West Highland Terrier – Everything you need to know

West Highland Terrier Basic Information

Name: West Highland Terrier

Size: Small

Height: Males: 10 to 12 inches & Females: 9 to 11 inches 

Weight: Males: 15 to 22 pounds & Females: 13 to 16 pounds 

Coat: Double coated

Lifespan: 13 to 17 years

Color: White

Energy: High

Origin: Scotland

Hypoallergenic: Yes

Activities: Therapy dogs, search and rescue, flyball, tracing

Barking Level: Low

Shedding Level: Frequent

Litter Size: 2 to 5 puppies

Group: Terrier

Other Names: West Highland White Terriers, Westie, Westy

Breed’s Original Pastime: Romp, play, agile, independent

West Highland Terrier History

The Dandie Dinmont, Skye, Scottish, and Cairn Terriers have a similar heritage and are considered branches of the same breed. The West Highland White Terrier was developed in Scotland to hunt wolves, badgers, and otters and kill vermin such as rats.

The detailed history of the West Highland Terrier is uncertain, but many claim it can be linked back to the seventeenth century and a small breed of earth dogs were offered to King Louis XVI of France by James I Argyllshire.

The white color of the Westie is said to have come in due to a horrific nineteenth-century tragedy when Colonel Malcolm of Poltalloch was hunting foxes. One of the colonel’s wheaten-colored Cairns was inadvertently shot and killed. Devastated and eager to avoid any mishaps, he chose to breed only white dogs that should not be mistaken for foxes.

The West Highland Terrier has been called several names, like the Poltalloch Terrier and the Roseneath Terrier. In 1906, the Kennel Club of England formally recognized him as the West Highland Terrier.

West Highland Terrier Breed Overview

The easiest way to characterize the West Highland Terrier dog breed is by their full of self-confidence to believe they are the best thing around. They’ll make you happy as they amuse themselves since they’re out for a fun time. 

These dogs are affectionately referred to as Westies by enthusiasts of the breed. Even though they are purebred dogs, they can also be found in shelters and rescues. 

Westies are sweet and cheerful dogs with a fun personality that appeals to all, particularly when they cock their heads to the side and look at you curiously. These affectionate and insightful pups make perfect additions to every household, even though they live in an apartment. Just make sure you can give them ample exercise and lots of time to enjoy. 

As he’s affectionately known, the West Highland Terrier, or Westie, is a “big dog with a little dog’s body,” to put it mildly. He isn’t pushy or irritable, and he doesn’t need to challenge or suggest something. He’s not so stubborn. If you can persuade him that what you want is in his best interests, he’ll go along with your plan. 

Initially bred for hunting and ratting, the Westie acquired the ability to think for themself, something the breed still loves today. Rather than chasing mice, the Westie’s instinct to work is now channeled into endurance and obedience competitions. He’s also a service dog, and a couple of Westies have also joined search-and-rescue teams. He’s also known for participating in earth-dog trials, monitoring, and flyball competitions. You should channel all of his vigors into one or more of these endeavors. 

The West Highland Terrier is mainly a friend who enriches his family’s life with his hilarious actions and zest for life. He’s a friendly dog who gets along with everybody, even strangers, and he’s not a one-person dog. He gets along well with children of all ages and thrives in a family of older children. He gets along with most dogs in public, and he succeeds in households with many dogs. Westies can respond to cats; besides chasing them occasionally, he usually gets along well with gentle kitties. Since the wee white one has a high prey instinct, he cannot respond to tiny creatures that run wild, such as rabbits or gerbils. 

The Westie is adaptable to every living environment and thrives in both the country and the city. He does, though, remain inside with his family and not outside. If adequately exercised and conditioned not to bark, he makes an ideal apartment owner. He’s content to sit at home while you’re at work, and he’ll be good on his own with the right stimuli and safety measures. To top it all, he’s a joy to travel with, whether on extended holidays or just doing errands. 

The West Highland Terrier is an easy dog to train. He’s bright and easy to pick things up, so teaching will keep him entertained as long as it’s optimistic and reliable. The best way to teach a Westie is to use positive reinforcement combined with consistency. For him, clicker training is an ideal form of instruction. Using stern corrections is a waste of time because his “what’s in it for me” mentality would kick in, allowing him to break down and disregard the orders. 

When he sees or senses something unusual, the Westie will certainly warn bark, and he will still report guests, mail carriers, and dogs that pass in front of the building. Some people would also call out to bugs that pass past. To put it another way, he can be very loud. He can be conditioned to bark only once he sees or hears something well prepared from a young age. 

