- Activity Level: high
- Grooming Level: moderate
- Trainability: moderate
- Adaptability: high
- Kid/Pet Friendly: sometimes
- Average Size: Small
- Average Lifespan: 12-16 years
- Prey Drive: high
- Watchdog: very alert
- Registered?: aca, akc
West Highland Terrier Breed Profile
The West Highland Terrier, or “Westie”, is an AKC-recognized dog breed. They are energetic, fun-loving dogs that can fit well in an any sized family. This dog breed originated in Scotland when Edward Donald Malcolm began a series of breeding programs prior to the 20th century. Now, the Westie has become one of the most popular dog breeds in the UK and is gaining popularity around the world. Westies have even become the mascot of the dog food brand Cesar. It’s not only popular for its sunny disposition, but also for its adorable face!
The Westie temperament varies greatly from dog to dog. Some are always happy to be around people, while others appreciate peace and quiet. If you decide to adopt a pup, be sure to socialize them early and often. Then, they will be happy on their own as well as with others.
The West Highland Terrier does not tolerate rough handling or horseplay at all. If you have a child or someone that is meeting your dog for the first time, make sure they understand how to handle them. They can also be possessive of their toys and food, if not trained properly. That being said, the West Highland Terrier is highly independent, self-assured, confident, and protective. They are loving and affectionate, and can quickly become your best friend if cared for correctly.
The West Highland Terrier can live virtually anywhere. They live happily in apartments or on large farms. If you live in a warmer climate, you will need to make sure your pup is regularly hydrated. Give them plenty of opportunities throughout the day to stay cool. These dogs have double coats that can lead to quick overheating.
Westies do well with individuals as well as families. If you’re adopting a dog, and have children, you will want to wait until your children are at least the age of seven. At that point, they will be more likely to understand the pup’s needs and will give him space when needed. With that being said, it’s best to give your dog plenty of socialization to avoid aggression.
If not taken care of properly, your West Highland Terrier can fall victim to a variety of ailments. This dog breed can have abdominal hernias, craniomandibular osteopathy, and skin disorders. In particular, they can develop globoid cell leukodystrophy, which causes tremors, muscle weakness, and sometimes trouble walking. Westies can also have “Westie jaw.” This is an ailment that they are genetically predisposed to have, which causes overgrowth of the jaw bone. It can become painful over time and may even need surgery.
The best way to avoid these ailments is plenty of exercise, a healthy diet, and regular trips to the vet. Then, you’ll be able to monitor your dog’s health and prevent many possible issues.
Westies will need plenty of training and patience. They can be stubborn and may question your motives if you are not stern and confident in your commands. If you are a first-time pet owner, you will want to work with a trainer. You may also need regular refresher courses for you and your pup so training will be consistent.
The West Highland Terrier is highly prey-driven and can be rewarded with a game of fetch or tug of war. Be sure to always have a few tennis balls during your training session as well as a bag full of kibble. These dogs are incredibly inquisitive, so you will want to establish limits quickly and concretely. They can become prone to barking and have been known to dig holes if they are left to their own devices. Be sure to work on these behaviors early and often.
Their top coat is rough and wiry, while their undercoat is soft and fluffy. Because of their coat, West Highland Terriers are known to shed. They will need to be brushed three to four times a week and bathed monthly.
A Westie will need plenty of exercise. They are very active and can become hyperactive or aggressive if not given enough exercise. You will need to walk your pup for about an hour every day, and take a trip to the dog park every other day. If able, you should also take them to agility courses at least once a month, if not once a week.
The West Highland Terrier stands 10 to 11 inches tall and weighs 15 to 22 pounds.
Westies generally live 12 to 16 years.
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