German Shepherd Dog

The Mastiff and Children

By Sharon Medforth

I am often asked, “Are mastiffs are good with children?” If the mastiff is raised with children, he is wonderful with children. I am going to be very frank and honest in this article.

I have sold mastiffs to families with children, and in every circumstance the mastiff has been gentle and loving towards the children. I once sold two mastiffs to a household with a handicapped child, and both of them were very aware and respectful of the child. The owners had nothing but praise about how good the dogs were with their children.

I have sometimes found that if a mastiff is not raised around children, they can find children frightening. Children are unpredictable. They tend to move faster and speak louder than adults. If a dog is unfamiliar with this, it can cause him to become nervous. A nervous dog increases the possibility of a fear-bite. As a mastiff owner, you have the responsibility of making sure your dog is safe and sound around all people, including children.

I highly recommend all mastiff puppies to be exposed to young children. If you have a mastiff puppy, fill your pocket with doggy biscuits and walk past a few schools in the morning or at lunch time. Ensure that the children are gentle and pat your puppy ON THE SHOULDER, NOT THE HEAD, and feed treats to your mastiff puppy. This is to get your mastiff accustomed to having a good experience with children. Go visit friend who has children and closely supervise your puppy’s actions with the child. Make sure your puppy thinks children are a jackpot of wonderful treats and lots of love. Teach the children how to walk slowly when approaching a dog; how to properly pat a dog; and how 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 he is in his crate. Let the child know that the dog’s crate is the place a dog goes when he dose not want to be disturbed and the dog should be left along when he 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 dog’s 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 with out permission.
  8. Always speak to a dog before patting him so he knows you are going to pat him.
  9. Never reach to pat a dog on top of his head. Always pat a dog on the shoulders or body.
  10. Never put your face near a dog’s face.
  11. Never blow in a dog’s 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 dog, I believe the mastiff is a good choice, but please teach your children to respect the dog and to treat him well. Do not allow a child to sit on the mastiff, no matter how large the dog. Never allow a child to play tug of war with a mastiff. I also highly recommend that the children partake in obedience training with the dog. When your puppy 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 he is not dominant over the child. Include your children in as much training of the dog as possible. It is a good way to include your child in responsibilities of owning a dog.

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 call the dog. 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 rewards when training a dog.

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


By Sharon Medforth
Island West Mastiffs.

Sharon Medforth has been breeding and showing dogs and mastiffs for 20 years. She has competed in everything from obedience to draft dog.

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