The West Highland White Terrier
The West Highland White Terrier (or simply the Westie) is a popular small-sized dog breed, known for its liveliness, friendliness, and completely white fur. Most of all, this dog is a companion and he will love family life. Westie is a very social dog who will get along excellent with everybody. West Highland White Terriers can be good with kids but they don’t like rough handling. They are easy to train if you use positive training methods and they don’t require much exercise. If you think this is the right dog breed for you we advise you to learn everything there is about this dog so you can be sure in your decision before you start searching for Westie breeders. They are very intelligent and will learn quickly everything you are asking. Although they get along well with dogs and other animals you should be careful around smaller animals such as rabbits because this dog will try to catch them. They are not suited for outside living, they must be with the family in the house. There is a saying that Westie is a big dog stuck in a small dog's body.
These dogs originated in Scotland and were used for hunting foxes, badgers, and otters, and for killing vermin. The Westie’s white color is supposedly a consequence of a tragic accident that occurred in the 19th century, while Colonel Malcolm of Poltalloch was hunting foxes. He accidentally shot and killed his wheaten-colored Cairn Terrier. After this accident, the Colonel decided to breed only white dogs that couldn't be confused with foxes. This dog is also known by the names Poltalloch Terrier, Roseneath Terrier, and White Roseneath Terrier.
This dog is closely related to a few other terrier dogs from that region: Scottish Terrier, Cairn Terrier, Skye Terrier, and Dandie Dinmont Terrier.
Dog breed characteristics
The Westie is a sturdy little dog with a deep chest and compact body. His eyes and nose are dark and the hard-to-the-touch coat is all white. Any other color is considered a fault in the show ring.
These dogs were accepted on a definitive basis by the FCI in 1954. They belong to group 3(Terriers) – section 2 (Small-sized Terriers). They should be tall approximately 28 centimeters (11 inches).
The West Highland White Terrier is usually about 28 centimeters (11 inches) for males or 25 centimeters (10 inches) for females at the shoulders. The dog weighs 7-9 kilograms (15-20 pounds). They belong to the Terrier Group and they were officially recognized by the AKC in 1908.
The West Highland White Terrier coat
Westie’s double coat doesn’t shed a lot and is easy to take care of. The coat requires weekly brushing and occasional grooming by a professional groomer (about two or three times a year). The groomer will hand pluck the old, dead hair from the Westie’s coat. This is a rare technique that is used to keep the terrier’s coat in the best condition. The rest is basic care – trim the dog’s nails, brush his teeth, check and clean his ears regularly. Because his coat stays clean he should only be bathed if necessary.
FUN FACT: When your Westie gets dirty, let the mud on the coat dry and then just brush it off.
Unlike other terriers, this dog doesn’t require a lot of daily exercise. Westies are calmer and more adaptable. They love to romp and play and few moderate walks and/or play sessions throughout the day will be enough to keep them happy. Westies need to live inside the house/apartment and are usually very calm when indoors. West Highland White Terriers are one of the few dogs that don’t make problems when left alone for too long. With proper stimulation and enough toys, Westie will be happy to wait calmly for you to come home for as long as it takes.
FUN FACT: These are alert and make good watchdogs! They love to feel important and also love to bark so they will react loudly to any unknown and/or suspicious sound or sight.
Temperament and training
The West Highland White Terrier is an intelligent, funny, and easy-going dog that makes an excellent family dog. This dog is very social and friendly. He is affectionate with children of all ages, but beware that Westies tend to snap if provoked. They are terriers and don’t like to be bothered or teased. Many terriers are possessive of their food and toys and probably will react defensively if a child tries to take them away. Westies also don’t mind living in a household with other dogs (but if the dogs are not spayed/neutered there can be some same-sex aggression). Westies can get used to living with cats, but smaller pets, such as hamsters or rabbits, might be a problem because these dogs have a strong prey drive. After all, they were originally bred to hunt and kill vermin.
Although Westies are calmer than other terrier breeds, they still have a lot of terrier traits. Westies are feisty, impulsive, determined, independent, and a little stubborn. To train them properly, a lot of patience is required. Training needs to start early, needs to be interesting, and led by a firm hand that is using positive methods. Clicker training is an excellent training method for this breed.
FUN FACT: These dogs love to dig.
The West Highland White Terrier has a lifespan of 13-15 years. Just like any other breed, this one is also prone to certain health conditions that (future) owners should be aware of. These conditions are craniomandibular osteopathy (irregular bone growth in the skull of the puppy; this conditions is believed to be hereditary), Legg-Calve-Perthes disease (this is a hip disorder that happens when there is a disruption of blood flow to the head of the femur), cataracts, pulmonary fibrosis (a respiratory disease where scars are formed in the lung tissue), patellar luxation (a dislocated kneecap), skin diseases, etc.
There are a few recommended health tests you can perform to be sure that your dog is healthy: hip and patella evaluation and ophatlomologist evaluation.
When buying a dog make sure it is from a reputable and responsible breeder who tests his breeding dogs to make sure they're free of genetic diseases, and not from an irresponsible breeder, a pet store or a puppy mill breeder. Many breeders only bred dogs to earn money without worrying about puppy health, temperament and well being. Because of that, you must be very careful when searching for West Highland White Terrier breeders. We advise you that you only search breeders on the World Dog Finder website or at the cynological association of your country. If you do so you can be sure that you are talking to a responsible and registered breeder.
These are excellent dogs that will enjoy spending time with their family. They are also very intelligent and they will learn quickly every command. They are excellent choices for first-time owners. Westies have easygoing nature and fun-loving personality and because of that, they will get under your skin. If you leave them alone, in most cases, they will not suffer from separation anxiety but there can be some individuals who will. If they stay alone at home, you will need to leave them some toys to play with, leave the radio on so they won't feel lonely. If you decided that this is the right dog breed for you, certainly you will not make a mistake – it will be challenging at first but it will get easier with time. Having these dogs as a part of your family will change your life forever – for the better.
World Dog Finder team