West Highland White Terrier – Everything You Need To Know

West Highland White Terrier is a purebred that wears its self-esteem over its sleeve. Also called Westies, they are mighty little dogs that originated in Scotland. They are friendly, funny, happy dogs and make their humans laugh and be satisfied. They are affectionate and intelligent and make good family dogs. Though small, Westies have a mind of their own and prominent personalities. However, they fit in all types of homes and apartments and make the best cuddling partner.

West Highland White Terrier Overview

Bred for hunting and ratting, Westies are eager to learn. People domesticated Westies to get rid of rodents. Their working ability is streamlined to agility and obedience skills. He makes an excellent therapy dog, and a few are employed in search-and-rescue operations in police departments. Westies compete in earthdog tests, tracking, and flyball events. Enjoy the companionship of these fluffy and lively dogs!

West Highland White Terrier Pros and Cons

Easy to trainHigh grooming need
Healthy Separation anxiety
HypoallergenicBarks a lot
Low shedding levelDoes not suit first-time owners

West Highland White Terrier Basic Information

  • Name: West Highland White Terrier
  • Origin: Argyll, Scotland
  • Group: Terrier dogs
  • Size: Small
  • Height: Male: 11 inches,  Female: 12 inches                   
  • Weight: Male: 15-22 pounds, Female: 13-16 pounds
  • Coat: Double-coated (soft, fluffy undercoat and straight, hard outer coat)
  • Color: White 
  • Energy: High
  • Activities: Agility, obedience, rally, canine sports
  • Barking Level: High
  • Shedding Level: Low
  • Hypoallergenic: Yes
  • Litter Size: 3-5 puppies
  • Other Names: White Roseneath Terrier, Westie/Westy, Roseneath Terrier, Poltalloch Terrier
  • Original Passtime: Hunting dogs
  • Life Span: 12-17 years
  • Breed Recognition: American Kennel Club (AKC), United Kennel Club (UKC)

West Highland White Terrier History

West Highland White Terriers originated in Scotland and were used as hunting dogs to hunt foxes, otters, and rats. You can trace the breed’s history back to the 17th century, but not many facts are available. Interestingly, the color of these dogs was due to an accident in the 19th century where Colonel Malcolm shot his wheaten-colored cairns accidentally while hunting foxes. Thereon, he decided to breed only white dogs to avoid being confused with the foxes. West Highland White Terriers carried many names and were officially recognized by the Kennel Club of England in 1906. Later, AKC recognized Westies in 1908.  

West Highland White Terrier Highlights

  • West Highland Terriers dogs are game terriers and have a strong will.
  • Westies and other Terriers of Scotland can be from the same stock, such as the Scotties, Cairns, and Dandie Dinmonts.
  • Westies have all the terrier traits as they bark and chase vermin.
  • They shed very low yet have high grooming needs.
  • Westies are very adaptive and can live in all homes, including apartments.
  • They are very social and very friendly with children of all ages.

West Highland White Terrier Personality

West Highland White Terriers are small-sized dogs that grow up to  10-11 inches and weigh about 13-14 pounds. They are small, hardy-looking terrier dogs with well-built bodies. The chest and back ribs are deep and robust, with powerful muscular legs. The coat is white, double-coated, about two inches long, with a soft undercoat. 

The medium-sized eyes are dark brown and almond-shaped with an intelligent expression, ears are small, erect, and set widely apart, and lips and nose are always black. The Westies are adorable white fluffy pooches exhibiting incredible showmanship. 

Friendliness Overview

Affection levelHigh

Adaptability Overview

Good for apartment livingHigh 
Good for new ownersLow
Sensitivity levelHigh
Tolerates being aloneLow 
Cold toleranceHigh
Heat toleranceMedium

West Highland White Terrier Physical Features

Head: The head is round and proportionate to the body. The eyes are almond-shaped, brown, and medium-sized, with an intelligent expression. The muzzle is blunt, powerful, and slightly shorter. Ears are small, erect, and set widely apart, the skull is broad and more prominent than the muzzle, and the nose, lips, and eye rims are always black. 

Neck: The neck is muscular and well set on sloping shoulders. 

Topline: The topline is flat and level while standing and moving. 

Body:  The body is compactly built with a deep, well-developed chest. The loins are short, broad, and agile.

Tail: The tail is hairy, short, and shaped like a carrot.

Forequarters: The shoulders bladed are well laid back with a strong backbone. The forelegs are well-boned and muscled; The feet are tight and deep with well-cushioned pads; The legs are straight and thickly covered with short hair.

Hindquarters: The thighs are muscular and well angulated. The rear legs are muscular and short. Dewclaws on the rear legs are undesirable and should be removed.

Coat: The coat is double-coated with straight stiff white hair on the outer cover with soft undercover that gives a smooth look.

Color:  White. 

Gait: Gait is steady, agile, and robust.  Well-balanced with good reach and strong drive.

