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. 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.
The West Highland White Terrier - shed
The West Highland White Terrier is usually about 11 inches (male) or 10 inches (female) at the shoulders. The dog weights 15-20 pounds. 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. 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.
FUN FACT: When your Westie gets dirty, let the mud on the coat dry and then just brush it off.
The West Highland White Terrier - energy level
Unlike other terriers, the Westie 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 through the day will be enough to keep them happy. Westies need to live inside the house/apartment and are usually very calm when indoors. Westies 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: Westies 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.
The West Highland White Terrier - temperament
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 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 with by a firm hand that is using positive methods. Clicker training is an excellent training method for this breed.
FUN FACT: Westies love to dig.
The West Highland White Terrier - health issues
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.
The West Highland White Terrier - breeders
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.
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