ABRUZZESE MASTIFF

ABRUZZESE SHEPHERD'S HISTORY


Abruzzese Sheepdog, also called Abruzzese Mastiff, comes directly from the“canis pastoralis”, although it would be fair to say that he is the “canis pastoralis”, considering that he always been about the same for thousands. He is quoted in some Latin treatises concerning the agriculture (“De re rustica”) by Marcus Terentius Varro or “Varro Reatinus” (116 B. C. –27 B. C.), and by Columella Lucius Giunius Moderatus (4 A. D. -70 A. D.). His origins go back to time immemorial. According to the most accredited reconstructions, he would come from a big molossian white coated primitive dog, who had a bear head and did live in Asia and then spread in Europe. After had been tamed by sheep farming people, perhaps after the last glaciation, they spread in Europe because of the migrations of populations who brought dogs with them. As a result of this, there are many typified bloodlines and many different big sheepdog breeds in many countries (Kuvaz, Tatra sheepdog, Pyrenean Mountain Dog, South Russian Ovtcharka and, of course, our Abruzzese mastiff).

There is no doubt at all that the primitive populations did choose him as guardian dog for several good reasons: among these, surely because of his extraordinary temperament and his physical skills.

So, it was very important that the sheepdogs could be at the same time mighty and agile, provided with endurance, adaptable in all weather, with an austere diet and, last but not least, white colored; in fact, on the one hand the white color got him similar to the sheep and made him pinpoint able even during the night; on the other, could be a clue of eventual “genetic contaminations”by other different breeds that were able to compromise the guarding aptitude .It was also important the texture of hair, which is waterproof still today because of the thick undercoat; it was essential in the bad weather so as to allow the dog to complete his assignment. Besides, the thick coat can be useful as a defence against fangs and claws.

He has got an uncontested courage; because of it, when he has to defend something, he is used to do it moving forward without never withdraw, even when it means fighting last ditch effort against predators bigger than him; even in these cases, it is not rare that he can win. Usually, the Abruzzese mastiffs work in a pack and once they get wind of danger, they circle the flock, as during the old times when they did it around the settlements .While the leader of the flock approaches the enemy so as to scare and desist him, all other members of the pack stand still barking. Bitches with puppies used to go into the circle among the sheep while the leader shows all his strength preparing himself for the battle. This is indeed what a leader of the flock should do. Otherwise, all other members of the pack could not see him as the leader. He has the privilege to pass on the genetic heritage: he is used to eat before all other members of the pack (so, he eats better than anyone); he is used to conduct the pack and, in case of danger, he must face up to, but, among all members of the pack, he is the most suitable to do it; at the end of the day, this is a very balanced and working well system. Often, among these dogs, the continuance of the breed is due to the inbreeding, sometimes very strong, until the shepherd decides to infuse new blood into the bloodline or until happens unplanned mating because of meeting among different packs. I have had the opportunity to see personally how strong, long lived and stable these dogs are, in spite of this strong inbreeding; I have asked to myself how this is possible. I was really impressed by the low mortality puppies rate, considering that they are the product of inbreeding, growing among the sheep, without no shelter from the weather and left aside by men.

I have often talked about this issue with some friends who are dog lovers too and we have wondered these very common questions concerning genetic improvement, health and breeding: Why the inbreeding planned by men get physical and behavioural troubles? Why on earth the unplanned and spontaneous inbreeding does not provoke any trouble at all in terms of health? After practical verifications, I have found that there is only one reason: usually, mating happens between the dominant male and the dominant female; in fact, the dominant male does not allow the dominant female mating with other males of the pack and the dominant female does the same thing with all other females of the pack. This is because the dominant subjects have got strongest and healthiest genetic heritage so they can pass on the best genetic features even in case of strong inbreeding, although inbreeding should be always avoidable. Everything else, it's up to the natural selection, especially if you consider that we are talking about a heterogeneous environment where there are the bad weather, a diet that is often insecure and sanitary conditions that are anything but salubrious.

Nowadays, the state of the breed is not so bad, not even the best. Considering that there is a split between the rustic Abruzzese mastiff (also called Abruzzes shepherd), which is a working dog, and the “show dog type” selected for beauty, which is that has been officially known as “The Maremma Sheepdog ”, it is far from smooth saying that there is only one homogeneous breed. After the agropastoral system was resized, the rustic Abruzzese mastiff, that is the working variety, has been reduced and the idea of the breed has been even more linked with the type selected for beauty whose subjects are less strong and less stable than those of the rustic variety, because they have been selected for beauty so as to achieve the perfect white, the ears perfectly set high on the head and nose totally black.

The current breed standard puts him at a disadvantage, limiting him within a type that depreciates him because removes many features that has been proper to him for thousands of years. I can quote some that I personally had the opportunity to see: the size bigger than the max size in line with the standard, semi erected ears whenever the dog is alerted, the noise liver coloured, pink coloured, purple coloured or purple and black coloured. But also the hair, that can be longer that the standard max length and sometimes even on the muzzle, that is actually a very rare feature caused by a recessive gene that sometimes makes the shape of the skull and of the muzzle more longer than usual (this is a particular variety of the Abruzzese sheepdog called “baffo”). 

Besides, I have had the opportunity to see a high number of puppies provided with fifth dewclaw which is an ancient breed sign. I can also add the colour of the hair that is not always completely white, but can be also provided with yellow shades and in the puppies pink shades that will turn into white as long as they growing. Last but not least, I would add the pink and black pigmentation of the palate. All these features don't involve any trouble at all in terms of health and functionality. On the contrary, they get the Abruzzese sheepdog breed more heterogeneous and get the genetic makeup better.

In the old days, shepherds used to clip dog's ears rounded shape - when the puppies are three weeks old - in order to avoid that could be vulnerable in case of fight against predators and in case of competitions within the pack. The head reminds of the bear's head. The range of the weight is from 40kg to 80kg; he has got scissor bite and sometimes pincer bite. His neck hair seems a mane and makes him similar to a lion. Surely because of his wary and free standing nature, many used to talk about this dog as a catlike dog. He tends to be in a loyal and collaborative relationship with his owner, but this is an equal bond without mawkishness by him.

Nowadays, the official world of dog lovers includes only the Maremman Shepherd, that got a big dog show “stuffed animal”; many times they are resized in terms of weight and when they are not, they don't show being stable and seem to be damaged in nature, perhaps because of the over breeding:

They are too nervous dogs with the tendency to bark too much and provided with unpredictable nature, no more suitable for bad weather. Their working aptitude has not been tested for many generations. As a consequence of this, when they are tested (used as sheepdog) don't show affection towards sheep and this bring the real breed (Abruzzese Mastiff or Abruzzese Sheepdog) into disrepute. Although the most part of people don't know anything about it, this breed still survives, in a quiet way, in the rural world, particularly in Abruzzi region and regions that are close, preserved by people who are not interested in dog shows at all; they are so pleased with tasks made by their dog indeed that this makes them satisfied.

During the decades, the genetic heritage of Abruzzese sheepdog got lessened because many ancient bloodlines are gone missing. This is because they were too much different from the standard of beauty decided by the dog show judges or by the breeders who got a lot of influence, who used to breed a variety of dogs very different from them. So.. All subjects provided with the dewclaw, double dewclawed, yellow eyes coloured or pink nose coloured, provided with hair longer than 10 cm, too much big or too much thin, they all were excluded; although they were very good in some working circumstances, they were too much different from...the standard of beauty decided by ”The Masters of dog shows”. Unfortunately, people who write the standard breeds rarely use them as working dogs. Where there is still the need using this type of dog, there are many different bloodlines of genuine Abruzzese mastiff provided with all features that we have just quoted. They are delimited in the world of sheep farming and safeguarded by breeders who are not bucking for the glory of dog shows: They get more pleased in having subjects that are big and useful at the same time and equipped with physical and behavioural features proper to achieve their purposes.

We are talking about dogs equipped with very pronounced heads and with a big bone structure, a very thick hair, a solid muzzle and strong jawbone. Some subjects belong to the “baffo” type, some others to the molossian type and there are also some that are wolfish appearance. Although they are different from each other in size and morphology, it depends on the place, the environment and the liking of the shepherd who uses the dog, they all share the unmistakable and typical features of the genuine Italian "canis pastoralis": the strong mental and emotional stability, the affection towards the flock, the courage and the relaxed walk. They are “poised dogs”, never edgy, equipped with a strong rustic nature, a good health and a distinct look got by every dog that belongs to this breed, regardless of the size and the hair.

