Key Breed Facts
Intelligence / Trainability
Children and Other Pets
Caring for a West Highland Terrier
Average Cost to keep/care for a West Highland Terrier
The West Highland White Terrier or Westie as they are affectionately known, has consistently been one of the most popular breeds and for very good reason. Not only are they adorably cute, but they boast happy, fun-loving and outgoing personalities too. In short, they are the perfect choice either as a family pet or companion dog. Westies are also one of the more popular breeds in the show ring and have been for decades. They are intelligent little dogs and love to please which means training a Westie is easy. They are known to get on well with children and love nothing more than to be part of a family, but care has to be taken when a Westie is around smaller animals and pets because they are terriers and their instinct to hunt remains very strong.
Records of West Highland White Terriers can be traced back to the 15th century when they were first bred to hunt vermin, foxes and otters. The breed shares its ancestry with other well-known Scottish dogs namely the Dandie Dinmont, the Cairn Terrier and the Scottie. The breed was created by taking any white puppies from a litter and selectively breeding from them. These dogs were to form the foundation stock of the Westie that’s known and loved today.
There are records that date back to James I that show the King of England asking for a number of these "little white earth dogges" to be sent to him from kennels situated in Argyleshire. It is thought these "dogges" were Westies. There are people who believe that Col Malcolm of Potalloch was responsible for developing white terriers after he accidentally shot one of his favourite brown coloured dogs when he was out hunting. However, at that time the breed was known as Poltalloch Terriers.
Other similar white terriers were bred by the Duke of Argyleshire during the 19th century and his dogs were called Roseneath after the estate on which they were bred. As such, these Westies were called Roseneath Terriers back in the day. The first time the white terriers were exhibited was late in the 1800's, but at the time they were known as White Scottish Terriers. It was not until 1904 that the breed was finally classified as West Highland White Terriers and they were recognised as a unique breed by The Kennel Club.
Today, the Westie remains one of the most popular choices as a family pet or companion dog and they are always a great hit both with judges and spectators in the show ring thanks to their adorable looks and they gay, happy and outgoing personalities.
Height at the withers: Males 25 - 28 cm, Females 25 - 28 cm
Average Weight: Males 6.8 - 9.1 kg, Females 6.8 - 9.1 kg
Westies are small, compact white dogs that boast a very endearing look about them thanks to their lovely dark eyes and large, black noses. Although small in stature, the Westie is a robust and powerful little dog that boasts a slightly domed head that's well covered with hair. They have a very distinct stop accentuated by their dark eyes which are nicely set and their strong, level jaws. Their eyes are set widely apart and are medium in size being as dark as possible with dogs boasting heavy eyebrows which adds to their endearing looks. Westies have a very alert and intelligent look in their eyes which is typical of the breed.
Their ears are small which dogs carry upright and they have sharp, well-defined tips to them and are covered in smooth, short hair. Their mouths are strong with dogs having a regular scissor bite where their upper teeth neatly overlap their lower ones. Their neck is long and muscular which dogs carry proudly being thicker at the base where it merges into the shoulders which slope nicely backwards. Front legs are short and well-muscled being covered in short, thick and hard hair.
A Westie's body is compact with dogs having nice level backs and strong, broad loins. Chests are deep with well arched ribs at the front. Their hindquarters are muscular and strong being broad with short, muscular, sinewy back legs with nicely muscled thighs. A Westie's front feet are larger than their back ones and dogs boast having thick pads with all four feet being well covered in short hair and black nails. Their tails are covered in hair without any feathering which dogs carry as straight as possible.
When it comes to their coat, a Westie boasts a harsher outer coat without any curl in it while the undercoat is more like fur being short, soft and close. The accepted colour for a Westie is a pure white.
The Westie is not only one of the cutest terriers around, but they boast having wonderful personalities too. They are the perfect choice for first time owners because these little white dogs like nothing more than to please. This paired to their intelligence means they are easy to train.
Westies are known to be outgoing, affectionate albeit "naughty" characters, but they form incredibly strong bonds with their owners which in short, means they are wonderful watch dogs and soon let their owners know when they are any strangers about. They are really not aware of their small size which means they will take on the world if they feel they have to and this includes larger dogs.
With this said, they can at times have a little bit of a stubborn streak in them which is why their training and education has to start as early as possible or a dog might grow up to be a more dominant character which is something that needs to be avoided at all costs. Westie puppies need to be well socialised from a young age which means introducing them to as many new people, situations and other animals as soon as they have been fully vaccinated for them to grow up to be well-rounded mature dogs.
Once a West Highland White Terrier has formed a strong bond with an owner they remain totally devoted and loyal to their masters for the rest of their lives which is why they have consistently been such a popular choice as companion dogs and family pets for such a very long time not only here in the UK but elsewhere in the world too.
Westies are known to be intelligent and they do like to please. However, they have a bit of mischievous side to their nature which means that their training and education has to start as early as possible and it has to be consistent in order to get the best results. As previously mentioned, Westie puppies need to be well socialised from a young age for them to be well-rounded mature dogs or they might grow up to be more dominant characters which makes them harder to train.
