West Highland White Terrier Dog Breed Traits & Facts

Last Updated on September 20, 2023

Quick Summary: The West Highland White Terrier, affectionately known as the Westie, belongs to the Terrier family. These dogs are happy playing fetch with their family and hanging around with their furry friends at the dog park. Westies should also have toys to play with indoors to keep them entertained and preoccupied. To ensure your Westie’s good health and quality of life, be sure to schedule regular visits with your veterinarian. They can live up to 16 years if they’re in good health.

The West Highland White Terrier is proof that even small things can be big. Although they may be small, this dog is full of energy and playfulness. It’s easy to see why Westies bring joy wherever they go. Their iconic silhouette and white coat make them adorable. They are a focal point of attention wherever they go.

If you are looking for a Westie companion to live within your home, they make great family friends. They love to spend time with their pack and are very affectionate. Sometimes it can be difficult to control their wild nature. Westies, like Terriers, are curious and will explore the surroundings.

If your goal is to own a West Highland White Terrier, you will need to be able to raise it safely and responsibly. This article details all you need to know about this unique breed. We will discuss their history, their behavior, and the most important aspects of their care. Let’s dive into the reasons why Westies are such beloved canine companions.

West Highland White Terrier Dog

Breed Background and History

As you can see from the breed name, Westies belong to the Terrier family. They are considered a branch of the Terriers of Scotland, along with the Scottish, Skye, Cairn, and Dandie Dinmont Terriers. Terrier is a term that means “earth dog,” which refers to their incredible hunting and vermin-killing abilities.

West Highland White Terriers are from the Scottish West Highlands. They probably originated in Poltalloch (formerly the County of Argyll), Scotland. These pups were once considered to be offspring of the Cairn Terriers, but now they have their own recognized breed standard.

Westie Origins

These little white dogs have had a well-established history spanning well over 100 years, though some sources present the Scottish white Terriers having existed as early as the 16th Century! James VI of Scotland wanted to present the Kingdom of France with white Terriers from Argyll. He wrote to Edinburgh to purchase six dogs. Their history is largely unclear, as it wasn’t until the 1800s that the Westie breed began to take its modern shape.

According to the Amerian Kennel Club, the breed was once called the Poltalloch Terrier but is now also known as the Roseneath Terrier. These names were inspired by the Westies’ ancestors. Looking into Westie lore, there is a legend that says Colonel Edward Malcolm of Poltalloch was out hunting with his beloved wheat-colored Cairn Terriers sometime in the late 1800s. On the trail of their game, the Colonel saw what he thought was either a rabbit or a fox in the brush. He quickly shot at it only for him to realize that he had accidentally shot one of his Cairns.

He was so distraught by the loss of his companion that he pledged to only breed white dogs that were easy to spot and difficult to mistake for wild game. So breeding efforts intensified. Around the same time, the Campbell Clan of Roseneath began breeding white Terriers. This combination created the Westie breed we know today.

AKC Recognition

It was in 1896 when the Westie was shown at Scottish dog shows. The popularity of the Westies grew, and they were eventually allowed to be imported elsewhere in the world. At the 1907 Crufts dog show in England, the breed was officially recognized as the West Highland White Terrier. They were exported to America and were recognized by the AKC in 1908 under the Westie name. They have remained an important part of American culture since then.

You might have seen Westies working in modeling. It’s no surprise that many Westies have been used in the sale of products. You’ll likely recognize the cute, wide-eyed Westie from the dog food brand, Cesar. Westies have been spotted modeling for large brands that sell merchandise for humans, which is amazing.

Appearance and Size

West Highland White Terriers are small dogs that have big personalities. They can be seen in every wag of the spunky tails. They don’t get very big, no matter what sex they have, but they’re not toy dogs. Males stand ideally at 11 inches at the shoulder, while females stand at around 10 inches.

They typically weigh anywhere between 15 to 20 pounds. These dogs are small and agile, with sturdy bodies that can be used for hunting trips. The AKC describes them as “small, game, well-balanced, and hardy.”

The heads of Westies are round, often resulting from their hairstyles and well-proportioned to the rest of their bodies. Their eyes large-set, almond-shaped, medium-sized eyes are set apart to make an inquisitive expression. These eyes should have dark brown eyes with black rims. The AKC considers faults small, full, and light-colored eyes.

The ears of a Westie are set apart. They are small and pointy and are carried high on their heads. Their muzzles are shorter than their skulls and have strong, level jaws. Their noses, which are always large and black, are black, and their lips are also black.

