If you want a family dog that likes to be active, the West Highland Terrier is the right choice. But an animal must also be managed responsibly and kept in a species-appropriate manner. The breed portrait reveals what needs the West Highland Terrier has and what future owners have to consider with this dog breed.
The West Highland Terrier belongs to the FCI group 3 of the mini dog breeds. He is assigned to Section 2.
West Highland White Terrier dog breed
FCI Group: 3: Terriers
Section: 2: Short Legged Terriers
Country of origin: Great Britain
Life expectancy: 12-16 years
Suitable as: Companion and family dog
Personality: Active, Hardy, Attentive, Friendly, Independent, Brave
Exercise requirements: rather high
Drooling potential: low
The thickness of hair: rather high
Maintenance effort: medium
Coat structure: long, harsh topcoat and furry, short, soft, and dense undercoat
Child-friendly: rather yes
Family dog: yes
Origin and breed history
The West Highland Terrier comes from the gene pool of the ancient terrier dog breed of Scotland. The little terrier protected the farm’s poultry from foxes and martens. He also hunted otters. The courageous four-legged friend does not shy away from his well-fortified opponents. As a hunting dog, the cute-looking animal displayed a contrasting boldness, fearlessness, and resolute determination. In addition, he also proved himself to be good at keeping mice and rats small.
The hunting method of the self-confident animal was not limited to just a short chase and a mere growl. The four-legged hunter always doggedly pursued them. He vehemently did not give up blasting the animals that threatened house and yard out of the burrow.
With the targeted breeding separation, four short-legged dog breeds emerged from the group of Scottish terriers. In addition to the West Highland White Terrier (originally the Poltalloch Terrier), the Cairn Terrier, the Scottish and the Skye Terrier are also included. Most notably, this genetic separation produced the pure white color of the West Highland Terrier. The white color is not just for differentiation. It is the result of the selection of traits of pure appearance that show breeding is after.
Official recognition by the British Kennel Club took place in 1907. The German Terrier Club, founded in 1894, represents the West Highland White Terrier significantly today. About 700 puppies fall into the Verband für das Deutschen Hundewesen (VDH) every year.
For a long time, the West Highland Terrier remained unknown in Germany. This changed abruptly with the use of advertising media. Since 1990, advertising has been using the fun-loving and smart white terrier to spread relevant advertising messages around the world. Since then, everyone has known the dog food brand Cesar and thus also the appearance of the sweet-looking dog. The demand for the dog from television soared that it was almost impossible to satisfy it. Unfortunately, since then there have also been many dubious West Highland White Terrier breeders who wanted to take advantage of this. This form of dubiousness persists to this day.
What does a Westie look like?
The West Highland Terrier breed of dogs is often seen in white and black colors. He has button eyes and weatherproof fur.
Nature and temperament of the West Highland Terrier
On the one hand, the building hunter who originally acted has a tendency to overestimate himself. On the other hand, he has a friendly personality. The self-confident and brave little fellow knows how to cleverly use these contrasting character traits in an intelligent interplay. But he doesn’t take advantage of mistress and master. As a loyal companion dog today, he knows what he is allowed to do and when he is not allowed to do something. The basic prerequisite is, of course, always a good education of the dog.
The West Highland Terrier is also a very affectionate and affectionate friend of humans. But the instinct of the small hunting and guard dog ensures a constantly energetic appearance, which makes the dog as a lap dog impossible. Therefore, anyone who thinks that they can hold the dog on their lap with exaggerated caresses is mistaken. The lively four-legged friend also likes to be pampered from time to time. His nature needs more than that though.
Many interested parties mistakenly initially assume that the dog could be a barker. A thought that is often expressed in relation to all mini dog breeds. The tendency to bark frequently may be natural to some dogs, but the constant barking behavior is also a result of fault training. The West Highland Terrier usually shows no tendency towards such behavior. Despite his origins, he is not considered nervous or frantic, but alert and controlled. With an additional good upbringing, the animal behaves absolutely exemplary.
