Even though I have stated quite plainly that I will not place my Tibetan Mastiff puppies or dogs in homes without a fenced yard, I constantly get asked to make an exception or I am forced into a debate about why the fence is not necessary. Many people are just genuinely unaware of the importance of proper containment when owning a guardian breed such as the Tibetan Mastiff. Here are the most common reasons I hear from people why they do not require a fence. The following information can also apply to those who have a fence of inadequate height. A 6 foot fence is ideal but a 5 foot fence is the minimum I would recommend.
- The dog will never be outside without me
- I will take the dog for many walks and he will never be off of a leash
- I will take my dog to the dog park.
- We have a tie-out or a trolley line
- We will use an invisible or electronic fence
- I will train the dog to never leave the yard
- We live on a cul-de-sac so it shouldn't be a problem
- We live in a rural area, there is never any traffic
- There are natural boundaries around our yard - stream, trees, ravine, forest preserve etc.
- Everyone's dog gets away from them sometimes - it happens!
- I'm not about to spend hundreds of dollars to build a fence for a dog!
I will address these one at a time but first I would like to give the most obvious reasons for requiring a fenced yard.
First and foremost, there are LEASH LAWS! All communities have them. If your dog is out of your care & control and gets involved in ANY altercation with a dog or a person and/or causes intended or accidental damage to anyone's person or property, YOU are legally responsible. This may mean something as simple as a hefty bill for you but it can also mean a dangerous dog report for your Tibetan Mastiff. If allowed to continue it might result in an order of euthanasia! Why would you want to expose yourself or your dog to these very real possibilities? The smart answer is you would not. I reserve the right not to knowingly place my puppies in these types of situations.
Secondly, and just as important, I feel that all responsible dog owners of any breed should have a fence. Too many unexpected things can happen to your dog that will endanger his safety and well-being without proper containment. And, as stated above, it prevents your dog from becoming a nuisance to your neighbors and the community.
There are more specific reasons why the Tibetan Mastiff breed in particular is especially in need of proper containment. The Tibetan Mastiff is a GUARDIAN BREED. These dogs are naturally territorial and protective of home and family. What he perceives as a danger and what you perceive as a danger can be two entirely different things! Even the most socialized and friendly Tibetan Mastiff in the world will still move to protect what is his should he sense that there is a danger. Your dog may take exception to something or someone that you deem perfectly safe such as the UPS man or a friend. The Tibetan Mastiff is also sensitive to the new and the strange. And that does not mean new and strange to YOU! Even if your dog should meet someone 20 times he may have never seen that person with a backpack or wearing big clunky boots, heavy coat or a hat. That person becomes something entirely new to your dog and it may trigger your TM's guardian nature to slip into high gear. It is impossible to predict what can happen with a loose guardian breed on your property because you have no control without a proper fence.
The Tibetan Mastiff can experience same-sex aggression. While you may like your neighbor's dog, your Tibetan Mastiff may not. Being a guardian breed means that your TM is territorial and, while he might like your neighbor's dog when introduced out for a walk, he may take exception to that same dog "trespassing" on HIS property. Stray dogs may come along at any time. Dog fights are unavoidable without a proper fence.
The Tibetan Mastiff can have a very healthy prey drive. What if your neighbor gets a new kitten? Many owners let their kittens and cats out to roam free all the time. What if your TM thinks that kitten might be good for lunch? How will you explain to your neighbor why you did not have control of your dog?
In our area, neighbors and the township seem to have random reasons for setting off fireworks on occasions other than the 4th of July or New Years Eve. If your Tibetan Mastiff develops a fear of fireworks he will bolt in fear and may never be seen again. He can be lost forever or hit by a car. The same can be said for dogs that are terrified of thunder. What happens if a sudden thunderstorm blows through and your dog becomes afraid? Unpredictable events mean that you have no way to control a situation without a proper fence.
Now for the reasons:
1. The dog will never be outside without me. This is pretty unrealistic. Just think how inconvenient that will be when the weather gets bad! And, to be honest, who is really going to stick to this claim for the entire life of the dog? It would not matter if you could. There is no way you will be fast enough to get hold of your dog in ANY of the unexpected situations listed above. Psssst….I'll tell you a secret…… your dog runs faster than you.
2. I will take the dog on many walks and he will never be off of a leash. This is NO life for a Tibetan Mastiff! Why would anyone want to imagine a scenario in which his dog never has a regular chance to run and play off leash within the security of his own yard? This breed needs yard space to exercise, play, relax, patrol and guard. And what happens if the weather gets bad, if you are sick, or life gets unbelievably busy? How long and how frequent will those walks be? A Tibetan Mastiff LOVES being outside, especially in the cool and the cold weather. Mine will go out the door at 7am and not come in again unless it's time to eat or time to go to bed. Keeping your Tibetan Mastiff in the house for what amounts to 80% of his life is unreasonably cruel.
