Westhighland Terrier Traits
- Very loyal and loving companions and family pets
- They are intelligent and love being in a home environment
- Westies are moderate shedders
- They are a nice size making them very adaptable to apartment living
- Westies are very playful by nature
Factors to consider
- Westies are known to like the sound of their own voices
- Can be a little wilful and stubborn which makes their training more challenging
- Westies are prone to allergies
- They are known to be quite independent by nature
- Westies are high maintenance on the grooming front
- Can be hard to housetrain
The West Highland White Terrier or Westie as they are affectionately known, has consistently been one of the most popular breeds and for very good reason. Not only are they adorably cute, but they boast happy, fun-loving and outgoing personalities too. In short, they are the perfect choice either as a family pet or companion dog. Westies are also one of the more popular breeds in the show ring and have been for decades. They are intelligent little dogs and love to please which means training a Westie is easy although they do have a bit of a stubborn streak in them.
They are known to get on well with children and love nothing more than to be part of a family, but care has to be taken when a Westie is around smaller animals and pets because they are terriers and their instinct to hunt remains very strong even in a home environment. West Highland White Terriers form strong ties with their owners and never like it when they are left on their own, they are also high maintenance when it comes to keeping their coats looking good and benefit from being professionally groomed several times a year.
Where did the West Highland Terrier Originate?
Records of West Highland White Terriers can be traced back to the 15th century when they were first bred to hunt vermin, foxes and otters in their native Scotland. The breed shares its ancestry with other well-known Scottish dogs namely the Dandie Dinmont, the Cairn Terrier and the Scottie. The breed was created by taking any white puppies from a litter and selectively breeding from them. These dogs were to form the foundation stock of the Westie that’s known and loved today.
There are records that date back to James I that show the King of England asking for a number of these "little white earth dogges" to be sent to him from kennels situated in Argyleshire. It is thought these "dogges" were Westies. There are people who believe that Col Malcolm of Potalloch was responsible for developing white terriers after he accidentally shot one of his favourite brown coloured dogs when he was out hunting. However, at that time the breed was known as Poltalloch Terriers.
Other similar white terriers were bred by the Duke of Argyleshire during the 19th century and his dogs were called Roseneath after the estate on which they were bred. As such, these Westies were called Roseneath Terriers back in the day. The first time the white terriers were exhibited was late in the 1800's, but at the time they were known as White Scottish Terriers. It was not until 1904 that the breed was finally classified as West Highland White Terriers and they were recognised as a unique breed by The Kennel Club.
Today, the Westie remains one of the most popular choices as a family pet or companion dog and they are always a great hit both with judges and spectators in the show ring thanks to their adorable looks and they gay, happy and outgoing personalities.
Did you know.....
- Is the West Highland Terrier a vulnerable breed? No, they are among the most popular breeds in Ireland and other countries too.
- Westies have a very high prey drive and will chase anything that moves having originally been bred as "ratters".Their white fur kept them safe when out hunting because hunters could clearly see them.
- Westies can wriggle their way down the smallest of holes thanks to their body shape
- Westies are prone to getting sunburnt more especially on the tips of their ears
What should a west look like?
- Height at the withers: Males 25 - 28 cm, Females 25 - 28 cm
- Average Weight: Males 6.8 - 9.1 kg, Females 6.8 - 9.1 kg
Westies are small, compact white dogs that boast a very endearing look about them thanks to their lovely dark eyes and large, black noses. Although small in stature, the Westie is a robust and powerful little dog that boasts a slightly domed head that's well covered with hair. They have a very distinct stop accentuated by their dark eyes which are nicely set and their strong, level jaws. Their eyes are set widely apart and are medium in size being as dark as possible with dogs boasting heavy eyebrows which adds to their endearing looks. Westies have a very alert and intelligent look in their eyes which is typical of the breed.
Their ears are small which dogs carry upright and they have sharp, well-defined tips to them and are covered in smooth, short hair. Their mouths are strong with dogs having a regular scissor bite where their upper teeth neatly overlap their lower ones. Their neck is long and muscular which dogs carry proudly being thicker at the base where it merges into the shoulders which slope nicely backwards. Front legs are short and well-muscled being covered in short, thick and hard hair.
A Westie's body is compact with dogs having nice level backs and strong, broad loins. Chests are deep with well arched ribs at the front. Their hindquarters are muscular and strong being broad with short, muscular, sinewy back legs with nicely muscled thighs. A Westie's front feet are larger than their back ones and dogs boast having thick pads with all four feet being well covered in short hair and black nails. Their tails are covered in hair without any feathering which dogs carry as straight as possible.