The dog is also calm towards strangers. Children within and outside the family need not be afraid of the dog. The character of the animal is neither prone to rebuke nor does it react harshly to the clumsy movements of small children.
The appearance of the West Highland Terrier
The West Highland White Terrier can always be recognized by its cute appearance. One of the smaller dog breeds, it averages around 9-12 inches tall, with males usually being slightly larger than females. Depending on the size, the weight is between six and ten kilos. As the name suggests, they mainly come with white fur. But what many do not know: There are also some rare black West Highland White Terriers.
West Highland White Terriers are characterized by a very friendly-looking face with ears that are always pricked, which makes the dog appear very attentive. The dark beady eyes also give the dog a friendly expression.
How big does a West Highland Terrier get?
The West Highland Terrier reaches a height at the withers of up to 28 cm.
Upbringing & husbandry of the West Highland Terrier – this is important to note
The dog is well suited for beginners. Nevertheless, the future dog owner with novice status should not forget that the animal is an old Scottish terrier with a pronounced hunting instinct. He has learned to hunt and guard and is therefore endowed with a lot of self-confidence. Anyone who is still inexperienced should first acquire the necessary knowledge and deal with educational techniques. In combination with a dog school, the upbringing may be successful.
Training the West Highland Terrier should begin as a puppy. She must be consistent and loving. The willingness, docility and friendliness towards the cooperation between man and dog can thus be consolidated. However, the eye of the educator should not be deceived by the cute appearance and become careless in the upbringing. The clever guy knows how to take advantage of that quite quickly.
The little bundle of energy also comes into consideration for dog lovers who live in an apartment and not in a house with a garden. The animal has no demands on the size of the premises. The creature is extremely adaptable. Therefore, it can also be happy in a smaller apartment. If the dog should grow up in a city or big city, trips to nature would be good. A nearby park or a trip to the forest are always the right choice.
Diet of the West Highland Terrier
Like all other dog breeds, the West Highland Terrier requires dog food with a high meat content. It doesn’t matter whether you choose wet or dry food. Ideally, the dog’s diet should not contain any grains. Meat should always be at the top of the list of ingredients in dog food.
If the new dog owner wants to make his Westie happy, he will provide the right puppy food when the dog is still a puppy. However, because the animal also gets older over time, he has to change the food. Switching to a different food should be done step by step. The new feed is gradually added to the old one. If the food is changed too quickly, intolerance and diarrhea can result.
As a young dog, the Westi gets four meals a day. In adulthood, two meals a day are enough. Treats are allowed as long as the Westie friend keeps weight and dental health in mind.
Health – life expectancy & common diseases
The West Highland Terrier has a life expectancy of 15 years. The prerequisite for a long life is species-appropriate husbandry and a healthy diet. Nevertheless, the long life expectancy can be affected by emerging diseases. Fashion dogs in particular are confronted with diseases. The West Highland Terrier is also affected by this. Illnesses are not to be expected in every case. But there are inherited impairments:
- skin allergies
- malformations of the jaw
- Patellar luxation and other possible joint diseases
- Krabbe disease resulting in neurological damage
Anyone interested should ask a reputable breeder about these diseases and, if necessary, have a genetic test shown that can at least rule out Krabbe disease.
The dog also tends to be overweight. If he doesn’t get the physical exercise he needs, the animal consumes less. If fed consistently, this can add more weight to the scales. The portioning of the dog food should therefore be constantly adjusted as soon as something changes in the individual nutritional factors. These are:
- health activity
There is no need to do without treats if this remains an exceptional case. If the Westie fan wants to reward his little friend, it doesn’t always have to be in the form of food. The dog also perceives stroking or verbal praise as a reward.
If you go for a walk with the West Highland Terrier, you don’t have to worry about the cold and rain. The animal is adequately protected from the cold by its undercoat. The Scottish terrier is originally used to the bad weather of his home country. However, because the animal tends to be sensitive to heat, it should always have a shady spot in summer.
How old do West Highland Terriers get?
In good health, they can even reach 16 years.
