If you are in the market for a new dog or puppy to join your family, one of the most important considerations to bear in mind is if the breed and type of dog that you are considering will both fit in well with your lifestyle, and be happy in a family environment.
The largest consideration of course must be whether or not the dog in question will be good with children and safe to keep around them without a problem, but you should also bear in mind if the dog will actively enjoy living with kids, rather than just tolerating them.
One of the most popular small dog breeds for owners of all ages is the West Highland Terrier, and as these perky, lively little dogs are renowned for having happy, alert personalities, they are often considered by families looking for a smaller dog. So, is the West Highland Terrier or “Westie” a good fit for families with children? Read on to find out more.
The Westie was traditionally used as many terriers were as a hunting dog, despite their friendly and cute appearance! This means that they can be headstrong, obsessed when they get going and very single minded, but as with many terrier and hunting dog breeds, their natural alertness and high activity levels means that they are also great fun to play with and very entertaining!
They are also loyal dogs that like to spend a lot of time with the family, which is great if you are happy to include the dog in most aspects of family life, but otherwise, can leave the dog feeling rather left out. They also have a slight tendency to become unruly if not correctly trained and managed, and are always keen to get their own way, something that children often don’t help with!
The interactions between the Westie and younger children (under the age of around eight) will largely depend on the temperament of the dog, and of course, the children too! Because younger children are unlikely to know how to appropriately handle and talk to the dog, and may be boisterous, noisy and always on the move, you should carefully consider whether or not a Westie and younger children is a good fit.
Unpredictable behaviour, sudden movements and leaping about and not having their personal space respected are all things that Westies tend to shy away from, so potentially, a West Highland Terrier is not the best choice of small dog for a household with young children, although there are of course exceptions!
West Highland Terriers stand a much better chance of getting on well with older children, such as those over ten or mature children from the age of eight onwards, than they do with smaller, more unpredictable children.
Older children should have learned the basics of interaction with dogs by that age, including how to pat and touch them, how to read the signs and signals that the dog is giving off, and when to leave the dog alone and in peace!
Older children are at around the right age and stage to be able to interact well with the Westie, and the dog and the children will undoubtedly find a lot in common in terms of things that they enjoy, such as walking, playing in the garden, being outdoors and taking part in games of all kinds.
If you actively involve your older child in the care of your dog, you will find that they will form a close bond, and will generally live happily side by side together too.
Of course, many families consist of more than one child, with a significant amount of age variation between the oldest and the youngest! These households are usually always on the go, with lots of activity, visiting friends and other comings and goings. If introduced to everyday family life when still young, the average Westie stands a good chance of learning to thrive within this environment, and actively taking part in every aspect of family life, assuming that their training and socialisation is not neglected.
However, much as is the case when keeping a Westie with young children, a busy, tumultuous living environment can prove stressful to dogs that are not used to that type of living situation, leading to potential bad behaviour, unruliness and even snappiness.
It is certainly fair to say though that even within one individual breed of dog, every dog of that type will be different, and there is no one size fits all rule that should dictate to you for definite whether or not a Westie is the dog for you. Take into account the history, temperament and personality of the individual dog and your family situation, and make an informed decision accordingly.
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