The Colossal Mastiff

Showight June 2020 Issue 

  1. Where do you live? What is your occupation? How many years in dogs?
  2. Do you have any hobbies or interests apart from breeding and showing dogs?
  3. How did you first become involved with the Mastiff?
  4. Are there any special requirements for breeding such a large breed? For showing?
  5. At what age do you start to see definite signs of show-worthiness (or lack thereof)?
  6. Can you speak to the importance of soundness in the breed?
  7. In the show ring, is the Mastiff a “showy” dog?
  8. At home, does the breed make a good family pet?
  9. What are your hopes for the future of the breed? For the sport?
  10. For a bit of humor: Do you have a funny story you can share about showing Mastiffs?
  11. Is there anything else you’d like to share about the breed? Please elaborate.


Damara Bolte

I live in Leesburg, Virginia, and grew-up as an “Army-brat.” I graduated from Purdue University in animal husbandry and studied animal sculpture in Paris. I’ve bred Reveille Basenjis since 1955 and have handled a good many Basenjis over the years, including nine Best in Show winners. I have been a BCOA board member and wrote the breed column in the AKC Gazette for over three decades. My avocation has been professional handling with a career as an Animal Husbandman for the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland. I was involved with producing small laboratory animals (i.e. mice, rats and guinea pigs) for research or testing human diseases. I accompanied Basenji breeders Jon Curby and Stan Carter, DVM on the 1988 Basenji search in Zaire. I received the AKC 2002 Hound Group Breeder of the Year Award, the 1998 PHA Handler of the Year, and was the 2008 recipient of the AKC’s Lifetime Achievement Award.

I bought my mother her first Mastiff in 1956. For 30 years, I showed and bred, on a very limited basis, the house Mastiffs. I had the privilege and honor to have handled dogs to Best of Breed at the MCOA National Specialty in 1966, ’67, ’68, ’71, ’74, ’76, ’79, ’82, and ’93 with six different dogs. Among those were the following Best of Breed winners at the National Specialty: 1967 and 1968 CH Reveille Juggernaut; 1971 CH Reveille Defender; and 1974, ’75, ’76 CH Reveille Big Thunder. I also won the National with CH Deer Run Zen and CH Matts Joshua of Dogwood Knoll. Some exciting handling moments: I handled the first Mastiff to go BIS in Continental US; my own Brindle Mastiff to win a Group; and the first Mastiff to win a Group in Canada.

I retired in 1992 from a 33-year career at the NIH. I was one of the first AKC Registered Handlers. I have retired from that organization, but still continue as a PHA member even though the breeds are getting smaller and smaller. I no longer handle Mastiffs in the show ring. Over the years, I’ve rehomed eight Mastiffs—three of which had their forever home at Reveille. Now when at shows, I often can be found ringside watching Mastiff classes being judged.

Do I have any hobbies or interests apart from breeding and showing dogs? I sculpted in wax for bronze and gold miniatures. Earlier in life, I enjoyed tennis and horseback riding.

How did I first become involved with the Mastiff? Early on while living on a military post, my mother had encountered a house breaker at whom she fired a warning shot to alert him she was armed. Returned fire was immediate and killed my Boxer that was standing in front of my mother. (My father retired from the military and my parents were living in Alexandria, Virginia.) After the house breaker encounter, Mom didn’t feel comfortable when alone in the house and wanted a dog around that could make her “feel brave.” Upon visiting a friend with Mastiffs, she said, “That’s what I want!” That’s when I purchased the first Mastiff that I delivered the day they moved into the new house.

At what age do I start to see definite signs of show-worthiness? You tell the “lack thereof” sooner than the worthiness. You start to hope and pray at eight weeks. Looking at and watching puppies grow is always a time consuming job; fun, though bringing them along physically and socially is not something that happens overnight. Good diet, proper exercise and, most importantly, adequate and frequent socialization are all necessary. Upon reaching about five months you begin seeing the inborn presence and, if apparent, you really get hopeful.

Can I speak to the importance of soundness in the breed? I think it is especially important in that the Mastiff is one of the larger breeds. Mastiff breed type calls for power, proper bone, depth of body. Mastiffs are so big that unsoundness is not completing its destiny. All this balances the picture of type and movement, thus soundness is a must.

