The West Highland terrier or also called westie or westy, is a small, cheerful, sociable, active, brave and playful dog. Its origin, as we explained in the section of history and origin; took place from the tragedy suffered by Colonel Edward Malcolm on a day of hunting. And that is the reason why the west hihgland is white.
- Weight: The Westy typically weighs between 11 and 22 Lbs.
- Height: The West Highland White Terrier stands at around 11 Inches at the withers.
- Coat: Their coat consists of an outer layer of rough hair, approximately 2 Inches long, and a soft, short inner layer. They do not shed their hair and are considered hypoallergenic.
- Color: The only accepted color for Westies is white.
- General Build: The West Highland White Terrier is a small but sturdy dog with muscular limbs, a broad back, and a deep chest. They have a carrot-shaped tail measuring about 5.5 Lbs.
- They sport a black nose, dark eyes beneath their thick eyebrows, and large teeth with a scissor bite. Their small ears stand erect and end in a point. Their gait is free and strong.
What’s a Westie like? West Highland White Terriers are dynamic, bold, and fearless dogs, unafraid of anything.
They are self-assured, yet friendly, affectionate, and accommodating. These small, cheerful dogs enjoy human company.
However, they can be somewhat stubborn, similar to Shih Tzus, and may display possessiveness. Therefore, patient training is advisable.
They love spending time outdoors, regardless of the weather, playing, exercising, and interacting with other dogs.
Guard Dog: Due to their small size, Westies aren’t typical guard dogs, but they make excellent alarm dogs, alerting with barks to the presence of strangers or unusual noises in their surroundings.
Westies in Apartments: Thanks to their small size and moderate exercise requirements, they adapt well to apartment living.
Training and Obedience: Despite the West Highland White Terrier’s strong temperament, they are intelligent dogs that respond well to training. Remember to employ positive reinforcement-based training, as it is the most effective and respectful approach.
Westies with Children: Westies are playful and friendly, making them great companions for children. However, it’s essential to teach children to treat animals with respect and kindness. Additionally, adult supervision may be necessary during active play to prevent accidents.
Westies with Other Pets: Due to their hunting instinct, Westies may see smaller pets as prey and may attempt to attack them. Nevertheless, their friendly and amicable nature, along with early socialization and growing up together with other pets, can lead to good cohabitation.
Adaptation to Solitude: West Highland White Terriers enjoy their time with the family, so leaving them alone for extended periods is not advisable.
For times when they must stay at home, it’s recommended to gradually acclimate them to solitude, starting from puppyhood.
If your lifestyle requires you to spend all day out of the house, you may be better off with other, lesser breeds, such as the Scottish Terrier.
Daily Walks and Activity: Their need for physical activity is moderate. Westies require daily walks and playtime to fulfill their physical and mental exercise needs.
Coat Care and Baths: The West Highland’s abundant coat requires regular brushing, with daily brushing being ideal to maintain clean, silky, and knot-free fur.
To avoid irritating their sensitive skin, bathe them once a month or every three weeks using a shampoo specific to their coat. You can clean them with water or baby wipes if they get dirty. Their hair barely sheds, and you may also opt to have it periodically trimmed by a professional groomer.
Pros and Cons
Advantages of West Highland White Terriers
- They are affectionate and accommodating.
- They adapt well to different environments and climates.
Disadvantages of West Highland White Terriers:
- They don’t tolerate being left alone for long periods.
- They have a hunting instinct, which can be problematic if not trained to avoid attacking other animals.
- They require daily physical activity.
Among the most common health conditions in West Highland White Terriers is mandibular prognathism, a congenital condition that puppies inherit if both parents suffered from it. This condition involves abnormal growth of the jaw and typically appears around three months, not lasting beyond the first year. It’s usually not severe and can be treated with corticosteroids to reduce pain.
Another congenital condition that can occur in Westies is copper toxicosis, which can lead to liver failure and is often fatal. To prevent it, it’s recommended to have your veterinarian measure copper levels in the dog’s system after the first year of life. Early detection can aid in treatment.
The delicate skin of Westies can be prone to allergies.
Generally, Westies are healthy and robust dogs. Regular visits to your veterinarian for health check-ups, vaccinations, and parasitic preventative measures are essential. Don’t hesitate to consult your veterinarian if you have any concerns or notice unusual behaviors in your dog to ensure early detection of any issues.
History and Origin
The origin of the West Highland White Terrier is tied to a tragic tale. In the late 19th century, a Scottish landowner, Colonel Edward Malcolm, went rabbit hunting with his favorite Cairn Terrier.
Tragically, he mistook his dog for a rabbit and shot it. Since Cairn Terriers often gave birth to white puppies, the landowner decided to selectively breed his Cairns to be white, making them more easily distinguishable in hunting. This led to the creation of this breed in the early 20th century in Scotland, known as the White West Highland Terriers or affectionately, Westies.
Initially bred for hunting rabbits and badgers, they have evolved into mostly companion animals while retaining their hunting instincts. The Fédération Cynologique Internationale (FCI) published the current breed standard in October 2010 and definitively recognized it in October 1954, classifying it in Group 3: Terriers, Section 2: Small-sized terriers.