE AWARDS
Yangerdook Dont Give A Damn Owned by Rhys Palmer & Kim Jones
Lote attends the Mornington Dog Obedience club with Rhys. He is the first Mastiff ever to win his class at the club on a members’ trial day scoring 95/100. As Rhys said ‘He even beat a Golden Retriever which came second!” Congratulations
on a fabulous achievement!
A sash donated by the Mastiff Club of Victoria was presented to recognise Lote’s achievements.
Masafari Richo The Great
Owned by Michelle Andrews
Richo attends the Bayside Companion Training Centre in Bentleigh.
Aged just over one year, Richo has progressed to level 4 and Michelle thinks that it won’t be long before he is in level 5.
A sash donated by the Mastiff Club of Victoria was presented to recognise Richo’s achievements.