They still, to this day, take care of the flock with their unflappable way, whatever the weather: under the rain, the snow, without no shelter and, in case of need, able to fight against the boars, the wolves, even the bears, albeit rarely, with the same strength and loyalty. He has always been distinguished by this and this is the reason why he has always been appreciated around the world.

 

NOTES WITH THANKS : http://www.dicasamarziali.com/en/abruzzese-mastiff-history.html   PHOTO WITH THANKS : http://www.holidogtimes.com/17-of-the-biggest-and-most-beautiful-mastiff-breeds-in-the-world

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ALPINE MASTIFF/BERNHARDINER/ ST BERNARD

The Saint Bernard breed is also commonly known by the names St. Bernhardshund, Bernhardiner, Alpine Mastiff (archaic).
Lifespan
8 - 10 years
Pedigree Breed ?
Yes - KC Recognised in the Working Group
Height
Males 70 - 90 cm
Females 65 - 80 cm at the withers
Weight
Males 64 - 120 kg
Females 64 - 120 kg

 

Breed Highlights

Positives

  • Saint Bernards are intelligent and they are quick to learn new things
  • They are very sweet natured and patient making them great family pets and companions
  • They are known to be very gentle around children of all ages
  • Because of their sheer size, Saint Bernards make for impressive looking watchdogs
  • They are low maintenance on the grooming front
  • They form strong bonds with their owners

Negatives

  • The Saint Bernard is a large breed that needs enough room to express themselves correctly
  • They shed copious amounts of hair throughout the year only more so in the Spring and the Autumn
  • They can suffer from separation anxiety when left on their own
  • Being so intelligent, they pick up bad habits quickly
  • Can be overly protective of property and owners
  • Saint Bernards can be a bit aggressive if not well socialised from a young age
  • They are immensely strong when puppies and mature adult dogs
  • Saint Bernards are prone to specific health issues associated with their size
  • They are independent dogs by nature which is a trait that is deeply embedded in their psyche
  • They shed copious amounts of hair all year round only more so in the spring and the autumn
  • Saint Bernards overheat very easily and care should be taken in the summer months

Introduction

The Saint Bernard is one of the largest breeds on the planet and they are renowned for being Switzerland's famous mountain rescue dogs and the breed is renowned the world over for being a "gentle giant". These charming, larger than life dogs have found their way into the hearts and homes of many people the world over thanks to their kind, patient and affectionate natures and more especially when they are around children of all ages.

Although extremely large, Saint Bernards don't need as much room to express themselves as they should that most people think and providing they are given enough daily exercise and mental stimulation, they are just as happy living in a smaller home as they are living in a big house in the country. With this said, all dogs including Saint Bernards love to be able to roam around in a secure back garden whenever they can. Saint Bernards shed copious amounts of hair all year long which means they are not the best choice for anyone who is very house proud, but a great choice for people who are looking for a large, loving and gentle dog that's especially good around children.


History

The St. Bernard is named after the Hospice of the Great Saint Bernard Pass which is an Alpine route that connects Switzerland with neighbouring Italy and there are records and paintings of these large dogs that date back to 1707 and even earlier, although these dogs looked quite different to the Saint Bernards we see today. It was the monks who founded the hospice in AD 980 and they used their dogs to rescue travellers lost in the pass so they could provide them with refuge in the hospice. These dogs excelled at finding lost people because they can track their way in atrocious weather conditions that people could not cope with. These large dogs would find lost travellers and bringing them back to the hospice when a blizzard was blowing up a storm.

The breed was originally called the Alpine Mastiff and dogs were often depicted in paintings by well-known artists. One such artist being Edwin Landseer who painted the dogs with brandy barrels around their necks which became a world-famous symbol of the Saint Bernard although the dogs never actually carried any casks at all.

During the early 1800's, they were also often called "Barry" dogs after a famous St. Bernard called Barry. Legend has it that he rescued 40 lost travellers in the pass. The breed almost vanished altogether during the 1830's because the monks of the day interbred their dogs far too much which along with several very severe winters and dogs developing diseases resulted in their numbers being decimated. As a result, the monks began crossing their dogs with Newfoundlands, the Great Pyrenees dog and it is thought they introduced Great Danes into the mix too and this led to the creation of the dogs we see today although at the time, they were not as heavy and taller in the leg. The St. Bernard remains the monastery's mascot to this day.

The monks had originally only used Newfoundlands imported to the country during the 1850's in an attempt to rescue the breed, but their endeavours were not successful because dogs had heavier coats which were at risk of becoming frozen and clogged up with snow which would weigh a dog down. As such they introduced the other breeds into the mix to create a lighter coated dog.

It was not until 1870 that St. Bernard's first appeared in America when the Rev. J C Macdona bought the breed to the public's attention and they were an immediate hit. Seven years later, in 1877 the first dogs were exhibited at the Westminster Kennel Club show after which time the breed's popularity gained momentum in the States.

The Swiss Saint Bernard Club was founded in Basel on the 15th March 1884 and the breed standard was approved in 1888. Since then, the breed has been regarded as Switzerland's national dog. Today, the Saint Bernard is still a popular breed here in the UK and elsewhere in the world thanks to their wonderfully kind, loyal natures and their proud, impressive looks with them being the National dog in Switzerland.

Interesting facts about the breed

  • Is the Saint Bernard a vulnerable breed? No, they are among the most popular in the UK and elsewhere in the world thanks to their gentle and kind natures
  • The Saint Bernard is Switzerland's national dog
  • The breed was once called the "Barry Dog" after a famous Saint Bernard called Barry
  • They were also known as Noble Steeds
  • The Saint Bernard has an extremely weather resistant coat which helps them cope with extreme cold, but it means they can overheat very quickly in warmer weather, when in cars and warmer houses
  • Saint Bernards are not only strong and powerful dogs, but they are highly intelligent too

Appearance

Height at the withers: Males 70 - 90 cm, Females 65 - 80 cm

Average weight: Males 64 - 120 kg, Females 64 - 120 kg

St. Bernards are large, powerful and muscular dogs with imposing heads and a kind, intelligent look in their eyes. They are one of the most recognised dogs in the world thanks to their search and rescue history. They boast very large heads with short muzzles and a nice square nose on the end of it. They have well defined stops and the top of their head is nicely domed adding to the breed's gentle, intelligent look. They also have quite a noticeable brow over medium sized, dark eyes which always have a gentle, kind and intelligent look about them.

Their ears are moderately large and lie close to a dog's cheeks being lightly feathered. The St. Bernard has a strong jaw with a perfect scissor bite where their upper teeth neatly overlap their lower ones. Their necks are thick and long being well muscled and slightly arched with St. Bernards having well developed dewlaps. Their shoulders are broad and slope well up at a dog's withers. Their front legs are straight, well boned, long and powerful.

They have powerful bodies with a broad, level back and a well-rounded ribcage. Their loins are wide and well-muscled with their croup being broad and gently sloping to the root of the tail. Chests are deep and wide with St. Bernards boasting strong, powerful and well-muscled first and second thighs on their back legs. Their feet are large and compact with dogs having well arched toes. Tails are set high and are long with dogs carry down when at rest but higher when they are alert or on the move.

When it comes to their coat, the St. Bernard can either have a rough or a smooth coat. Rough coated dogs have a dense coat that lies close to the body with the hair being a lot fuller around their necks, thighs and their tails are well feathered. In smooth coated dogs, the hair lies close and there is only a slight amount of feathering on their thighs and tails. The accepted breed colours for Kennel Club registration are as follows:

  • Brown & White
  • Brown & White & Dark Shadings
  • Mahogany & White
  • Mahogany Black & White
  • Mahogany Brindle
  • Mahogany White & Dark Shadings
  • Mahogany White Orange Shadings
  • Orange & White
  • Orange & White & Dark Shadings
  • Orange Black & White
  • Red & White
  • Red & White & Dark Markings
  • Red Brindle
  • Tricolour

Gait/movement

When a Saint Bernard moves, they do so in a smooth, unhurried way with a tremendous amount of power coming from their hindquarters while their backs always remain firm and level. Their back feet track their front ones which helps dogs cover harsher and more challenging terrains.

Faults

The Kennel Club frowns on any exaggeration or departure from the breed standard and would judge faults on how much they affect a dog' overall health and wellbeing as well as their ability to perform.

Male dogs should have both testicles fully descended into their scrotums and it is worth noting that dogs can be a little shorter or taller as well as slightly lighter or heavier than stated in the Kennel Club breed standard which is given as a guideline only.


