Spanish Mastiff Guarding Behavior/Temperament
The temperament and character of the Spanish Mastiff are critical aspects of the breed and directly affect the working style and ability of the dog. They are a bold, confident dog that does not become overstimulated easily. They are calm and observant of their surroundings and tend to take the familiar in stride. Independence is the primary characteristic of livestock guardian breeds, and while they enjoy your company, Spanish Mastiffs are not as attuned to your wishes as many other breeds are; they are happy if you are pleased with their behavior, but they certainly don’t go out of their way trying to do things to please you! In other words – they require training to get them to respond somewhat consistently to commands! This does not mean that they aren’t sweet dogs, but they will take advantage of any situation where is seems that an alpha character has not taken control of the household. The loving personality and stable temperament of the Spanish Mastiff is somewhat addictive and most who come in contact with the breed do tend to be quickly smitten!
Spanish Mastiffs are generally best suited to a firm, but fair owner with some experience with independent minded breeds. Obedience training for the working or companion dog is very strongly recommended. Having an extremely powerful dog, or one that weighs from 150-200 pounds is not for a person who is not prepared to do a lot of obedience work and socialization. Off property training does not adversely affect the dogs working ability. The breed is easily trained in obedience, but they do not always choose to apply that training!
Overall, the Spanish Mastiff has a close working style and is very respectful of fencing. I have never had one try to dig under a fence. They are not as prone to wandering as other LGD breeds, but good fencing is still strongly recommended.
Like most livestock guardian breeds, Spanish Mastiffs have been bred for generations, spanning thousands of years, to make decisions regarding their guarding duties on their own. This means that they are a very independent minded breed. Their large size is necessary to provide visual intimidation to predators as large as the wolves, bears and other predators of different regions. Their intimidating size and deep bark are their first line of defense in discouraging predators (two or four legged) from challenging them. Large, single predators tend to be timid, as injury to themselves will decrease their abilities to survive; thus, a large guarding dog does not necessarily have to fight, yet is quite capable of inflicting serious injury if challenged.
In character, Spanish Mastiffs are serious about what they do and are quite fearless. They tend to be less bouncy than other breeds, even as pups. On the other hand, they are much more agile and athletic than many of the other giant breed dogs and are capable of quick, flexible movement. They necessarily have a lower prey drive than most breeds, and generally adapt well to whatever livestock that are intended for them to protect.
The Spanish Mastiff is first and foremost a guarding breed, not a herding dog that easily trained to work by direction. The Spanish Mastiff was developed to work independently of man. Stalking, chasing and killing are all prey drives commonly seen in hunting and herding breeds, not LGD’s. Livestock guards could not effectively protect their herd or flock if they leave them to hunt down and kill predators. The Spanish Mastiff is extremely loyal and can be fiercely possessive and protective of his family, flock and territory and bonds strongly with animals or people that it is raised with. He can be suspicious of anything or anyone unfamiliar that enters his domain.
The Spanish Mastiff is bold and confident without aggression. They will determine on their own whether aggression is warranted and will use a graduated display of increasingly assertive behaviors to control a given situation. The reliability of a working livestock guardian depends on their ability to independently judge a situation and respond appropriately. A Spanish Mastiff will evaluate a situation to assess its potential and will act accordingly. If the first warning is ignored by a predator, the Spanish Mastiff will use a graduated display of increasingly assertive behaviors until the trespasser is driven off or subdued. Killing of predators such as a coyote, may occur only after all other warnings have failed, or if the dog has been agitated by the predator at length.
The Spanish Mastiff will occasionally walk the perimeters of his domain to mark his territory throughout the day to establish boundaries. Based on how much territory he can oversee, he will often settle down in an area that he perceives to have the best vantage point and will appear to lie around doing very little. If something appears in the outer perimeter, the dog will bark to announce that he has something under observation. If the potential threat is foolish enough to disregard early warnings and push the boundaries, the dog will progress to a rapid alarm bark that may then progress to a threatening snarl-bark when something very threatening is about to be stopped. It would require considerable agitation to cause the Spanish Mastiff to attack, and it may choose not to attack, depending on its perception of threat. Aggression in the Spanish Mastiff is generally limited to the lowest level that provides the desired response from the rival.
Near the home, the dog will announce the arrival of any visitors and will expect to be able to inspect/greet them. They are generally curious with guests. After greeting the visitor, the dogs will usually stay between or close to the owner or will watch from a polite distance. If, after an introduction, a guest wants to walk toward the owner’s barn or home, the dog may block that person’s path until the guest is escorted by the owner.