In the show ring, is the Mastiff a “showy” dog? By its nature a Mastiff is not a showy breed. If trained and well-presented, they are impressive. They would rather be home, doing their job of guarding the home front!

At home, does the breed make a good family pet? Yes, especially when brought up with children and well socialized with multiple life experiences.

What are my hopes for the future of the breed and the sport? From the current track record for Mastiffs, it is a breed that has improved; so to continue in the same vein.

As we are still in lockdown or just beginning to open again from the Covid-19 pandemic, I trust the sport will endeavor to return to the importance of breeding programs and discontinue the rankings, advertising, travel and too many dog shows.

Do I have a funny story I can share about showing Mastiffs? I did get a laugh when, years ago, a well-known and capable professional handler cruised in to cover a Mastiff. (It was probably sitting with its owner.) The handler took the leash, and gave it a little flip expecting to run off with his charge to enter the ring. It didn’t budge! So much for understanding a Mastiff.

I’d like to also share that I think they are wonderful, kind, noble, impressive and protective. Not required to jump up and be aggressive. Just their looks provide comfort, companionship and safety. This breed likes to please its owner.


Sherry Brown

Just a short note on our beginnings: My mother, Mary LuMurphy (at that time), bought our first Mastiff, Willowledge NorthstarVenus, from Willowledge Kennels when there were only 240 Mastiffs registered in North America.

I live in Duluth, Minnesota, and spend winters in Texas on the Gulf. I am retired and enjoy our country lake home. I have been in Mastiffs for over 50 years and am a member of the MCOA, Honorary Lifetime Member of the Midwest Mastiff Fanciers, and Lifetime Honorary Member of the Duluth Kennel Club.

Do I have any hobbies or interests apart from breeding and showing dogs? I dabble in stained glass work, crochet, cross stitch and collecting and reading books.

How did I first become involved with the Mastiff? My mother read about them while a teenager and made it her life’s dream to own and breed them.

Are there any special requirements for breeding and showing such a large breed? It is important to get your Mastiff socialized from a very early age. Never force a Mastiff, you must finesse them. When a Mastiff understands what you are asking of them they want to please, albeit they do have their moments of stubbornness. You can hurt a Mastiff’s feelings quite easily.

At what age do I start to see definite signs of show-worthiness? I feel you can see definite signs of soundness, topline and head type at eight weeks.

Can I speak to the importance of soundness in the breed? Soundness is imperative in a giant breed as weight plays a significant role in the cost of healthcare.

In the show ring, is the Mastiff a “showy” dog? The Mastiff is not a showy breed as our standard states, “Dignity rather than gaiety is the Mastiff’s correct demeanor.”

At home, does the breed make a good family pet? The Mastiff makes an excellent family pet. They are generally fond of children, are very loyal, are great watch dogs as they use their common sense as to who is friend or foe and, except for bouts of energetic play, are usually quiet house guests that don’t bark needlessly.

What are my hopes for the future of the breed and the sport? I am excited for the future of the Mastiff because of the wonderful, healthy Mastiffs the breeders are producing, They are using tools such as genetic testing to be able to produce sound puppies as well as beautiful representatives of my breed.

Do I have a funny story I can share about showing Mastiffs? There are a few, such as the first-time Mastiff show owner who missed her dog’s big, important win because she had to use the ringside commode and came out screaming that she missed it!


Gloria Cuthbert

I live with my husband, Chuck, a Pug and a three-year-old Mastiff (I owned the father) on eleven acres of woods in Concord, Ohio, east of Cleveland. I am retired after 30+ years working in finance and have owned and have shown only Mastiffs for 38 years.

My Mastiffs have been my primary interest for those 38 years, though during that time I was very active with the Mastiff Club of America. I was the National Rescue Director, a show chair and, as is true of so many who are deeply involved with their breed, I was never able to say “no” when it came to a Mastiff in need. That is my way of saying we were deeply involved in Mastiff rescue through all of our years with the breed. I also collect Mastiff memorabilia and have an extensive collection of Mastiff-related art.

My involvement with the breed started with our search for a dog. My husband had just read about the English Mastiff–had never seen one other than a picture–and we did what no one should do to obtain one: We looked in the classified ads, picked one and bought our puppy. We were very lucky. We’d picked from a good line, were encouraged to show him, and that was that.

