Originally from the Highlands of Scotland, the West 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 Westie Cut
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 coat.
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 known for.
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 without bathing.
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.