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West Highland White Terriers are known for their gorgeous white coats and out going personalities. Learn about their sociability and train-ability.
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
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.
Originally from the Highlands of Scotland,
Highland White Terrier, usually referred to as a
"Westie," has a wiry, highly insulated coat to protect them
from the elements. These all-white little dogs have a rough
outer coat and thick, soft inner coat. Westies need regular
brushing and stripping, unless the fur is cut short.
The standard cut for the West Highland white terrier is
the Westie cut, accepted by the American Kennel Club
for professional showing. The coat of the dog is
professionally cut to remove any of the loose undercoat
with a stripping knife or stripping comb. The hair on
the back and shoulders is clipped with a scissor to
blend it into the longer skirt-like fur of the stomach
and legs. The face is shaped by plucking and stripping
any stray pieces of fur or undercoat to form a round
chrysanthemum shape. Hair under the tail, around the
anus and above the eyes may be trimmed for neatness.
The length of the outer coat is kept to about 2 inches
on top of the body and about 4 inches around the legs.
The fur is trimmed to follow the natural lines of the
To reduce the amount of time you spend grooming and
stripping the coat of your Westie, get the dog a
puppy-style cut, which mimics the more uniform, growing
coat of a Westie puppy. Hair around the body, legs and
chest is clipped to about an inch to 2 inches in
length. The Westie's face is left alone or slightly
trimmed into an even, round shape to blend it into the
rest of the shorter coat. Trimming around the mouth can
prevent or remove staining from eating for this white
little dog, reducing the amount of cleaning you need to
do to the dog's face daily.
In cases where the undercoat has become extremely
matted and tangled, a complete shave of the coat may be
necessary to remove these mats without causing the
Westie distress. These cuts are also given prior to the
summertime, to keep the dog cool and eliminate the need
to brush the dog for a few weeks. Fur is shaved from
the body, legs, feet and chest. The face is typically
only trimmed to keep the round shape the Westie is
After shaving your Westie's coat, dirt and debris will
tend to cling to the skin, requiring more frequent
bathing than non-shaved dogs. Because bathing more than
once a month can dry out this breed's sensitive skin,
use a dry dog shampoo to remove stains and odors
Westies with a shaved coat require protection from the
elements such as sunscreen or clothing to
protect their exposed sensitive skin.
The rough outer coat keeps the Westie free of dirt and
debris because its texture prevents the dirt from
sticking to the fur. The breed doesn't shed often but
does need regular brushing of the undercoat and
stripping of this coat to prevent matting. Shaving the
fur of the Westie results in a coat that is wavy and
soft, which is unacceptable for show purposes. Unlike
other breeds, the Westie can't be shaved or clipped
between shows because doing so permanently changes the
texture of the fur. Typically, only non-show dogs and
retired show dogs are shaved or clipped.
Before taking your dog to a professional groomer, ask
them if they have worked with West Highland white
terriers and know how to strip or clip the fur
correctly. Bring pictures of the look you want and ask
for references of other Westie clients. If you plan to
show your dog, an improper cut by a groomer can
disqualify your dog.
Westies are prone to ear infections and the hair from
the ears should be removed no matter what the style of
cut. Ears should be cleaned out with mineral oil or a
pet ear cleaner after the hair is removed.
Highland White Terrier Club of America: Acquiring a West
Highland White TerrierAmerican
Kennel Club: AKC Meet the Breeds: West Highland White
Highland White Terriers: Everything About Purchase, Care,
Nutrition, Special Activities, and Health Care; Dan
All-In-One for Dummies; Eve Adamson, et al.
Getting the Most Out of Training a West Highland White Terrier