Are there any special requirements for breeding such a large breed? There is no doubt that research needs to be extensive when considering breeding. There needs to be testing to eliminate any genetic issues and the reputation of the breeder carries throughout the breed community and not just the casual friend’s recommendation. Always keep in mind that you have taken responsibility for a very large dog and the cost of veterinary care is proportional to the size of the dog. As far as showing a Mastiff, if you have a dog that meets the standard, they are a wash and dry show dog. Add to that a competent handler (or you paying attention in classes) and you are good to go.

At what age do I start to see definite signs of show-worthiness? In any litter there always seems that there is one or two, maybe three, that stand out by eight weeks and, unless there is a regression, that little extra should allow you to really know by the first birthday.

Can I speak to the importance of soundness in the breed? I am not sure what to say here. By definition, soundness means free from injury, damage and defect or disease.

Is the Mastiff a “showy” dog in the show ring? The Mastiff does not present as “showy.” The Mastiff is a “what you see is what you get” type dog. The picture is one of might and strength and dignity coupled with unencumbered drive and smooth movement.

Does the breed make a good family pet? The Mastiff is a wash, dry, trim toenails kind of dog. In the home they are easily adapted to where they can or cannot tread. They do take up space, but as is true of all breeds, they are what you make them. That being said you need to know that they are smart—do not let them fool you. If you allow bad habits or lack of restraint they take that to be approval and like children, once spolied, a behavior is very difficult to undo.The Mastiff is a very loyal family dog and will return the care and love you give with undying loyalty. Do not let the size fool you, they are not an outside dog. They need you and you will know it. Lastly, the biggest decision they have to make is where to lay down next.

What are my hopes for the future of the breed? When you use the word hope, I can, in a perfect world, hope that Mastiff owners will breed to the standard, test to eliminate genetic issues, place their puppies responsibly, and pass on the love for the breed that the Mastiff has earned. “Grand” and “good-natured” have been used over the years to describe the breed and that has been earned and is fitting.

Do I have a funny story to share about showing Mastiffs? The following could be true in the case of many breeds, but it was observed at one of the Mastiff Club of America’s national specialties. At an obedience demonstration, seven or eight Mastiffs were lined in a row by their owners and given the “Down Stay” command. The owners then went to the opposite end, faced their Mastiffs, and gave the command, “Come.” Not one moved, but after a few long moments, the one on the end looked at the next and slowly, one by one, they got up and went to their owners. That is a true story!


Pam Gilley

In my 35 years showing Mastiffs, I have won BOB at the MCOA National 13 times, with nine different dogs. I’m proud to say that Scott Phoebus and I retired the Breeders Cup, and won many Tournaments, WD and WB in our years together. I’ve also won 42 all-breed BIS on seven different dogs, including the largest BIS ever for a Mastiff. I’ve handled the all-time top-winning Mastiff in history, and co-bred the top-winning Mastiff bitch ever. I have also handled the top-winning brindle in history, and was involved in the breedings that made it happen! Honestly, I’m proudest of the fact that all these dogs go back to the very first Mastiff that I’d made number one all-systems, CH Iron Hills War Wagon, even though he was a fawn. One of his last breedings was to a brindle bitch that started our top-winning brindle journey! As a handler, I have shown and finished dogs in all seven Groups, including a BIS on a LC Chihuahua.

I live in Colorado, at the beginning of the plains on six fenced acres. I’ve lived all over the USA, but Colorado is my favorite place! I’m a third generation dog person. My grandmother had English Setters in Germany and my parents had a big breeding/showing kennel. We never had fewer than 30 dogs. Bob and Jane Forsyth showed our dogs. I miss the big breeding kennels. I still have my hand in breeding Mastiffs, despite being a full-time professional handler.

Specialing a Mastiff keeps me pretty busy. When I’m at home, I love to plant and tend my garden. I presently have a litter of Chihuahuas. I find learning about other breeds, in depth, is fascinating! I have a rescue Paso Fino horse that I love to ride, but he’s in Texas! Hope to get him here for some trail rides soon!

How did I first become involved with the Mastiff? In 1985, I was hired to show my first Mastiff; she finished quickly. Soon after that a handler friend of mine, Cathy Babbins, asked me to help her out at the Mastiff National in Strawberry Banks, Virginia. Well-known breeder judge Richard Thomas, from England, was judging. Long story short, I was BOB with the WD! That was the beginning!

