West Highland White Terrier – Dog Breed Profile

Description: The West Highland White Terrier is a small dog with a robust constitution. This dog varies in height between 9 and 12 inches at the shoulder. The dog weighs from 15 to 21 pounds and the bitch from 13 to 16 pounds. The West Highland White Terrier has a tough outer coat that is about 2 inches long, with a soft undercoat underneath. The coat of this dog is always white. The ears are naturally erect and the short tail does not need to be docked. The legs of the West Highland White Terrier are quite short. This breed is also known as the Westie, Poltalloch Terrier, or Roseneath Terrier. Westies can live 15 years or more.

History: The West Highland White Terrier originated in the Poltalloch region of Scotland in the 19th century. When one breeder’s Cairn Terriers began shedding white puppies, this breed began its path to recognition. The Westie was further refined at the Duke of Argyll’s estate, Roseneath. This dog was originally used to hunt vermin such as rats and mice, but was also used against badgers, foxes, and otters.

Temperament: One word comes to mind when discussing the personality of the West Highland White Terrier, and that is lively. This little dog has a lot of energy. The Westie enjoys being around his family and will become devoted to them, and is probably better off with older children. This dog must get used to cats and other small household pets when he is still a puppy, otherwise he will see them as play. The West Highland White Terrier is a barker and also loves to dig. Sometimes these two activities are combined.

Health problems: One health problem of concern is called “lion’s jaw” or craniomandibular osteopathy. This affects Westies between the ages of 3 to 12 months. Excess bone tissue is deposited in the jaw area, and this makes it very painful for the young West Highland White Terrier to eat. The condition will correct itself by the time the dog is about 12 months old, but until then, pain medication or cortisone will be given to allow the dog to eat. The Westie can also suffer from liver problems and hernias.

Grooming – Because the West Highland White Terrier has a fairly long and shaggy coat, it should be brushed or combed daily. If it has been outdoors, check the coat for ticks or sticking together, which can cause tangles. It should be trimmed with blunt-tipped scissors around the ears and eyes, and the coat will need to be stripped twice a year. Make sure ears are clean and dry, and keep fingernails short.

Living conditions: The West Highland White Terrier is capable of living in an apartment or a house. He loves to cuddle up with his people and can become destructive if left alone for long periods. However, it should be noted that this dog’s high energy level requires the owner to ensure that it gets enough exercise. Westies love to play and will chase a ball for hours. You’ll appreciate a daily walk and it’s probably best suited for active individuals and families.