West Highland Terriers are cheerful little characters hailing from Scotland. Their name is often shortened to “Westie”, and this breed has no shortage of personality. Their temperaments can be varied depending on training and upbringing, but West Highland Terriers are known to be sociable dogs, both self-assured and affable – a winning combination. It’s no surprise that this breed was chosen to represent Cesar dog food, featuring in adverts for the brand for decades, as its cute appearance and plucky attitude has terrific on-screen appeal. West Highland Terriers are great all-rounder dogs, enjoying both energetic playtimes and affectionate cuddles.
Height: 9-12 inches (22-30 cm)
Weight: 15-22 lbs (6.8-10 kg)
Average Litter Size: 2 to 5 puppies
Life Expectancy: 12 to 16 years
Good with Children: Yes
Kennel Club Classification: Terrier
The only official colour of a West Highland Terrier that meets the breed standard, according to the UK Kennel Club, is pure white. This breed has a black nose and dark eyes.
A West Highland Terrier sports a thick double coat, so regular brushing is essential to keep the fur in good condition and to prevent matting. The independent nature of the West Highland Terrier may cause this dog to wriggle during grooming, so it’s important to grip firmly and carefully, or, alternatively, you could opt to use a harness. Show dogs typically have their coats stripped, but many West Highland Terrier owners prefer a clipped appearance for their pet. Keeping the eyes, teeth and ears clean is important for the health of the dog. Fur staining, due to saliva or other causes, may occur with this breed, but there are several home remedies that may combat this problem, such as carefully cleaning the muzzle with hydrogen peroxide.
As with all dogs, it’s important to ensure that the parents of the West Highland Terrier puppy have been health screened for any genetic conditions to reduce the risk of their pups developing any inherited diseases. West Highland Terriers are generally long-lived dogs, however, there are a few health issues to look out for in this breed. These include luxating patellas, Legg-Perthes disease, bone disorders, diabetes, Addison’s disease, bladder or kidney stones, pulmonary fibrosis, white shaker dog syndrome and digestive problems. Many of these conditions are treatable, but consult a vet if you have any concerns about your West Highland Terrier.
West Highland Terriers are energetic, bossy little dogs who love to rule the roost. They make great pets for families, as they’re tolerant of children and thrive on human company. West Highland Terriers love to feel included in activities, and their inquisitive nature shines through in their daily independent antics.
The West Highland Terrier is highly intelligent but has a tendency to lean towards a stubborn streak, so training may require extra patience and perseverance. It’s important to establish yourself as the pack leader, or else the Westie’s dominant personality may interfere with training sessions. West Highland Terriers have strong hunting instincts, so they must be carefully taught not to run away when being walked off the lead. Consistent, firm but fair training will be effective with this breed so that clear boundaries are established. Start training from a young age, and reward learned positive actions with praise and treats. A training area free from distractions is best for this breed.
With a dog as lively and full of boundless energy as the West Highland Terrier, it’s easy to think that this breed needs an abundance of activity each day for optimal health purposes. This is correct, but bear in mind the age of the dog, as puppies or elderly Westies are best suited to a slower pace and less exertion. Adult West Highland Terriers need a minimum of a 60-minute daily walk, accompanied by regular and varied daily play activities, such as fetching balls and chasing frisbees, which can keep them entertained for hours. Westies are prone to weight gain, which can lead to long-term health problems, so keeping these dogs active is key to a good healthcare routine.
Although West Highland Terriers were recognised by the UK Kennel Club in 1907, this breed of dog has a heritage that dates to the late 16th century, in the Argyllshire region of the Scottish Highlands. Documents dating back to this era contain records showing that King James VI of Scotland made arrangements for 12 Scottish White Terriers to be gifted to the Kingdom of France. White variants of the Scottish Terrier and Cairn Terrier were seen as weaker than their sandy-brindle coloured counterparts, and were often drowned.
The Cairn Terrier is considered to be one of the oldest terrier breeds, although originally, it was unofficially known as the Short-Haired Skye Terrier. West Highland Terriers have a very strong Cairn Terrier ancestry, and the two breeds have many similarities, both in appearance and personality, although centuries of breeding the two uniquely has led to the evolution of certain distinctive differences.
The breeding of white terriers in Scotland led to the eventual formation of the West Highland Terrier. In the mid-19th century, the eighth Duke of Argyll, George Campbell, was responsible for creating the Roseneath Terrier, an early offshoot breed of Scottish White Terrier. Simultaneously, two further white terrier breeds emerged in Scotland, namely the Pittenweem Terriers and the Poltalloch Terrier. The specific breeding program that led to the development of the modern West Highland Terrier is unclear – it may be that the Pittenweem and Poltalloch were bred together. According to legend, the Laird of Poltalloch had a preference for breeding white puppies after his red-brown terrier was mistaken for a fox and shot.
In Scotland, terriers were originally used for hunting vermin, and modern West Highland Terriers retain the strong instinct to chase and dig. Nowadays, West Highland Terriers make great family pets thanks to their friendly personalities, and are the third most popular terrier breed in the UK.
The 2005 film “The Adventures of Greyfriars Bobby” starred a West Highland Terrier, despite it being loosely based on a true story of a Skye Terrier.
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