Are there any special requirements for breeding and showing such a large breed? Showing and breeding Mastiffs can be very daunting! Mastiffs require quite a bit of testing for genetic problems, including PRA and Cystinuria (and a few others), on top of the usual hips, elbow, and CERF. It can be very costly, but is absolutely necessary before breeding quality, healthy Mastiffs. Showing Mastiffs can also be very humbling! They are big dogs, requiring really big crates! They also need to be kept cool; they hate being hot! They are natural worriers–about storms, heat, strangers, the list goes on. To successfully show Mastiffs requires a lot of individual time.

At what age do I start to see definite signs of show-worthiness? I like to evaluate Mastiff puppies at eight weeks, and then again at three months. After that I reevaluate at nine months—often doing hip and elbow prelims at this time—then again at 18 months. (If you’re still here at two, you’re a keeper!) Mastiff puppies go through a lot of physical and emotional growth between birth and early maturity at two. It’s best to not take them too seriously in between these evaluations.

Can I speak to the importance of soundness in the breed? Soundness in a Mastiff is very important! This is a big dog that can breakdown at a very early age if unsound. I believe elbows and shoulders are very important, as they carry most of their weight in the front. In the ring, the Mastiff is a free-moving dog with good side-gait; strong reach and drive. On the down and back, the legs move straight forward, converging to the center as the speed increases. They do not single track! They are big, ground-covering dogs. In my opinion, reach and drive is desired over a clean down and back.

In the show ring, is the Mastiff a “showy” dog? The Mastiff standard states that a premium should not be put on showiness. A Mastiff should have dignity and grandeur. In my opinion, an overly shy dog that can’t stand for examination should never be tolerated. However, it is a dog show. This means in Breed and Group competition a Mastiff has to “shine” to be noticed.

At home, does the breed make a good family pet? The Mastiff is often referred to as the children’s nanny. They are great family dogs, once you learn to step over them! They will be found usually in one of two places: laying on the air conditioning vent or sleeping in front of the refrigerator. They like to hang out with the kids, and usually will step between the child and perceived danger, be that a car or a threatening stranger.

What are my hopes for the future of the breed and the sport? I think the Mastiff has improved by leaps and bounds in the last 20 years. The days of dogs with rears so bad they truly couldn’t walk are, thankfully, gone. Bites and toplines have also come a long way! I do, however, think that the essence of the breed has been compromised. When you see a Mastiff, you should think Hummer, not sports car! A big, rectangular dog with a posts for legs. I recently saw an illustrated article [in another publication] and the majority of answers were very disappointing! Many said so-and-so has a pleasing expression. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but our standard describes a one to two ratio; muzzle one, skull two. A broad, square, truncated muzzle, etc., not a one-to-one ratio that looks like a Rhodesian! I’m hoping that in this stay-at-home time, judges will study those odd breeds–or breeds they aren’t as familiar with–more. And reach out to mentors! As far as the future of our sport, time will tell. Perhaps we will get back to basics? Less grooming, less pomp and circumstance, more judging!

To be involved with the Mastiff, you have to have a sense of humor; when exhibiting them and when judging them! I remember a dog laying down in the ring at Bucks County that literally had to be dragged out of the ring! I’ve had many Mastiffs sneak in a huge, sloppy kiss on the judge’s face!


Marty Hancock

My husband and I live in Denton, Texas. I am a registered nurse, currently working in Surgical Services as an Analyst. We have both had dogs all our lives, but have been participating in AKC events since 2007.

Do I have any hobbies or interests apart from breeding and showing dogs? Between work and spending time with our dogs, I don’t have time for much of anything else.

How did you first become involved with the Mastiff? My husband and I were researching Boxers and came across some information on the Mastiff. We became intrigued and did some research, deciding that the Mastiff was the breed for us.

Are there any special requirements for breeding or showing such a large breed? Like most breeds, there are specific health tests to be completed/passed to help determine if a Mastiff is suitable for breeding. Those tests include, but are not limited to, OFA hips and elbows, cardiac evaluation, CERF, DNA tests for Cystinuria, CMR, DMR, and DM. A breeder should have basic knowledge of the pedigrees involved in the history of the breed.

