West Highland White Terrier: Your Friendly Guide & Tips

August 20, 2023

Welcome to our guide to the West Highland White Terrier, also known as the Westie. This small breed dog is a favorite among many dog owners for their friendly and sociable nature, making them great companions for families and individuals alike. In this article, we will explore everything you need to know about Westies, from their history and physical characteristics to their care and grooming needs, health concerns, and more.

West Highland White Terrier at a dog park

Key Takeaways

  • The West Highland White Terrier is a small breed dog known for their friendly and sociable nature.
  • In this guide, we will explore the history, personality, physical characteristics, health concerns, and care needs of Westies.
  • Westies are hypoallergenic and low shedding, making them a great choice for individuals with allergies.
  • They require regular grooming to maintain their distinctive white coat.
  • Westies are intelligent and eager to please, making them easy to train.
  • They require daily exercise to keep them physically and mentally stimulated.
  • Westies are compatible with children and other pets with proper socialization.
  • It's important to find a reputable breeder or consider adoption when looking to add a Westie to your family.

History of the West Highland White Terrier

The West Highland White Terrier, commonly known as the Westie, is a small breed of dog that originated in Scotland. The breed was first developed in the 1800s, and is believed to be a cross between the Cairn Terrier and the Scottish Terrier.

Originally bred for hunting small game, including fox and rodents, Westies were valued for their tenacity and ability to navigate difficult terrain. The breed's distinctive white coat was also prized, as it allowed hunters to easily distinguish them from the prey they were pursuing.

History of the West Highland White Terrier

The breed was officially recognized by the Kennel Club in the early 1900s, and gained popularity in the United States in the mid-20th century. Today, the Westie is a beloved companion and family pet, known for its friendly and outgoing personality.

Despite its small size, the Westie has a big personality and a strong sense of loyalty to its owners. Their charming disposition and playful nature make them a popular choice for families and individuals alike.

West Highland White Terrier Personality and Temperament

The West Highland White Terrier, or Westie, is known for their friendly and outgoing nature. They are sociable dogs that love to be around their owners and make great companions for families and individuals alike.

Westies are also courageous and curious, traits that make them excellent watchdogs. They are quick to alert their owners of any potential threats or unusual activities in their surroundings.

Another favorable characteristic of Westies is their adaptability. They can thrive in various living conditions, including apartments or houses with a yard. As long as they receive adequate exercise and mental stimulation, they can adjust to different lifestyles and environments.

When it comes to children, Westies tend to be patient and affectionate. They make great playmates for kids and enjoy interacting with them. However, it's important to supervise any interactions between young children and dogs to ensure the safety of both parties.

Overall, the West Highland White Terrier is an excellent choice for those seeking a friendly, sociable, and adaptable dog that can provide both companionship and protection.

West Highland White Terrier Physical Characteristics

The West Highland White Terrier, also known as a Westie, is a small breed dog that typically weighs between 15 and 20 pounds and stands approximately 10 to 11 inches tall at the shoulder. They have a compact, sturdy build with a straight back and strong legs.

CoatThe Westie has a double-layered coat with a soft undercoat and a rough, wiry outer coat that is typically pure white in color.
HeadTheir head is slightly rounded with small, erect ears and dark, almond-shaped eyes that convey a sharp, intelligent expression. Their nose is black and their muzzle is short and tapered.
TailTheir tail is relatively short, typically 4 to 5 inches long, and is carried upright.

Overall, the Westie has a distinctive and elegant appearance that makes them easily recognizable among other small breed dogs.

West Highland White Terrier Care and Grooming

If you're considering welcoming a West Highland White Terrier into your family, it's essential to understand their grooming needs. Thankfully, Westies are hypoallergenic and low shedding, making them a fantastic option for allergy sufferers and those who dislike the idea of regular vacuuming!

To keep their coat in top condition, it's crucial to brush your Westie at least once a week, and more frequently during shedding season. You'll also need to trim their hair every few months, as their fur can grow quite long and get matted without regular grooming.

When bathing your Westie, use a gentle dog shampoo and ensure you dry their coat thoroughly afterward to prevent any skin irritation or infection. You should also clean their ears weekly to prevent bacterial build-up and keep their teeth clean with regular brushing.

West Highland White Terrier Grooming Checklist

Grooming TaskFrequency
BrushingAt least once a week
TrimmingEvery few months
BathingAs needed or every 6-8 weeks
Ear CleaningWeekly
Teeth BrushingDaily

Overall, Westies are relatively low maintenance in terms of grooming, but it's still essential to keep up with their needs to prevent any health problems and ensure they look their best. With a little bit of regular TLC, your Westie will be healthy, happy, and ready for plenty of playtime!