West Highland White Terrier Temperament

West Highland White terriers are intelligent, confident, and entertaining and make adorable family companions. They are sturdy and small yet, the most popular terrier dogs. They are also alert and active and exhibit self-reliant ratting terriers. They are independent, curious, and will chase anything that moves. Westies are also known for their intelligence and faithfulness and are easy to train. They are social with strangers and new owners and are affectionate with kids of all ages. They are friendly with other pets and dogs in the household and positively adapt to cats. However, they are noisy little pooches and bark a lot. Also, females are more dominant than male Westies. Their overall temperament includes the following:

  • Loyal
  • Happy 
  • Intelligent
  • Playful
  • Entertaining 
  • Affectionate
  • Friendly
  • Confident
  • Smart 

West Highland White Terrier Training

West Highland White Terriers are intelligent, eager to please and respond well to training. Like any other dog, they need early socialization and puppy training classes. The activity requires patience and consistency during the period. They are sensitive to any adverse reactions and need positive reinforcement while training. They love being around people, and treats and cuddling do wonders while training. They are active and look forward to the training sessions, playing fetch, which helps in training regarding behavioral corrections. They do not respond to harsh commands, and lots of praise, cuddles, and treats work wonders during the training. Obedience training and socialization help with behavioral correction and bring out the best in any dog. Their activity can include the following:

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Trainability Overview

Easy to trainHigh
Prey driveMedium 
Mouthiness tendenciesLow 
Barking and Howling tendenciesHigh
Wanderlust tendenciesMedium 

West Highland White Terrier Exercise

West Highland White Terriers are energetic and playful. Westies love to romp around and enjoy walks and playtime. A daily walk of 15-30 minutes will be ideal, and they live a healthy and long life with the right amount of exercise and activity. They enjoy swimming, walking, hiking, and canine agility games. They excel in canine competitions such as agility, dock jumping, flyball, herding, obedience, rally, and tracking. A proper exercise routine helps the dog with the following benefits.

  • Social interaction
  • Weight control
  • Stress relief
  • Behavioral corrections like excessive chewing, persistent barking
  • Brain stimulation
  • Strengthening muscles
  • Routine toileting
  • Mental health and happiness

Exercise Needs Overview

Energy levelHigh
Exercise needsHigh

West Highland White Terrier Grooming

West Highland White Terriers are double-coated and shed heavily. The coats are smooth and dense and have high grooming needs. Their skin needs regular brushing, 3-4 times per week. The hair at its paws has to be trimmed to avoid the floor getting dirty. They are easy to groom, and you can brush the coat more than once a week to prevent shedding. 

Wipe the wrinkles and folds on the skin with a clean cloth to remove dirt. They may need extra brushing during their shedding season. Brushing helps remove matted hair and pull out the loose fur during shedding. One of the essential parts of grooming is bathing which keeps the dog clean. However, frequent bathing causes dry skin and itches. Bathing your dog using pH-balanced shampoos for dogs pet wipes will keep your dog’s coat fresh, clean, and shiny. You can wash them once a week. However, daily brushing helps to keep the fur from knots and tangles.

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West Highland White Terriers are prone to collect ear wax quickly. Hence, ears should be cleaned and regularly checked as they are prone to ear problems. Brush their teeth daily to prevent plaque and other dental problems. Never brush their teeth with a stiff brush, as it will harm the gums and teeth. Also, make sure to use dog-friendly toothpaste. 

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Also, clean their eyes and trim their nails as a part of everyday grooming needs. Their toenails must be checked once a week as longer nails may harm and injure the dog. You can trim the toenails with a commercial dog nail trimmer or with the help of a vet or professional groomer.

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Grooming Overview

Easy to groomMedium 
Drooling tendenciesHigh 
Amount of sheddingHigh

West Highland White Terrier Health

West Highland White Terriers are generally healthy dogs. Still, like any other dog breed, they are also prone to specific health conditions.

Health Overview

General healthMedium 
Weight gain tendenciesHigh 

Cataract: As in humans, canine cataracts are characterized by cloudy spots on the eye lens that can grow gradually. Cataracts may develop at any age and often don’t damage vision, although in some cases cause vision loss. A board-certified veterinary ophthalmologist certifies the breeding dogs after testing them free of hereditary eye disease before breeding. Usually, you can remove cataracts surgically with good results. 

Legg-Calve Perthes Disease: The blood supply of the femur is decreased, due to which the pelvis begins to disintegrate, and the hip becomes gradually weakened. Symptoms include limping and atrophies of the leg muscle. You can treat the diseased femur with surgery. 