These dogs have a strong and broad bodies and are muscular. They are also well-built. Their necks are strong, and they can transition to relaxed shoulders. Even when in motion, their backs remain level. Their chests are deep and reach to their elbows giving them an adorable stocky appearance.

The tail of the Westie is a carrot-shaped, relatively short tail. It is straight and carried with joy. The legs of Westies are strong allowing them to run at high speeds while chasing after their prey. These feet are thickly padded and have round ends.

Colors and Coats

The AKC has many requirements for the breed standard coat. They note that the Westie’s coat is not “seldom seen as perfect.” They must have at least a double-coated coat. The thing that is most interesting about Westies is their ability to shed little, despite having a double coat. As such, they are considered hypoallergenic, a great option for allergy sufferers!

The AKC breed standard for Westies requires that the coat be hard and straight, and the outer coat should measure approximately 2 inches. Show dogs will not often show flaws such as fluffiness or gentle curls. Flaws include short fur and single coats. Standard requires that the Westie’s hair be trimmed to a round shape.

You may have already guessed the West Highland White Terrier’s coat color. The AKC will accept any color except white, though they may allow wheaten tips to be used on fur with a hard texture.

Temperament and Personality Traits

It is easy to underestimate the Westie’s small stature, but don’t let that fool you. The Terrier is a true Terrier. They have a personality that is a little too big for their bodies. They are bold and self-assured, which can make them a little too much for some people.

They are one of the easiest Terrier breeds to manage. Westies are known for being friendly and affectionate. If they get a few more belly rubs, Westies will be happy to let their egos go. They bring sunshine to the home and are a wonderful companion for families that could use their cheerful disposition!

Westies are incredibly outgoing dogs that charm everyone they meet. They love to entertain and will do anything to have a good time. These dogs love praise! You’ll love the Westie’s friendly nature and that they are suitable for homes with children or other pets.

It’s important to socialize your Westies still, especially with small animals. Westies will retain high prey drive from their hunting days. They will chase smaller animals than they are. They can end up in a lot of trouble for this!

Behavior and Mood

Even though the Westie is both affectionate and intelligent, they’re not very prone to separation anxiety. If their needs are met, they can be left alone without them getting upset.

Having good boundaries with your dog will help to make them more secure and less destructive. They are intelligent and will need lots of stimulation. So make sure you work with them whenever possible.

The breed’s small stature makes them ineligible for guard dogs. Their keen senses, honed over generations of hunting, make them excellent watchdogs. Westies are curious and alert, and they will notify you when guests arrive, whether they are welcome or not!

They aren’t yappy dogs so don’t worry about excessive noise. Their desire to help is a sign of their intelligence. Westies are able to recognize when you need assistance and will gladly lend a helping hand in difficult times. Their sparkling personality makes them a great choice for a therapy dog.

Living Space Requirements

West Highland White Terriers can live in smaller homes so long as they exercise regularly. It is best to keep any breakable items away from your West Highland White Terrier in case they get the zoomies.

This fine dog can live in almost any climate, provided it isn’t too warm or cold. Although their undercoats make them more comfortable in cold temperatures than in heat, it is still necessary to keep them warm in winter. In summer, keep them in cool areas with easy access to water.

Exercise Needs

This breed is very energetic and can make it difficult to own. Westies, like all Terriers, have near-boundless energy and will wear you out much faster than ever before! It can be hard to keep up with your snowy companion dog.

Fortunately, their bodies are small enough that they do not require more than an hour of exercise each day. You must make sure they have a varied exercise routine, however, as Westies need mental stimulation.

These dogs are smart and will be able to find many intellectually stimulating activities for you to do together. Walking around your neighborhood is always fun, as long as you keep your dog on a leash.

Westies love to explore sights, sounds, and smells. You need to find a way to keep them on track while still allowing them to explore their curiosity. Games for Westies are great because of their playful nature. A Westie will be happy playing fetch, flyball, and frisbee with their furry friends at the dog park.

Westies should have toys to play with when they’re indoors. Toys to play with will keep their brains active and prevent any destructive behavior. They should have a yard that is fenced in for them to play in. However, they must be kept safe from any escape attempts.

Training Techniques

Westies can be quick-witted and take to training easily. However, it must be done early enough in their lives. Older dogs may not be as open to listening to your advice, but puppies are more willing to listen. The stubbornness of a Westie can really come through, which can be frustrating! Start training them as soon as they arrive home. Establishing your role as their pack leader immediately will help them listen better and follow your instructions.

You should never be cruel to your Westie when they are being trained. If they are not treated well, it is easy for them to develop resentment toward their superiors. Be firm and insist that they listen, rather than give in to frustration.