West Highland White Terrier Health Concerns

While West Highland White Terriers are generally a healthy breed, they can be prone to certain health issues. Here are some common health concerns for Westies:

Health ConcernDescription
Skin allergiesWesties can be susceptible to skin allergies, which may cause itching and discomfort.
Patellar luxationThis condition, also known as "trick knee," occurs when the kneecap slips out of place. It can cause pain and limping.
Legg-Calve-Perthes diseaseThis condition affects the hip joint and can cause pain and limping. It is more common in smaller breeds like Westies.
Bladder stonesSome Westies may develop bladder stones, which can cause urinary tract problems and discomfort.

To keep your Westie healthy, it's important to schedule regular check-ups with your veterinarian and stay up-to-date on vaccinations and preventative care. It's also helpful to maintain a healthy diet and exercise routine for your pet, and to keep an eye out for any changes in behavior or symptoms of illness.

Training a West Highland White Terrier

Training a Westie is a rewarding experience, thanks to their intelligence and eagerness to please. However, it's important to use positive reinforcement techniques and be patient, as Westies can be stubborn at times.


Early socialization is key to helping your Westie become a friendly and well-adjusted adult. Make sure to expose them to a variety of people, animals, and environments from a young age, including trips to the vet, grooming appointments, and dog parks.

Basic Commands

Teaching basic commands like "sit," "stay," and "come" is essential for your Westie's safety and behavior. Use positive reinforcement techniques like treats and praise to encourage good behavior, and be consistent with your training.

Potty Training

Westies can be challenging to potty train, but with patience and consistency, it's achievable. Establish a routine for taking them outside, and reward them when they go potty outside. Make sure to supervise them inside, and crate training can be helpful.

Advanced Training

Westies excel in advanced training, such as agility and obedience. Consider enrolling them in classes or working with a professional trainer to develop their skills.

Training Resources

Westie Training AcademyA comprehensive online training program specifically for Westies.
The Art of Raising a PuppyA book by The Monks of New Skete with training tips and advice for raising a happy and well-behaved puppy.
AKC Training ClassesLocal classes offered by the American Kennel Club, covering a range of training topics.

Exercise Needs of a West Highland White Terrier

Despite their small size, West Highland White Terriers are energetic and active dogs who require regular exercise to maintain their physical and mental health. A lack of exercise can lead to boredom, destructive behavior, and weight gain.

On average, Westies need around 30-60 minutes of exercise per day. This can be divided into shorter walks throughout the day or one longer walk. They also enjoy playtime and interactive games, such as fetch or tug-of-war.

It's important to note that Westies have a strong prey drive and should always be kept on a leash or in a securely fenced area. They may also have a tendency to bark excessively when bored or left alone for extended periods.

In addition to physical exercise, mental stimulation is also important for Westies. They are intelligent dogs who enjoy learning and problem-solving. Consider incorporating training sessions or puzzle toys into their daily routine to keep them entertained and engaged.

If you're unable to provide enough exercise for your Westie due to physical limitations or a busy schedule, consider hiring a dog walker or enrolling them in doggy daycare. This can ensure they receive the necessary exercise and socialization they need to thrive.

West Highland White Terrier and Children

Westies are known for their friendly and sociable nature, which makes them great companions for families. With their playful and energetic personality, they can get along well with kids and provide them with endless hours of entertainment.

However, it's important to remember that Westies are also small dogs, which means that children need to be taught how to interact with them properly. They can easily become overwhelmed or injured if kids play too roughly with them.

When introducing a Westie to a household with children, it's essential to monitor interactions closely and teach kids how to treat the dog with kindness and respect. Teaching them how to approach, pet, and play with the dog safely can ensure a happy and healthy relationship between the two.

With proper supervision and guidance, West Highland White Terriers can make loyal and affectionate pets for families with kids.

West Highland White Terrier and Other Pets

Due to their friendly and sociable nature, Westies usually get along well with other pets in the household. However, like any breed, early socialization and proper introductions are key for a harmonious living environment.

If you have other dogs or cats in your home, it is important to introduce your Westie to them slowly and under close supervision. Keep them separated at first and gradually increase the time they spend together as they get used to each other's presence.

One thing to keep in mind is that Westies have a high prey drive and may have a tendency to chase smaller animals, such as birds or rodents. It's important to watch them closely and discourage any behavior that could harm other pets.