To determine if a Mastiff is worthy of being shown in conformation, as with all breeds the dog should be compared to the breed standard. Many breeders have specific characteristics that they put an emphasis on. Experienced breeders can assess basic show-worthiness by approximately eight weeks of age. Personally, I like to watch my puppies from the day they are born, continually assessing and watching for trends. Often, the first puppy to catch your eye doesn’t turn out to be the best puppy in the litter when you make a final assessment. If you know your pedigree well, you will have a good idea what to expect of your puppy as he/she develops. As for showing a Mastiff, one needs to be humble. Folks often say that Mastiffs are one of the more difficult breeds to show—not because of grooming or requirements for presentation—but because a Mastiff will teach you humility early and often.

At what age do I start to see definite signs of show-worthiness? I assess my puppies from their first breath and can often spot a promising headpiece in the early days. Overall conformation is more difficult to begin assessing until the puppies get their feet underneath them. No matter what my first impressions are with subsequent evaluations, I don’t make a final decision about my personal picks and recommendations until the puppies are eight weeks old. From then on, there are stages of growth that are generally awkward for a breed that grows so quickly. Some puppies are beautiful at six months and start winning early, particularly bitches. Other puppies require patience and may not be a dog you want to take into the ring until they have matured some.

Can I speak to the importance of soundness in the breed? Because the Mastiff is a breed that will commonly approach 225-250 lbs in males and 175-200 lbs in females, soundness is critical for the welfare and longevity of the breed. A Mastiff that is genetically prone to be sound and has been responsibly exercised and conditioned throughout its lifetime can live 10-14 years.

In the show ring, is the Mastiff a “showy” dog? In the breed standard there is a phrase that specifically cautions against “putting a premium on showiness.” The breed is one with an aura of grandeur. The gaze should be confident and kind. The dog should move easily (because of the aforementioned soundness). However, the dog should not be overly showy.

At home, does the breed make a good family pet? The Mastiff is an incredible family dog and is at their best living alongside their humans. Because of their ultimate size, early, frequent, and continued socialization is critical to responsible ownership.

What are my hopes for the future of the breed and the sport? On behalf of the Mastiff, I hope and pray that breeders will continue to learn, with an open mind, what the Mastiff should be. I hope and pray that judges will continue to familiarize themselves with the standard and choose the best example of the breed, not the most popular/frequently advertised dog in the ring. For the sport, I hope folks will take seriously the overwhelming need to take newcomers under our wings, support them, teach them, and stop taking the joy of the sport away before people can truly find it.

Do I have a funny story I can share about showing Mastiffs? I had a bitch who loved the show ring. She was the number one owner-handled Mastiff for 2014. Several times, her lead came unclipped going around the ring. She would move out ahead of me, no longer held back by my hand, and arrive in front of the judge several strides before me. She would stack herself up and turn to look over her shoulder as if to ask, “Are you coming?”

My first Mastiff was a rescue from a shelter. He taught me what unconditional love really is. After watching dog shows on Animal Planet every Saturday morning, I thought, “How hard can it be to run around in left-hand circles?” I started showing a puppy from my first litter and I learned quickly that I had underestimated the sport. Through the generosity of handlers and other owner-handlers, my own studious observation, and listening to criticism with thick skin and a will to get better, I continued to learn. The one thing I am absolutely certain of is that there will always be more for me to learn, both in the ring and in the whelping box.


Jamie Morris

I live in Western Washington. We purchased our first purebred dogs in 1996 after a seven year wait for the right time and breed, and after much research.

Do I have any hobbies or interests apart from breeding and showing dogs? You mean there is life outside of dogs?

How did I first become involved with the Mastiff? Mastiffs were on our “short list” during a seven-year-long search. After rescuing a Mastiff mix, our fate was sealed.

Are there any special requirements for breeding or showing such a large breed? Breeding: Perseverance, patience, time, money, and good veterinarians. Showing: Removing blinders and being honest about the attributes of your dog. Just because a dog can be finished doesn’t mean it should be. As a breeder, it is my responsibility to only put the best out in the ring. Mastiffs have no breed specific disqualifications. However, just because they can hold a stack and have all their reproductive organs doesn’t mean that they should receive their championship. People complain about judges and handlers. Well, if the breeders were more interested in showing off the best of our breed rather than the numbers of champions produced, there wouldn’t be dogs lacking for the judges to put up or the handlers to exhibit.

