West Highland white terriers are known for their outstanding white coats, compact bodies and spunky personalities. These sturdy little dogs make wonderful, loyal companions. Westies originated in the rocky regions of Scotland where they were bred to hunt badgers, foxes and other vermin. The determination required to successfully hunt such prey is still evident in the breed today.
Westies are small dogs, but they possess larger-than-life personalities. Although they are bold, strong-willed, independent and naturally persistent, Westies are usually friendlier and easier to handle than other terrier breeds. They possess affectionate, friendly and happy natures, and their lighthearted, amusing antics have won many an owner's heart. West Highland white terriers are very quick to bark at every new sight or sound, which makes them excellent watchdogs. They can be quite possessive of their toys or food, and are determined little diggers. If you are an avid gardener, consider giving your Westie a restricted area to "help" you dig up.
West Highland white terriers love people and usually make affectionate additions to any family. They are great with considerate children, but have little patience for small children who pull their tails, tug their ears or try teasing them. These extremely devoted dogs belong in homes where they are allowed to participate fully in family activities. Once Westies have sounded the alarm about visitors, they generally welcome people inside their domains with wagging tails. Westies are often bossy with other family dogs of the same sex, but typically coexist more peacefully with other family pets than other types of terriers do. However, their strong prey drive means it's not a good idea to adopt a pet gerbil, hamster, rabbit, bird or ferret if you have a Westie in your home.
They might look like cute and cuddly lapdogs, but West Highland white terriers actually possess high energy levels, so you likely won't be able to hold your dog for long periods of time. Westies need daily exercise; commit yourself to taking your Westie on short leash walks or playing games in your backyard. Luckily, these dogs usually love to chase balls and play with other small toys for hours.
Westies are highly intelligent, clever, alert and curious, which makes them more amenable to training than other terrier breeds. However, you must start training a Westie at a young age to have any chance of showing that you're in charge. Westies often respond best to training that uses a food reward system. Obedience classes often help owners train these independent dogs, but you should never trust a Westie off-leash. If they see something that looks interesting, they are very likely to chase without warning, and they will ignore your frantic calls.