If you are considering introducing a new pet to your Westie, it's best to do so gradually and with patience. Allow them to get used to each other's scent before allowing face-to-face interactions.

West Highland White Terrier with people in the backgroun

Finding a West Highland White Terrier

When it comes to finding a West Highland White Terrier, there are several options available. The breed is quite popular, so it should not be too difficult to locate a reputable breeder or rescue organization.

Reputable Breeders

If you are interested in purchasing a Westie from a breeder, it is important to do your research and ensure that you are working with a reputable breeder who prioritizes the health and well-being of their dogs.

You can start by reaching out to breed clubs or organizations, such as the West Highland White Terrier Club of America, for recommendations. You can also search for breeders online and read reviews and testimonials from previous customers.

When contacting a breeder, be sure to ask questions about their breeding practices, health testing, and socialization of their puppies. A responsible breeder will be happy to provide you with this information and should also be willing to let you visit their facility and meet the puppies and their parents in person.

Rescue Organizations

Adopting a Westie from a rescue organization is a great option for those who want to provide a loving home for a dog in need. There are many rescue organizations that specialize in Westies and other small breed dogs.

You can search for local Westie rescues online or contact national organizations such as the Westie Rescue USA. You can also check with your local animal shelter or humane society to see if they have any Westies available for adoption.

When adopting a dog from a rescue organization, be sure to ask about the dog’s history and any behavioral or health issues they may have. Many rescue organizations will also conduct a home visit to ensure that you and your home are a good fit for the dog.

West Highland White Terrier and Your Lifestyle

Before bringing a West Highland White Terrier into your home, it's important to consider whether your lifestyle is a good match for this breed. While Westies are adaptable and friendly dogs, they do have specific needs that should be taken into account.

Firstly, Westies are small breed dogs, making them a great choice for those living in apartments or smaller homes. However, they still require regular exercise and mental stimulation, so it's important to schedule daily walks and playtime.

Westies are also known for being social dogs and enjoy spending time with their human companions. If you spend a lot of time away from home or have a busy schedule, it may not be the best fit for a Westie.

Additionally, Westies are prone to certain health issues, such as skin allergies and dental problems, which require regular veterinary check-ups and maintenance. They also require regular grooming to keep their coats in good condition.

Overall, a West Highland White Terrier can make a wonderful addition to a variety of lifestyles, but it's important to ensure that you can provide for their needs.

West Highland White Terrier FAQs

As a popular breed, there may be several questions that come to mind when considering the West Highland White Terrier as a pet. Here are some frequently asked questions and their answers:

How much exercise do Westies require?

Westies are small dogs that require moderate exercise, such as daily walks and playtime in a fenced yard. They enjoy mental stimulation through games and puzzles as well.

Are Westies hypoallergenic?

While no dog breed is completely hypoallergenic, Westies are known to be a low-shedding breed that produces less dander than other dogs. This can make them a good choice for people with allergies.

What health issues are common with West Highland White Terriers?

Some health concerns that can affect Westies include skin allergies, patellar luxation, and dental problems. Regular veterinary check-ups and proper care can help prevent and address these issues.

Are Westies good with children?

Yes, Westies are generally good with children and make great family companions. However, as with any dog, it’s important to supervise interactions and teach children how to safely interact with dogs.

How can I find a reputable Westie breeder?

Do your research and look for breeders who prioritize the health and well-being of their dogs. Ask for references, visit the breeder’s facility, and ensure the breeder is registered with a reputable kennel club. Consider adoption from a rescue organization as well.

Can Westies get along with other pets?

With proper socialization and training, Westies can get along well with other pets. However, it’s important to be cautious when introducing them to new animals and always supervise their interactions.

Are Westies easy to train?

Westies are intelligent dogs that can be trained with positive reinforcement methods. However, they can also be stubborn at times, so consistency and patience are key.

West Highland White Terrier Training Resources

Training a West Highland White Terrier can be a rewarding and enjoyable experience for both you and your furry friend. However, it can also be challenging if you're not familiar with the breed or effective training techniques. Fortunately, there are many resources available to help you train your Westie and ensure a happy and well-behaved companion.

Recommended Books

There are several books written specifically for training West Highland White Terriers that can be a valuable resource. Some of our top picks include:

Book TitleAuthor
West Highland White TerriersJoan M. Brearley
The West Highland White Terrier HandbookDr. Bruce Fogle
West Highland White Terrier Training GuideKaren Douglas Kane

Online Resources

There are also a variety of websites and online resources available to aid in training your Westie. Some popular options include:

Training Classes

If you prefer hands-on training with a professional, you may want to consider attending a training class with your Westie. Check with local pet stores, training facilities, or your veterinarian to see if they offer training classes for small breed dogs like the West Highland White Terrier.

With the help of these resources, you'll be well on your way to training a happy and well-behaved Westie. Remember to always be patient, consistent, and positive in your training approach.

West Highland White Terrier Fun Facts

As adorable and lovable as West Highland White Terriers are, there's much more to these little dogs than meets the eye. Here are some fun facts you may not have known about Westies:

  • Westies were originally bred to hunt vermin, such as rats and foxes, in Scotland.
  • They were once known as the Poltalloch Terrier, after the Scottish estate where they were first bred.
  • Westies have a double coat, with a soft undercoat and a wiry outer coat.
  • They are known for being hypoallergenic and low shedding, making them a popular choice for those with allergies.
  • Westies are intelligent and quick learners, which makes them easy to train.
  • They are also known for being very loyal and affectionate towards their families.
  • Westies can be prone to skin allergies and other health issues, so it's important to keep them well-groomed and regularly checked by a veterinarian.
  • They are also known for being vocal little dogs, and aren't afraid to express themselves with barks and growls.
  • Westies have been featured prominently in popular culture, including in the children's book series "The Westie Chronicles" and in the film "Due Date."
  • Finally, Westies have a reputation for being little clowns, always ready to entertain their owners with their playful antics.

As you can see, there's a lot to love and admire about West Highland White Terriers. From their Scottish heritage to their hypoallergenic qualities and playful personalities, these little dogs are sure to bring joy and companionship to any home.


In conclusion, the West Highland White Terrier, or Westie, is a wonderful breed of small dog that makes a great companion for families or individuals. Their friendly and sociable nature, combined with their intelligence and eagerness to please, make them easy to train and a pleasure to be around.

While Westies do have certain grooming and exercise needs, they are generally low maintenance and have a hypoallergenic, low shedding coat that makes them a great choice for people with allergies. As with any breed, there are some health concerns to be aware of, but with proper care and attention, your Westie can live a happy and healthy life.

Whether you're considering getting a Westie or already have one in your life, we hope this guide has been helpful in providing valuable information and tips for caring for your furry friend. Remember to always give your Westie lots of love and attention, and they will return it tenfold!


Q: Are West Highland White Terriers good with children?

A: Yes, Westies are known to be friendly and sociable with children. However, it's always important to supervise interactions between dogs and kids to ensure safety for both.

Q: Do Westies shed a lot?

A: West Highland White Terriers have a low shedding coat, making them a great choice for individuals with allergies or those who prefer a cleaner home.

Q: How often should I groom my Westie?

A: Regular grooming is necessary for Westies to maintain their coat's health and appearance. Brushing them at least once or twice a week and scheduling professional grooming sessions every few months is recommended.

Q: Are West Highland White Terriers easy to train?

A: Yes, Westies are intelligent dogs and generally respond well to training. Consistency, positive reinforcement, and using rewards-based methods will help you achieve success in their training.

Q: How much exercise do Westies need?

A: West Highland White Terriers require moderate exercise. Daily walks, playtime, and mental stimulation activities such as puzzle toys or agility training will help keep them happy and healthy.

Q: Can Westies live in apartments?

A: Yes, Westies can adapt well to apartment living as long as they receive enough exercise and mental stimulation. However, it's important to remember that they still need regular outdoor time.

Q: Do West Highland White Terriers get along with other pets?

A: Westies can get along well with other pets, but proper introductions and socialization are crucial. Gradually introducing them to new furry friends and supervising interactions will help ensure a harmonious household.

Q: Where can I find a West Highland White Terrier?

A: You can find a reputable Westie breeder through kennel clubs or consider adopting from rescue organizations. It's important to do thorough research and ask for recommendations to ensure you find a healthy and well-bred Westie.

Q: What are some common health concerns for Westies?

A: West Highland White Terriers may be prone to certain health issues, including skin allergies, dental problems, patellar luxation, and conditions affecting their ears. Regular vet check-ups and proper care can help prevent or manage these concerns.

Q: Are West Highland White Terriers good watchdogs?

A: Yes, Westies have a natural instinct to alert their owners, making them good watchdogs. They are vigilant and will often bark to signal potential threats or strangers approaching.

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