West Highland White Terrier Dog Breed

West Highland White Terrier Lying on Grass
  • Other names:
  • Westie
  • Poltalloch Terrier
  • Roseneath Terrier
  • White Roseneath Terrier
  • Westy
  • View all 5...

The West Highland White Terrier is one of several Terrier breeds hailing from Scotland; other related Scottish Terrier breeds that descended from the same ancestors include the: Scottish, Skye, Cairn, Dandie Dinmont Terriers.

The Westie, as it is affectionately called, is extremely well known and popular in the United States and United Kingdom; it is featured in many TV shows as well as advertising and print such as Cesar's dog food. Since the early 1900's it has been - and remains - one of the top popularity dog breeds in these regions; estimates show Westies have always been in the top third of all breeds in popularity.

This is not the lapdog it looks, owners of this breed MUST be capable of handling an energetic dog. They radiate a light hearted confidence and curiosity that makes them very independent, although they are loyal companions. Training is difficult and not for those without time, patience, and the ability to take control. This may not be the best choice for families with small children. You should have a fenced yard if you are considering a West Highland White Terrier. Contrary to their high maintenance looks, this breed doesn't require much regular grooming, however they will need a minimum of 15-30 minutes exercise per day. This breed has several well documented genetic health issues that should be researched and prepared for. Overall this is a happy, playful, curious breed that makes a wonderful dog for most ages.

West Highland White Terrier Breed Details

Breed Specs
Purebred11-16 yrs.14-16 in.15-20 lbs
  • Friendliness
  • Overall
  • Family Friendly
  • Kid Friendly
  • Pet Friendly
  • Stranger Friendly
  • Maintenance
  • Easy to Groom
  • Energy Level
  • Exercise Needs
  • General Health
  • Shedding Amount
  • Behavior
  • Barks / Howls
  • Easy to Train
  • Guard Dog
  • Playfulness
  • Watch Dog
  • Ownership
  • Apartment Friendly
  • Can Be Alone
  • Good for Busy Owners
  • Good for Novice Owners
  • Intelligence
* The more green the stronger the trait.

Below are details and specs for the Westie dog breed:

West Highland White Terrier Breed Description

Although Westies are considered medium-sized in comparison with other terriers, they are still a small sized dog breed. They are 15-20 pounds and 14-16 inches of pure excitement and spunk.Members of this breed are happy, excitable and generally good-natured. Their curiosity and independence can sometimes result in stubborn pet that can be difficult to train and requires frequent refreshing. West Highland White Terriers play well with other dogs, as they are social with abundant energy but may have hunting instincts with smaller pets or outdoor animals such as squirrels. They make great dogs for families with children that are old enough to handle them gently; Westies are equally as good a choice for a single owner. Strangers will be barked at with great bravado. These pets make great watchdogs since they are very confident and vocal.

To maintain the Westies fitness they should be exercised daily for a minimum of 15-30 minutes; indoor dogs may need an hour. They especially enjoy hunting and chasing games. Grooming is not difficult as they only require a few weekly brushings and twice yearly trimming of their hard outer coats. This breed is suggested to have regular checkups. They are prone to several genetic issues including skin diseases and neuromuscular diseases.

West Highland White Terrier Breed History

Whatever the Westie's history, they were always well liked. The breed was documented as early as the reign of King James the I. During the reign of James VI of Scotland they were presented as gifts to France. They were also recorded to accompany the Spanish Armada around the late 1500s. The main purpose of these dogs at the time was to hunt small animals such as badgers and foxes in the rocky Scottish highlands.

An interesting historical note can be made about how the white coat coloration was exclusively bred in West Highland White Terriers. Originally these dogs could range anywhere from red to black or cream to white, however Colonel Edward Donald Malcolm, of Poltalloch, Argyllshire, Scotland is rumored to be responsible for the remarkable transition to a white coat standard. Supposedly after one of his beloved red - colored terriers was shot when mistaken for a fox, he was determined to only have white terriers on the hunt so to make them visible and avoid another accident. These Poltalloch Terriers were actually sandy in color and bred with similar white terriers Pittenweem Terriers (credited to Dr. Americ Edwin Flaxman) and Roseneath Terriers (credited to George Campbell, 8th Duke of Argyll) to achieve the end result of consistent white coat.