Temperament

The St. Bernard is renowned for being a laid-back character and one that forms an extremely strong bond with their family. They are incredibly loyal and will do their utmost to please an owner which means that in the right hands and in the right environment, these large dogs are easy to train and will do their best to get things right. In short, a St. Bernard is often a lot easier to train and handle than many smaller breeds.

St. Bernards are social dogs by nature and generally get on with everyone they meet. They are a great choice as a family pet although they may just knock a toddler or younger child over albeit it by accident due to their sheer size. Rarely would one of the large, gentle giants show any sort of aggressive behaviour. Because they form such strong bonds with their owners, St. Bernards don't like it when they are left on their own and often develop separation anxiety if they are. As such, they are a good choice for families where at least one person stays at home when everyone else is out of the house.

They are not the best choice for first time owners because they do that much better with people who are familiar with their needs and this type of very large dog which includes the cost of keeping them which is a lot more than for your average sized dog. Although they don't need as much space as one would first think, Saint Bernards do enjoy being able to roam around in a secure back garden whenever they can, bearing in mind that during the hotter months of the year, care should be taken as to when a dog is exercised or let outside because they do not tolerate heat very well thanks to their thick, dense coats.

St. Bernards have a very distinct odour about them which is rather musky that some people might find hard to live with. They are also known to slobber and dribble quite a lot which means they are not the best choice for anyone who is house proud. The other thing to bear in mind, is that these large dogs can suffer during the hotter summer months so care must be taken as to when they are exercised to avoid them overheating which can easily happen when the weather is warmer. They are also extremely prone to overheating in cars and warmer rooms for the same reason.

Are they a good choice for first time owners?

The Saint Bernard, as previously mentioned is not the best choice for first time dog owners because of their large size and the fact they need to be handled and trained correctly right from the word go so they don't grow up to be unruly very large dogs. With this said, in the right hands and environment they are the perfect family pet and companion.

What about prey drive?

Saint Bernards are very social by nature and as such they do not have a very high prey drive. However, this is not to say that a dog would not give chase to a smaller animal when the mood takes them and this includes squirrels and the cat from next door albeit rather slowly.

What about playfulness?

Saint Bernards have a very playful side to their natures and love to entertain and be entertained albeit in their own time because these large dogs like to think about things before reacting. It is also important not to overdo things because Saint Bernards can overheat all too easily thanks to their thick, dense coats.

What about adaptability?

Saint Bernards do not adapt well to apartment living, being such large dogs, they need enough space to express themselves as they should. As such, they are better suited to people who have secure back gardens a dog can roam around in as often as possible, bearing in mind that dogs still need a lot of daily exercise and mental stimulation to be truly happy too.

What about separation anxiety?

Saint Bernards form strong ties with their families and dogs are never very happy when they find themselves left on their own for longer periods of time. They are better suited to people who either work from home or in households where one person stays at home when everyone else is out so they are never alone for any length of time which could see a dog suffering from separation anxiety. This can lead to them being destructive around the home which is a dog's way of relieving any stress they are feeling and a way to keep themselves entertained.

What about excessive barking?

Saint Bernards are not known to be "barkers" being quieter dogs by nature, but a dog would be quick to let their owner know when they are strangers about or when something they don't like is going on around them. As previously mentioned, their sheer size is usually enough to put wrongdoers off.

Do Saint Bernards like water?

Most Saint Bernards like swimming and will take to the water whenever they can more especially when the weather is hot. However, if anyone who owns a dog that does not like water should never force them to go in because it would just end up scaring them. With this said, care should always be taken when walking a Saint Bernard off the lead anywhere near more dangerous watercourses just in case a dog decides to leap in and then needs rescuing, bearing in mind that their heavy coats could weigh them down.

Are Saint Bernards good watchdogs?

Saint Bernards are not natural watchdogs although as previously mentioned this is not to say a dog would not be quick off the mark to let an owner know when there are strangers about although rarely would a dog show any sort of aggression.


Intelligence / Trainability

The St. Bernard is an intelligent dog, but they are known to "slow thinkers". As such their training can never be rushed, but it must be started early before dogs get too big. It's essential for puppies to be well socialised from a young enough age and it should include introducing them to new situations, noises, people, other animals and dogs once they have been fully vaccinated so they grow up to be confident, outgoing mature dogs.

As previously mentioned, their training must start early so that puppies can be taught the "basics" and special attention has to be paid to teaching these large dogs not to pull on their leads which if left too late could well prove to walk a powerful, fully grown dog. Saint Bernards are never happier than when rules and boundaries are set for them so they understand what their owners expect of them.

Puppies need to be taught the ground rules from an early age so they understand the limits and boundaries an owner sets for them. Saint Bernards should be taught the first following commands right from the word go:

  • Come
  • Sit
  • Stay
  • Quiet
  • Leave it
  • Down
  • Bed

Children and Other Pets

The Saint Bernard revels in being in a family environment. They are placid, fun-loving and completely trustworthy which is why they are such wonderful dogs to have as family pets. However, thanks to their sheer size care must be taken when a Saint Bernard is around toddlers and young children just in case they knock them over by accident which is the biggest danger with such large dogs. As such any interaction between younger children and such a large dog should be supervised by an adult to make sure nobody gets frightened or hurt.

Saint Bernards generally get on well with other pets in a household especially if they have grown up together. However, care should be taken when they meet any small animals they don't already know, just in case. These large dogs are social by nature and as such they get on with other dogs and would rarely be the ones to start a fight.

For further advice please read our article on Keeping Children Safe around Dogs.


Saint Bernard Health

The average life expectancy of a St. Bernard is between 8 and 10 years when properly cared for and fed an appropriate good quality diet to suit their ages.

Like so many other breeds, the St. Bernard is known to suffer from a few hereditary health issues which are worth knowing about if you are planning share your home with one of these large and impressive dogs. The conditions that seem to affect the breed the most include the following:

  • Entropion - an eye disorder that sees eyelids rolling inwards causing irritation and damage to a dog's cornea and which left untreated could cause blindness
  • Hip dysplasia - a high percentage (40%) of Saint Bernards suffer from the condition and stud dogs must be tested
  • Skin infections - thanks to their thick, dense coats, Saint Bernards are predisposed to hot spots and other skin issues
  • Diabetes mellitus - Saint Bernards have higher levels of growth hormones which puts them at greater risk of developing the condition
  • Bone cancer/osteosarcoma
  • Epilepsy - a condition that could be hereditary and therefore dogs diagnosed with the condition should never be used for breeding purposes
  • Bloat/gastric dilatation volvulus (GDV)
  • Heart disorders and more especially cardiomyopathy
  • Osteochondritis
  • Panosteitis
  • Elbow dysplasia
  • Genu valgum
  • Abnormal calcification
  • Pituitary abnormalities

What about vaccinations?

Saint Bernard puppies would have been given their initial vaccinations before being sold, but it is up to their new owners to make sure they have their follow-up shots in a timely manner with the vaccination schedule for puppies being as follows:

  • 10 -12 weeks old, bearing in mind that a puppy would not have full protection straight away, but would be fully protected 2 weeks after they have had their second vaccination

There has been a lot of discussion about the need for dogs to have boosters. As such, it's best to talk to a vet before making a final decision on whether a dog should continue to have annual vaccinations which are known as boosters.

What about spaying and neutering?

A lot of vets these days recommend waiting until dogs are slightly older before spaying and neutering them which means they are more mature before undergoing the procedures. As such they advise neutering males and spaying females when they are between the ages of 6 to 9 months old. Other vets recommend spaying and neutering dogs when they are 6 months old, but never any earlier unless for medical reasons.

What about obesity problems?

Some Saint Bernards gain weight after they have been spayed or neutered and it's important to keep an eye on a dog's waistline just in case they do. If a dog starts to put on weight it's important to adjust their daily calorie intake and to up the amount of exercise they are given. Older Saint Bernards too are more prone to gaining weight and again it's essential they be fed and exercised accordingly because obesity can shorten a dog's life by several years. The reason being that it puts a lot of extra strain on a dog's internal organs including the heart which has to work that much harder to pump blood around a dog’s body.

What about allergies?

Saint Bernards are prone to suffering from allergies and it's important for a dog to see a vet sooner rather than later if one flares up, bearing in mind that skin complaints are a real problem in the breed which includes them suffering from "hot spots". Allergies can be notoriously hard to clear up and finding the triggers can be challenging. With this said, a vet would be able to make a dog with an allergy more comfortable while they try to find out the triggers which could include the following:

  • Certain foods and more especially commercially produced food which contains cereals
  • Airborne pollens
  • Dust mites
  • Environment
  • Flea and tick bites
  • Chemicals found in everyday household cleaning products

Participating in health schemes

All responsible Saint Bernard breeders would ensure that their stud dogs are tested for known hereditary and congenital health issues known to affect the breed by using the following scheme:

The Kennel Club also strongly advises that all breeders should adhere to the following advice for the welfare of female Saint Bernards:

  • Bitches must not to produce a litter when they are under 2 years old

What about breed specific breeding restrictions?