At what age do I start to see definite signs of show-worthiness? For puppies that I have raised, it is eight weeks of observation. I put less weight on manually stacking puppies, etc. at certain ages, and more on simply watching them; how they stand naturally, how they move, confidence levels, etc. It is just something you know if you are observant. However, I am not in a big rush to get them into the ring either. Slow maturing, in my opinion, holds up over the long haul. An 18-month-old Mastiff shouldn’t look like a mature dog. I expect to see the teenagers that they are. The differences in the breed between six months, 18 months, 2 ½ years and 4 ½ years are amazing.

Can I speak to the importance of soundness in the breed? This is a Working breed. While they may not have a physical job these days, the breed should still be sound in both body and mind. They should have a proper foundation (feet) to carry their substance. They should have the length of body and balance to move with power and ease. Just because they are a massive breed doesn’t mean they can’t be fit, athletic and sound. If any part of that structure is lacking, the soundness will not hold up.

In the show ring, is the Mastiff a “showy” dog? Per the standard: “…a premium should not be put on showiness.” They should exhibit grandeur, good nature, courage, docility and dignity.

Does the breed make a good family pet? They make an unbelievably good family member. However, with their size comes certain challenges. More body equals more coat to shed. They do slobber. Tails can clear everything from coffee tables to countertops. They are not for the house that cringes at the thought of dust bunnies, hair and slobber on furniture, walls and even ceilings. They need larger transportation. Everything about a Mastiff is big, so one must be prepared for that.

What are my hopes for the future of the breed and the sport? For the breed: This is a tough one. Longevity is always a dream for the breed. I have been very fortunate that many of my dogs have lived to 11, 12 and even 13 years, but this is something that not everyone is lucky enough to enjoy. I can’t describe how much I wish that everyone could enjoy their Mastiffs for an extended period of time. With today’s veterinary medicine, I hope that more and more of the breed will exceed the ten-year mark. Eventually making even 15 years seem normal.

For the sport: I would like to see championships mean more. When I started, it took seven dogs and 11 bitches for a three-point major, if memory serves me. Now you need four dogs and five bitches. Entries are deplorable. In the quest to keep people engaged and showing, we have lost the “specialness” of that championship certificate.

Do I have a funny story I can share about showing Mastiffs? Oh, man, there are so many. If you have had this breed for any length of time, they are bound to humble you. I would have to say that one of the highlights was showing a six-month-old puppy in Rally at our National. We were the very last dog to compete. I had forgotten to change my shoes prior to going to the ring and was wearing a pair of Crocs (the kind with the holes in the top). Well, I made sure that I put the straps on the back so I didn’t accidentally step out of them. I was very nervous as my nemesis sign, the spiral, was towards the end of the course. I had been given some great words of advice earlier and was focused on applying those sage words. It was our turn and things were going perfectly! Going into the spiral—nailed it! All that was left was a right turn, slow and normal—that’s it. Well, coming out of that right turn, my dog looked up at me then reached down and grabbed my Croc in her mouth and started shaking my foot. It was all I could do to remain vertical. The crowd was laughing hysterically—which wasn’t helping. They were yelling, “Kick it off!” which would have been easier if I had not put the strap on the back! Then P!nk, my dog, spit my shoe out and grabbed the drawstring of my pants and untied them. She then grabbed the spit rag that was on a retractor at my side, then back to my shoe. By this time, I had tears running down my face and was trying hard to not topple over. The judge was holding the clipboard in front of her face and trying to maintain her composure. Needless to say, we did not “Q.” But, we certainly provided a good time for all who had remained to watch Mastiffs do Rally.

I’d also like to share that over the years, I have owned many different breeds and mixed breeds of dogs. Properly-bred Mastiffs are like no other. They are funny, charismatic, thoughtful, loving, sensitive, intelligent, trusting, gentle, devoted and completely unaware of their size. And yes, intelligent was one of the traits I mentioned. They are problem solvers. They will figure things out; how to achieve the desired result with the least amount of effort. They can be easily “crushed” by harsh words. “For shame” is usually the extent of any reprimand in our home and rarely needed.

However, when acquired from breeders who don’t take great care in their breeding programs, you see a rise in poor temperaments; more aggression, more fear or anxiety problems. No matter what the dogs look like, being sound in mind and body is so very important. Only after taking the most sound in mind and body into consideration should those dogs that are at the top of the breed standard for conformation be used in a breeding program. Breeding to a dog with lots of ribbons doesn’t mean that it is the right dog. Breeders must be brutally honest with themselves. They are the guardians of the guardians. It is up to them, the breeders, to protect this magnificent breed.