Positive reinforcement, such as treats, praise, and pets, will take you a long way. It is crucial to provide consistent positive reinforcement for your Westie. Although it may seem difficult to stop Westies from being independent and thinking for themselves, it is possible.

This breed is very social. Although Westies are often very extroverted canines, it is important that they are confident, non-aggressive, and able to get along with other dogs. It is important to expose them to different people, animals, places, and situations as this will help them grow into well-rounded dogs. The AKC recommends puppy kindergarten classes to help teach your dog how to behave around other dogs. This is an excellent option for Westies that will be living in multi-dog households.

Nutrition and Feeding Requirements

Proper nutrition is an important aspect of your dog’s health and well-being. A diet complete with balanced nutrients will ensure that your West Highland White Terrier is as healthy and happy as possible. The best food to feed your Westie is high-quality, dry kibble; not only is this the simplest food to give them, but it’s also more well-rounded than other diets.

Choose brands that do not use artificial colors or flavors when choosing kibble. These can be harmful to your dog’s overall health. Your Westie should be fed food that is appropriate for their age. Small Breed Puppies will need more nutritionally dense dog food than adults, adults will need larger servings, and seniors eat less food than adults.

Figuring out the right portion size can be difficult because it will depend on your Westie’s age and activity level. However, Westies consume more food than other breeds for their size. Because they are high-energy dogs, Westies need more food than other breeds. This is especially true if you consider a Westie who is more athletic.

Dogs’ calorie and nutritional needs will change over time. They need food that is appropriate for their current stage in life. This is particularly important for dogs with allergies or epidermal dysplasia. Your veterinarian can help you determine what your dog requires as they go through the many changes in their lives.

Your Westie should not eat too many calories, as it can lead to obesity. Canine obesity can lead to many preventable diseases. It can even greatly shorten your dog’s lifespan. The average Westie needs somewhere around 550 calories; active dogs need more, and inactive dogs need less.

Grooming Your Westie

While it is a good idea for your Westie to be groomed by a professional, it doesn’t have to be difficult to groom them yourself. To get them comfortable with the process, it’s essential to start them as young as possible. Although your Westie might resist, gently coaxing them to behave can help them relax. Grooming becomes a bonding activity between you.

Let’s take a look at how to groom your Westie. Brush your Westie at least once a week. This will help remove any fur they shed. You may need to try different brushes depending on the fur quality of your Westie. To help remove old fur, you can use a special grooming tool.

The frequency with which you bathe your Westie depends on how dirty they are. You can help them shed the dirt and hair that is trapped in their coarse and short hairs. Westies, like all dogs, love digging in the dirt. The amount of dirt they get is a measure of how much they enjoy playing outdoors.

To avoid irritation of their skin, warm water should be used, and mild soap or shampoo should be used when bathing your Westie. Your veterinarian may prescribe a medicated Shampoo for Westies with allergies. Blot your dog’s hair with a hairdryer set on a cool setting after every bath.

According to the AKC, a key aspect of the Westie’s appearance is its round head. It’s a good idea to take your Westies to a groomer for a specific haircut. However, trimming the fur of your dog when it becomes unruly will keep them looking neat and tidy between visits to the groomer.

Keep your Westie’s ears clean by using a cotton pad or a veterinary ear cleaner. Wipe off any accumulated dirt, but not in visible areas. This will prevent ear infections. For optimal oral health, brush their teeth at least once a week. Regular trimming of their nails will help to prevent injuries.

Health and Lifespan

Being smaller dogs, these Westies can live around 12 to 16 years. A responsible breeder can ensure your dog’s health as Westies are susceptible to a few diseases, just like other dogs.

Good breeders will inform you about any health issues that your dog might develop. Knowing how to spot these conditions will help you develop a treatment plan with your vet. To ensure your Westie’s good health and quality of life, make sure you schedule regular visits with your veterinarian.

White Shaker Dog Syndrome

White dogs, such as the Westie, can also be affected by White Shaker Dog Syndrome. This is an inherited nervous system disorder that causes tremors, typically manifesting at around six months to three years old. Symptoms are most severe during voluntary activities. When the dog is asleep, the symptoms disappear. This can be very difficult for Westies who are active.

If your Westie has tremors, a dog neurologist can determine if it is WSDS or something else. This condition is often treated with benzodiazepine drugs like alprazolam or corticosteroids. Although medication can usually relieve all symptoms, some dogs may need to be managed with a lower dosage throughout their lives. If your Westie experiences tremors during an activity, talk to your veterinarian about the best treatment options.

