West Highland White Terrier

Type: Terrier

Height: 10 - 11 inches.

Weight: 15 - 22 lbs.

Life Span: 15 + years. This is a long lived breed.

Litter Size: 2 - 8 puppies.

Country of Origin: Scotland

Activity: Indoor & Outdoor - Very High, unless they are ignored.

Watch-dog: High. These dogs are very alert to sounds and smells of the things around them, and they will alert you with a bark.

Guard-dog: Low


Description: The West Highland White Terrier (Westie) is a small well-balanced hardy looking terrier, exhibiting good showmanship. They are elegant looking with a beautiful, shiny white coat and bright, button eyes, shaggy eyebrows and a black nose. Their fur around the face is bristly, which gives the dog a rounded face. Their skin is black or pink, but fur is white. Their tails resemble that of an inverted carrot, and is never docked. They have hard, 2 inch long fur that is cut longer around the legs and belly. With natural prick ears, some Westies keep their ears down around their owners to show submittal. An intelligent dog who learns quickly, the West Highland White Terriers love human companionship and will play with their family indoors or out. Their size makes them great for an apartment but they are just as at home in the country. They are a hardy breed, capable of playing with children and other dogs. West Highland White Terriers make great companions for children of all ages. Easygoing, active, responsive and friendly are all the ingredients for making a Westie. They are one of the most popular breed of dogs today.

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Other Names: Poltalloch Terrier, Roseneath Terrier, Westie

Colors: All white, no other colors, or else they'd be called Cairn Terrier.

Coat: They have a double coat that is harsh and straight and about 2 inches long, with a wiry outer coat and a soft, close, furry undercoat. The coat is bristly and stands off around the face, making the face appear rounded.

Temperament: West Highland White Terriers are active, assertive, fun-loving, well-behaved and light-hearted. They are alert and friendly. Being stable, they love to play and will do so with each other or with you. They are courageous, self-reliant and have good self-esteem. They can be independent but mostly rely on their families for love and affection, two things they severely need. They like to dig in the yard and should be trained to avoid this, as they also will kill any vermin they find around the house. Some Westies may not be good with children, as some are more picky than others for a companion. They generally get along well with other dogs and if trained, with other pets such as cats. West Highland White Terriers need consistent attention, exercise and mental stimulation or else they will become lazy and out of shape. If given the opportunity, the Westie will sit on your lap or next to you and enjoy your petting for hours.

With Children: Yes, they make excellent playmates for children because they can withstand rough play and highly enjoy it.

With Pets: Yes, but teach them when they are young to tolerate cats.

Special Skills: Vermin destroyer and family pet.

Care and Training: The West Highland White Terrier is easy to train and should have basic training. They need regular brushing two to three times a week to help keep their white coat clean. Monthly bathing is necessary for a clean coat as well. Minimal trimming is needed if they are just a pet. If you plan to show them, they will also need trimming, plucking and stripping of the coat.

Learning Rate: High. Obedience - High. Problem Solving - Very High.

Special Needs: Attention, exercise, grooming, firm but positive training and socialization.

Living Environment: At home in the country or the city the West Highland White Terrier will do well as an apartment dweller if they are walked at least once or twice a day, though they will always enjoy having the freedom to play in a yard. West Highland White Terriers do best with human or canine companionship. The best owner for this breed would be a terrier-experienced person living in either the city or country, as this breed is very adaptable.

Health Issues: This breed is healthy and robust. There may be some problems with skin allergies, patellar luxation, hernias, cranio mandibular osteopathy (lion jaw), deafness and congenital heart disease. They can also be susceptible to atopy, cataracts, copper toxicosis, enzyme deficiency, inguinal hernia, and Legg-Perthes disease.

History: They were developed in the high mountains of west Scotland and claim ancestry to the Scotch Terrier. For a long time, the Westie was interbred with the Cairn, and white ones were simply called Westies, while the colored ones were called Cairns. The Westie is thought to be around 300 years old. King James I, King of England in the 1620s, was reported to have requested "little white earth dogges" that may have been Westies. Sir Edwin Landseer's painting in 1831 titled "The Breakfast Party" features several Highland Terriers. They were very much like the West Highland White Terriers of today. They were at one time cross bred with Cairn, Scottish and Dandie Dinmont Terriers. In the later 1800s there was a strain of white Scottish Terriers who were owned by Colonel Malcolm of Polltalloch and were known as Polltalloch Terriers. West Highland White Terriers were originally bred to hunt vermin, fox and badger, and be distinguished from the prey when hunting. They were bred specifically to be white so the hunter wouldn't accidentally shoot the dog instead of the prey. This was decided by Malcom of Polltalloch, Argyleshire, Scotland when he accidentally shot and killed his favorite dark-colored terrier. The breed may have been started by this person, as the type of dog was kept by Malcom's family since the 18th century. Similarly, other people continued the breed, such as the Duke of Argyll's estate of Roseneath, Scotland. Because of this, the breed was also called Roseneath Terriers during the 19the century. In the first dog show in the 1800s, the breed was called the White Scottish Terrier, by which they were related. The breed was then classified as West Highland White Terriers in 1904, and was first exhibited in Westminster in 1906. Over the years, the breed has survived the outrageous fads of body size, straight front legs, etc., as other breeds have in the past. In 1917 the AKC ruled that Cairn Terriers could be registered if they carried West Highland White Terrier blood. But today the breed is back to normal and continuing to be one of the most popular breeds.

First Registered by the AKC: 1908

AKC Group: Terrier Group

Class: Terrier

Registries: AKC, ANKC, CKC, FCI (Group 3), KC (GB), UKC