West Highland White Terrier
Other names: Westie, Poltalloch Terrier, Roseneath Terrier, White Roseneath Terrier
This small white terrier that hails from Scotland, is so full of himself, he knows he’s the best thing in the dog world! He is a happy, friendly dog, who will make you laugh at his antics. This breed is meant to work alone, hunting out vermin. This great sense of independence can sometimes cause a problem. Despite this, the West Highland White Terrier is a lively, sturdy dog, who will capture a part of your heart.
Key facts about the West Highland White Terrier
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Origins and history
Dating as far back as the early 1600’s, the West Highland White terrier was previously known by various other names. As the dogs of Argyleshire, these small, robust hunting dogs were greatly admired. Later, in the 1800’s, they were also recognised as the Poltalloch terrier after the name of a Colonel who bred them, and then also as the Roseneath terrier after the name of the Duke of Argyll’s farm.
During the mid-19th century, a Scottish owner of a Cairn terrier bred some pure white pups which were elected to be the first, registered, West Highland White terrier breed. Legend states that the Westie was bred for his distinguishing snowy white coat, so that he was easily noticed when on the hunting field.
FCI breed nomenclature
Group 3 - Terriers
Section 2 : Small sized Terriers
Physical characteristics of the West Highland White Terrier
Female : Between 11 and 11 in
Male : Between 11 and 11 in
Female : Between 15 and 22 lb
Male : Between 15 and 22 lb
The only colour coat readily accepted is solid white. However, with breeding, some Westies may have a white coat with darker-coloured paws, or be a wheaten colour.
Type of coat
Their hair is short.
This dog breed has a double thickness coat. The dense, soft undercoat is topped with a hard, straight outer coat that is around 2 inches in length.
Dark eyes with dark hair colouring around the eyes.
The Westie dog is an agile, fast, yet stocky little dog. It’s very easy to spot one of these terriers because of their dense, bright, white coats. He has a harsh, wiry coat that easily sheds dirt, yet gives him protection when he is hunting and pushing through the shrubs. Even though their coat is a solid white colour, they are not albino dogs. The dog’s tail is sturdy and a moderate length and he has upright ears.
Good to know
As a canine breed used for hunting activities, the West Highland White Terrier has a body shape specifically for this. His compact size is necessary to squeeze through the narrow corridors of a fox’s den. His short legs are definitely an advantage when manoeuvring the narrow passageways of the lair. Likewise, when faced with a fox at close quarters, his strong jaws and formidable teeth are an advantage.
Although the Westie makes a brilliant companion dog, he often has other ideas when it comes to being a lap dog. He’s never too happy when he’s restrained and cuddled. A very popular breed, the West Highland White Terrier is certainly loyal and affectionate, but also very self-assured and independent.
This fun-loving, confident and bold little dog, certainly enjoys many of the simpler things in life. Good food, a belly rub and several squeaky toys. Even though he can be slightly mischievous, his playful nature makes him a very popular choice of pet.
When he’s inside the home, often lazing around on the sofa, he’s usually a very calm dog. However, the moment he is outside, he turns into a speed demon who has great agility and stamina.
This small terrier is a quick learner and is very intelligent too. Providing his training remains consistent and positive, he will be quite happy to take part.
This hardy, stoic breed of terrier was originally bred as a hunting dog to chase out rats, badgers and foxes, both below and above ground. The Westie certainly fits into this group, with his great intelligence, cunning and speed skills.
Fearful / wary of strangers
The West Highland White Terrier will very quickly alert you to the presence of any strangers, however he will then proceed to give them a very friendly, tail-wagging welcome.
As a dog breed that has been used for ratting and hunting, the West Highland White must think for himself. Although he requires little pampering, training him can be quite a challenge because of his independence.
Behaviour of the West Highland White Terrier
This is one rare breed of dog that is quite happy to be left alone during the day. Providing he is safe and has proper stimulation, he is quite happy to remain at home while you go about your daily business.
Easy to train / obedience
Although the Westie can sometimes be quite naughty, with firm and consistent training you can overcome his mischievousness. Often quite stubborn too, training can be a challenge for his owners. You will need to use reward-based training and be very consistent in your pursuits. This small dog won’t tolerate any harsh words, or you will find he might just become very stubborn and refuse to learn anything at all.
The West Highland White Terrier is known to be a very vocal dog, who will alert you to anything that passes by. Early training can limit this problem to make sure he only barks when you need him to announce someone at the door, rather than at every bird or insect that flies by.
