- Westies are busy little dogs who always need something to occupy idle time.
- Thanks to the texture of the Westie’s coat, mud brushes out easily and falls off when it’s dry.
- If a Westie is raised with cats, he can learn to get along with them, but strange cats and other furry critters who venture onto his property may not fare as well.
AKC group: Terrier
UKC group: Terrier
Average lifespan: 12-14 years
Average size: 13 to 22 pounds
Coat appearance: Double
Best Suited For: Families with children, singles, seniors, apartment, houses with/without yards
Temperament: Friendly, affectionate, intelligent, independent
The short-legged terriers of Scotland are now recognized as the Scottish, Skye, Cairn, Dandie Dinmont, and West Highland White Terriers. They all undoubtedly descend from the same roots — and were all once valued for their small-game hunting skills.
Originally, their coats came in a bevy of colors, including black, red, and cream. Colonel Edward Donald Malcolm of Poltalloch, Argyllshire, Scotland, is generally credited with breeding the white dogs true. The story goes that, in 1860, one of his reddish dogs was mistaken for a fox and shot. Malcolm decided, on the spot, to breed only for white dogs that could be readily identified in the field.
Today, the West Highland White Terrier ranks 34th among the breeds registered by the American Kennel Club, down from 30th in 2000.
The Westie is not only one of the cutest terriers around, but they boast having wonderful personalities too. They are the perfect choice for first time owners because these little white dogs like nothing more than to please. This paired to their intelligence means they are easy to train.
Westies are known to be outgoing, affectionate albeit “naughty” characters, but they form incredibly strong bonds with their owners which in short, means they are wonderful watch dogs and soon let their owners know when they are any strangers about. They are totally unaware of their small size which means they will take on the world if they feel they have to and this includes larger dogs.
With this said, they can at times have a little bit of a stubborn streak in them which is why their training and education must start as early as possible or a dog might grow up to be a more dominant character which is something that needs to be avoided at all costs. Westie puppies need to be well socialised from a young age which means introducing them to as many new people, situations and other animals as soon as they have been fully vaccinated for them to grow up to be well-rounded mature dogs.
Once a West Highland White Terrier has formed a strong bond with an owner they remain totally devoted and loyal to their masters for the rest of their lives which is why they have consistently been such a popular choice as companion dogs and family pets for such a very long time not only here in the UK but elsewhere in the world too.
The average life span of the West Highland White Terrier is 12 to 14 years. Breed health concerns may include copper toxicosis, globoid cell leukodystrophy, Legg-Calve-Perthes disease, pulmonary fibrosis, pulmonic stenosis, generalized demodicosis, hepatitis, pyruvate kinase deficiency, congenital deafness, keratoconjunctivitis sicca (dry eye), corneal ulceration, cataracts, ectopic ureters, epidermal dysplasia (Armadillo Westie syndrome; Malassezia dermatitis) and white shaker dog syndrome.
The Westie should be allowed to sleep inside in everything except very mild weather. The wire coat of this terrier needs occasional combing every week, plus shaping once every three months. Clipping is preferred for shaping pets and stripping is meant for show dogs. It is not easy to keep the color of the coat white in all areas.
Even though the Westie breed loves the outdoors, it can also become a proper indoor dog if it is given regular exercise outside. A moderate or short on-leash walk or a good game outdoors every day can meet the dog’s exercise needs.
West Highland White Terriers are suitable for people in towns and cities as well as in the country. They are very active indoors and will do okay without a yard.
West Highland White Terriers have a stubborn and independent streak and generally don’t like being told what to do. They approach everything with a “What’s in it for me” attitude, and training is no exception. Be prepared with lots of treats to motivate your Westie and keep sessions short and activities varied, as they can be easily distracted. Never treat your Westie with a heavy hand because they will snap and bite if they feel threatened, and once they lose trust in you, it can be nearly impossible to gain that trust back.
Socialization around people and other animals should begin early and often. Westies are more tolerant of other dogs than many of their terrier cousins, but if not socialized, they can become dog aggressive. Westies are naturally wary of strangers, but are not aggressive towards people. Overly sheltered Westies, however can become a handful if they do not spend enough time around new people.
Westies are energetic little dogs that like nothing better than to be kept busy both physically and mentally. This means giving a dog a good hour’s exercise every day and ideally this should be a shorter walk in the morning followed by a much longer and more interesting one in the afternoon.
These little dogs like to run free off the lead as often as possible providing it is in a safe environment. Westies love nothing more than to be run around a back garden so they can really let off steam. However, the fencing must be very secure to keep these little terriers in because if they find any weakness in a fence, they will get out and go off exploring the surrounding area which is just what terriers enjoy doing.
With this said, young Westie puppies should not be given too much exercise because their joints and bones are still growing and too much pressure on them could result in causing a dog a few problems later in their lives.
Westies are high maintenance when it comes to keeping their coats tidy and their skin in good condition. They boast thick double coats with a lot of feathering around their legs and on their bellies which if not groomed on a regular basis tends to matt up very quickly because the hair grows so long. As such, these adorable white dogs should be brushed every day and trimmed when necessary.
It is worth noting that not all Westies need to be hand stripped because not all dogs have the same coat textures which can typically be put down to “bad breeding”.
Westies with harsh coats can be hand stripped, but other dogs with silky coats and no undercoat or dogs with fluffy, wavy coats cannot be hand stripped as the process would be very painful for them to undergo being hand stripped.
The West Highland White Terrier is a loving dog who is good with older children. But he must have adult supervision around children, particularly younger ones. Some breed books have overemphasized how well the Westie gets along with kids, so breed clubs recommend that all children in a Westie’s home be older than seven years of age. This dog can snap if annoyed — but if child and dog are properly supervised, the Westie can do well with children of all ages.
A West Highland White Terrier is good with other dogs and is suited for multidog homes. However, an intact male generally dislikes other intact male dogs, Westie or otherwise. He can adjust to cats, but that’s easier if he’s been raised with them rather than adjusting to a late-life introduction; he has a strong prey drive and will chase cats who decide to run from him.
A Westie should not be trusted with small animals because of his prey drive. Bred to go to ground after little varmints, and he can’t differentiate between the caged pet mouse in your child’s bedroom and a wild mouse that found its way indoors. If you want any small pet, including rabbits or birds, this isn’t the breed for you.
Did You Know?
Legend has it that the West Highland White Terrier was bred for his distinctive snowy fur so he could be spotted while hunting fox and other brown- and red-coated creatures.
In popular culture
- Muhammad Ali Jinnah, founder of Pakistan, owned a Westie.
- John Green, novelist, co-founder of the VlogBrothers, is known to own a Westie, called Willie (or Fireball Wilson Roberts).
|The label of Black & White,
featuring a Scottie and a Westie.
- J. K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series, has a Westie named Brontë.
- Black & White whisky have used both Scottish Terriers and Westies in their advertisements.
- The breed is used as the mascot of the “Cesar” brand of dog food.
- The film The Adventures of Greyfriars Bobby, released in the UK in February 2006, cast a West Highland White Terrier as Bobby. The appearance of a Westie caused protests from the Skye Terrier breed club, which complained about the filmmaker’s use of an incorrect dog breed for the part.
- In the film Lethal Weapon 3, Carrie Murtaugh, played by Ebonie Smith, carried a Westie early in the movie when Martin Riggs brings his laundry to the Murtaugh home.
- The 2018 film Game Night prominently features a West Highland Terrier.