Archived ABA :: The West Highland Terrier

by Michael Santoro

The West Highland White Terrier, more affectionately known as the “Westie”, originated in Poltalloch, Scotland in the 19th century. The breed first came about when a Scottish breeder of the Cairn Terrier discovered some white pups in a litter. For a time, these dogs were simply considered to be white Cairns; then they assumed the name of Poltalloch Terrier and Roseneath Terrier (named after the estate of a Scottish Duke). As time went on, these white dogs were bred completely apart from the Cairn Terriers and became officially recognized as a separate breed.    Max the Westie

Like the Cairn and the other terrier breeds, Westies are spirited, hardy and confident dogs and, as they are smart, they are highly trainable and respond well to leadership. In fact, without proper guidance, these dogs can develop behavior problems such as irritable snapping and hyper-excitability that may lead to biting, so positive, consistent training and leadership are necessary to assure that the Westie achieves his potential as a great family companion. These dogs are very good with children and also make excellent travelers. They enjoy barking and, as such, make great watchdogs. And, because they were originally bred to control mice, rats, badgers and other vermin, digging is naturally part of a Westie’s repertoire, so don’t be surprised to see some divots in your yard!

Recognized by the AKC in 1908, the Westie measures between 9 and 12 inches high and weighs between 15 and 22 pounds, though females are smaller. The overall look is small and sturdy. Their double coat is all white, with a hard outer coat and a soft, dense undercoat to keep them warm in the damp and chilly highlands. Offsetting the bright white coat are the black nose and dark, friendly, almond-shaped eyes. While large, erect ears can lend an intimidating look to some breeds, on the Westie, they only enhance their alert, friendly appearance. Life expectancy is about 15 years.

If you’re worried about keeping that pure white coat clean and presentable, the good news is that Westies don’t require extensive grooming. Regular brushing should keep the coat clean – bathing should only be done when needed. Regular trimming around the eyes and ears can easily be done at home. The entire coat should be trimmed every four months and stripped twice a year.

Their size and adaptability make the Westie a good dog for the city or the country. Like every dog, they need to be walked daily. If you’re in an apartment, a solid play session will help expend his spunky energy, so a backyard is not a must.

For a big personality in a small package with winning looks as well as personality, the Westie may be just the dog for you!