The Westie is a common breed that can be affectionate and loyal but still having enough dignity and self-assurance not to need pampering. Few Westies like to be lap dogs than others. He enjoys being washed, which makes housetraining him a joy. For a first-time or beginner dog trainer, he is an ideal friend. Even the non-reactive hearts can be melted by the Westie’s easy-going temperament, intelligent gaze, and fun-loving attitude. 

When he’s indoors, the Westie also transforms into a different dog outside. He can be a speed demon at the dog park or spend all day hiking with his people. He enjoys romping around the backyard, sniffing and surveying his territory, playing games, and flinging fuzzy squeaky toys around. Although he enjoys digging, it seems to be a learned skill. Indoors, some Westies will get exercise by playing fetch down a corridor. Although he doesn’t exercise as much as other dogs, you can walk him once or twice a day to keep him comfortable and safe. 

Westie is not supposed to remain outdoors. Even though he isn’t a lapdog or a cuddler, he thrives in the yard. On the independent line, he’ll bypass the center of the action in favor of a position near it. He should keep an eye on the house while you’re at work; while certain dogs can have separation anxiety, it’s not a typical affliction in the breed. To prevent him from getting lonely, merely supply him with healthy yet exciting toys and activities: put on a radio, leave him with frozen kongs stuffed with peanut butter, and make his crate a comfortable sanctuary.

West Highland Terrier Pros and Cons

Does well with other pets in a homeStubborn
Great with kidsTendency to dig
Energetic and loyalLoud and sometimes persistent barking

West Highland Terrier Highlights

  • Westies are prone to dig, bark, and go after vermin. But with proper training, you can alter his traits.
  • West Highland Terriers do well in multi-dog homes unless there is no more than another male intact other than him. He can get used to cats if adequately trained. He cannot adapt to small pets, like birds and rabbits, because of his strong prey drive.
  • He is easy to train if done positively and consistently. 
  • A Westie coat is easy to groom and requires regular brushing. If not clipped, his coat requires stripping about twice a year.
  • A low shedder
  • One or two daily walks or activity sessions are sufficient to keep a Westie fit.
  • A Westie is adaptable and does well in any type of house, including apartments.
  • Westie is a friendly dog who gets along well with everyone. He loves children of every age, but he’s a better fit for homes with older children.
  • Westie is not your best choice if you are a meticulous gardener since he may become fond of digging up plants and be a bit enthusiastic about helping your garden.

West Highland Terrier Personality

The West Highland Terrier, also known as a Westie, is a tiny but tough breed. The head is proportionate to the body and has a round shape, as seen from the front. The blunt muzzle tapers toward the nose and is slightly shorter than the skull. There is a clear cut-off point. The nose is black in color. And teeth that are wide compared to the dog, the teeth converge in a scissors bite. A considerable distance separates the almond-shaped, deep-set, dark brown eyes. The ears are upright, set wide apart on top of the head, and triangular, coming to a point at the end. The legs are short but not so short in relation to the ground. The undocked tail is short, measuring between 5-6 inches (12.5-15 cm) in length and tapering to an end. Dewclaws are rarely withdrawn. A straight, hard outer coat about 2 inches (5 cm) long and a soft, dense undercoat make up the double coat. The coat is entirely white.

Friendliness Overview

Affectionate with FamilyHigh
Kid-FriendlyMedium to High

Adaptability Overview

Apartment LivingMedium to High
Good for new ownersMedium to High
Sensitivity LevelMedium to High
Tolerates being AloneLow to Medium
Tolerates Cold WeatherMedium to High
Tolerates Hot WeatherMedium

Trainability Overview

Easy to TrainMedium to High
IntelligenceMedium to High
Potential to Nip, Chew, BiteLow to Medium
Prey DriveMedium to High
Tendency to Howl and BarkMedium to High
Wandering PotentialMedium

West Highland Terrier Physical Features

The head should be proportionate to the body and round in appearance from the front. The Eyes are set widely apart, medium in size, and almond-shaped. The eyes are dark brown, sharp. The rims of the eyes are black. The Ears are small, tightly upright, positioned wide apart. It is set on the outer edge of the Skull. The end with a sharp point. The fur on the ears is trimmed short. The Skull is broad, longer than the Muzzle, not flat but moderately domed between the ears. It tapers to the eyes gradually. The Muzzle is somewhat shorter than the Skull, which is powerful and tapers to the nose. The jaws are at level and sturdy. The lip is black-pigmented. The Teeth are more prominent as of the size of the dog. There should be six incisor teeth between the lower and upper jaws’ canines.

