West Highland White Terrier Care

The West Highland White Terrier is the definitive terrier breed: lively, intelligent, and sociable. Overall, Westie care takes a moderate amount of work--and this page is your go-to West Highland White Terrier care guide! Here you'll find plenty of details on Westie puppy care, exercise needs, diet and nutrition, and more. For everything you'll need to know about raising a Westie puppy, keep reading!

West Highland White Terrier Exercise Needs

As a terrier breed, West Highland Whites are naturally lively and active, and will need a good amount of daily exercise. Interestingly, dogs of this breed can have two distinct personalities: they'll be laid-back lap dogs when relaxing indoors with their people--but get them outside, and it's off to the races. Westies were originally developed to hunt vermin and other small game, so they're incredibly agile and athletic; this natural agility makes them great competitors in canine sports competitions--and it also requires that they participate in some vigorous physical activity every day. An adult Westie will need 1-1½ hours of daily exercise, ideally made up of two 30-minute leashed walks and a prolonged play session. Westie puppies can begin exercising at about three months of age by going on short (10- to 15-minute) walks, and you can increase the walks' duration as the puppies grow.

Of course, Westie exercise comes with a few precautions. Puppies, for one thing, shouldn't participate in activities that include a lot of running and jumping, as doing so can injure their still-growing bones and joints. And regardless of the dog's age, a Westie will need to be leashed when in public. These dogs have an incredible prey drive (particularly for small critters), so an unleashed Westie will chase a squirrel for hours trying to catch it! For the same reason, exercising a Westie in a yard means the area will need to be securely fenced.

A Westie's energy level can seem boundless, so it's important for them to exercise every day. A bored or restless Westie will be a nightmare: it will bark nonstop, dig excessively (even in the living room carpet!), and turn incredibly disobedient. So a tired Westie will make both the dog's and your life much more pleasant. Some great ideas for Westie exercise:

  • Walking: Two 30-minute walks each day is a good target
  • Fetch: Can be played indoors or out
  • Dog Park: Westies love playing with other dogs
  • Hide and Seek: Great indoor activity on rainy days; give your Westie a treat when the dog finds you
  • Canine Sports: Westies excel at obedience/agility trials, flyball, and other competitions

When indoors, it's a good idea to give a Westie access to one or more balls or chew toys so the dog can expel pent-up energy. It's also recommended that you have a consistent daily exercise routine for your Westie, such as walks in the morning and evening and a play period in the afternoon.

West Highland White Terrier Maintenance

For the West Highland White Terrier, shedding and drooling aren't really a problem. Westie shedding is minimal, and these dogs are great for allergy sufferers; drooling is basically a non-issue.

Westies have double-layered coats, and the shed hairs (which aren't great in number) mostly get trapped beneath the outer coat instead of on your clothes and furniture. This means, though, that a Westie will need brushing 2-3 times per week with a slicker brush to remove the dead hairs and keep the coat sparkling white instead of dull and grayish.

And a Westie may drool a bit in anticipation of food, but almost never otherwise. If your Westie is drooling excessively, it may be a sign of a medical issue, in which case you should consult a veterinarian.

West Highland White Terrier Diet

Like all breeds, Westie diet and nutrition are important to the dog's health and well-being. And it's important that dogs of this breed eat high-quality foods that contain a lot of animal proteins and fats (which most cheap dog foods have very little of). Owners feed their Westies a variety of dog food, from dry kibble to wet/canned to fresh/home-cooked, but perhaps the most popular choice is feeding premium dry food (like Fromm or Royal Canin) to a West Highland White Terrier, specifically food formulated for small breeds. Depending on several factors including age, weight, and activity level, adult Westies need an average of three-fourths of a cup of dry food (600 calories) per day, divided into two meals; growing Westie puppy food portions are slightly less. A six-month-old Westie puppy, for example, will need about half a cup (400 calories) of food daily, divided into three meals. (See the chart below to determine the portion size of food for Westies of different ages.)

It's important to note that for the typical Westie, food allergy prevalence is quite high. Many Westies can develop skin conditions from a lack of fatty acids in their foods; experts recommend either using a food specifically formulated to address food allergies, or including a fatty acid supplement in the Westie's diet plan if the dog shows signs of food allergies. In any case, consult a veterinarian for more info.

West Highland White Terrier Feeding Chart
Dog AgeDog WeightFood TypeAmountFrequency6 Weeks5 lbsDry0.1 cups3x/day3 Months6 lbsDry0.15 cups3x/day6 Months8 lbsDry0.2 cups3x/day9 Months12 lbsDry0.3 cups3x/day12 Months+16 lbsDry0.4 cups2x.day

It's a good idea to try and stick to the above-listed portions, because unfortunately Westies have a high tendency for obesity. And a fat Westie is more likely to have breathing and digestive issues, not to mention a shorter lifespan. The primary cause of obesity in dogs is "free-feeding," whereby food is left in the dog's bowl all day so it can eat anytime it wants. Veterinarians highly recommend only putting a Westie's dish in the feeding area at mealtimes, then picking it up 15-20 minutes after the dog begins eating.

Those who are worried that their Westies are becoming overweight can give their dogs the simple Ribs Test: run a hand along the dog's side, and if you can't feel any ribs, it's diet time. Decrease your Westie's daily food intake by one-fourth, and add an extra walk or play period to its daily exercise schedule.

Living Environment

As social little animals that love the company of their people, West Highlands are definitely indoor dogs. You can let your Westie run in a well-secured yard without problems, but a Westie will be miserable if left in the yard all the time. (Its nonstop barking will probably drive you nuts as well.) And Westies are great apartment dogs if provided with some daily outdoor exercise.

In terms of climate, Westies are moderately tolerant of both hot and cold temperatures. Those living in colder regions may want to own a few Westie dog coats for winter, but these dogs handle weather extremes fairly well overall.

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 Grooming

Read the grooming requirements for West Highland White Terriers including coat care and other maintenance.

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About this Article

Authored by:Dog-Learn
Updated:December 7, 2017