They were acknowledged by the AKC in 1908 after arriving in America one year prior and during this time were still called the Roseneath Terrier. In 1909 the name was officially changed to the West Highland White Terrier This breed is now recognized by almost all organizations. Many West Highland White Terrier clubs began coming together shortly thereafter, among the earliest of which is the West Highland White Terrier Club of America. This breed has remained popular into current times.

West Highland White Terrier Appearance

The characteristic white coat of the breed is double-layered. The 2 inch long outer coat is naturally rough and somewhat hard but this is often removed when the adult dogs are groomed. The undercoat is soft and thick, providing a rounded look to the breed- especially the head area The lower jaw is placed so that the lower teeth overlap the upper ones; Westies often suffer from an overgrowth of the lower jaw. This breed always has a black nose, dark almond-shaped eyes set deep into the skull, and pointy ears on top of the head.

Don't let this small dog fool you. The legs, although longer compared to some terriers, are short and strong with the feet pointing outward; as the West Highland Scottish Terrier originated in the rugged, rocky Scottish terrain this was an asset for grip and balance.

West Highland White Terrier Coloring

Although this breed's original coloration included white, cream, red and black, it has been selectively bred to specifically have a white coat. This is ironic considering during the breed's early history white terriers were thought of as "weak" compared to all other colored terriers. The eyes are dark and pads of feet are black.

West Highland White Terrier Size

Overall this is a small sized dog which along with a happy demeanor make it a great travel companion. Compared to other terrier types it is a medium sized terrier that can weigh between 15-20 pounds and have a height of 14-16 inches.

Average Adult Height

14-16 in
*Height is measured in inches from the front paws to the top of the shoulder while the dog is standing on all four legs.

Average Adult Weight

15-20 lbs

West Highland White Terrier Variations

Genetically, the West Highland White Terrier doesn't show much variation from dog to dog. True to its name, Westie hair is always white, and the coat is long, rough, and double-layered (though some groomers prefer to remove the outer coat when the dog matures).

Size is fairly constant as well: 14-16 inches in height, 15-20 pounds in weight. Though the Teacup Westie is both adorable and highly sought-after, it is not a true variant of the breed; in reality, disreputable breeders and puppy mills offer "Mini Westies" or "Toy Westies" for sale simply because of the dogs' appeal, but which have been developed using unethical breeding methods.

West Highland White Terrier Temperament

These dogs are happy, friendly and high energy. Although they look like cute, cuddly lap-dogs they actually have quite a varied personality. West Highland White Terriers are independent so there is a possibility that they may prefer their space. Generally however, they play well with other dogs. Smaller pets may inspire their natural instinct to hunt and treat these animals as prey. They are not patient with rough handling so a family with young children may not make the best companion for these dogs, as children sometimes unintentionally may play too hard with them. Other than that, this dog is a wonderful friend for all other ages. This breed has the loyalty and confidence to be a watchdog and alert (bark) the owner to strangers.

Training is not very easy with this breed even though they are curious and investigative. Since they are independent and confident they can also be stubborn and hard to train, so not only does the owner need plenty of patience but plenty of time as well; training will need to be refreshed frequently. The owner should be completely capable of having authority over such a dog or this will be even more difficult, but once respect is established, communicating should not be as difficult. When bored these dogs may bark and dig.

Due to the small size and happy nature they make good travel dogs. Just make sure to have these dogs on a leash whenever they are outside of a secure area as they love to chase anything small in size. Overall, this is a lively, happy and energetic pet.

West Highland White Terrier and Children

This breed is generally tolerant and playful with children, however, age and behavior of the child should be considered. Sometimes small children tend to play roughly with dogs without intending to and the Westie will not like this. Most children should be supervised with this breed until they are capable of handling the pet with respect and gentle hand.

West Highland White Terrier and Other Pets

Most Westies get along well with other dogs, as they are social and outgoing, and frequently are seen making up games to play with their fellow dog companions. However, with smaller pets they may find it difficult to resist the instinct to treat them as prey since they originated as hunters of small animals. Problems may arise with other dogs, however, if he/she is over possessive of food or toys.

West Highland White Terrier and Strangers

West Highland White Terriers are very self assured and have no trouble being vocal. They are will bark energetically if they need to alert their owners and therefore make good watchdogs. They are likely to be their typical friendly and high-energy selves around new people once they feel the absence of threat.