I would also like to address behavioral problems that the Tibetan Mastiff can develop from the boredom that is very likely to occur from too much time spent indoors. Lack of positive stimulus, both physically and mentally, can result in unwanted behaviors such as destructive chewing, digging, barking and aggression. They can also turn to compulsive licking and chewing of their fur and skin. Destruction, nuisance barking and aggression are the most commonly reported undesirable behaviors. Many Tibetan Mastiffs will sit at the window and explode at any stimulus passing by whether it be human or animal. This is often accompanied by jumping & scratching that may damage or destroy the window, frame and molding. While there is no question that your dog can become bored in his own fenced yard, a fenced yard coupled with attention, walks, outings and appropriate chew toys are the best combination for a happy Tibetan Mastiff.
3. I will take my dog to the dog park. Dog parks can be a bad choice. Because Tibetan Mastiffs can often be territorial and assertive, it is not uncommon to learn that they do not typically do well in dog park situations. You cannot control which dogs will be in the park on any given day and you can also not guarantee whether all dogs will be healthy, well-behaved or well-trained. Since TMs are notorious for not coming when called (unreliable recall), the combination of all these factors can spell trouble in a dog park setting. Ask yourself these questions that I have adapted from a dog park article:
Answer True or False as the statement applies to you:
1) - You are unable to understand (read) your dog’s body language.
2) - You are unable to accurately read any dog’s body language.
3) - You expect your dog to behave the same way that he does at home.
4) - You are very sociable and easily distracted by conversations with other dog owners.
5) - Your dog does not RELIABLY come when called.
6) - Your dog is nervous, timid or downright terrified around other dogs.
7) - Your dog has a history of aggression toward humans.
8) - Your dog has a history of aggression toward other dogs.
9) - Your dog does not have routine vet care to diagnose parasites or other communicable diseases.
10) - You watch ‘The Dog Whisperer’ and are expecting the ‘pack’ to fix your dog.
And although you may be able to answer honestly for yourself and your dog you can never answer for those you will encounter at the dog park.
4-5. We have a tie-out or a trolley line / We will use an invisible or electronic fence. It has been proven that putting dogs on a tie-out or a tether increases aggression. You are just asking for trouble by tying up your Tibetan Mastiff as this practice is especially ill-suited to a breed that is already territorial and protective. It's simply not the ideal quality of life for any dog to be constantly tethered and unable to move about freely.
Invisible fencing poses a whole host of problems and you can read an article about it here. Simply put, your Tibetan Mastiff will run through the shock if the incentive is strong enough and it does not prevent people, dogs or children from wandering into your yard.
6. I will train the dog to never leave the property. This is extremely unlikely with the Tibetan Mastiff breed. These dogs are not easily or reliably boundary-trained. In fact, many Tibetan Mastiffs consider any obedience command "optional". The temptation to protect or give chase will win out over any command once a TM senses, hears, sees or smells something important enough to elevate his guardian instincts.
7-8-9. Living on a cul-de-sac, having natural boundaries, no traffic. The response to every single one of these excuses is obvious. None of these scenarios guarantee you control of your dog. The Tibetan Mastiff is an athletic mountain dog. Do I really need to explain why the creek, the forest and ravine are not "boundaries"? And yes, there is less traffic in rural areas and on cul-de-sacs but I think I have already explained why traffic is NOT your biggest problem. Besides, it only takes ONE CAR…
10. Everyone's dog gets away from them sometimes - it happens! Why this twisted logic is OK for anyone is beyond me. That's like saying that it's okay for your child to wander off every now and again. It's true that sometimes it happens that a dog will escape a yard due to an open gate or broken fence but to just accept as a fact of life that an uncontained dog will naturally wander off occasionally is irresponsible and unacceptable! If your dog gets out ONCE and makes it back to you safely without hurting himself or others you should consider it a GIFT. Do everything in your power to make sure that it never happens again. If you lost your child in the mall and he was later returned safely, how cautious would you be after a scare like that??? I am not equating dogs with children. I am simply pointing out that adults need to be vigilant in safeguarding those that need protection. It is your obligation to protect your dog and others. It is not acceptable for your dog to leave your property "now and then"!! If your dog gets away ONCE, you have a failed containment system and that needs to be addressed immediately.
11. I'm not about to spend hundreds of dollars to build a fence for a dog! I will refrain from saying what I would really like to say here but there are other breeds out there that will do much better with an electronic containment system and it would be wise to investigate them for your situation. Keeping a guardian breed without a physical fence is never going to be a good idea whether you get your Tibetan Mastiff from me or another breeder.
We pay our insurance premiums to defray the impact and the cost of the unexpected, paying for a fence is an insurance policy for you and your Tibetan Mastiff. This insurance is something I must insist upon from potential homes for all Citadel puppies.
Requiring proper containment is never a judgement about whether or not someone couldn't be a wonderful home, it's simply that a fence is so important I cannot consider a home without one.
And while a fenced yard is essential, nothing can take the place of routinely taking your Tibetan Mastiff out on leash walks for exercise, socialization and a change of scenery.