Tammy Sholes

I live in North Carolina and have 40 years in dogs.

Do I have any hobbies or interests apart from breeding and showing dogs? Gardening, renovating, and antiquing.

How did I first become involved with the Mastiff? My first year of college, I was at a mall and saw a gentleman there with this huge dog and a little Doxie. I asked him what the breed of the dog was and he replied that it was an English Mastiff. I told my mom, that is the breed I am getting. So, a year later, I got my first Mastiff. She was just a dog from the newspaper. It was after getting her that I started researching pedigrees. She had some interesting dogs in her pedigree. That was how I met Merle Campbell. I spent some time learning about the breed from him, visiting his kennel, etc. A while later, I went to my first dog show held at the Portland Coliseum, where I met Joanne Williams. After that show, I decided that my girl was not show quality. I spent more time researching and learning. Shortly afterward I acquired my first show dog when I saw the Deer Run Wycliff cover of Dog World. I said, “Now that’s a Mastiff and that is what I want.” I contacted Tobin Jackson who said that he had a litter due in August. That is when Deer Run Sinder came into my life and the rest is history.

Are there any special requirements for breeding and showing such a large breed? Breeding: Quality above all else. Everything will cost more, but cutting corners to save money will only cost you in the end. Food, medical expenses, etc.—providing the best wins in the long run. Showing: Thick skin. Being an owner-handler will require thick skin; bringing the best to the ring; proper conditioning and training.

At what age do I start to see definite signs of show-worthiness? Eight weeks gives you a good idea and again at six months you know what you have. But, you have to know what you are
looking at.

Can I speak to the importance of soundness in the breed? They are a working dog and should be physically able to do the job they were bred to do. With the breed standard comes a good blueprint on how to achieve this through their structure. The front assembly is very important and easy to lose. The dog should have balance with no one feature overpowering the rest. With that proper structure will come the soundness needed to do their intended job.

In the show ring, is the Mastiff a “showy” dog? Showy, no. Confident, yes. They should have a presence that speaks volumes. They shouldn’t need to be jumping, leaping and racing around a ring. They should be a grand presence. At home, does the breed make a good family pet? Yes, the best. They are very loyal, calm and easy-going in the home. They do not always understand their size. That should be taken into consideration around small children and I wouldn’t recommend having breakable items down low. They will always be there for you when you need a buddy and have an uncanny ability to know when that is. So, if you are up for a giant breed dog in your home, you can’t go wrong.

What are my hopes for the future of the breed and the sport? For the breed: More emphasis put on health. Be open and honest about the health issues in the breed.

For the sport: I would like to say that it needs to be less political. But, ultimately, I wish that breeders were more particular on what they put out in the ring and cared less about the number of champions produced and ribbons received.

Do I have a funny story to share about showing Mastiffs? Years ago, I was at a show in Virginia waiting to go into the ring with my puppy. The ring steward saw my armband number and told me that I needed to get in the ring. I went in the ring and when they sent us around I realized that it was the Bullmastiff ring. So I left and was so embarrassed, but the ring steward kept telling me to get in the ring. Lesson learned.

I’d also like to share that Mastiffs aren’t for the person that can’t deal with hair and slobber. They are homebodies, so if you are gone for long hours or travel a lot, a Mastiff isn’t for you. They want to be with their families, not left outside or in crates for hours on end. They will be as good a dog as what you are willing to put into them. They are very obedient and willing to please, but training needs to start very early. They don’t require harsh words, just a firm voice. They bond very strongly with their family. Everything about the breed costs more. About the only thing that doesn’t cost more are vaccines. If a Mastiff gets a serious illness it can cost upwards of $20,000 to save its life, but they are worth every penny.


Mark Tichenor

I live in Montgomery, Illinois (Chicago Suburb), I’m a Sr. Principal HR Consulting, Discover Financial Services (Discover Card) and have been in dogs for 35 years.

Do I have any hobbies or interests apart from breeding and showing dogs? Cooking and wine.