The Neck is muscular and sloping towards the shoulders. The length of the Neck must be proportionate to the dog. 

The Topline is flat and level, both standing and moving. 

The Body is compact and robust. Ribs are deep and well curved in the upper part, extending towards the elbows. The ribs present a flat appearance. The back ribs are of considerable depth, distant from the last rib to the upper thigh. This makes the dog compatible to move. The chest is deep and extends to the elbows. The Loin is short, broad and robust. 

The Tail is considerably short, which is carrot-shaped. The Tail never extends up to the skull when it stands. The Tail is covered with feathers and hair.

The shoulder blades are nicely laid back and well-knit at the backbone. The shoulder blade must be attached to the upper arm of a moderate length. This has to offer a sufficient angle to permit a definite body overhang. The Forelegs are muscular and finely boned. They are relatively short but are of enough length, which sets apart the dog from the ground. The legs are covered with fur and are straight. The forefeet are longer than that of the hind. They are round, proportionate, solid and are padded thickly.

The thighs are way too muscular, well angulated, and not set apart. The hock is well bent, parallel when seen from the rear. The rear legs are muscular too and short.

Their movement is free and straight. They are accessible all the way. The Westies have a distinct gait, which is not stilted but powerful—the front leg extended forward by the shoulders. When the dog is seen from the front side, the legs will be witnessed not moving square but in the center of gravity. The hind movement is free and close. 

West Highland Terrier Temperament

The West Highland Terrier is an easy-to-train game and hardy little terrier. Strangers find it friendly, and it gets along well with kids. Traveling with Westie is easy. These dogs are energetic and confident around other dogs, but they would not initiate battles if their trainers know how to show proper leadership. They can try to catch a cat for fun, and if they do, they must be corrected. Westies are firm, sweet, and spirited dogs who adore being around other people. Despite their small stature, they make excellent watchdogs. 

The Westie enjoys digging and barking. If a Westie is allowed to become the pack leader, they can snap when upset and fight with other dogs. Biting, guarding food, and furniture guarding can all be caused by a lack of leadership on the owner’s part. These behavioral challenges would not impact a Westie with an owner who knows how to show firm, positive, and clear leadership. These conflicts can be overcome once the trainer identifies himself as the dog’s real pack master. Allowing Westie to develop Small Dog Syndrome is not a wise idea.

West Highland Terrier Exercise Needs

West Highland Terriers like playing and enjoy a pleasant stroll. By default, they run after anything that passes, in a closed environment or on a leash; the breed does its very best. Westies are excellent in many canine competitions and games, including obedience, rally and agility, for their intellect, strength and can-do attitude. Play accounts for all of its exercise needs; however, playing does not satisfy its primary urge to walk as in all breeds. Dogs who do not walk regularly are most likely to show behavior issues.

Exercise Needs Overview

Energy LevelMedium to High
IntensityMedium to High
Exercise NeedsMedium to High
Potential for PlayfulnessMedium to High

West Highland Terrier Grooming

West Highland Terriers’ coat is simple to maintain and needs to be brushed and trimmed regularly. Many pet owners don’t mess about stripping their pets twice a year as show dogs do. Trimming is usually needed around the ears and eyes and on the feet. The fur is often plucked to give the distinctive round shape seen in show dogs. 

West Highland Terriers should only be bathed when reasonably appropriate as the coat remains pretty clean. The Westie needs some tidying, and cleaning is necessary regularly — to maintain the coat a nice sparkly white. 

Once a week, inspect his ears for dirt, redness, or a foul odor that may signify an infection. To avoid complications, wash them out weekly with a cotton ball dampened with soft, pH-balanced ear cleaner.

Grooming Overview

Shedding AmountMedium to High
Drooling PotentialLow
Easy to GroomMedium

West Highland Terrier Health

Although they are susceptible to some health issues, Westies are relatively healthy, as are all dogs. While not all Westies can contract any or all of these illnesses, it’s vital to be mindful of them if you’re thinking about getting one.  