Patellar Luxation: It is also known as “slipped stifles,” a common problem in small dog breeds that is caused when the patella, which has three parts-the femur (thigh bone), patella (knee cap), and tibia (calf) — is not correctly bounded. This leads to lameness in the leg or an abnormal gait, like a hop or a skip. This condition is caused by birth, although the misalignment or luxation does not always occur much later. In addition, the rubbing caused by patellar luxation leads to arthritis. There are four patellar luxation grades, ranging from phase I, an occasional luxation causing unstable lameness in the joint, to grade IV, where the turning of the tibia is heavy, and you cannot realign the patella manually. This gives your dog a bow-legged appearance. Uphill grades of patellar luxation may require surgery.

Craniomandibular Osteopathy: While a puppy grows, 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 the dog 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; this could require a feeding tube in extreme situations. When 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 struggle chewing. Some conditions are severe enough to necessitate jaw surgery.

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 of stamina, quick coughing, “cracking” of the throat, a dry cough, shortness of breath, and trouble breathing are some 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 also cure the disease. If the condition is detected early, the treatment is more likely to be successful until the scarring becomes severe.

Skin Problems: The continual scratching and licking paws can be worrying, but don’t blame your dog for his bad behavior; it’s because of skin allergies and diseases. Parasites, allergies, and underlying sickness can be the reasons. Symptoms of skin problems include:  

  • Skin Sores  
  • Dry Skin  
  • Rashes 
  • Lumps  
  • Redness  
  • Dandruff  
  • Bumps  
  • Sunburns  
  • Hair Loss

Allergies: Westies can be allergic to various substances, ranging from food to pollen. If your dog licks his paws or rubs his face a great deal, get him checked by your veterinarian. 

Addison’s Disease: This hazardous disease, also known as hypoadrenocorticism, is triggered by the adrenal gland’s inadequate adrenal hormone development. Addison’s disease causes most dogs to vomit, have a low appetite, and be drowsy. Since these symptoms are ambiguous and may be mistaken for other illnesses, it’s possible to overlook this disorder until it’s too late. When a dog is depressed or where potassium levels rise to the point that they interfere with heart activity, causing extreme shock and death, more severe symptoms appear. If your veterinarian suspects Addison’s disease, they can run a battery of tests to validate the diagnosis.  

Mitral Valve Disease: In this condition, the weakening of their heart valves causes blood to flow back into the atrium, which can lead to cardiac failure. Veterinarians can detect it early, so it’s crucial to keep up with their regular examinations. 

Spay or Neuter: In spay, the ovaries or uterus in females is removed, and in the neuter, the testicles of the male dogs are removed. It is done to eliminate the possibility of pregnancy or fathering unwanted puppies and decrease the likelihood of certain types of cancer.

Recommended test for West Highland White Terrier

  • X-Rays 
  • CT Scan 
  • Eye Examination 
  • Physical Examination 
  • Blood Work
  • Vet-certified proof of genetic testing

West Highland White Terrier Diet and Nutrition

West Highland White Terrier dogs need a large quantity of high-quality food and should eat 1/2 to 1.5 cups of meals daily. Each puppy is distinctive, and the correct amount and quality of food depend on age, weight, activity level, health, and more. You can split the meals into two 2 cups daily. However, they are prone to obesity, so overfeeding must be avoided. Westie pups can be given dry food, wet food, or both. Ensure the diet contains omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins, chondroitin, and glucosamine; fruits and vegetables are an excellent addition to the diet, giving carbohydrates and energy. Never hesitate to consult a vet to meet your pup’s dietary requirements to keep them happy and healthy.

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West Highland White Terrier Living Condition

West Highland White Terrier dogs love to romp, play with toys, and are friendly and affectionate. They are apartment-friendly and best when kept inside. They love outdoor activities like swimming, walking, running, playing, hunting, and visiting dog parks. They have high chasing instincts and always be leashed or put in a crate. When allowed in a backyard, the place should be adequately fenced. Westies are affectionate with kids but should never be left alone without supervision. They are independent and do not seek the attention of the owner. They chase anything that moves but will get along with smaller animals and cats with early socialization and training. They are susceptible to anxiety when left alone for a long time. Westies can tolerate cold weather conditions and have a low tolerance to hot temperatures. They thrive on companionship, playtime, training, praise, and cuddles.

Did You Know?

  • Westies hunted foxes, and they were bred for their striking white coat, which helped them spot easily from the hunted animals. 
  • Westies are the mascots for the famous Cesar dog food.
  • They were initially named the Roseneath Terrier and officially changed to West Highland Terrier in 1909.

Adding West Highland White Terrier to Your Family

Things to remember before adding westies to your family

Getting a West Highland puppy from a reputable breeder is best to prevent unavoidable circumstances like health disorders and provide you with vaccination certificates. It is best to check with the puppy’s parents to ensure his health and happiness. Always remember the following red flags to avoid backyard breeders and puppy mills.

  • Puppies are available around the year.
  • We recommend you visit the puppy and his parents and get health clearance and vaccination certificates, to avoid purchasing a weaker puppy.

Cost of a West Highland

A Westies’s price ranges from $1500 to $3000.

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