Fencing

Westies need room to run and play. But they cannot be trusted to be off lead in unfenced areas. Please do not consider training a Westie to respect boundaries. All it takes is one squirrel and one weak moment, and the dog will be gone. All it takes is one mistake for a dog to be hit by a car or disappear into the woods.

This article was originally written for Rescue purposes but provides good information to consider when getting a Westie from any source.

There are frequent inquiries into the use of Invisible Fencing with Westies. In general we do not encourage it. If we are placing a dog, and there is a choice between two otherwise equal homes, we would choose to put the dog in the home with regular fencing. The order of preference is:

Regular Fencing (with slats close enough to actually keep the dog in) A dog pen or fenced run A dog being walked on leash A dog being on a tie out that lies on the ground A dog being on a tie out that runs overhead Invisible Fencing

Regular fencing is always the best choice as long as the dog cannot slip through the slats. If the slats are too wide, then the fencing needs to be reinforced to resolve this problem.

A dog pen does not need to be very large. Something like 25 x 25 gives a lot of room for a little Westie to run and still supplies a secure area. Many people are in apartments or condos where there is no fencing but rules require the dog to be leashed. If the dog is always on leash, he will be safe. But there can be no exceptions, not even in rain and snow. This same method can be used for those who own homes but, again, there are no exceptions to the ‘ALWAYS’ on lead rule.

The last three options are less desirable. All three of them have similar problems.

When a dog is tied out but exposed with no fencing, he is vulnerable to any dangers that may enter the yard. This includes other animals, both wild and domesticated including mean dogs and skunks. It also includes children who may tease the dog, and a growing problem of dog thieves. The dog is unable to run from these dangers.

A dog run which goes overhead often causes the dog to ‘dangle’ by its collar when it gets to the end of the run and tries to go further. This can be very hard on its wind pipes and can eventually cause real damage.

Finally, invisible fencing has yet another problem. Often a Westie will want to get to a squirrel or rabbit so badly that it will ‘run through’ the shock. But once it leaves the fenced area, it is not willing to take that same shock to get back inside. So now you have a dog who is stuck outside of its own yard.

There are also a lot of different personalities among the Westies. Some more timid Westies will react poorly to the training. Some will not want to go out in the yard at all. There have been cases of Westies losing their housebreaking rather than go out in the yard. This can be a result of poor training or a combination of inappropriate or inadequate training and a ‘soft’ (a dog that is easily upset by corrections) dog. AND some dogs are so smart that they figure out how to run down the battery. They understand that if they get close enough to set off the early warning signals often enough, the battery will wear down and they can then leave the yard.

The other concern is ‘over confidence’. People sometimes think that now that they have put in the electric fencing, they can put the dog outside and not keep an eye on the dog. Some even leave the dog alone outside when they go away!! No fencing should be used as a babysitter. When you can’t keep on eye on the dog, the dog should be in the house. No dog should be left outside when the owner is away from the home….ever!!

After all this is said, there are situations and dogs where this fencing can be used. It can be used as a secondary containment system around a real fence. It can be used in areas where the traffic is low and with dogs who are able to handle the training and have demonstrated no tendency to break through the fencing. (If the dog does break through, you are in a position of having to put in a regular fence or pen anyway.) But, if used, the owner must always be around to keep an eye on the dogs and must never let the dogs be out in the yard when they go away. It takes only a second for a dog to escape and only that long for something bad to enter the area and trap the dog. Finally, if you do use this type of fence, remember to check it often to be sure it is working. Some fences have indicators to let you know if they are not functioning, but others don’t and must be checked regularly. Moles and chipmunks have been known to chew through the wiring and batteries on the collars can run down.

A PHYSICAL FENCE IS YOUR BEST BET!