Westie Armadillo Syndrome

Westies can be susceptible to various diseases at any stage of their lives. One illness is particularly common in the Westie breed. This is called epidermal dysplasia, otherwise known as Westie Armadillo Syndrome. This can cause severe itching in your dog’s feet, belly, and head. This usually begins anywhere between 3 to 12 months old, causing hair loss and yeast infections all over your dog’s body.

This condition is lifelong and cannot usually be cured. However, symptoms can be managed. The most common treatment is to use steroids or another traditional medication. Some discomfort can be relieved by changing your dog’s diet to follow your vet’s advice. Talk to your veterinarian about possible treatment options that will preserve your Westie’s coat and comfort.

Bone Problems

Westies are prone to orthopedic problems, one of which is patellar luxation or loosened kneecap. This condition is common in small dogs, including the Westie. Patellar luxation is when your Westie’s kneecap moves out of its normal place in the groove on his thigh bone. This condition can be difficult to detect unless your dog is experiencing discomfort.

Hind lameness can occur in the legs. This could be seen as your Westie trying “pop” their kneecaps back into place. This condition can lead to degenerative arthritis if not treated immediately. A good vet can give you a diagnosis and a plan of action. Surgery is sometimes recommended for more severe cases.

This breed can also develop elbow dysplasia and hip dysplasia. Good breeders screen their parent dogs for these conditions so that they don’t pass them on to their litter. These conditions are caused by the bones not meeting the socket properly.

The Westie as a Family Pet

  • These pups were originally bred as hunters’ companions.
  • This makes them highly energetic.
  • Westies will need extra care in their exercise needs due to their high energy.
  • Westies have a high prey drive.
  • This means they may terrorize smaller, non-dog animals in your home.
  • However, when raised together with them, Westies can get along well with cats.
  • West Highland Terriers are great with children, despite their smaller size.
  • This breed needs plenty of mental stimulation, so be sure to keep them busy.
  • These pups require dog food meant for small, active breeds due to their energy output.

Breeders and Puppy Costs

When you are looking for a West Highland White Terrier puppy to bring home, it is important to find a breeder. This is a good option, provided you purchase your puppy from a reputable breeder.

Avoid puppy mill owners who are not trustworthy and have little respect for their dogs. The goal of these operations is to make as much money as possible by producing as many dogs and as many puppies as possible. Living conditions are harsh, unclean, unsafe, and with little food or water.

Before you decide to get a puppy, we recommend that you do your research. Puppy mills can contribute to the decline in the breed by selling unhealthy puppies. On the other hand, respectable breeders often treat their dogs with respect and ethical care. These breeders will happily show you the places their dogs live. You’ll find them clean and comfortable. You will be encouraged to visit your dog during the weeks leading up to your arrival to help you make an easier transition to home life.

Responsible breeders will give you all the information you need about your Westie and answer any questions that you might have about the breed. You will be provided with a certificate based on the results of any tests they have performed, as well as vaccinations and deworming.

There are many online resources for finding breeders, including forums, social media, and the AKC’s resource to refer breeders. As for price, you can expect to pay $1,000 to $1,700 for a pet-quality Westie. Typical average prices are around $1,300. This price is for a pet-quality breed of dog. Show-quality dogs will be more expensive.

Rescues and Shelters Vs. Breeders

While buying a puppy from a breeder is a wonderful option, we recommend that our readers adopt rather than shop. You will find many Westies at shelters, too.

The cost of the breeder’s fee is a fraction of what it would be to get your dog. You’re also doing something very kind for your dog. These dogs can be senior dogs or dogs who have special needs and will require extra care because they come from such difficult backgrounds.

When you visit the shelter, ask the staff to give you a detailed history of your Westie. It is important to learn about their past so that you can provide the best care possible. You will be able to greatly benefit from your relationship with them by understanding their needs, from their temperaments to their health conditions.

Westies taken from shelters may be more timid than we think, but they will soon be back to their former selves if they find you to be trustworthy. Give them lots of love, and you’ll see the confident and sparkling Westie personalities they are known for.


We hope you have found this article helpful in understanding the West Highland White Terrier. It doesn’t matter if you are looking to bring one home for the very first time or if you want to learn more about the West Highland White Terrier that is already part of your family.

Although taking care of your Westie can be difficult, knowing how to best do it will ensure a happy and healthy life for your dog. This is the best reward for pet parents.

Westies are loving, happy, and warm dogs. Because of their intelligence and affection, Westies are loved by many people around the world. If you are lucky enough to own a Westie, make sure you give them all your love. You will surely cherish the bond you have with them for your entire life.

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