Spanish Mastiff: Dog Breed Characteristics & Care

History, Care Tips, and Helpful Information for Pet Owners

Spanish mastiff standing in rocky terrain

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The Spanish mastiff is a working dog breed from Spain with a short, thick coat that can come in a variety of colors. The breed originated as a guard dog, and its enormous size is certainly imposing. Overall, it has a well-balanced, muscular build. Its head is very large and broad with almond-shaped eyes and triangular ears. And its neck has a fair amount of loose skin, which helps to protect more vulnerable internal areas. This dog can be a sweet companion and gentle giant with its family, but it does require an owner who’s knowledgable in training and socialization to prevent it from becoming overprotective and aggressive.

Breed Overview

Group: Working

Height: 28 to 35 inches

Weight: 140 to 200 pounds

Coat: Short, smooth double coat

Coat Color: Black, fawn, red, wolfgray, or yellow with/without white and/or brindle markings

Life Span: 10 to 12 years

Temperament: Affectionate, protective, alert

Hypoallergenic: No

Origin: Spain

Characteristics of the Spanish Mastiff

Spanish mastiffs generally have an affectionate and easygoing personality around their family. But wariness of strangers and even other dogs also can greatly impact their temperament. They don't bark excessively, but they will use their deep bark as an alert to perceived threats.

Affection Level High
Friendliness Medium
Kid-Friendly Medium
Pet-Friendly Medium
Exercise Needs Medium
Playfulness Low
Energy Level Medium
Trainability Medium
Intelligence Medium
Tendency to Bark Low
Amount of Shedding Medium

History of the Spanish Mastiff

The Spanish mastiff is an ancient dog breed whose ancestors date back more than 2,000 years to the Iberian Peninsula. Its exact origin is unknown. But this dog’s primary role was to protect livestock from wolves and other threats. 

Around the 10th century, sheep farming was one of Spain’s main economic drivers. And the Spanish mastiff became even more valuable to defend the flocks. The dog was bred for its size and strength, as well as its alert nature. However, an official breed standard wasn’t developed until the 1900s. 

The breed remains rare today, especially outside of Spain. The American Kennel Club admitted the Spanish mastiff to its Foundation Stock Service in 2008, which helps to keep track of breeding.

Spanish Mastiff Care

The Spanish mastiff isn't a high-energy breed, but it still needs sufficient room for daily exercise. Its grooming requirements are fairly straightforward. But training and socialization should receive extra attention to ensure that the dog is friendly and well-mannered.


Plan to give your dog at least an hour of physical activity each day. Walks, hikes, and vigorous games of fetch all are ideal activities. And puzzle toys can help to challenge your dog mentally.

It’s ideal for this big dog to get some time to run around off leash in a securely fenced area. However, because the breed doesn’t always get along well with other dogs, it might not be a good candidate for dog parks.


Brush your dog’s coat weekly to remove any loose fur and dirt. Expect periods of higher shedding often in the spring and fall, during which you’ll have to brush more frequently. In addition, bathe your dog every month or so, depending on how dirty it gets. Spanish mastiffs tend to drool a lot. So it’s a good idea to keep a drool cloth nearby, and be sure to keep the skin folds around your dog's neck clean and dry.

Furthermore, plan to trim your dog’s nails roughly every month. Check its ears at least weekly to see whether they need cleaning. And attempt to brush its teeth every day.


Begin training and socialization ideally when your Spanish mastiff is a puppy. An adult Spanish mastiff with poor manners can be very difficult to manage due to its size. A puppy class is a great way to teach basic commands and manners. Always use positive-reinforcement training methods, and keep training sessions fun and varied. 

Furthermore, aim to expose your Spanish mastiff to a variety of people and other dogs starting from an early age. The more positive experiences it has, the less likely it will be for your dog to view strangers as threats.

Spanish mastiff lying on ground

marcelinopozo / Getty Images

Spanish mastiff in mountains

paula sierra / Getty Images

Spanish mastiff lying on a bench

Dixi_ / Getty Images

Spanish mastiff puppy outside

alarich / Getty Images

Spanish mastiff puppy headshot

Dixi_ / Getty Images

two Spanish mastiffs sitting side by side

marcelinopozo / Getty Images

Common Health Problems

The Spanish mastiff is generally a healthy breed. It is not prone to any known hereditary health issues, though it still can face common health concerns that affect many dogs as they age, such as arthritis.

Diet and Nutrition

Always have fresh water available for your Spanish mastiff. And feed it a quality, nutritionally balanced canine diet. It’s typical to feed two measured meals per day to ensure that your dog is getting the correct amount. Moreover, the Spanish mastiff might benefit from a dog food that’s formulated for large breeds. So be sure to discuss both the type of food and the amount with your veterinarian. Also, be mindful of treats and other extra food to help prevent excess weight gain, which can put too much stress on this big dog's joints.

Where to Adopt or Buy a Spanish Mastiff

The Spanish mastiff is a rare breed. So it’s unlikely but not impossible to find one available for adoption. You might have to wait some time and travel a great distance, depending on where you live. Breeders also can be difficult to come by. For a puppy from a responsible breeder, expect to pay around $1,200 to $1,800 on average.

For more information to help you find a Spanish mastiff, check out:

Spanish Mastiff Overview

  • Loyal and protective 

  • Gentle and loving with family

  • Doesn’t need a lot of exercise

  • Needs extensive socialization

  • Drools a lot

  • Difficult breed to find

More Dog Breeds and Further Research

As with any dog breed, do thorough research on the Spanish mastiff to make sure it’s right for your lifestyle. Talk to Spanish mastiff owners, reputable breeders, rescue groups, and veterinary professionals to learn more. 

If you’re interested in similar breeds, check out:

There’s a whole world of potential dog breeds out there—with a little research, you can find the right one to bring home!

  • Are Spanish mastiffs good family dogs?

    Well-trained and socialized Spanish mastiffs are moderately tolerant of children. They can be a good fit for families with respectful older children. However, they should always be supervised around young kids.

  • Are Spanish mastiffs aggressive?

    Spanish mastiffs have a strong protective nature and are wary of strangers, including other dogs. Because this can turn into aggression toward perceived threats, the breed requires ample training and socialization from an early age.

  • Are Spanish mastiffs good apartment dogs?

    Spanish mastiffs do best in a home with a secure yard in which they can stretch their legs. They generally are too large for apartment living.

Article Sources
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  1. Spanish Mastiff. Dog Breeds List.