Fences for Westies


One of the major considerations a person looks at when getting an 'earthe dogge' like a Westie as a pet is the all-important backyard fence. The object of the fence is of course to keep the dog inside and safe.

Types of fences
Of the various types of building materials, wood is the most common and it's not too expensive. It's easy to handle in building and adaptable to the rise and fall of most yards. The slats can be placed so the dog cannot either see much through the fence or get its head or feet stuck in it. Chicken wire or lath wire nailed to stakes in the ground make a flimsy fence easily pushed over by snow build-up, or the dog's jumping against it. Chain link is more expensive but very strong, long lasting, and low maintenance. Both chain link and wire fencing let the dog view the wider world which he will think is his, thus increasing the barking activity. Brick is seldom used as it's very expensive, but a well built brick fence is almost perfect. Picket or lattice fences can be both effective and economical, but have the danger of the dog 'hanging' itself, as the top is so uneven..

How high should the fence be?
To keep a Westie contained, 2 1/2' -3' is high enough, but it won't necessarily keep him safe. In winter, snow build-up will allow him to get over it. Children, no matter how well intentioned, can lean over to take him off to play. Larger dogs can jump in over that height fence to play and tear up your yard, or to get a fight started. I'm living in a house now with a 5 1/2'-6' board fence which makes me feel secure about the dogs. The neighbourhood dogs aren't coming for an unexpected visit.

Next, we look at the clearance under the fence. Even in the best of fences there is usually a few inches of clearance between the bottom of the fence and the ground. Westies, being natural hunters and diggers see this space as a long narrow sweet-smelling rat hole to be investigated. Some people lay garden logs or timbers to block the space. However, many of these products are pressure treated with creosote, which is toxic. If you plan to buy them, be sure you ask questions and are fully satisfied with the answers you're given. I've seen rectangular patio blocks, short wire edging fence, bricks, and ordinary logs used very effectively. Plain flat boards like 1x6s are tempting to use, but can be wiggled loose by persistent paws.

The Gate
The gate will make or break the effectiveness of the whole fencing system It should be the same height as the rest of the fence, built to the ground, with a firm positive latch which can be locked when needed. Also put in a spring closing mechanism. If you have forgetful family members, meter readers or deliveries to your back yard, you might want to use a 2' fence around the gate so if it's accidentally left open, Suzie and Sam don't get out. A 2' fence is easily stepped over by people.

Some people use a fence enclosing a small area around the back door in addition to the full yard fence. This is great for winter as it means a smaller pick-up area, and it's easier to shovel some paths for the dogs to play in. When it's not too cold, they can also go into the 'big yard'.

Author: Anne Matheson