Breed Introduction: West Highland White Terrier

Better known as Westies locally!

West Highland White Terrier Breed Introduction

This particular breed is friendly and happy, with a lively nature that endears him to everyone. Originally developed for hunting and ratting, the Westie learned to think on his own, a trait he still enjoys indulging in today! The Westie’s instinct to work is now usually channelled into agility and obedience competitions rather than getting rid of rodents. He also works as a therapy dog, and a few Westies have even joined search-and-rescue teams. He is also known to compete in earth dog tests, tracking, and flyball.

The Westie is happy in any type of living situation and will do well in the country or in the city. He needs to live inside with his family, however, not outside. He makes an excellent apartment resident if properly exercised and trained not to bark. He’s happy to stay at home while you are at work and— with proper stimulation and safety precautions — he is fine on his own during your workday. To top it off, he is also an easy traveler, whether on long vacations or short errands.

Breed Origin

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The West Highland white terrier originated in Scotland and was used for hunting fox, badger, and otter and for killing vermin such as rats.

There is not much evidence to determine the exact history of the West Highland white terrier, but many believe that the breed can be traced back to the seventeenth century and a small breed of earth dogs that James I of Argyll shire gave to the king of France. According to breed lore, the Westie’s white colour resulted from a tragic nineteenth-century accident that occurred while Colonel Malcolm of Poltalloch was hunting fox. The colonel accidentally shot and killed one of his wheaten-coloured Cairns. Devastated, and determined to prevent such accidents in the future, he decided to only breed white dogs that cannot be confused with foxes.

The West Highland white terrier has been known by many names, including the Poltalloch Terrier and the Roseneath Terrier, but he was officially recognized by the Kennel Club of England as the West Highland white terrier in 1906.

Breed Characteristics

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The West Highland White Terrier is a sturdy little dog with a deep chest and a slightly rectangular shape. Males are about 11 inches tall and typically weigh 15 to 22 pounds; females are roughly 10 inches tall and weigh 13 to 16 pounds

A Westie can have terrier traits (no surprise there). He will dig, bark, and go after vermin. But with proper dog training, he can be trained to only bark once and to not dig at all, although some dogs are less easily discouraged than others. The vermin chasing, however, is hardwired, and no amount of training will alter it.

A Westie does well in multi dog homes, unless there is more than one intact male. He can get used to cats. He cannot adapt to small pets, such as rabbits and birds, because of his strong prey drive.

He is generally easy to train if it’s done in a positive and consistent way. Bear in mind that a Westie has a strong will and great self-esteem, which can cause some training difficulties if training becomes boring or is too harsh.

His coat is easy to groom and only requires regular brushing. If he is not clipped, his coat requires stripping about twice a year.

The breed is a low shedder.

Although he doesn’t require as much exercise as other breeds, the Westie still needs one or two daily walks or play sessions. He generally has a low energy level inside the house, though individual dogs vary in this regard.

A Westie is adaptable and will do well in any type of dwelling, including apartments.

He’s a social dog who gets along well with everyone. He likes children of every age, but he’s better suited to homes with older children.

Update: October 2, 2017.

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