and the Tibetan Mastiff
© Lyse Stormont and Kathleen McDaniel
Fences are made for those who cannot fly.
Author: Elbert Hubbard
p.s. Some TMs can fly
A major part of responsible dog ownership is to know exactly what
you are getting into with the Tibetan Mastiff breed and knowing
responsible ways to address common TM behavior. First and foremost,
it seems that breeders must over-emphasize to newcomers that the
Tibetan Mastiff is a guardian breed
and that the guardian nature is a built-in feature. It surprises
many prospective owners to hear that even 2-3 week old puppies
will growl and bark should someone unexpectedly enter the whelping
area or wake little ones from a nap. The guardian behavior is an
instinctive one and already in place by the time you get your puppy.
As your Tibetan Mastiff matures he will only take his job of patrolling
and guarding your property and home more and more seriously.
The Question of Fencing
While it should be stated from the start that there are breeders
out there who will sell to anyone, many breeders feel
the need to thoroughly screen prospective owners. And one of the
first questions that potential owners may be asked is whether or
not there will be a proper and secure containment area provided
for a Tibetan Mastiff puppy. Applicants will be asked to write
about and/or discuss the various aspects of a traditionally fenced-in
- How large is the fenced area?
- What material is the fence made from? Is it wood, wire, or
- How high is the fencing?
All of these factors are quite important and failure to have proper
fencing may mean that the breeder will not consider placing a Tibetan
Mastiff in this home.
In the minds of many prospective owners, however, there may be
an alternate fencing solution that they want to discuss.
Electric Fencing and How it Works
Underground electrical fencing has been around since the 1970s
thanks to Richard Peck and the premise of how it works is simple
enough. To keep the fencing hidden, electrical cable is buried
in a narrow trench that extends around the perimeter of the designated
dog yard. This wire is then attached to a control unit and turned
on. Each and every dog that has access to the yard must be fitted
with a transmitter that is attached to the dog's collar. When the
dog approaches the boundaries of the yard, a warning beep sounds
and the dog is "warned" away from the hidden fencing. Should the
dog venture too close, however, he is "shocked" or "zapped."
The arguments that prospective owners use for invisible fencing
usually fall into 3 categories. The first issue that prospective
owners want to discuss has to do with the price tag of traditional
fencing. They simply can't afford the initial cost of fencing in
an entire yard.
The second line of reasoning in favor of invisible fencing is
that these people have had other breeds before and this type of
fencing system worked just fine. The training of the previous or
current family pet took a relatively short period of time and the
pet "never" or "hardly ever" left the property.
The remaining point of view has to do with the fact that these
people live in an area where erecting a traditional fence is prohibited,
too difficult because of terrain or simply an eyesore. The obvious
solution seems to lie with such products as Innotek, Dogwatch or
Invisible Fence by PetSafe since these hidden fencing systems cover
anywhere from < of an acre to over 20 acres and are relatively
easy to install. That kind of coverage without unsightly above-ground
fencing plus the promise of all that "freedom" at a relatively
inexpensive cost seems like the ultimate solution.
Is Invisible/Underground/Electronic Fencing an Option?
It is the opinion of TMINFO that invisible / underground / electric / radio fencing
ON ITS OWN is NOT a proper containment solution for the Tibetan
The Breeder's Perspective
In response to these arguments, breeders do acknowledge that,
in certain circumstances, invisible fencing does have its merits.
Some "trainable" breeds seem to do well with electric fencing when
owners take the time to train their pets to respect their property
boundaries. Breeders also recognize that providing secure fencing
is an expensive endeavor and invisible fencing does seem to give
the most value for the buck when it comes to yard coverage. As
it pertains to the Tibetan Mastiff, however, it would seem that
all the benefits and advantages of this kind of fencing rest with
the owner. The dog is usually the one that must suffer from any
disadvantages. Here are some reasons why many Tibetan Mastiff breeders
do not feel that owners can depend on the safety of an invisible
Ignoring the "No Trespassing" Sign
One of the most valid cases against invisible fencing is that
it does not prevent strangers or other animals from wandering on
to the property. Because they are not wearing the necessary transmitter
to warn them away, the list of unwanted trespassers can range from
children or adults to stray or wild animals to other free-roaming
neighborhood pets. Now please remember again that we are discussing
a guardian breed. Under the best of circumstances, the situation
will be chaotic and, at its worst, be devastating as the Tibetan
Mastiff does his job to protect and defend should anyone or anything
intrude upon his territory.
