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
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.