Apart from the standard breeding restrictions for all Kennel Club registered breeds, there are no other breed specific breeding restrictions for Saint Bernards.

What about Assured Breeder Requirements?

It is mandatory for all KC Assured Breeders to use the following test on stud dogs and the Kennel Club strongly advises that all other breeders follow suit:

  • BVA/KC Hip Dysplasia Scheme
  • The Kennel Club also strongly advises that all breeders adhere to the following advice for the welfare of the breed:
  • Bitches must not to produce a litter when they are under 2 years old

Caring for a Saint Bernard

As with any other breed, Saint Bernards need to be groomed on a regular basis to make sure their coats and skin are kept in top condition, bearing in mind that because they have thick, dense coats, they are extremely prone to suffering from skin issues which includes hot spots. They also need to be given regular daily exercise to ensure they remain fit and healthy. On top of this, dogs need to be fed good quality food that meets all their nutritional needs throughout their lives.

Caring for a Saint Bernard puppy

Saint Bernard puppies are boisterous and full of life which means it's essential for homes and gardens to be puppy-proofed well in advance of their arrival. A responsible breeder would have well socialised their puppies which always leads to more outgoing, confident and friendly dogs right from the word go. With this said, any puppy is going to feel vulnerable when they leave their mother and littermates which must be taken into account. The longer a puppy can remain with their mother, the better although it should never be for too long either.

It's best to arrange to pick puppy up when people in the home are going to be around for the first week or so which is the time needed for a puppy to settle in. Puppy-proofing the home and garden means putting away any tools and other implements that a boisterous puppy might injure themselves on. Electric wires and cables must be put out of their reach because puppies love chewing on things. Toxic plants should be removed from flowerbeds and the home too.

Puppies need to sleep a lot to grow and develop as they should which means setting up a quiet area that's not too out of the way means they can retreat to it when they want to nap and it's important not to disturb them when they are sleeping. It's also a good idea to keep "playtime" nice and calm inside the house and to have a more active "playtime" outside in the garden which means puppies quickly learn to be less boisterous when they are inside.

The documentation a breeder provides for a puppy must have all the details of their worming date and the product used as well as the information relating to their microchip. It is essential for puppies to be wormed again keeping to a schedule which is as follows:

  • Puppies should be wormed at 6 months old
  • They need to be wormed again when they are 8 months old
  • Puppies should be wormed when they are 10 months old
  • They need to be wormed when they are 12 months old

Things you'll need for your puppy

There are certain items that new owners need to already have in the home prior to bringing a new puppy home. It's often a good idea to restrict how much space a puppy plays in more especially when you can't keep an eye on what they get up to bearing in mind that puppies are often quite boisterous which means investing in puppy gates or a large enough playpen that allows a Saint Bernard puppy the room to express themselves while keeping them safe too. The items needed are therefore, as follows:

  • Good quality puppy or baby gates to fit on doors
  • A good well-made playpen that's large enough for a  puppy to play in so they can really express themselves as puppies like to do
  • Lots of well-made toys which must include good quality chews suitable for puppies to gnaw on, bearing in mind that a puppy will start teething anything from when they are 3 to 8 months old
  • Good quality feed and water bowls which ideally should be ceramic rather than plastic or metal
  • A grooming glove
  • A slicker brush or soft bristle brush
  • Dog specific toothpaste and a toothbrush
  • Scissors with rounded ends
  • Nail clippers
  • Puppy shampoo and conditioner which must be specifically formulated for use on dogs
  • A well-made dog collar or harness
  • A couple of strong dog leads
  • A well-made dog bed that's not too small or too big
  • A well-made dog crate for use in the car and in the home, that's large enough for a  puppy to move around in
  • Baby blankets to put in your puppy's crate and in their beds for when they want to nap or go to sleep at night

Keeping the noise down

All puppies are sensitive to noise including Saint Bernard puppies. It's important to keep the noise levels down when a new puppy arrives in the home. TVs and music should not be played too loud which could end up stressing a small puppy out.

Keeping vet appointments

As previously mentioned, Saint Bernard puppies would have been given their first vaccinations by the breeders, but they must have their follow up shots which is up to their new owners to organise. The vaccination schedule for puppies is as follows:

  • 10 -12 weeks old, bearing in mind that a puppy would not have full protection straight away, but would only be fully protected 2 weeks after they have had their second vaccination

When it comes to boosters, it's best to discuss these with a vet because there is a lot of debate about whether a dog really needs them after a certain time. However, if a dog ever needed to go into kennels, their vaccinations would need to be

What about older Saint Bernard when they reach their senior years?

Older Saint Bernards need lots of special care because as they reach their golden years, they are more at risk of developing certain health concerns. Physically, a Saint Bernard will start to have a greying muzzle, but there will be other noticeable changes too which includes the following:

  • Coats become coarser and often thinner
  • A loss of muscle tone
  • Saint Bernards can either become overweight or underweight
  • They have reduced strength and stamina
  • Older dogs have difficulty regulating their body temperature
  • They often develop arthritis
  • Immune systems do not work as efficiently as they once did which means dogs are more susceptible to infections
  • Older dogs change mentally too which means their response time tends to be slower as such they develop the following:
  • They respond less to external stimuli due to impaired vision or hearing
  • They tend to be a little pickier about their food
  • They have a lower pain threshold
  • Become intolerant of any change
  • Often an older dog can feel disorientated

Living with a Saint Bernard in their golden years means taking on a few more responsibilities, but these are easily managed and should include taking a look at their diet, the amount of exercise they are given, how often their dog beds need changing and keeping an eye on the condition of their teeth.

Older Saint Bernards need to be fed a good quality diet that meets their needs at this stage of their lives all the while keeping a close eye on a dog's weight. A rough feeding guide for older Saint Bernards is as follows bearing in mind they should be fed highly digestible food that does not contain any additives:

  • Protein content should be anything from 14 – 21%
  • Fat content should be less than 10%
  • Fibre content should be less than 4%
  • Calcium content should be 0.5 – 0.8%
  • Phosphorous content should be 0.4 – 0.7%
  • Sodium content should be 0.2 – 0.4%

Older Saint Bernards don't need to be given the same amount of daily exercise as a younger dog, but they still need the right amount of physical activity to maintain muscle tone and to prevent a dog from putting on too much weight. All dogs need access to fresh clean water and this is especially true of older dogs when they reach their golden years because they are more at risk of developing kidney disorders.


Grooming

The St. Bernard boasts a lush coat and they are known to be prolific shedders as such they need to be brushed at least a few times a week and ideally this should be daily to remove any loose and dead hair from their coats. A lot of people take their dogs to be professionally groomed at least 3 to 4 times a year which makes it that much easier for them to keep their dog's coat in good condition in between visits to the grooming parlour. They shed all year round although it tends to be more during the Spring and then again in the Autumn when more frequent grooming is necessary to stay on top of things.

Dogs with droopy eyes need to have the area around their eyes checked and gently wiped with a soft, damp cloth to keep things clean which reduces the chance of any painful sores developing. It's also important to check a dog's ears on a regular basis and to clean them when necessary. If too much wax is allowed to build up in a dog's ears, it can lead to a painful infection which can be hard to clear up. In short, prevention is often easier than cure when it comes to ear infections.


Exercise

St. Bernards need to be given the right amount of daily exercise to keep them fit, happy and healthy. This means a good 60 - 80 minutes a day which should include a lot of "off the lead" time so that dogs can really express themselves. A shorter walk in the morning would be fine, but a longer more interesting one in the afternoon is a must. These dogs also like to be able to roam around a back garden as often as possible so they can really let off steam. However, the fencing has to be extremely secure to keep these large dogs in because if they find a weakness in the fence, they will soon escape out and get into all sorts of trouble.

With this said, St. Bernard puppies should not be over exercised because their joints and bones are still growing. This includes not letting a dog jump up and down from furniture or going up or down the stairs. Too much pressure placed on their joints and spines at an early age could result in a dog developing problems later in their lives.


Feeding

If you get a St. Bernard puppy from a breeder, they would give you a feeding schedule and it's important to stick to the same routine, feeding the same puppy food to avoid any tummy upsets. You can change a puppy's diet, but this needs to be done very gradually always making sure they don't develop any digestive upsets and if they do, it's best to put them back on their original diet and to discuss things with the vet before attempting to change it again. It's important to get a St. Bernard's diet when they are puppies because it stands them in good stead later on in their lives and the reverse may be true if they are fed incorrectly at a crucial stage of their lives when they are still growing and maturing.

Older dogs are not known to be fussy or finicky eaters, but this does not mean you can feed them a lower quality diet. It's best to feed a mature dog twice a day, once in the morning and then again in the evening, making sure it's good quality food that meets all their nutritional requirements. It's also important that dogs be given the right amount of exercise so they burn off any excess calories or they might gain too much weight which can lead to all sorts of health issues. Obesity can shorten a dog's life by several years so it's important to keep an eye on their waistline from the word go.

Because the St. Bernard is prone to suffer from bloat, it is really important that they be fed twice a day instead of giving them just one larger meal a day. It's also a good idea to invest in a stand to place their feed bowl which makes it easier for these large dogs to eat comfortably without having to stretch their necks down low to reach their food. You should never exercise a dog just before or just after they have eaten either because this puts them more at risk of suffering from bloat.

 

Notes are with thanks from pets4homes.co.uk and photo is with thanks from nl.working-dog.com

 

 

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PYRENEAN MASTIFF

The Pyrenean is a large dog, which has a thick , double coat , which the hair around the neck being longer, forming a distinctive ruff. They are known to be gentle giants that form strong bonds with their owners and their families. and they thrive in the home environment loving nothing more than to be around everything that is going on. They were once known as the Navarra Mastiff.  but their name was changed to Pyrenean Mastiff and although highly prized in many countries of the world, these large and impressive dogs are not as popular here in the UK with only very few well-bred puppies being registered with The Kennel Club every year.

History

The Pyrenean Mastiff is a descendant of a very ancient breed known as the Molosser and at one time these large and imposing dogs were called Navarra Mastiffs. They were originally bred to protect large flocks of sheep from predators and their owners would put spiked collars around their necks so they had extra protection when they were attacked by wolves or bears.

These dogs have been used since the Middle Ages and were found in many different parts of Europe including Spain and France. It is thought that they were taken to different parts of Europe by Viennese and Phoenician traders when they bought dogs from Asia with them. Over time four distinct types of Mastiff developed in various regions with the Pyrenean Mastiff being one of them.

Although very popular in their native land, the Pyrenean Mastiff was only recognised as a breed in its own right by the Club del Mastín del Pirineo de España in Spain in 1977. In 1982, the breed received recognition from the FCI and today, the Pyrenean Mastiff is Kennel Club registered here in the UK although a breed standard has not as yet been established for these large, imposing dogs.

Appearance

Height at the withers: Males 76.2 - 81.28 cm, Females 74.93 - 81.28 cm

Average weight: Males 81 - 100 kg, Females 81 - 100 kg

Pyrenean Mastiffs are large and impressive looking dogs that boast a well-balanced look about them. Although very large, they never give the impression of being heavy or sluggish when they move and if anything they are extremely light on their feet. Their heads are large and strong being quite long with a dog's skull being a little longer than their muzzle. They have a very slight stop and quite a pronounced occipital bone. Their muzzles taper to the tip of the nose with dogs having straight bridges to their noses.

The Pyrenean Mastiff has a strong jaw with a perfect scissor bite where their upper teeth neatly overlap their lower ones. Their noses are black, large and broad. They have small, almond shaped eyes that are as dark as possible, but hazel eyes are acceptable too. Dogs always have a keen and alert, yet kindly expression in their eyes. Their ears are moderately large and triangular shaped being set above a dog's eye line. They hang their ears close to their cheeks when relaxed, but away from them when alert or excited.

Their necks are strong, muscular and broad with a very distinct dewlap and quite a lot of loose skin. They have long, sloping shoulder blades and perfectly straight, strong legs that show a good amount of sinew and bone. Pyrenean Mastiffs are slightly longer in the body than they are tall and they boast having powerful, yet supple bodies. Chests are deep and broad with a pronounced forechest. They have well sprung ribs and their withers are well defined.

They have nice level backs and strong, long loins that narrow slightly over a dog's flanks. Croups are wide, sloping and long with a dog's belly being moderately tucked up. Their back legs are powerful with long, well-muscled thighs and showing a good amount of bone. Some dogs have double dewclaws whereas others have single dewclaws. They have very cat-like feet with their back ones being a little more oval in shape than their front ones. Their tails are set moderately high and are thicker at the base with the last part of the tail having a well-defined curl in it. Dogs carry their tails higher when alert in the shape of a scimitar which shows off the longer hair on its underside forming the breed's trademark plume.

When it comes to their coat, the Pyrenean Mastiff boasts having a thick, dense double coat that's quite bristly to the touch and which is moderately long. However, the hair on a dog's shoulders, neck, belly and on the back of their legs and tails is longer than on the rest of the body. The hair on their tails is also much softer to the touch. The accepted breed colours are as follows:

  • Snow white ground color with medium grey, intensive golden yellow, brown, black, grey-silver, light beige, sandy or marbled patches

A dog's mask should be clearly defined and their ears are always spotted with the tip of their tails and the lower parts of the legs always being white.

Temperament

The Pyrenean Mastiff is known to be a gentle giant and one that forms strong bonds with their owners and their families. They can be a little over protective of the people they love which can be a problem when there are young children around. They are naturally wary of people they do not know, but rarely would a Pyrenean Mastiff show any sort of aggression towards a stranger unless they felt threatened in any way. In general, they prefer to keep their distance until they get to know someone.

Pyrenean Mastiffs thrive in a home environment where the children are older and who therefore know how to behave around dogs. However, they are not the best choice for first time owners because they need to be handled and trained by people who are familiar with the needs of such a large dog. They can be quite independent at times which is another reason why a dog's socialisation has to start early and their training has to begin as soon as puppies arrive in their new homes. Puppies need to be taught the "basics" and boundaries when they are still young to prevent them from showing a more dominant side to their natures which can make these large dogs that much harder to live with and handle.

It's really important for these dogs to be well socialised from a young age so they grow up to be well-balanced, mature dogs. Their socialisation has to include introducing them to lots of new situations, noises, people, other animals and dogs once they have been fully vaccinated. It's also crucial for their training to start early too and it has to be consistent throughout a dog's life. A Pyrenean Mastiff is never happier than when they know their place in the pack and who they can look to for direction and guidance. If they don't know who is the alpha dog in a household they may quickly take on the role of a dominant dog which is something to be avoided at all costs.

Intelligence / Trainability

The Pyrenean Mastiff is intelligent and likes to please which means in the right hands they are easy to train. They need to be well socialised from a young age and their training has to begin early too. It also has to be very consistent and always fair, so that a dog understands what their owner expects of them. Like other dogs, the Pyrenean Mastiff is never happier than when they are given something to do which is why they are so amenable to learning new things.

They do not respond well to any sort of harsh correction or heavier handed training methods because they are quite sensitive by nature. They do answer well to positive reinforcement which always brings the best out of these large and intelligent dogs. Training sessions should be kept short and interesting so that dogs remain more focussed on what is being asked of them. Longer more repetitive training sessions become too boring for clever dogs and they soon lose interest in what is going on making it that much harder to train them.

They excel at many canine sports which includes activities like flyball, agility and obedience because they thrive on the attention they are given during their training and the one-to-one contact they have with their owners when they are competing.

Children and Other Pets

Pyrenean Mastiffs are known to be very good around children thanks to their gentle, placid natures. However, because of their large size,it is advised that Pyrenean Mastiffs are not the best choice for families with babies or very young children. Anyone who already shares a home with a Pyrenean Mastiff and who have younger children should always make sure they are never left together unattended. It is also crucial for parents to teach young children how to behave around dogs and when to stay away from them, particularly when there is food around or during playtime.

When dogs have been well socialised from a young enough age, they generally get on well with other dogs they meet, but they will stand their ground if they feel threatened by another dog. If they have grown up with a family cat in a household, they usually get on well together. However, a Pyrenean would think nothing of chasing off any other cats they encounter because they would see them as fair game. Care has to be taken when they are around any smaller animals and pets just to be safe.

Pyrenean Mastiff Health

The average life expectancy of a Pyrenean Mastiff is between 8 and 13 years when properly cared for and fed an appropriate good quality diet to suit their ages.