Grooming the West Highland Terrier
In the summer, caring for the West Highland Terrier is not as complex as it is when it is rainy and dingy. When it comes to wetness, the Westie’s coat tends to be a tan in color. If you want the West Highland White Terrier’s coat to be nice and white all year round, you should brush it every day. That requires a lot of discipline. This should not be forgotten, otherwise tangles will occur. It is best for the Westie owner to start with the grooming units when they are puppies. Then the animal can get used to the procedure early on.
The dog’s top coat also takes some work because it doesn’t fall out by itself. It should be trimmed every ten to twelve weeks. There are special trimmers that remove the loose hair. It is important to thin out the thick hair. If the top coat is only shortened and not thinned out, skin problems can arise. However, after trimming, the hair can also be shortened with scissors in some places. If the care is done by experienced hands, the care is unproblematic. Otherwise, it is also possible to visit a dog groomer every two to three months. When properly cared for, dogs of this breed do not shed at all.
The little darling rarely has to go into the bathtub. If the dirt is too stubborn in the coat, a gentle dog shampoo should be used.
Dental care is done with a dog toothbrush and toothpaste for dogs.
West Highland Terrier Activities and Training
The West Highland Terrier is not particularly demanding when it comes to certain sporting activities. Nevertheless, he enjoys many activities that involve a lot of exercise. Although he is small, he can keep up very well with jogging, cycling or walking. After all, the dog was originally a hunting dog. In terms of condition, the active dog lover can rely on the genes of his Westies. The endurance of the bundle of energy is remarkable.
Although the animal is agile, it does not need dog sports. Nevertheless, an additional selected dog sport such as agility can give the dog great pleasure. Both humans and animals have advantages here because they work in a team and thus strengthen the bond with one another.
Advantages of active exercise with or without dog sports at a glance:
- Humans and dogs are happy
- strengthening the bond
- Fewer unwanted behaviors
- promotion of intelligence
Sufficiently exercised Westies are fit and become disease resistant.
Good to know: Special features of the West Highland Terrier breed
In the 1990s, the West Highland White Terrier became well-known through advertising. With the dog food brand “Cesar”, the breed was one of the most popular and most sought-after dogs overnight. The West Highland Terrier became more or less a media star.
How Many Puppies Does a Westie Have?
The West Highland Terrier can have up to six puppies.
Disadvantages of the West Highland Terrier
Hereditary diseases can have a detrimental effect on the dog’s health. Before buying, the buyer should find out about any typical diseases.
Dog lovers can also perceive the additional effort involved in grooming as a disadvantage if the discipline is not there after daily grooming. After all, the fur of the likeable four-legged friend should be brushed every day. The top coat should be trimmed and not just thinned out to avoid skin problems. Daily brush care should also start from puppyhood.
It should not be forgotten that daily care also means being close to the animal. The Westie is happy if you take care of it lovingly as part of a grooming. This also strengthens the bond between man and dog.
Is the West Highland Terrier right for me?
The West Highland Terrier is a peaceful, smart and agile animal that enjoys exercise. Although he is a great companion dog, the interested person should not count on a lap dog. The West Highland Terrier also likes to be spoiled. Happy hours on the couch with mistress or master – he doesn’t do that.
He loves to play with children and is therefore also ideal as a family dog. In a family, the animal has a guarantee of sufficient exercise. Because children like to run around just as much as the little Westie, mum and dad don’t have to worry. In addition, the animal also learns to deal with the clumsiness of children and toddlers and to forgive them. Nevertheless, the methods of training the dog should also be clear to the older children.
The dog is also ideal for seniors. Although he is originally a hunting dog, he does not have such an enormous urge to move as other dog breeds with hunting instincts. Seniors do not have to practice a dog sport with their dog in order to exercise them sufficiently. A long walk, a wide area to let off steam or a beautiful park are all the West Highland Terrier needs. Active seniors who still go jogging or enjoy cycling can easily count on the Westie for these activities.
The dog has no space requirements. He is also in good hands in an apartment. Before buying, the interested party should consider whether he has the discipline for the necessary grooming.
How much does a West Highland Terrier cost?
A healthy puppy costs around $1000.