When it comes to their coat, a Westie boasts a double coat with a harsher outer coat without any curl that around 5 cm long while the undercoat is more like fur being short, soft and close. The accepted colour for registration with the Kennel Club for a Westie is as follows:
- Pure white
How should a Westie move?
When a West Highland White Terrier moves, they do so with a free-moving and flowing action with their front legs nicely extended from a dog's shoulder. Their back legs move freely showing power with dogs having nicely flexed stifles and hocks.
What does the Kennel club look for?
The Kennel Club frowns on any departures or exaggerations in the breed standard and judge faults on how much they affect a dog's overall health and wellbeing as well as their ability to perform.
Male Westies should have both testicles fully descended into their scrotums and it is worth noting that dogs can be a little larger or smaller and they can be slightly taller or shorter than stated in the Kennel Club breed standard which is given as a guideline only.
Does a Westie Have a Good Temperament?
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 Ireland but elsewhere in the world too.
Are they a good choice for first time owners?
Westies are a great choice for first time dog owners because they are so amenable and adaptable by nature. However, they do have a bit of a stubborn streak and will choose to turn a deaf ear to a command when they feel like it which can make their training a little more challenging.
What about prey drive?
West Highland White Terriers were originally bred to be "ratters" and to work alongside hunters and as such they still have a strong prey drive even when kept in a home environment which is why care should always be taken as to where and when a Westie can run free off their leads to avoid any mishaps.
Will a Westie be playful?
Not only are Westies cute, they are also real comedians by nature and enjoy nothing more than to keep their owners entertained. They love being busy and it would be a mistake to leave a Westie alone because if boredom sets in, they will get up to all sorts of mischief to keep themselves entertained.
What about adaptability?
Westies are highly adaptable little dogs and providing they are given enough mental stimulation and vigorous daily exercise, they are just as happy living in an apartment in town as they are living in a house in the country.
Will a Westie suffer from separation anxiety?
Westies, as previously mentioned, form strong ties with their owners and being so loyal and devoted, they never like to find themselves on their own which typically sees a dog suffer from separation anxiety. This can lead to them being destructive around the home and to bark incessantly which is their way of relieving the stress they are feeling and to get the attention these little dogs crave.
Will a Westie bark too much?
Westies are known to be "barkers" and even when they are gently trained not to bark too much when young, the chances are that a dog will still bark at something when they feel like and some Westies bark just for the sake of it. However, it is worth noting that all dogs when they are left on their own for too long may start barking to get attention.
Do Westies like Swimming?
Some Westies love swimming whereas others hate getting their feet wet and it would be a big mistake to force a dog into the water because it would just end up frightening them even more. With this said, care should always be taken when walking a Westie off the lead anywhere near more dangerous watercourses just in case they decide to leap in.
Are Westies good watchdogs?
Westies make great watchdogs because they are always quick to let their owners know when they are strangers about or when something they don't like is going on in their environment. Westies as previously mentioned, like the sound of their own voices and any excuse merits them being vocal.
Will a Westie be easy to train?
Westies are known to be intelligent and they do like to please. However, they have a bit of a mischievous side to their nature which means that their training and education has to start as early as possible and it has to be consistent in order to get the best results. As previously mentioned, Westie puppies need to be well socialised from a young age for them to be well-rounded mature dogs or they might grow up to be more dominant characters which makes them harder to train.
It takes more time and patience to train a Westie successfully and even then, a dog might decide to turn a deaf ear to a command because they feel like it or because they've spotted something interesting in the distance. With this said, some Westies do very well at all sorts of doggy activities which includes thing like agility, flyball and even obedience.
They respond well to positive reinforcement training methods, but do not accept any sort of rough handling or tough correction which would have an adverse effect on the outcome of their training. It's also important not to "overdo" the treats when training a Westie because they are liable to put on too much weight and this could have a serious impact on their overall health and wellbeing, shortening a dog’s life span considerably.
Westie puppies should be taught the basic commands right from the word go and this includes the following commands:
- Leave it
Once a Westie is older, they can be taught other more complicated commands to ensure they grow up to be obedient and well-behaved in all sorts of different situations and environments, bearing in mind that they are known to be a little stubborn at times.
Will a Westie be Safe with Children and Other Pets?
Westies are known to be excellent around children loving nothing more than to play games with them. However, as with any other breed any interaction between a dog and the kids needs to be supervised by an adult to make sure playtime does not get too boisterous.
They will get on with other dogs as long as they have been well socialised from a young age. However, when it comes to cats unless they grow up together, it would be unwise to trust a Westie when they are around a feline counterpart. With this said, the instinct to "chase" is very strong and even if a Westie has grown up with a cat, they are still liable to chase them when the mood takes them just for the fun of it. Care has to be taken when a Westie is around any smaller pets and it would not be wise to leave one alone anywhere near them because it could end up being disastrous.