Meet the Breed: West Highland White Terrier

The West Highland White Terrier is a lively, popular pup that has a winning personality and adorable look. This smart terrier is favored both here in the U.S. and in Britain. This playful pup might be a good choice for an active family looking for another member who won’t want to be left behind! This devoted, happy and faithful dog does, in fact, make a wonderful travel companion due to its small size.


  • Height: 10″-11″ at the shoulder or 14″-16″ total
  • Weight: 15-20 pounds
  • Historical Function: Hunting companions and vermin controllers
  • Modern Function: Companion
  • AKC Classification: Terrier

Physical Characteristics: The West Highland White Terrier, also commonly known as the Westie, is a small yet sturdy dog. They have a striking white double coat, and dark, wide-set expressive eyes. The ears are upright, coming to a point. They were bred with a sturdy tail to enable a handler to retrieve the dog when stuck in a vermin hole.

History of the Breed: The Westie is from Scottish origins, resembling similar terriers of the area. They were primarily developed from the Cairn Terrier. They were bred to be “earth dogs” that would dig after “vermin” such as rats, rabbits, and even badgers. Legend has it that after a reddish terrier was mistaken for a fox and shot, that the white version became prized as a way to differentiate them in the field.

Temperament: Westies are friendly, outgoing, and are very strong willed, so calm, confident leadership is required with this breed. They are smart, and trainable, but being prone to stubbornness, lessons may need to be repeated. Because of their high prey drive, they are highly motivated by play, especially with fetch. This breed possesses a large amount of spirited spunk, determination and devotion stuffed into a compact little body!

  • Best suited for: families with older children, active senior citizens.
  • Preferred living conditions: They love to have a yard but can adapt to an apartment if given plenty of exercise through play and walks. They are very social and intelligent, and they very much want to be with their people.

Care and Health: Westies may be prone to skin problems, including sunburn on their ear tips. Another issue that has been occasionally observed is an overcalcification of the jaw that can cause pain, drooling, and difficulty eating. It most commonly appears between the ages of 3 and 8 months. It can be treated with anti-inflammatories in most cases.

  • Grooming Requirements: Westies don’t shed very much, but they require regular brushing and visits to the groomer for a stripping twice yearly.
  • Exercise needs: Westies will find their own methods of staying active, even if you don’t. These active dogs love to play and prefer a daily walk.
  • Life Expectancy: 12-15 years
  • Health Concerns: Generally healthy, but can be prone to hernias, liver disease, hip problems, jawbone calcification and skin problems.

Breed Club Links: West Highland White Terrier Club of America.

BaxterBoo Perfect Pairings: Busy Buddy Bouncy Bone Chew Toy, Ultra Premium White Coat Pet Shampoo by FURminator

West Highland White Terrier photo courtesy of Rowena.

Have any great stories about a Westie to Share?

4 thoughts on “Meet the Breed: West Highland White Terrier

  1. Pingback: Meet the Breed: West Highland WhiteTerrier | BaxterBoo Blog | West Highland Terriers

  2. We own a Westie named Andy and he is 11 1/2 years old. His temperment is wonderful and he is the most loving guy but can be stubborn. I love the breed and he is at home with his Scottish Terriers and a Cairn terrier. Andy has a wonderful personality as all Westies do.

  3. I just read the blog on the chihuahua last week, as we inherited one when my mother passed last January. Tipper is 13 years old, and still runs about like a pup, he had been with her for his whole life, so it has been very difficult for him. I had a long-hair chihuahua as a kid, so I remembered from then, the manner of the breed. The article was well written and informative, thank you ……….

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