West Highland White Terrier Breed Guide

West Highland White Terriers are known and beloved for their remarkable bright white coats. The outer coat is made up of hard, straight, white hair that grows about two inches long, with a shorter coat on the shoulders and neck. These dogs have round heads, dark noses, and medium, almond shaped, widely set eyes. Their ears are small and carried erect. West Highland White Terriers measure 10 to 11 inches tall at the shoulder and weigh 15 to 22 pounds.

They have a definite terrier personality and are always up for fun and games.

Affectionate and devoted, West Highland White Terriers love people and become very attached to their human families. These dogs are happy and clever and make great family companions and travel partners. They have a definite terrier personality and are always up for fun and games.

Some people believe that the West Highland White Terrier, or Westie, was bred for its distinctive white coat, because the bright white was easy to spot during hunts for foxes and other dark-colored creatures.

Known for their friendliness, spunk, and excess of energy, West Highland White Terriers make superb companion animals for active families with older children. Comfortable in the country, city, or suburbs, these dogs are self-reliant and people-oriented. They are also devoted and loving.

West Highland White Terriers are definitely one of the more friendly and affectionate terriers, but that doesn't mean they are friendly toward small, furry creatures. If given the opportunity, these dogs will chase and pounce on any small animal they encounter. For this reason, they must be kept on a leash or inside a securely fenced yard whenever they are outdoors.

These dogs are playful, curious, and highly active. They love playing games and running around, although they don't require much formal exercise to remain physically and mentally healthy. A safe play to run, dig, and explore is usually sufficient to keep these dogs happy and entertained. If they become bored or restless, these dogs may channel their energy into chewing, inappropriate digging, and other negative behaviors.

West Highland White Terriers are known to suffer from a variety of health conditions that negatively affect length or quality of life. Some of these conditions are manageable with medication and professional treatment, including Addison's disease and white shaker dog syndrome, a condition that causes uncontrollable trembling when the Westie attempts to get up or move around.

Westies are also prone to developing skin allergies, joint problems, Legg-Calve-Perthes disease, deafness, patellar luxation, copper toxicosis, pulmonary fibrosis, and craniomandibular osteopathy, a condition that leads to bony deformity of the jaw. Globoid cell leukodystrophy and transitional cell carcinoma of the urinary bladder are also found more often in Westies than in some other breeds. Additionally, several eye conditions are seen in the breed, including juvenile cataracts and dry eye. Aggression and idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, or Westie lung disease, are other concerns.

With routine veterinary care, timely vaccinations, a balanced diet, and daily exercise, West Highland White Terriers typically live a long and full life of 15 to 20 years.

Prone to excessive digging and barking, the West Highland White Terrier needs early, firm, and consistent training to learn how to behave appropriately. Although they are fairly easy to train, they tend to participate in training sessions only when they feel like it. An experienced trainer with a lot of understanding and patience is required to successfully train this breed.

Chasing small animals and using chairs to hop onto counters after food are two other behaviors that should be dealt with as early in life as possible. It might not be possible to stop these behaviors, but consistent training can minimize them. Boredom is one of the greatest contributors to the West Highland White Terrier's tendency to misbehave. Keeping these dogs busy and providing an outlet for excess energy is the best way to prevent problem behaviors.

Early and continuing socialization helps ensure a calm, tolerant, and confident Westie. Puppy kindergarten during the first months of life, followed by visits to neighborhood businesses, the dog park, and the homes of friends will all help.

Generally clean and odorless, the West Highland White Terrier still needs daily grooming to remain clean and attractive. These dogs should be brushed daily with a pin brush; care must be taken to reach all the way through the undercoat in order to remove tangles and mats. They also need regular coat clipping or hand stripping to shape the coat and remove dead hairs. Shedding is minimal and can be controlled by brushing or combing more frequently.

West Highland White Terriers need bathing only when they become dirty, stinky, or roll around in something harmful. A pH-balanced canine shampoo will gently wash the coat while leaving the skin soft and healthy. In some cases, it may be challenging to keep the Westie's coat white. There are products available to help with this, but each should be cleared by a veterinarian prior to use.

The nails should be shortened as often as needed to keep them from clicking against the floor. Trimming the nails will also prevent painful snags and breaks. Daily brushing will keep the teeth and gums healthy and the Westie's breath smelling fresh, and weekly ear examinations can detect ear infections, excess wax accumulation, and other problems that may interfere with hearing. This allows treatment to begin early.

West Highland White Terriers are believed to have originated in Poltalloch, Scotland. They were originally called Poltalloch Terriers, and were sometimes also referred to as Roseneath Terriers. These dogs were probably bred from the white offspring of Scottish and Cairn Terriers to produce hunting dogs that would not be mistaken for a fox.

Since the Westie's named changed from Roseneath to West Highland White Terrier in 1909, the breed has become established as one of the most popular and competitive terriers in the home and in the show ring. These talented dogs excel in the role of hunting dog and companion animal.

Today, the breed is popular in the United States as a family pet and companion animal. These dogs are beloved for their spunk, playfulness, and devotion to family.

The American Kennel Club officially recognized the West Highland White Terrier in 1908.