West Highland White Terrier Photos

Below are pictures of the West Highland White Terrier dog breed.

West Highland White Terrier Running
West Highland White Terrier
West Highland White Terrier
West Highland White Terrier
West Highland White Terrier
West Highland White Terrier
West Highland White Terrier
West Highland White Terrier Dog Breed
White West Highland White Terrier
West Highland White Terrier Lying on Grass

West Highland White Terrier Maintenance

Although the appearance of Westies may suggest otherwise, they are not very high maintenance dogs. Brushing a couple times a week and twice yearly trimming should be sufficient to keep their appearance maintained. Moderate exercise of at least 15-30 minutes per day (more if kept indoors) is suggested since these are playful, high-energy pets. Hunting games will especially maintain their minds and fitness. Training will also need to be upkept, with refreshment of ideas needed throughout the dog's life.

Grooming Requirements

This is a medium maintenance breed. The hard outer coat will grow to about 2 inches long then may be clipped or trimmed off a couple times per year. These dogs should still be brushed at least two times a week. Bathing should be done as necessary and as this breed is prone to skin diseases special care should be taken to check over the body.

Exercise Requirements

This may not be a large breed, but it has plenty of energy as it used to hunt small animals, such as badgers, foxes and rats on farms. At least 15-30 mins of exercise is recommended daily with indoor dogs needing around an hour. Westies love hunting chasing types of play, so they will have no problems chasing balls and sticks. Hunting and finding games are also favorites due to their curious, investigative nature-- but beware they are prone to digging. These dogs will entertain themselves well playing in a yard especially if you give them some toys. When exercising and walking them outside of the yard they should always be leashed as they may decide to chase small animals or burn off some of their high energy and curiosity and leave you behind.

Living Requirements

This breed is known for being high energy, curious and cunning so a large fenced yard is recommended. The fence is needed since you an owner may come outside to find their Westie has run off to chase cats and squirrels. They may still be prone to digging so monitoring your fence is necessary. Westies can be indoor dogs but they will be very active indoors, jumping into your lap or playing games with your other dogs. These dogs are small and good natured enough to travel with the owner just fine.

Temperature Range

Not many guidelines are available for the West Highland White Terrier's temperature tolerance. We can assume that since the breed originated in Scotland it should be adaptable to variety of temperatures, except perhaps very hot and dry climates. In all other areas this breed should be fine both indoors and outdoors.

West Highland White Terrier Health

As an established breed, purebred West Highland White Terriers are prone to several health disorders. Skin abnormalities such as Atopic Dermatitis and Hyperplastic Dermatosis (both can result in hair loss) should be watched for; eye issues such as dry-eye and cataracts should be monitored as well. Ailments of moderate concern are Inflammatory Bowel Disease and Craniomandibular Osteopathy. Craniomandibular Osteopathy is quite common and is the overgrowth of the lower jaw and this condition can cause feeding and swallowing problems. Several other neurological issues such as White Dog Shaker Syndrome and globoid cell leukodystrophy are also not unusual for this breed and can result in tremors, loss of movement control and even paralysis. If the general health of your Westie is monitored he/she may enjoy a lifespan of 12-16 years; this information is varied with some sources reporting an average of 11 years while others say 13 years.

Below is an overview of the most common health issues in Westies:

  • Atopic Dermatitis
  • Cataracts
  • Craniomandibular Osteopathy
  • Globoid Cell Leukodystrophy
  • Hyperplastic Dermatosis
  • Inflammatory Bowel Disease
  • Legg-perthes Disease
  • Patellar Luxation
  • Pulmonary Fibrosis
  • White Dog Shaker Syndrome
  • View all 10...

West Highland White Terrier Breed Recognition

The following dog breed registries and organizations recognize the West Highland White Terrier as a dog breed:

  • American Canine Registry
  • American Kennel Club
  • America's Pet Registry
  • Australian National Kennel Council
  • Canadian Kennel Club
  • Continental Kennel Club
  • Dog Registry of America Inc.
  • Federation Cynologique Internationale
  • Kennel Club of Great Britain
  • National Kennel Club
  • New Zealand Kennel Club
  • North American Purebred Registry, Inc.
  • United Kennel Club
  • American Canine Association, Inc.
  • Club Espanol De Terriers
  • View all 15...