Health Overview

General HealthMedium
Weight Gain PotentialMedium to High
SizeLow to Medium

The health issues which a West Highland Terrier generally suffers are:

  • Craniomandibular Osteopathy: While a puppy is growing, this condition affects the skull bones, causing them to become irregularly enlarged. Symptoms usually occur between the ages of four and eight months. The exact cause is unclear, although it is thought to be genetic. The puppy’s jaw and glands would sometimes enlarge, leaving him unable to open his mouth. He’ll drool, have a varying fever that comes and goes every couple of weeks, and his chewing muscles may atrophy in some cases. There is no cure, but anti-inflammatories and pain relievers will help the dog cope with the discomfort. Nutritional support is essential; in extreme situations, a feeding tube could be required. By the time the puppy is a year old, the erratic bone development stops and usually ceases. While the lesions will regress, a few dogs develop chronic jaw issues and have difficulties chewing. Some conditions are severe enough to necessitate jaw surgery.
  • Legg-Calve-Perthes Disease: The blood flow to the femur’s head (the large rear leg bone) is limited in Westies with Legg-Perthes, and the head of the femur that attaches to the pelvis starts to disintegrate. The first signs, such as limping and leg muscle atrophy, usually appear when puppies are four to six months old. The disease can be corrected surgically, resulting in a pain-free puppy.
  • Cataracts: This widespread eye disease causes opacity on the eye’s lens, resulting in distorted vision. The dog’s eye(s) will be cloudy. Cataracts are most common in adults and can be surgically removed to improve vision. Juvenile cataracts are expected in West Highland White Terriers.
  • Pulmonary Fibrosis: This condition, well-known as Westie lung disease, scars the supporting tissue in the air sacs and the lungs’ connective tissue. This causes the lungs to lose their elasticity, preventing oxygen from getting through the blood naturally. Loss in stamina, quick coughing, “cracking” of the throat, a dry cough, shortness of breath, and trouble breathing are some of the symptoms that can occur in dogs. Heart failure and other disorders may be caused by pulmonary fibrosis. Since there is no treatment and the prognosis is still bleak, prevention is critical. It’s important to prevent respiratory infections, restrict exercise, and maintain a good weight (or lose weight if your dog is overweight). Keeping the house cool and using bronchodilators are also used to cure the disease. If the condition is detected early, the treatment is more likely to be successful until the scarring becomes severe.
  • Patellar Luxation: This problem, also known as slipped stifles, is common in small dogs. The kneecap is known as the patella. The term “luxation” refers to an anatomical part’s dislocation (as a bone at a joint). Patellar luxation happens as the knee joint (usually in the back leg) shifts in and out of place, causing discomfort. While many dogs with this disease enjoy relatively everyday lives, it can be debilitating.

West Highland Terrier Diet and Nutrition

The West Highland terrier should do good with high-quality dog food, whether produced commercially or cooked at home, with the care and approval of your veterinarian. Any diet should suit the dog’s age (puppy, adult, or senior). Some dogs are vulnerable to being overweight, so look at the dog’s calorie and weight consumption. Treats can help exercise, but obesity can be triggered by too many. Find out which human food is suitable for dogs. Check with your veterinarian if you are concerned about your dog’s weight or diet. Fresh, clean water should always be available.

West Highland Terrier Required Living Condition

West Highland Terriers are ideal for people in cities, towns, and countries. They are highly active indoors and can be great without a yard.

Did You Know?

  • A West Highland Terrier is a playful dog that has a very strong will
  • The breed was originally registered as Roseneath Terrier but later changed to West Highland Terrier on May 31st, 1909.
  • The American Kennel Club recognized West Highland Terrier in 1908 as their 61st breed.
  • The first West Highland Terrier dog show was held at Crufts in London in 1907

West Highland Terrier Club Recognition

  • ACA = American Canine Association Inc.
  • ACR = American Canine Registry
  • AKC = American Kennel Club
  • ANKC = Australian National Kennel Club
  • APRI = American Pet Registry, Inc.
  • CKC = Canadian Kennel Club
  • CKC = Continental Kennel Club
  • DRA = Dog Registry of America, Inc.
  • FCI = Fédération Cynologique Internationale
  • KCGB = Kennel Club of Great Britain
  • NAPR = North American Purebred Registry, Inc.
  • NKC = National Kennel Club
  • NZKC = New Zealand Kennel Club
  • UKC = United Kennel Club
  • CET = Club Español de Terriers (Spanish Terrier Club)

Adding a West Highland Terrier to Your Family

West Highland Terrier Rescue Groups

  1. Westie Rescue
  2. Westie Rescue of California
  3. Maryland Westie Rescue
  4. Westie Rescue Orange County & Beyond

To Buy a West Highland Terrier Online

West Highland Terrier
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West Highland Terrier Photos

West Highland Terrier Videos

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