Tendency to run away
As a dog bred to hunt and dig out rats and other vermin, he certainly needs to be controlled when out for a walk. The first sight of something in the distance and he will be off, giving chase. As a prolific digger, make sure your boundary fences are very secure or he will be off on an adventure by himself.
This dog breed definitely needs regular exercise and other daily activities to prevent it from becoming bored. Otherwise, digging, chewing and other issues may arise.
Greedy / Gluttony
He’s not usually a greedy dog at meal times, however when it comes to doggie treats, this is a different matter. He only has to look at you with his cute, pleading eyes, and you cannot help but offer him an extra treat.
The West Highland White Terrier can be a vocal, annoying watchdog at times, alerting you to everything and anything that moves in his vicinity.
With his fun-loving character, intelligent looks and easy-going personality, the Westie makes a brilliant first dog for any family. He also likes to be clean, so housetraining him doesn’t pose a problem. Just be aware of that stubborn streak which will require patience from you when training!
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West Highland White Terrier in a flat
As a happy-go-lucky dog, the Westie is quite adaptable and happy to live either in the city or in the countryside. He is an inside pet though, and doesn’t take well to living outdoors. If he’s trained not to bark, and given adequate daily exercise, he will do just fine living in an apartment.
Need for exercise / Sporty
These small dogs don’t require too much exercise, but a couple of daily walks to prevent boredom and to keep him healthy are advised. He is equally happy running around indoors, chasing after a toy.
Travelling / easy to transport
This dog is a comfortable traveller, whether on a short journey, or a longer holiday. He is happy to be carried if you need to travel on public transport with him.
West Highland White Terrier and cats
This dog will happily adapt to having cats in the home, although he might just chase after them from time to time. The same cannot be said however, for other small pets such as rabbits or gerbils, as he will try to hunt them out.
West Highland White Terrier and dogs
It is a small dog that can be very sociable, but it requires early, regular and consistent socialisation. Positive encounters must be proposed to the West Highland White Terrier puppy to develop and reinforce his canine codes (especially towards large size dogs).
West Highland White Terrier and children
As very playful and happy dogs, the Westie is ideally suited to family life. He loves playtime above any other activities.
West Highland White Terrier and the elderly
As a calm and independent dog, this breed makes a brilliant companion dog for an elderly person. Keep in mind however, that the dog has an expected lifespan of up to 15 years.
The average purchase price to buy a West Highland dog can be between £560 for a non KC registered pup to £785 for a fully KC registered dog.
Ongoing costs, to not only feed the dog, but also veterinary bills for vaccinations, boosters and annual check-ups can be costly. Add in the premiums for pet insurance, and the monthly costs to own and keep a Westie will be around £50 to £70. Taking into account that although a small dog, he can live to up to 15 years old, the total costs can be quite expensive.
With a straight, dense and shorthaired coat, the Westie is very easy to groom. Frequent brushing with a stiff bristle brush will keep his coat clean and only an occasional bath will be needed, unless he rolls in something smelly when outside. His coat needs to be stripped bi-annually, and professionally trimmed every 4 months.
As this breed sheds little to no hair, they make a brilliant choice for people that have sensitivities or mild allergies.
Nutrition of the West Highland White Terrier
Of course depending on their individual needs, the Westie dog will require between 400 to 700 calories each day, of a nutrient-rich food, according to their size and activity levels. Take into account if your dog is working, is pregnant or has been spayed or neutered, as the West Highland White Terrier breed is prone to gaining weight quite easily from over-feeding.
Health of the West Highland White Terrier
The Westie breed has a life expectancy of between 13 to 15 years, provided they are well cared for, given adequate daily exercise and a healthy, nutritious diet.
Strong / robust
Certainly a small, robust little dog breed with lots of stamina. Capable of hunting all day long when required to.
Even though he has a double thickness coat, this small terrier is equally happy living indoors, lounging on the sofa or lying next to the radiator, or being outside in all weathers.
The muscular and sturdy Westie has a strong double coat that provides adequate protection against extreme cold and winter weather.
Tendency to put on weight
Becoming overweight is quite a significant issue with West Highland White terriers. Your dog may look at you with pleading eyes asking for dog treats or left over food, yet you cannot give in. Obesity gives rise to serious health conditions such as heart disease, back pain, digestive and metabolic issues.
Some of the potential health issues that Westies can be prone to are: