Westies are one of the most adored dogs in the world, and with Scottish origins, this dog stands out from many others in the pack. Despite their soft and plush appearance, the Westie is a dog with a heart for working, which makes them more brave and tough than you would think. This dog is not a lapdog who takes pleasure in snuggling up with you, instead, Westies are known for their industrious busybodies, and they can be quite feisty and disruptive if disturbed. This personality comes from their working class background, and is one of the major reasons why the West Highland Terrier is more hard to handle than other pups.
White Terriers date back to the late 16th century, in the reign of James VI in Scotland, but after interbreeding and travelling across different borders, the White Terrier was only officially recognized in the early 1900’s. It was at this time that the name, West Highland White Terrier was declared and passed on to these dogs that we now see today. Westies were also historically used as hunters for rodents and other small animals in the 1900s, which is one of the reasons why they enjoy any physical activity and playing.
In the mid 20th century, West Highland Terriers rose to popularity as the best competitors in dog shows and competition, which caused a hike in their breeding. Because of their intelligence and small stature, they were able to go through obstacle courses and challenges very quickly and easily, making them outwin many other breeds. Popularity of Westies in the rest of the world never happened until the late 20th century, and in 2001, Westies became the 30th most popular dog worldwide, according to the American Kennel Club. Today, West Highland Terriers are one of the most popular dogs in the United Kingdom, and have been growing in popularity in the rest of the world.
West Highland White Terrier Appearance and Physical Attributes
Westies can normally be easily identified by their erect pointy ears and full white fluffy coat. They are quite muscular and sturdy, with a deep chest and a short and sturdy tail to match. Most Westies are short in stature, and normally stand between 10 and 11 inches tall. Their height is in correct proportion to their weight, as they are normally between 15 and 20 pounds. Their eyes are very bright, almond shaped, and are typically in a dark colour such as black or dark brown.
West Highland White Terriers have a double coat, with their undercoat being dense and softer than their more rugged and rough, protective outer coat. They have a distinct feature that separates them from many other dog breeds. In younger Westies (puppies), they have pink markings on both the footpads and nose, but as the Westie grows older, these markings adopt their ideally black colour. Most Westies also have a so called “scissors bite” because of their close knitted jaw, which means that the incisors and the canines on both the upper and lower jaw lock together when the dog bites.
Personality and Temperament
Terriers are specifically known for their stubbornness, and this may be one of the biggest disadvantages of having a dog from this breed. The West Highland Terrier is not much different, and can be quite stubborn and disobedient, but this can be rectified with reward based training and socialisation. The Westie also loves to be the center of attention at all times, so it is not a good idea to add him to a household with lots of other animals and pets, as he can get quite jealous and competitive.
Despite all those negative personality traits, Westies are one of the most affectionate and lovable dog breeds around, and they joy times of play or work with their owners. They also make great watch dogs despite their tiny size, and have a bark that’s sure to turn heads. Their loyalty to you may make them a little defensive, especially when it comes on to strangers, but once again, with proper socialisation and rewards based training, your Westie will heed to your instructions. Overall, West Highland Terriers are bright, intelligent, defensive and very playful dogs, and with the right amount of training, they will be a great addition to your family.
Grooming, Maintenance and Physical Activity
They may be small in stature, but this little bundle of joy can give you quite the workout. Westies are generally very active dogs that are filled with energy, and at least a 30 minute walk per day will be necessary. They are not ideal for apartment lifestyle, especially if they are left alone, but instead, they enjoy playing with their owner or engaging in mentally and physically stimulating activities. If you have a backyard, it’s good to pay with them in it, but leaving them alone to run around will result in them burrowing holes in your grass and trying to find ways to escape.
In terms of grooming, Westies require only the bare minimum, which is a big deal if you don’t want to spend a whole day cleaning your dog. They do not shed excessively, but regular brushing, combing and clipping of their fur is necessary to prevent buildup of dirt and infections. It is important to note that they are not hypoallergenic, and they do not necessarily require a trip to the groomer’s every month if you use the steps above to keep them clean.
Westie Health and Lifespan
West Highland Terriers are fairly healthy dogs, with an average lifespan of 12 to 14 years, however they are prone to developing a number of serious health conditions that are specific to their breed. These health issues can generally be identified by having a bi-annual trip to the veterinarian, but in other cases, a simple look at your dog may tell you what’s wrong. Here are some of the major issues:
- Legg-Perthes – This disease causes an irregularity between the fit of the ball and socket joints of the leg, resulting in degeneration causing paralysis if left untreated.
- Globoid Cell Leukodystrophy (Krabbe’s Disease) – A brain disease causing seizure, and ultimately, death.
- Craniomandibular Osteopathy – An issue causing benign bone growth in the jaws of your Westie, which can be treated with antibiotics.
Westies come with a host of different characteristics and issues, both good and bad, but ultimately they are one of the most adored dogs worldwide for a reason. So don’t allow these little issues to keep you from getting a Westie, as long as he is the right decision for you.