Westie Dog Breed: What You Need to Know


Known by its many fans as the Westie, the West Highland White Terrier is the type of dog that makes a wonderful pet. Small, friendly, adaptable and very child-friendly, this little dog makes a wonderful watchdog and it doesn’t even shed much to boot. What’s not to love about this small breed? We don’t think there is much not worth loving about the Westie, but we do think that it is the type of dog that you should get to know before you commit to it. All dogs make wonderful pets, but not all dogs make wonderful pets for all families and not all families need certain dogs in their lives. Before you decide based on its sweet face that the Westie is a darling dog that’s just right for you, get to know this dog. It’s worth it.

Personality and Temperament

The Westie is a darling dog that has a lot of life. It’s fun and it’s very loving, and it has a lot of affection for its family. Additionally, he’s a bit stubborn. This is a dog that doesn’t get itself into trouble, but it’s also not a dog that walks away from it if it finds him. The Westie is a dog that has every potential of being an easy to train dog, but it’s not one that wants to train. When it’s in the mood, it’s a great dog as far as learning and training are concerned. Otherwise, it’s not into it.

Though the Westie is a small dog, it’s not a lap dog by any means. He sure does love people, but he has no desire to hang out in their laps just enjoying the day as it goes on. Instead, he would much rather be playing and having a good time, and he loves to watch out for those who are coming to the door, driving by, flying by or just playing in their yard – whether it’s a small animal or another person. They’re great watchdogs. The Westie needs to be stimulated as often as possible since he is so active in his everyday life. It’s a good idea to go ahead and make sure he has something to keep him busy. He’s a naturally busy dog who loves to have games, challenges and sports to play so that he is able to channel his inner terrier and get busy. He’s good with kids, but he can be a little bit too active for those who want to have a dog that loves to relax and be a lap dog.

It takes a strong owner with a very consistent discipline to handle a dog like the Westie, which can be a bit overwhelming if you have never owned a dog in the past. This is not a breed for a newbie, despite the fact that he is small and rather unobtrusive from the looks of him. He’s a sweet dog, but he also has plenty of moments in which you will find him infuriating.

Lifestyle and Expectation

One thing that we always encourage potential dog owners to look into is what they can expect when they bring home a particular dog breed, and the Westie is no exception to that rule. This is a dog that, unfortunately, suffers from many health issues that are very breed-specific. Though this is not a problem for many, there are some families who cannot afford a dog that needs excessive medical care from the vet, or who want a dog that might get sick on them. Westies are very prone to allergies that affect their skin, knee caps that pop out of their positions, hip and join disease, dry eyes, Addison’s disease and many more issues that can affect their overall health such as the following:

  • Pulmonary fibrosis
  • White shaker dog syndrome
  • Craniomandibular osteopathy
  • Juvenile cataracts
  • Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis
  • Transitional cell carcinoma

These are dogs that need to see the vet quite often, and they are not dogs that are always able to escape these awful diseases. However, when you find a healthy Westie, you’re going to have him around for something like 20 years. He might weigh as much as 22 pounds, and he might stand around 11 inches tall. He’s not a large dog, but he is a dog that does have a little size if he eats too much. He needs ample exercise and prefers to live in a larger home with space to run and play, especially in the yard. He’s adaptable, but only if he has plenty of time outside to work his energy and run around.

Breed History

The Westie is a dog that’s been around for a while. These Scottish dogs are dogs that go back to the mid-1860s. They have a fun story – well, a sad story that’s kind of fun now to think about. When a particular breeder back in the mid 1800s bred the Westie, he bred them in all different colors. When one of his reddish colored Westies was killed by someone who mistook the dog for a fox, the breeder decided he would then only breed white Westies so that they would never be mistaken for dangerous animals again. It’s been said that it was at that point the dogs were turned white and other colors were not permitted.

It’s one of the most popular dogs in the world, according to the American Kennel Club, though it’s dropped four spots in the past few years. Westies are very active small dogs and that does not always work for families. People either want large watchdogs or small lap dogs, and the Westie is only half of each. For that reason and the fact that the Westie is considered a loud and barking dog, many people have decided to go with other breeds that more carefully fit into the mold they are searching for. Do not discount the Westie, however, as being less than stellar to have at home. It’s cute, it’s affectionate and it’s a lot of fun.

Photo by Getty Images

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