They respond well to positive reinforcement training methods, but do not accept any sort of rough handling or tough correction which would have an adverse effect on the outcome of their training. It's also important not to "overdo" the treats when training a Westie because they are liable to put on too much weight and this could have a serious impact on their overall health and wellbeing, shortening a dog’s life span considerably.
Westies are known to be excellent around children loving nothing more than to play games with them. However, as with any other breed any interaction between a dog and the kids needs to be supervised by an adult to make sure playtime does not get too boisterous.
They will get on with other dogs as long as they have been well socialised from a young age. However, when it comes to cats unless they grow up together, it would be unwise to trust a Westie when they are around a feline counterpart. With this said, the instinct to "chase" is very strong and even if a Westie has grown up with a cat, they are still liable to chase them when the mood takes them just for the fun of it. Care has to be taken when a Westie is around any smaller pets and it would not be wise to leave one alone anywhere near them because it could end up being disastrous.
For further advice please read our article on Keeping Children Safe around Dogs.
The average life expectancy of a Westie is between 12 and 16 years when properly cared for and fed an appropriate good quality diet to suit their ages.
Like so many other breeds, the Westie is known to suffer from a few hereditary health issues which are worth knowing about if you are planning share your home with one of these active and good looking dogs. The conditions that seem to affect the breed the most include the following:
As with any other breed, Westies need to be groomed on a regular basis to make sure their coats and skin are kept in top condition. They also need to be given regular daily exercise to ensure they remain fit and healthy. On top of this, dogs need to be fed good quality food that meets all their nutritional needs throughout their lives.
Westies are high maintenance when it comes to keeping their coats tidy and their skin in good condition. They boast thick double coats with a lot of feathering around their legs and on their bellies which if not groomed on a regular basis tends to matt up very quickly because the hair grows so long. As such, these adorable white dogs should be brushed every day and trimmed when necessary.
They also need to be professionally groomed on a frequent basis which ideally should be every 8 - 12 weeks so their coats can be clipped and shaped correctly which makes keeping on top of things that much easier in between visits to a grooming parlour. As with other breeds, Westies shed more during the Spring and then again in the Autumn which is when more frequent brushing is necessary to get rid of any shed and dead hair.
It's also a very good idea to check a Westie ears regularly because infections once they flare up can be notoriously hard to treat. In short, prevention is a lot easier than cure when it comes to ear infections.
Westies are energetic little dogs that like nothing better than to be kept busy both physically and mentally. This means giving a dog a good hour's exercise every day and ideally this should be a shorter walk in the morning followed by a much longer and more interesting one in the afternoon.
These little dogs like to run free off the lead as often as possible as long as it is in a safe environment. With this in mind, Westies love nothing more than to be run around a back garden so they can really let off steam. However, the fencing has to be very secure to keep these little terriers in because if they find any weakness in a fence, they will get out and go off exploring the surrounding area which is just what terriers enjoy doing.
With this said, young Westie puppies should not be given too much exercise because their joints and bones are still growing and too much pressure on them could result in causing a dog a few problems later on in their lives.
If you get a Westie puppy from a breeder, they would give you a feeding schedule and it's important to stick to the same routine, feeding the same puppy food to avoid any tummy upsets. You can change a puppy's diet, but this needs to be done very gradually always making sure they don't develop any digestive upsets and if they do, it's best to put them back on their original diet and to discuss things with the vet before attempting to change it again.
Older dogs are not known to be fussy or finicky eaters, but this does not mean you can feed them a lower quality diet. It's best to feed a mature dog twice a day, once in the morning and then again in the evening, making sure it's good quality food that meets all their nutritional requirements. It's also important that dogs be given the right amount of exercise so they burn off any excess calories or they might gain too much weight which can lead to all sorts of health issues. Obesity can shorten a dog's life by several years so it's important to keep an eye on their waistline from the word go.
If you are looking to buy a Westie, you would need to pay anything from £300 to over £900 for a well-bred pedigree puppy. The cost of insuring a male 3-year-old Westie in northern England would be £18.20 a month for basic cover but for a lifetime policy, this would set you back £41.22 a month (quote as of April 2016). When insurance companies calculate a pet's premium, they factor in several things which includes where you live in the UK and a dog's age and whether or not they have been neutered or spayed.
When it comes to food costs, you need to buy the best quality food whether wet or dry, to feed your dog throughout their lives making sure it suits the different stages of their lives. This would set you back between £20 - £30 a month. On top of all of this, you would need to factor in veterinary costs if you want to share your home with a Westie and this includes their initial vaccinations, their annual boosters, the cost of neutering or spaying your dog when the time is right and their yearly health checks, all of which quickly adds up to over a £800 a year.
As a rough guide, the average cost to keep and care for a West Highland White Terrier would be between £50 to £80 a month depending on the level of insurance cover you opt to buy for your dog, but this does not include the initial cost of buying a pedigree Westie puppy.
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