West Highland White Terrier

A Quick Look at the West Highland White Terrier

The West Highland White Terrier, also known as the Westie, was originally a Scottish breed that took its beginnings in the Nineteenth Century. They are bubbly, energetic little dogs with a bright white coat.

Here are some fast facts about the West Highland White Terrier:

Dog Group:
Terrier, AKC
Recognized By:
Dogs – 15 - 22 lbs. (7 - 10 kg)
Bitches – 15 - 22 lbs. (7 - 10 kg)
Dogs - 10 - 11 in. (25 - 28 cm)
Bitches – 10 - 11 in. (25 - 28 cm)
Average litter size:
Life expectancy:
9-15 years (average of 13-14)
Health problems:
Coat care:
Exercise needs:
Suitable for children:
Pet compatibility:
Barking frequency:

Brief History

The West Highland White Terrier was created in Scotland with the intention of creating a breed that would be skilled in catching rodents and other vermin, as well as having keen hunting skills. It shares a similar ancestry to the Scottish Terrier, with The Dandie Dinmont and Cairn Terriers as its descendents. The West Highland White Terrier had been fully developed as a breed in Argyll, Scotland, by the Nineteenth Century. Today, the breed is used much more as a companion and family pet than it is for any of the tasks for which it was initially bred.

West Highland White Terrier Breed Appearance and Characteristics

General Appearance - The West Highland White Terrier is easily recognizable with its cute, sweet appearance through its shaggy, shiny coat, small ears that accent the face, and little button nose. They have sturdy, compact little bodies, but it is the coat that makes them as easy to identify as they are, since the outer coat is smooth, rough, bountiful, and straight.

The West Highland White Terrier moves smoothly and easily. Though this dog does not shed tremendously, it must be remembered that this breed barks a great deal, releasing additional saliva and dander, making it less of an allergy-friendly dog than it would appear.

Typical Temperament - Though they have a great deal of bounce and energy, the West Highland White Terrier is generally quite comfortable with other dogs. This being said, without proper leadership and dominance from the owner, this breed will give other pets in the house or on the street a hard time, with aggressive tendencies ranging from simple barking to snapping or other hostile behaviors.

Basic West Highland White Terrier Care Requirements

Grooming - The West Highland White Terrier’s soft undercoat and rough outer coat white is best maintained with a gentle daily brushing in order to remove any lose hairs, dirt, or pollen, and to evenly distribute the oils from the skin throughout the hairs, keeping the skin and the fur healthy.

Do not bathe this dog too frequently or the skin will dry out and will be at risk of rashes and other dermatological problems. The West Highland White Terrier will need to have its coat professionally stripped a couple of times every year.

Exercise - Though these dogs have a great deal of energy, they remain small, so a good daily walk and some fun playtime inside or outside can burn off any excess energy they may have. Walking is the most effective form of exercise for a West Highland White Terrier, but they also enjoy a good off-leash run in a well fenced-in area. It is important to ensure that the daily walk is possible every day, because missing it will cause behavioral problems such as destructiveness and mischievousness.

Approximate Food Cost - A healthy adult West Highland White Terrier with a typical activity level and that eats an average quality dry dog food will consume about 1 ¼ to 2 2/3 cups of food, which will cost around $20 on a monthly basis.

General Health Information

The West Highland White Terrier is generally a very healthy dog, though it can be prone to chronic skin issues as well as deafness.

Common Illnesses include: Skin problems, deafness, Krabbe’s Disease, Epidermal Dysplasia, CMO, and inherited metabolic liver defects.

Are You the Right West Highland White Terrier Owner?

Living conditions - Though often unexpected of small breeds, the West Highland White Terrier is not a dog compatible with apartment or urban life. Instead, the suburbs or the countryside are much more compatible living environments for the Westie. Though they can burn off a lot of energy inside playing, they require some space outside in a yard to run and explore freely.

Training - It is important to begin training a West Highland White Terrier very early in puppyhood, especially when it comes to socializing them with other people and animals. Training should be done using positive reinforcement techniques and gentle, yet firm and consistent guidance. Westies respond very badly with harsh training techniques, so they should never be used.

Common Problems - Though this dog is very small, it is also very energetic and the West Highland White Terrier requires at least one walk of a good length as well as some playtime or an opportunity to run around, every day. Without this opportunity to burn off extra energy, the result is mischief, destruction, and other undesirable behaviors.

The bottom line...

The West Highland White Terrier is a sturdy terrier that is very trainable. Unlike their terrier background, Westies are quite friendly and social, especially if they have been properly socialized from a young age. Without adequate socialization training, they can tend to be a little bit on the aggressive side, especially toward other dogs, barking or nipping at them.

It is also important to show consistent leadership and dominance of the owner over the West Highland White Terrier in order to help train the dog out of its inclination to dig and bite on furniture. They will also guard their food and furniture and can become possessive if not properly managed from youth.

Though they are small in size, they have a large personality and like to dig, bark, and stand guard as a very effective watchdog. When the owner establishes him or herself as a dominant leader, the West Highland White Terrier will show respect, love and devotion to the family and live most comfortably, understanding his or her role in the family "pack".

It is no wonder that the West Highland White Terrier has joined the most popular of the various terrier breeds, since it is so immensely friendly, well mannered, determined, and calm overall.

It is important not to mistake this small dog for a lapdog, however, as the West Highland White Terrier is a terrier through and through and will not want to simply sit around on a velvet pillow. The breed may look sweet and darling in its tiny package, but it has an abundant amount of energy and will want to be regularly active both mentally and physically for a good deal of the day.

Lots of daily exercise is required to keep this dog happy and to help to minimize the digging and hunting instincts that are so ingrained into the breed. Their confidence, charm, and intelligence are high, making them very lovable.

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Filed Under: Westie Training


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