That's a tail, not a handle! But the bonnie, bold West Highland White Terrier was bred with a wiggly little tail strong enough to withstand being used to pull these earthdogs from burrows and holes. (Do not try this at home.) These type-A terriers are entirely too feisty to be lapdogs, no matter how cuddly they might look. Westies, as they're known to their fans, are among Americans' favorite terriers.
Originally from Scotland, this small-sized and medium-energy breed can grow to between 15-20 pounds and lives an average of 12-14 years. The breed is recognized by the American Kennel Club and classified as a member of the Terrier group.
AKC Recognized: Y
Breed's Original Pastime: Hunting
Breed Group: Terrier
Average Lifespan: 12-14 years
Bark Factor: I love to talk!
AKC RANKING 31
AREA OF ORIGIN Scotland
DATE OF ORIGIN 1800s
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
BEHAVIOR & TRAINING
WHAT IS A WEST HIGHLAND WHITE TERRIER'S PERSONALITY LIKE?
Affectionate, fun-loving, and playful, West Highland White Terriers are typically wonderful with children. However, like any dogs, they do best when supervised with kids. These bold, busy dogs aren't above making a bit of mischief from time to time. They often get along well with other household dogs and pets, but they're still terriers — rodents, outdoor cats, and other furry creatures are always going to look like food, not friends.
WHAT IS WEST HIGHLAND WHITE TERRIER BEHAVIOR LIKE?
This is a very active breed. Your West Highland White Terrier will need a daily chance to explore, sniff, and romp every day, in addition to a longish walk or a short run.
Like many terriers, the Westie enjoys barking and will always let you know if she's got something on her mind. Be sure to discourage nuisance barking early and often. And like many terriers, your West Highland White Terrier might have a different landscaping vision for your backyard than you do. Keep an eye on her if you don't want big holes in your flower beds.
HOW EASY IS IT TO TRAIN A WEST HIGHLAND WHITE TERRIER?
Bright and a wee bit stubborn, West Highland White Terriers respond well to training. They'll learn quickly, but their attention tends to wander. Keep training sessions short and fun, and be patient and consistent with your furry friend. Reward good behaviors with play and treats.
Westies don't have the best recall — there's no amount of training in the world that will make a chipmunk who crosses their path anything less than absolutely fascinating. Best to keep your furry friend on a leash unless you're playing in a well-fenced area. Many West Highland White Terriers do well at dog parks, if they can be convinced not to boss the other dogs about.
CARE & HEALTH
HOW MUCH DO WEST HIGHLAND WHITE TERRIERS SHED AND WHAT ARE THEIR GROOMING NEEDS?
They look like they might be fluffy and soft, but a West Highland White Terrier's coat is actually stiff and dry. They're below-average seasonal shedders. Plan to comb your Westie a few times a week, and have her clipped or hand stripped a few times a year.
WHAT HEALTH PROBLEMS DO WEST HIGHLAND WHITE TERRIERS HAVE?
As a breed, West Highland White Terriers are generally healthy. Some are vulnerable to heart disease or slipping kneecaps.
Some tend toward pudginess, so be mindful about meals and snacks. This breed can also experience liver problems or allergies that might require a restricted diet. Be sure to consult your veterinarian about how to keep your Westie happy and healthy.
Breed history has moved while this section is under construction. Please check out the first tab for fun facts about this breed's history. You can also read on to learn about this breed's ideal family situation.
ARE WEST HIGHLAND WHITE TERRIERS GOOD FOR PEOPLE WITH ALLERGIES?
The American Kennel Club doesn't list West Highland White Terriers among its breeds recommended for allergy sufferers.
Remember that no breed is 100% hypoallergenic, and any breed can aggravate allergies. You can reduce your furry friend's impact on your allergies with frequent baths and brushings to reduce loose hairs and aggravating proteins in your pet's dander. Use a damp cloth to wipe off your dog after you've been playing outside. Smaller dogs have less surface area, and so produce comparatively less dander than larger breeds — definitely something to keep in mind with a dog as small as a West Highland White Terrier!
WHAT IS A WEST HIGHLAND WHITE TERRIER'S BEST DAY?
The Westie is a #BasicTerrier: this dog wants to run around, explore, chase cats and bunnies, and dig holes straight through to the People's Republic of China. (Check her passport before you let her play unattended in the backyard, just in case.) Make sure she's got a safe, well-fenced area to play in, and let her follow her nose.
SHOULD I ADOPT A WEST HIGHLAND WHITE TERRIER?
West Highland White Terriers are equally comfortable in warm and cold weather. These dogs are travel-sized, affectionate, and entertaining. Your Westie will require professional grooming a few times a year and regular exercise every day. If you can keep up with her, this is a bold wee canine companion.
Have you decided that a West Highland White Terrier is the perfect dog for you? Why not be your new best friend's hero and adopt a rescue! Be sure to check out our article on what to expect when you're adopting a dog or cat.