9th August 2018

How to Train a Dragon

Today I am here to talk to you about dogs and their stereotypes. whenever people talk about little dogs most people think of a cute little Jack Russell or a little shih-tzu, adorable and harmless. And when people think of big dogs most would think of a golden retriever or a Labrador still thinking adorable, cute and harmless. But what about the stereotyped aggressive breeds such as Mastiffs? I’m sure that we can all think of a news article that identified  a ‘Mastiff type’ dog that had attacked a child. Later in the week an article will come out clearing up the initial miss identification of the breed telling the reader that it wasn’t in fact a mastiff at all. But after the fact the interest is no longer there. I’m going to call on my personal experience to convince you that this is all wrong and these so called aggressive breeds/mastiffs are just as harmless as any other dogs and are amazing family dogs.

“Good dragons controlled by bad people do bad things” this is a quote from one of my favourite movies, How to train your dragon, but this quote applies to the real world as well but with dogs instead of dragons. No matter the type of dog, if it has been brought up by the wrong people it will do the wrong things. Just think how do the good dogs become good dogs? They get trained right. So, why do people just assume that mastiffs are aggressive. They are just brought up by inexperienced or ill informed people that don’t understand their dogs breed traits. For the informed owner this will identify the most effective training methods. Unfortunately, there are many dogs that have simply found themselves with rubbish owners who have no interest in their dogs well being.

Me and my family has owned two Bullmastiffs (Rhino and Zoe) one Neapolitan Mastiff (Ernie) and now we have a Cane Corso (Herb) which, like Ernie is an Italian mastiff. All of our dogs have been the loveliest  most sociable and friendly dogs I have ever met because they were all raised and trained right so there was never any issues. Did we just get lucky? I’ve been thinking about this and I don’t think so and this is why…

Firstly, we are particular about our dog breeds and we do our homework regarding breed traits, size, health, exercise needs and trainability. For our family all signs pointed to the Mastiff breed, it suits who we are as a family. 

My second point and arguably the most important point is early socialization. You have 14 weeks to expose your puppy to anything and everything that you can think of. You dog needs to experience life to understand their place in it. The more your dog can experience with you the more secure your dog is when it comes across unexpected situations. This includes spending time with a variety of people of all ages and an assortment of animals. You dog will be looking to you for cues so having relaxed body language is helpful.

Thirdly training. With our Bull Mastiffs Mum and Dad were quite firm on their training. We hadn’t had any experience with this breed and me and my brother were quite young so they felt that they needed to do this to keep us safe. This was probably the right decision because they were very sociable and well behaved, so much so that my Mum, who is a Kindergarten teacher used to take them to Kindergarten to hang out with the children.

After the passing of Rhino and Zoe we felt that we wanted another Mastiff breed so we got Ernie who was a Neapolitan Mastiff. He was massive. His growth rate was phenomenal and he was expected to reach 100kg fully grown. Because of this we knew that we had to socialize him well and be consistant with our training program. We knew that we were getting a monster dog and we had to ensure that people felt safe around him. Ernie used to go to work everyday with my Dad so he was exposed to many different faces and other dogs. He was brilliant. The early socialization and training ensured that we had a friendly, safe dog. Unfortunately Ernie became sick at an early age and we had to make the hard decision to let him go.

Still feeling that a mastiff was the best fit for us we decided to get Herb a Cane Corso. Again, early socialization was the key and a consistant training program. Herb is only 9 months old and he, like the others is working out to be a sound, well rounded, family dog. The one thing that I haven’t mentioned that is enormously important is that our training programs focus solely on positivity. We work with our dogs and help them make the right decision and we don’t sweat the small stuff when they make a mistake.

I can understand how people get it wrong with the mastiff breed, knowledge of the breed is key. They are a formidable looking dog with their massive, wrinkly head and their muscled body. But they are as soft as butter and will always reluctantly leave the warmth of the fire to attempt to hoist their giant body on your lap for a snuggle. We show our dogs love and they return it two fold and because of this we train a good dragon.

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