The Pyrenean Mastiff is known to be a healthy dog although they can suffer from a few hereditary health issues which are worth knowing about if you are planning share your home with one of these impressive looking dogs. The conditions that seem to affect the breed the most include the following:

  • Eye problems - Breeders should have stud dogs eye tested
  • Hip dysplasia - Breeders should have stud dogs hip scored
  • Bloat - gastric torsion

Caring for a Pyrenean Mastiff

As with any other breed, Pyrenean Mastiffs need to be groomed on a regular basis to make sure their coats and skin are kept in top condition. They also need to be given regular daily exercise to ensure they remain fit and healthy. On top of this, dogs need to be fed good quality food that meets all their nutritional needs throughout their lives.

Grooming

Pyrenean Mastiffs have dense, thick moderately long double coats that consist of a harsher top coat and a much softer undercoat. Although heavy, they are not high maintenance in the grooming department because their coats are not prone to knotting or matting. As such their coats needs to be brushed 2 or 3 times a week to remove any loose and dead hair. They are known to be prolific shedders throughout the year and they tend to shed even more during the Spring and then again in the Autumn when more frequent grooming is usually necessary to stay on top of things and to stay on top of things.

It's also important to check a dog's ears on a regular basis and to clean them when necessary. If too much wax is allowed to build up in a dog's ears, it can lead to a painful infection which can be hard to clear up. In short, prevention is often easier than cure when it comes to ear infections.

Exercise

The Pyrenean Mastiff is not a high energy but they need to be given the right amount of daily exercise and mental stimulation for them to be truly happy, well-rounded characters. They need at least 1 hour's exercise a day with as much off the lead time as possible. If they are not given the right amount of mental stimulation and exercise every day, a Pyrenean Mastiff would quickly get bored and could even begin to show some destructive behaviours around the home which is their way of relieving any stress they may be feeling.

A shorter walk in the morning would be fine, but a longer more interesting one in the afternoon is a must with as much off the lead time as possible. These dogs also like to be able to roam around a back garden as often as possible so they can really let off steam. However, the fencing has to be extremely secure to keep these large dogs in because if they find a weakness in the fence, they will soon escape and could get into all sorts of trouble.

With this said, Pyrenean Mastiff puppies should not be over exercised because their joints and bones are still growing. This includes not letting a dog jump up and down from furniture or going up or down the stairs. Too much pressure placed on their joints and spines at an early age could result in a dog developing serious problems later in their lives.

 

Feeding

If you get a Pyrenean Mastiff puppy from a breeder, they would give you a feeding schedule and it's important to stick to the same routine, feeding the same puppy food to avoid any tummy upsets. You can change a puppy's diet, but this needs to be done very gradually always making sure they don't develop any digestive upsets and if they do, it's best to put them back on their original diet and to discuss things with the vet before attempting to change it again.

Older dogs are not known to be fussy eaters, but this does not mean they can be given a lower quality diet. It's best to feed a mature dog twice a day, once in the morning and then again in the evening, making sure it's good quality food that meets all their nutritional requirements. It's also important that dogs be given the right amount of exercise so they burn off any excess calories or they might gain too much weight which can lead to all sorts of health issues. Obesity can shorten a dog's life by several years so it's important to keep an eye on their waistline from the word go.

Because Pyrenean Mastiffs are known to suffer from bloat, it is really important for them to be fed twice a day instead of giving dogs one larger meal a day. It's also a good idea to invest in a stand for their feed bowls which makes it easier for dogs to eat comfortably without having to stretch their necks down to reach their food. Dogs should never be exercised just before or just after they have eaten either because this puts them more at risk of suffering from gastric torsion.

Average Cost to keep/care for a Pyrenean Mastiff

If you are looking to buy a Pyrenean Mastiff, you would need to register your interest with breeders and agree to being put on a waiting list because very few puppies are bred and registered with The Kennel Club every year. You would need to pay anything upwards of £800 for a well-bred pedigree puppy.

The cost of insuring a male 3-year-old Pyrenean Mastiff in northern England would be £57.27 a month for basic cover but for a lifetime policy, this would set you back £121.54 a month (quote as of July 2016). When insurance companies calculate a pet's premium, they factor in several things which includes where you live in the UK, a dog's age and whether or not they have been neutered or spayed among other things.

When it comes to food costs, you need to buy the best quality food whether wet or dry making sure it suits the different stages of a dog’s life. This would set you back between £80 - £90 a month. On top of all of this, you need to factor in veterinary costs if you want to share your home with a Pyrenean Mastiff and this includes their initial vaccinations, their annual boosters, the cost of neutering or spaying a dog when the time is right and their yearly health checks, all of which quickly adds up to over £1500 a year.

As a rough guide, the average cost to keep and care for a Pyrenean Mastiff would be between £130 to £210 a month depending on the level of insurance cover you opt to buy for your dog, but this does not include the initial cost of buying a pedigree or other puppy.

 

Notes with thanks to https://www.pets4homes.co.uk/dog-breeds/  Photo with thanks to https://www.petguide.com/breeds/dog/pyrenean-mastiff/

 

 

 

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GREAT DANE ( GERMAN MASTIFF)

Breed Highlights

Positives

  • Great Danes are extremely loyal and affectionate to their families
  • They are very intelligent dogs
  • In the right hands, they are easy to train
  • Low maintenance on the grooming front
  • They have moderate shedding coats
  • Great Danes are very playful and goofy by nature

Negatives

  • They are not the best choice for first-time dog owners
  • Great Danes are extremely large dogs and need enough space to express themselves
  • They are known to drool (a lot)
  • They suffer from separation anxiety when left on their own
  • Their tails can cause a lot of damage when excited
  • They can be stubborn when the mood takes them
  • They are prone to suffering from certain health issues which can result in higher vet bills
  • Great Danes being a large breed has a short lifespan
  • They are expensive to feed and need a lot of exercise

Introduction

The Great Dane may be a large dog, but they are true gentle giants and as such they have become a popular choice both as family pets and companion dogs not only in the UK, but elsewhere in the world too. They boast very kind, playful natures and seem to have an affinity with children of all ages. Their devotion and loyalty to their owners matches a Great Dane's impressive looks.

Great Danes are a noble, dignified breed, but for such large dogs they can be quick off the mark when the occasion arises and they love nothing more than to be part of a family and being involved in everything that goes on in a household. Great Danes being one of the larger breeds sadly, have quite a short life span and they are known to suffer from a few health issues, but with this said, the pros far outweigh any cons about the breed which is why they have consistently remained such a popular breed.

History

The history of the Great Dane can be traced all the way back to Ancient Egypt with images of similar looking dog being found on monuments that date back to 3000 BC. Artifacts found in Babylonian temples and images of ancient Assyrian people with large dogs that resemble the Great Dane from 2000 BC. There are those who believe that dogs resembling the breed could well have originated in Tibet and there is a striking similarity between Great Danes and Tibetan Mastiffs with early records of the dogs being found in Chinese writings that date back to 1121 BC.

It is thought that Assyrian traders sold their dogs to Romans and to the people of Ancient Greece. The Romans took up the gauntlet and began breeding these dogs to other dogs they had found in Britain. As such, it is thought that both English and Tibetan Mastiffs are in the breed's ancestry. There are those who also think that other breeds namely the Irish Greyhound and the Irish Wolfhound may well have been used to develop the breed over time with the Comte de Buffon, a French naturalist in the 1700's believed the Irish Wolfhound was the main ancestor of the Great Dane. He based his theory on the fact that both the English and the Romans took large dogs with them which they crossed to the Irish Wolfhound.

The debate however, continued with the Baron Cuview believing that the breeds responsible for creating the Great Dane were in fact the Irish Wolfhound and the English Mastiff with the earliest crossed having been called "Boar Hounds" because they were used to hunt wild boar. It was during the 16th Century that these dogs were called English Dogges. By the end of the 16th Century, German aristocracy and noblemen bred large hunting dogs which were known as Kammerbunde which translated means "Chamber Dogs" because they were kept inside rather than in kennels outside.

It was the Comte de Buffon who named the breed the "Great Dane" after having travelled through Denmark where he spotted similar looking dogs to the Boar Hound that were slimmer much like the Greyhound. He thought it was because of the Danish weather that the dogs had changed in appearance and decided to call them the Grand Danois which then became the Great Danish Dog with heavier dogs being called Danish Mastiffs.

The "Dane" side of the breed's name stuck even though the Great Dane was not developed in any way whatsoever in Denmark. Breed enthusiasts all agree, that these handsome, statuesque dogs were developed in Germany having been imported by noblemen during the 17th and 18th Century. By the end of the 18th Century, it was decided that the dogs found in Germany were vastly different to the heavier dogs found in Britain, namely the English Mastiff and as such they decided to call them the German Dog or Deutsche Dogge. The Deutsche Doggen Club of Germany was then established.

