The day has finally arrived when you can bring home that cute bundle of eight week old puppy. A nice square head, broad muzzle and underjaw, good stop, dark mask, slight wrinkle, well arched feet, tail reaching to the hocks, a good bite, bluish/grey eyes and those lovely correct ears, are all the qualities of a good Bullmastiff puppy.
Red and fawn puppies may have darker markings on their chest and down their back and tail. This will fade as the puppy gets older.
You may see amongst the litter other traits such as white markings, crank or short tails, long or narrow snipey muzzles or dome shaped heads. The only white that is permisible is a small white mark on the chest. These features don’t stop the Bullmastiff from being a good guard dog or family pet, they are just unsuitable for breeding or showing. If the bite is under at 8 weeks, the chances are that it will finish up fairly undershot. The standard requires that the mouth be, when fully mature, level to slightly undershot
Suddenly within the next few weeks everything starts to change –
Teeth & ears: at about 10 weeks of age teething commences and the ears that were sitting perfectly are now flying away from the head or folding back. Massaging the ears forward, giving the puppy large (uncut) marrowbones to chew on, or taping the ears in the correct position all help. This changing process can last until the puppy is approximately nine months. Maintaining the ears folding over helps to give the head the square appearance.
Eyes: from this early age (8 – 10 weeks) the eyes also commence to change from the bluish/grey to finish up dark brown or hazel.
Feet: this is a common problem with young puppies – down on pastern and splayfeet. Too much bounding around, overweight, jumping up and down stairs or in and out of the car, spending too much time on shiny surfaces (i.e. linoleum or smooth concrete), can all attribute to this. Correction can be aided by cutting back on food intake, calcium increased, raising off the ground of food and water bowls and by placing small rough stones (screenings) in kennel runs. Regular trimming of the nails may be necessary during the early months.
Head & body: while all these changes are happening, the head and body are also changing. Suddenly you have a leggy, pin headed, ugly duckling on your hands; don’t despair. When you see other Bullmastiffs around the same age as your one or its litter mates, don’t compare. All Bullmastiffs are individuals and grow and change at different stages. If you don’t like your puppy at 8 – 9 months, remember what it was like at 8 weeks and “hang in there” until it is 14 – 16 months. Maturity cannot be rushed along by trying to change your leggy youngster into a solid dog by fattening them up to fill them out, this will only damage the bones. Some Bullmastiffs can be mature by 14 months whilst others not until 2 1/2 – 3 years of age. Give the dog time and all body parts will equal out and you will end up with a very nice, square headed, compact bodied Bullmastiff.
Even if your Bullmastiff is not for the show ring, remember your little puppy will grow very fast and if training is not done, before you know it you will have a large dog that does what it wants. Training can begin once your puppy has settled in. The most effective form of training is in small time frames, 2 – 5 minutes at a time, once or twice a day. Whilst still a youngster don’t take your puppy for any walks longer than 10 – 15 minutes. Once inoculations have been completed, socialize your puppy, not necessarily in the showing environment, just down to the local shops or market before the crowds arrive. The first few months makes all the difference. Be sure to have a kennel that your puppy can be confined in if need be.
By Barbara Wright