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West Highland White Terrier

Amusingly, Determined to Protect You Despite Its Small Size

West Highland White - Small, Vivid, and Full of Character

By Barry Gray - Last updated on March 20th, 2021

Everything You Need to Know About the West Highland White Terrier

The West Highland White Terrier may be small in size, but they are huge in character. Traditionally linked to Scotland, this terrier often presumes it is substantially bigger than it is with its fearless approach to life.

Also known by the shortened term ‘Westie', this breed is brave and strong while also being highly protective of their family. With a Westie, you are going to have a friend for life. 

So, what are the sort of things you should know about the West Highland White Terrier? Read on to learn all about this cute and adorable breed.

Fast Facts

Group - Terrier 

Height - 10-11 Inches

Weight - 15-24 Pounds

Hair Length - Short

Shedding - Lite Shed

Lifespan - 13-15 Years

An Appearance That’s Full of Confidence

The West Highland White Terrier is a relatively small dog with a powerful body along with a slightly domed head. Complete with a rough white coat, even their appearance gives off an air of confidence from the dog. 

Their eyes are dark, medium in size, and set far apart. This is accompanied by a heavier than usual brow which adds to their appearance. Their jaws are level and strong, while their ears are small in size and tend to be carried upright.

Their neck is relatively long for a terrier, while it’s also muscular, with this power being carried throughout the rest of their body. Their front legs are relatively short, strong, and covered in thick hair. Also, their front feet tend to be larger than the back.

The back is straight and strong. Their chest is deep set with a well-defined rib cage. The power is in their thighs with their hind legs, with the lower part being thinner, leading to those smaller feet mentioned earlier. 

Finally, their tail is usually carried quite straight and is covered in hair.

Speaking of hair, they have a double coat with a finer undercoat along with a denser, harder overcoat. The outer coat also has no-curl to it, while the undercoat is more in line with fur as it’s shorter and softer.

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The Colors of Your Westie

The clue to colors with this breed is in its name, the West Highland White Terrier. Actually, the only color accepted by the AKC is pure white. Anything else is going to mean you do not have a purebred Westie, and it must have been crossed with a different breed. 

The Temperament of Your Westie

The Westie temperament is where things get interesting as these guys are full of character. Actually, they are perfect for novice dog owners simply due to their wonderful personality. 

They are full of self-esteem, super-friendly, and extremely loyal. They have the courage that contradicts their size, and they act as if they are a big dog in a small body. They also love to please their owners and be close to you, so expect them to want cuddles regularly. 

However, they are terrier, so there’s that bold nature to also struggle with. They can have a naughty side as well, so there may be some digging of holes as well as chewing different objects. Keep an eye out for anything coming through your door, or they will love to rip into it.

But temperament is one factor that can be changed depending on training. So, how easy is the Westie to train, and what type of training is best for them?

How to Train Your Westie

Training your Westie is going to be a whole lot of fun, and that is partly thanks to their intelligence. Also, they get a huge amount of enjoyment out of learning new tricks.

The only problem is they love to be independent. If they decide they don’t want to do something, then little will change their mind. You must start training them at an early age to avoid any long-term problems.  

Do be aware of their need to chase things. That’s what they were bred for. If they see something that they want to go after, that will become their sole focus. Obedience training is important, but be aware that there will still be times when their impulses take over.

Also, training a Westie becomes easier when there are no other distractions. If something catches their eye, watch as their focus moves elsewhere. This is one point that must be addressed with their training.

Part of their training must be socialization. Introduce them to other dogs and people as early as possible. This helps them mature into well-rounded dogs and can help stop them from becoming too dominant. 

While training is important for various reasons, it also makes grooming easier. Talking of grooming, how straightforward is this with a Westie?

Grooming Your Westie

It’s important to groom your Westie correctly, and it’s all thanks to that double coat. Consequently, they do require regular grooming. Without this, their coat will quickly become a tangled mess.

They are classed as being relatively high maintenance from a grooming perspective. Pay attention to their legs and belly as that is where their coat can become tangled in next to no time. Comb it out and strip that old fur from their coat to encourage healthier skin and hair.

This breed should be groomed daily, and their coat should have a slight trim regularly. Some people take them to have a Westie haircut where most of the topcoat is removed, but that still requires regular grooming as the hair grows back.

The Westie is hypoallergenic, but it does still shed on Spring and Autumn. At these times, increase the hand stripping to make them feel more comfortable. 

This sounds like a lot of work, but it’s for the good of their health. But are there any other health issues you should know about?

Potential Health Issues with the Breed

The Westie is generally a healthy breed, but they can suffer from heart problems and patellar luxation. However, that’s not all as the key ailments to watch out for include:

  • Lungworm
  • Skin Issues
  • Liver Problems
  • Deafness

As you can see, it’s hardly an exhaustive list of health issues. There can be an issue with allergies, and their skin will flare up with ease. Taking them to the vet as soon as possible is required.

You may also want to get other joints checked out, especially their hips. Over time, they can develop issues, especially if you overfeed them, and they put on too much weight. 

For exercise, this breed loves a wonderful walk while playing is at the heart of what they do. This breed will love nothing more than to play with toys, but if they make a noise, then be prepared for them to drive you insane!

But we mentioned the problem of overfeeding leading to health problems, so what is the best nutrition for a West Highland White Terrier?

The Correct Nutrition for Your Westie

For nutrition, it’s essential to provide them with high-quality dog food. Also, be aware of them eating too much as this breed will snack if given the opportunity. Considering they can have an issue with their knees, carrying too much weight will be a genuine problem. Controlling their diet is also important due to their potential heart problems as well.

Focus on a combination of protein and carbohydrates in their food as well as calcium when a puppy. They are not known to be fussy eaters but can have a sensitive stomach.  Also, as with any breed, keep their food in line with their age as their nutritional requirements will change. For example, Westie puppies require more energy than older dogs.

The History of the Breed

Originally bred to hunt out rats, West Highland Terriers have been popular in Scotland for centuries. They were first known by the country estates’ names where they were bred before it changed to the West Highland White Terrier. The hunting nature is still strong in the breed today.

The breed was first shown at the AKC in 1906 and came with a sense of poetic history and intrigue. Since then, it has become a firm favorite with their owners, and if you are lucky enough to bring one into your family, then you will understand why.

7 Westie Mixes you would like to know about*

Dog crossbreeds or mixes are sometimes called designer dogs. The name fits since you are “designing” a new dog by mating two purebred dogs. It has become popular in recent times, and more and more breeds have several noteworthy crosses we could write about.

The thing with mixed puppies is that it is hard to know which characteristics they will inherit from their parents. You should research as much info as possible on the parent breeds to understand what you can expect. This way, you will find a mix that has all of the characteristics you want and love.

Read on to see the most popular Westie mixes:

*Not all breed mixes are equal in quality! Pets4you.com neither condones nor endorses any example of unethical and unhealthy crossbreeding. We encourage everyone to research in detail before they choose to get a crossbreed. 

Questions people often ask about Westie

  • +Is a Westie a Good Family Dog?

  • +Do West Highland White Terriers Bark a Lot?

  • +Can Westies Be Left Alone?

  • +Are Westies Easy to Potty Train?

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