However, other European countries did not take to the breed being called Deutsche Dogge with the Italians calling the breed the "Alano" even to this day. In other parts of the world, the breed is known as the Great Dane with their first appearance in the UK being in 1877 when they became a very popular choice with owners of large estates where they continued to be used to hunt game by nobility. In 1885 the first breed club was established in the UK and from then onwards, these proud and noble dogs have become a popular choice as family pets and companions all thanks to their wonderfully loyal, friendly natures and stunning looks.

Interesting facts about the breed

  • Is the Great Dane a vulnerable breed? No, they are among some of the most popular dogs in the UK
  • Similar dogs were around in Ancient Egyptian and Roman times
  • Noblemen prized them so much, they kept Great Danes in their Great Halls rather than in kennels outside
  • Great Danes are extremely large dogs, but they are renowned for being “gentle giants”
  • They were originally bred to be guard and hunting dogs and more especially, to hunt wild boar
  • Although they have “Dane” in their breed name, they do not originate from Denmark
  • The dog in Scooby Doo is a Great Dane
  • A Great Dane called Zeus holds the record for being the tallest dog standing at 44 inches at the wither

Appearance

Height at the withers: Males 76 - 81 cm, Females 71 - 76 cm

Average weight: Males 54 - 62 kg, Females 46 - 54 kg

There is no doubt that Great Danes are among the most impressive looking dogs on the planet. Their size disguises the fact they boast kind and gentle natures. Their heads and jaws alone are large and show just how powerful these dogs are when they need to be. They boast having broad muzzles and well chiseled faces with long forefaces and very wide bridges to their noses which is a typical characteristic of the breed.

Their nostrils are large and open which adds a blunt appearance to their nose and their lips hang slightly at the front. Eyes are deep set and medium in size being dark in colour although dogs with harlequin coats can have either wall or odd coloured eyes which is permissible. Ears are triangular and moderate in size being set high on a dog's head and they fold forward without being too pendulous.

A Great Dane's jaw is strong and dogs boast a perfect scissor bite where their upper teeth neatly overlap their lower ones. They have long necks that dogs carry well arched. When Great Danes take a proud stance, their heads and necks are very well defined. Shoulders are well developed and muscular without being too loaded and they slope well back. Their front legs are perfectly straight showing lots of bone.

They boast a deep brisket with well sprung ribs and their belly is well drawn up. Their back is strong with loins being slightly arched. A Great Dane's hindquarters are extremely well developed and muscular showing that these dogs have a tremendous amount of power when needed. Back legs are powerful and well-muscled and their feet are very cat-like with dogs boasting well arched toes and strong, curved nails that are dark in colour with the exception being in harlequin dogs when their nails are lighter in colour which is permissible as a breed standard. Their tail is thicker at the root, but it tapers to the tip which dogs carry level to their backs and slightly curved when they are on the move.

When it comes to coat, the Great Dane boasts a short, thick coat that is sleek to the touch and not rough feeling at all. The accept breed colours for Kennel Club registration are as follows:

  • Black
  • Blue
  • Brindle
  • Fawn
  • Harlequin
  • Mantle (Black Body with white on Muzzle, Collar and Chest)

Great Danes with brindle coats have a lighter buff to deep orange ground colour with black stripes.

Fawn coats can be a light buff right through to a deep orange with darker shades around a Great Dane's head and ears which is allowed under the KC breed standard

Blue coats can range from a lighter grey right through to a much deeper slate

Gait/movement

When a Great Dane moves, they do so with a light, free and spring action covering a lot of ground. Their hocks move freely and heads are carried high with dogs having a tremendous amount of drive and for such large dogs, they are surprising agile and light on their feet.

Faults

The Kennel Club frowns on any sort of exaggeration or departure from the breed standard and would judge the faults on how much they affect a dog's overall health and wellbeing as well as their ability to perform.

Males should have both testicles fully descended into their scrotums and it is worth noting that a Great Dane may be a little shorter or taller as well as slightly lighter or heavier than set out in the KC breed standard which is given as a guide only.

Temperament

Great Danes are renowned for their friendly and outgoing natures. They may be imposing to look at, but they are extremely mild mannered and affectionate dogs that enjoy nothing more than being given lots of attention. They are a great choice as family pets and companion dogs although care should be taken when these larger than life dogs are around toddlers simply because they may knock a very small child over, albeit by accident.

They very rarely show any sort of aggressive behaviour and this includes towards other dogs. However, they are not the best choice for first time owners because Great Danes need to be correctly trained and handled by someone who really understands the breed. Their training needs to start early and it must be consistent for dogs to understand their place in the pack and who is the alpha dog in a household. If they are not handled correctly and given the right sort of guidance from a young age, a Great Dane might well become wilful and unruly which in such a large dog can present a massive problem given their size when fully grown.

They are renowned for being incredibly loyal to their families and are especially good around children. However, the downside to their devotion, is that Great Danes hate it when they are left on their own. As such, they are better suited to households where at one person stays at home when everyone else is out so that they never spend too much time on their own.

Are they a good choice for first time owners?

Given their sheer size and the fact they are powerful and sometimes stubborn dogs, Great Danes are not the best choice for first time dog owners. They must be well handled, socialised and trained from a young age by people who are familiar with the needs of such a large breed, bearing in mind that a cute albeit robust puppy quickly grows into an extremely powerful and large dog. Great Danes love to laze around, but they also need enough room to sprawl out and to express themselves as they should.

What about prey drive?

Great Danes are social by nature more especially if they have been well socialised from a young enough age. However, they do have quite a high prey drive and will happily chase smaller animals if they get the chance. Owners should always take great care as to where and when they let their dogs off their leads and should always pay special attention to the "recall" command when training a Great Dane and it’s a command that should be reinforced throughout a dog’s life.

What about playfulness?

Great Danes have a very playful side to their natures and are renowned for being "goofy" when they mood takes them. They adore being entertained and entertaining their families and being so clever, a Great Dane quickly learns what their owners like and don't like. With this said, playtime can get a bit boisterous and given their sheer size, games are best played outside in the garden to prevent too many breakages in the home.

What about adaptability?

Great Danes are large dogs that need to have enough space to express themselves as they should. As such, they are not the best choice for people who live in smaller apartments or houses, but are quite happy to live in towns providing their owners have large, secure back gardens for their pets to romp in whenever they can. Another thing prospective owners need to take into account is that Great Danes do not fit well in smaller cars thanks to their large size.

What about separation anxiety?

Great Danes form strong ties with their families and dogs are never very happy when they find themselves left on their own for longer periods of time. They are better suited to people who either work from home or in households where one person stays at home when everyone else is out so they are never alone for any length of time which could see a dog suffering from separation anxiety. This can lead to them being destructive around the home which is a dog's way of relieving any stress they are feeling and a way to keep themselves entertained.

What about excessive barking?

Great Danes are not known to be barkers and will only voice an opinion when they think it is necessary to do so. In short, when a Great Dane barks, it is for good reason and not just because they feel like it.

Do Great Danes like water?

Most Great Danes love swimming and will take to the water whenever they can more especially when the weather is hot. However, if anyone who owns a dog that does not like water should never force them to go in because it would just end up scaring them. With this said, care should always be taken when walking a Dane off the lead anywhere near more dangerous watercourses just in case a dog decides to leap in and then needs rescuing.

Are Great Danes good watchdogs?

Great Danes natural watchdogs just because of their size alone. It would be fair to describe them as being "great watchdogs", but not particularly good "guard dogs". In short, they always let an owner know when there are strangers about or when they don't like something that's going on in their environment, but other than that they would typically greet a person rather than attack them.

Intelligence / Trainability

Great Danes are intelligent dogs, but they need to be trained correctly by someone who is familiar with this type of dog. Their education and training needs to start when they are still puppies and it needs to be consistent throughout their lives for them to be manageable and well behaved mature dogs.

The key to successfully training a Great Dane is for puppies to be extremely well socialised as soon as they are fully vaccinated and to use positive reinforcement methods because like many other breeds Great Danes do not respond well to harsher training methods because they are sensitive dogs by nature. Owners must set ground rules for puppies so they understand what is expected of them, bearing in mind that a young Great Dane will always tests these from time to time. The first commands a puppy should be taught are as follows:

  • Come
  • Sit
  • Stay
  • Quiet
  • Leave it
  • Down
  • Bed

Children and Other Pets

Great Danes are known to get on well with children and are known to have a real affinity with kids of all ages, but due to their large size any interaction between dogs and children should be supervised just in case playtime gets too boisterous and a child ends up getting accidentally knocked over which could end up frightening or injuring them.