How did I first become involved with the Mastiff? Originally, I was a “Rottweiler guy” and, since I was 18, always had one Border Terrier. I moved to Tampa, Florida, to continue pursing my Human Resources career and was working in downtown Tampa. It was the first time in my career that I supported the C-Suite and specifically the Finance and IT Departments. I went in to meet the Sr. VP of Financial Reporting, Cindy Furr, and on her desk were photos of Mastiffs. They weren’t regular Mastiffs. (I had been in dogs for a long time even then to know they were show dogs.) One conversation led to another and I ended up showing her Mastiffs for her. It was not love at first sight, but over time you look past the drool and the shedding and realize how wonderful this breed truly is. From there, we were looking for a new puppy and I met Nancy Walker of Lazy D Mastiffs. She became my mentor in the breed, best friend and now, 17 years later, we (me and Nancy) are partners in crime and I too breed under the prefix, Lazy D.

Are there any special requirements for breeding such a large breed? I think many breeds have nuances, but with Mastiffs, breeding them is extremely scientific; a lot of testing, prep and human intervention. They are not, typically, the best mothers, so you need to help them. Eventually, if you are lucky, the maternal instinct kicks in and they get it. I am going to guess, in part, that is the human’s fault anyway, but nonetheless, as many Mastiff breeders can attest, it is our reality. For showing? Patience. The Mastiff is very slow going. We joke and say pick the puppy at 7.5 weeks and don’t look at them again until they are two. I think that was my largest lesson for many years with Nancy. We would debate back and forth. I wouldn’t think something was worthy and she would calmly say (in her Southern accent), “Just give him/her time—you’ll see.” And she was typically right. So while it’s not in my natural temperament to be patient—my Mastiffs have taught me to be.

At what age do I start to see definite signs of show-worthiness? We can pick show potential at seven to eight weeks. The thing about a Mastiff is, while we choose them on soundness and breed type that they present at that age, the overall size is a crap shoot. We pick them and hope they get to the sizes we prefer. Don’t get me wrong, bigger is absolutely not better. There is big enough and there is too much. My point is, at seven weeks, you just truly don’t know. Likewise, in my experience, the Mastiff—as it grows—only gets straighter. When picking a puppy, extreme angles tend to be “just right” when they mature.

Can I speak to the importance of soundness in the breed? Absolutely! It’s simple, they should be sound. They are a working dog bred to guard. They cannot do their job if they cannot move. The Lazy D kennel has either bred or campaigned five Best in Show Mastiffs, multiple National and Specialty winners and two had Working Group placements at Westminster. The one thing these animals all had in common—they were enough. Typey enough, sound enough and showy enough—and all those “enoughs” made them top contenders in the Working Group during their careers.

In the show ring, is the Mastiff a “showy” dog? It’s not typical. In our standard it even states that judges should beware of putting a premium on showiness. Dignity, rather than gaiety, is the Mastiff’s correct demeanor.

At home, does the breed make a good family pet? Phenomenal; they are calm, gentle and loyal. They prefer to be by your side and make for lovely companions.

What are my hopes for the future of the breed? For the future of our breed, I hope that breeders become more aligned. There are some differences in opinions and it’s starting to show in the ring. Likewise, I think that becomes confusing for judges and ultimately for the novices entering our breed. For the sport, I would like to see it be about the quality of the breeding stock and, ultimately, be able to feel that purpose when you are showing. Today it seems to be a bit more of a game; campaigns, politics, favors, etc. Like anything where people can earn their living in an industry, this is prevalent, but I think dog shows are different. This isn’t about gaining market share or leading innovation, but rather the preservation of purebreds. So, I wish that those who are lucky enough to make their living in our sport would do so with the highest of integrity and truly be students of the breeds in their charge rather than showing mediocre animals for wealthy clients. I am not saying ditch the wealthy client, I am saying teach the wealthy client and seek out the animal that is truly worthy of the career that can be afforded.

Do I have a funny story I can share about owning Mastiffs? I have many because at home they are quite the comical breed. But my favorite is: I was doing dishes one afternoon and I looked out into my yard and I could see that two of mine were up to something, but I couldn’t tell exactly what. A few more minutes go by and they are still interested in something. By the time I could make it out my door to see what was up, they had pulled a beautiful lilac bush out of the ground by its roots. Never had I ever seen anything like it, nor did I realize how powerful they actually were until that moment. I don’t think two adult humans could have accomplished such a task, but I have learned they are excavators. Though you might think your yard is dog-proof—it’s probably not Mastiff-proof!

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