West Highland White Terrier Guide

Terrier Dog Breeds

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The Westie is compact and short-coupled. It must be small enough to fit between rocks in a narrow passageway that was the typical fox den in its area of origin. These passages were often so narrow that the dog could not turn around. Short legs aided in maneuverability in the cramped passages. It had to have formidable teeth and jaws in order to face a fox in closed quarters. The harsh double coat, especially the hard, straight outer coat, provided protection from the fox's teeth, especially around the head, as well as from the elements. The tail needed to be sufficiently long to provide a handhold by which the dog could be pulled from shallow holes.

The busy Westie is happy, curious and always in the thick of things. It is affectionate and demanding, one of the friendliest terriers. It is not friendly, however, toward small animals. It enjoys a daily romp in a safe area or a walk on lead, as well as playtime at home. It is independent and somewhat stubborn. It barks and digs.


FAMILY terrier



ORIGINAL FUNCTION fox, badger, and vermin hunting

TODAY'S FUNCTION earthdog trials

AVERAGE SIZE OF MALE Height: 11 Weight: 15-21

AVERAGE SIZE OF FEMALE Height: 10 Weight: 15-21

OTHER NAME Poltalloch terrier

Energy level High energy

Exercise needs Medium

Playfullness Moderately playful

Affection level Very affectionate

Friendliness toward other dogs Friendly

Friendliness toward other pets Friendly

Friendliness toward strangers Very friendly

Ease of training Hard to train

Watchdog ability High

Protection ability Not very protective

Grooming needs High maintenance

Cold tolerance Medium tolerance

Heat tolerance Medium tolerance

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The Westie enjoys the outdoors, but it can also function as an indoor dog if taken for regular exercise. It needs either a short to moderate walk on leash or a good game in the yard every day. It should sleep inside in all but the mildest climates. Its wire coat needs combing two or three times weekly, plus shaping every three months. Shaping for pets is by clipping, and for show dogs is by stripping. In some areas, it may be difficult to keep the coat white.
• Major concerns: globoid cell leukodystrophy, Legg-Perthes, CMO
• Minor concerns: copper toxicosis, cataract, patellar luxation
• Occasionally seen: deafness
• Suggested tests: hip, knee
• Life span: 12 – 14 years
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The West Highland white terrier shares its roots with the other terriers of Scotland, proving itself on fox, badger and various vermin. At one time the Westie, Dandie Dinmont, Skye, Cairn and Scottish terriers were all considered one breed with considerable diversity. Selective breeding based on such qualities as coat type or color could have produced distinctive strains that would have been easily maintained in the relative isolation of the various islands in the country. The Westie first gained attention in 1907 as the Poltalloch terrier, named for the home of Col. E.D. Malcolm, who had been breeding the short-legged white terriers for the previous 60 years. The breed has gone under several different names, including Roseneath, Poltalloch, white Scottish, little Skye and Cairn. In fact, the AKC first registered it as the Roseneath terrier in 1908, but the name was changed to West Highland white terrier in 1909. Since that date it has made quite a name for itself, establishing itself as one of the most competitive terriers in the show ring and one of the most popular terriers in the home.
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