Ignoring the Boundaries
The typical Tibetan Mastiff is notorious for his ability to be
an expert escape artist but did you also know that the breed is
renowned for single-mindedness, high prey drive, stubbornness,
and high pain threshold? Whether he is excited to high activity
by seeing a neighborhood child, stray cat, the UPS driver, or desperately
wanting to be with his owner, a Tibetan Mastiff can suddenly explode
into guardian mode. Excited and stimulated by the typical adrenaline
rush while on high alert or driven by his guardian instincts, a
TM may forget his boundaries and ignore the warning beeps sent
to the collar transmitter. He may be repeatedly shocked as he runs
the length of the fence in frustration and aggression or he may
simply barge his way right through the invisible barrier.
The chances of an escaped dog returning through the electric fencing
are unlikely as he will soon make the connection that he will shocked
again. Owners may now have a panicked and confused dog wandering
loose on busy streets. If an owner is lucky enough, his Tibetan
Mastiff will be found uninjured and returned home none the worse
for wear but there is always the chance that the dog may attack
some animal or person out of fear, be killed in traffic, attacked
by other dogs or lost forever.
**Let it be stated that, by definition, a ONE-TIME
escape constitutes a failed containment solution. If a dog has
managed to escape the invisible fenced area (or any other type
of fenced area), he has found that system's weak spot and steps
need to be taken to ensure that it does not happen again.**
Other Things To Consider
There are other common scenarios to take into consideration in
determining the reliability of electric underground fencing for
a Tibetan Mastiff.
- Dogs don't automatically know and respect electric fencing.
It takes a great deal of time and commitment to train a dog to
learn the boundaries of his yard. This extensive training requires
that an owner shock his dog intentionally.
- Just as humans are individuals, so are Tibetan Mastiffs. While
there is a general "norm" for the breed, there are TMs that are
extremely sensitive, easily stressed, timid, improperly socialized
or aggressive. During the required commitment to boundary training,
no one can predict how these dogs will react to their owners
purposefully shocking them during their training sessions. Nor
can anyone predict how a Tibetan Mastiff will interpret or associate
the shock he receives with the stimulus on the other side of
the invisible fence, be it bike riders, roller bladers or the
paperboy. It is not impossible to think that he may associate
frustration, pain and aggression with people.
- The Tibetan Mastiff is a double-coated breed and the collar
that provides the shock correction has prongs that need to be
in contact with the skin of your dog. Failure to shave your dog's
fur in those areas, especially during the winter months, will
probably mean that the device will not work.
- Without back-up, a power failure or a dead battery in the dog's
collar means that he is allowed to leave the property. Wire/collar
malfunctions may mean that a dog can experience electrical burns
or repeated shocks.
- Many of the fencing companies do offer support should your
dog escape from the yard but that support comes in terms of technical
advice. Generally, the companies do not concern themselves with
dog behavior or specialize in dog training. In order to prevent
escapes, suggestions may include turning up the shock value or
doubling up on the collars. Most breeders don't want to even
think about the consequences of putting a TM through this added
- Some Tibetan Mastiffs may have physical disabilities such as
hearing/sight impairments that could make it difficult for them
to hear the warning beeps or recognize the visual markers that
indicate the invisible boundaries.
- Invisible fencing does not protect dogs from vehicular accidents
should one decide to include the driveway as part of the fenced
area. Potential accidents may occur as dogs are then free to
lie in driveways or they will have access to strangers that pull
their cars onto the property.
- For those in northern regions that receive a lot of snow, the
amount of snow drift or the height of shoveled banks may affect
the performance of the electric fencing.
- While it may seem unlikely to happen to a fully mature Tibetan
Mastiff, it is not unheard of that your TM puppy can be taken
off your property if left unattended without the benefit of locked
gates or the obstacle of physical barricades.
The Benefits of Electric Fencing
While it is true that traditional fencing is not escape-proof,
it is a solid visible obstacle that presents as a physical deterrent
to your dog and others. Perhaps then we see the greatest benefits
of electrical fencing when it is used in conjunction with traditional
fencing to help ensure secure yards. Working together, both containment
systems may prevent escape artists from finding their way off your
property. Or, should traditional fencing be compromised in some
way, for example by ill repair or storm damage, your dog may still
not find his way out. An added advantage to electric fencing is
that it can "move" with you and your dog should you re-locate.
Simply put, the cons of underground fencing far outweigh the pros
where the Tibetan Mastiff is concerned. Please seriously consider
whether or not your yard situation is suitable before adding a
TM to your family.
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