Rarely would a Great Dane show any sort of aggressive behaviour towards other dogs and they are known to get on with other animals which includes family cats if they have grown up together. However, care needs to be taken when a Great Dane is around any smaller pets because they do have quite a high prey drive and as such any introductions must be done carefully so that things go smoothly.

For further advice please read our article on Keeping Children Safe around Dogs.

Great Dane Health

The average life expectancy of a Great Dane is between 8 and 10 years when properly cared for and fed an appropriate good quality diet to suit their ages.

The Great Dane is prone to some health problems, and prospective owners should consult their breeders about the following known issues in the breed.

  • Dilated cardiomyopathy (DM) - Breed Club - Heart testing
  • Bloat/gastric torsion
  • Hip dysplasia - stud dogs should be hip scored
  • Wobblers syndrome
  • Sensitivity to specific anaesthetics
  • Addison's Disease
  • Glaucoma
  • Osteosarcoma
  • Flea Allergic Dermatitis
  • Splenic Torsion/Twisted Spleen

More about colour ethics for the breed

Responsible Great Dane breeders would always follow the guidelines set out below which covers colour ethics for the breed:

  • A black Great Dane when mated fawn/brindle dogs must not have any mantle or harlequin in their lineage/pedigree
  • A black Great Dane when mated to a mantle/harlequin dog must not hav any brindle/fawn in their lineage/pedigree
  • A blue Great Dane when mated to a fawn dog must not have any mantle or harlequie in their pedigree which applies vice versa too
  • A blue Great Dane when mated to harlequin dogs must not have any brindle/fawn or mantle in their lineage/pedigree

Prospective owners should also be aware that breeding harlequin Great Danes to white, merle, piebald and tweed coloured dogs could result in puppies carrying the gene mutation responsible for deafness, blindness and skin issues. As such, breeders are strongly advised not to carry out such breeding programmes.

What about vaccinations?

Great Dane puppies would have been given their initial vaccinations before being sold, but it is up to their new owners to make sure they have their follow-up shots in a timely manner with the vaccination schedule for puppies being as follows:

  • 10 -12 weeks old, bearing in mind that a puppy would not have full protection straight away, but would be fully protected 2 weeks after they have had their second vaccination

There has been a lot of discussion about the need for dogs to have boosters. As such, it's best to talk to a vet before making a final decision on whether a dog should continue to have annual vaccinations which are known as boosters.

What about spaying and neutering?

A lot of vets these days recommend waiting until dogs are slightly older before spaying and neutering them which means they are more mature before undergoing the procedures. As such they advise neutering males and spaying females when they are between the ages of 6 to 9 months old and sometimes even when a dog is 12 months old and because the Great Dane is known to suffer from osteosarcoma, some vets recommend waiting until a dog is older before they undergo the surgery.

Other vets recommend spaying and neutering dogs when they are 6 months old, but never any earlier unless for medical reasons. With this said, many breeds are different and it is always advisable to discuss things with a vet and then follow their advice on when a dog should be spayed or neutered because they could be medical and health reasons for doing so early or later in a dog's life.

What about obesity problems?

Some Great Danes gain weight after they have been spayed or neutered and it's important to keep an eye on a dog's waistline just in case they do. If a dog starts to put on weight it's important to adjust their daily calorie intake and to up the amount of exercise they are given. Older Danes too are more prone to gaining weight and again it's essential they be fed and exercised accordingly because obesity can shorten a dog's life by several years. The reason being that it puts a lot of extra strain on a dog's internal organs including the heart.

What about allergies?

Great Danes are prone to suffering from allergies and more especially flea allergic dermatitis and it's important for a dog to see a vet sooner rather than later if one flares up. Allergies can be notoriously hard to clear up and finding the triggers can be challenging. With this said, a vet would be able to make a dog with an allergy more comfortable while they try to find out the triggers which could include the following:

  • Certain foods and more especially commercially produced pet food that contains high levels of cereals
  • Airborne pollens
  • Dust mites
  • Environment
  • Flea and tick bites
  • Chemicals found in everyday household cleaning products

 

All notes and photo with thanks to  www.pets4homes.co.uk 

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BULLMASTIFF

Description

The Bullmastiff is massive, very powerfully built, but is not a cumbersome dog. The large, broad skull is wrinkled and the muzzle is broad, deep and usually darker in color. The forehead is flat and the stop is moderate. The black nose is wide and has large nostrils. The teeth meet in a level or undershot bite. The medium sized eyes are dark hazel. The V-shaped ears are set high and wide, carried close to the cheeks, giving a square appearance to the skull. The strong tail is set high, thicker at the root and tapering and is either straight or curved, and reaches to the hocks. The back is short, straight and level between the withers and the loin. The short, dense, slightly rough coat comes in brindle, fawn, or red, often with black markings on the head.

Temperament

The Bullmastiff is a devoted, alert guard dog, with a good-natured temperament. Docile and affectionate, but fearless if provoked. Although unlikely to attack, it will catch an intruder, knock him down and hold him. At the same time, it is tolerant of children. Intelligent, even-tempered, calm and loyal, these dogs crave human leadership. The Bullmastiff is extremely powerful and needs a firm master who is confident and consistent with the rules set upon the dog. They should be thoroughly obedience trained, and should be taught not to pull on the leash. When going in and out gateways or doorways the dog should allow the humans to enter and exit first out of pack respect, because in the dog's mind, the leader goes first. The dog must heel beside or behind the human. This is most important, as not only do dogs have migration instincts and need to walk daily, but instinct tells a dog the pack leader goes first. Be sure to socialize extensively with both people and other dogs at an early age. They can be okay with other pets, depending on how well the owners communicate with the dog. The Bullmastiff is a more dominant breed than the Mastiff. He tends to drool, slobber and snore. Puppies may seem uncoordinated. These dogs are very sensitive to the tone of your voice and need someone to speak with an air of assertiveness, but not harshness. It is not a difficult dog but does require a handler who can assert his authority. The Bullmastiff should never be banished to a kennel. Meek or passive owners will find it hard to control this dog. It will appear willful, possibly aggressive with other dogs and reserved with strangers if owners do not take the time to socialize, and know how to properly communicate what is expected in a meaningful manner.

Height, Weight

Height: Males 25 - 27 inches (63 – 69 cm) Females 24 - 26 inches (61 – 66 cm)

Weight: Males 110 - 133 pounds (50 – 60 kg) Females 100 - 120 pounds (45 – 54 kg)

Health Problems

Prone to cancer, hip dysplasia, tumors, eyelid problems, PRA and boils on the lips. Also prone to bloat. It is a good idea to feed them two or three small meals a day instead of one large meal. Gains weight easily, do not over feed. Prone to mast cell tumors.

Living Conditions

Bullmastiffs will do okay in an apartment if they are sufficiently exercised. They are relatively inactive indoors and a small yard will do. They cannot tolerate extremes of temperatures.

Exercise

Bullmastiffs need to be taken on a daily walk to fulfill their primal canine instinct to migrate. Those individuals who do not get this need met are more likely to have behavior issues. While out on the walk the dog must be made to heel beside or behind the person holding the lead, as in a dog's mind the leader leads the way, and that leader needs to be the human. Teach them to enter and exit all door and gateways after the human.

Life Expectancy

Under 10 years.

Litter Size

4 - 13 puppies, average 8

Grooming

The shorthaired, slightly rough coat is easy to groom. Comb and brush with a firm bristle brush, and shampoo only when necessary. There is little shedding with this breed. Check the feet regularly because they carry a lot of weight, and trim the nails.

Origin

The Bullmastiff was obtained by crossing 60% Mastiffs with 40% Bulldogs in the country of England. Mastiff Bulldog types can be found in records as early back as 1795. In 1924 Bullmastiffs began to be judged. Three generations of breeding of Bullmastiffs was required for Bullmastiffs to be registered as purebreds. The Bullmastiff was used as a gamekeeper's dog to track down, tackle and hold poachers. The dogs were fierce and threatening, but were trained not to bite the intruders. When the need for gamekeeper's dogs decreased, the dark brindle dogs so good for night camouflage gave way in popularity to the lighter fawn coloration. It has been prized as a hunting guard, as an aid in army and police work, and is used as a watchdog by the Diamond Society of South Africa. Today's Bullmastiff is a reliable family companion and guardian. It enjoys living with the family, with whom it comforts itself well.

Notes and photo with thanks to www.dogbreedinfo.com & www.dogtime.com  

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