How to Train a Westie Getting the Most Out of Training a West Highland White Terrier

How to Train a Westie

West Highland White Terriers are highly intelligent little dogs that tend to think they are the boss. Learn the best way to train your Westie.

West Highland White Terriers, often called "Westies," are feisty little dogs originally bred in the mid-19th century on an estate in Scotland to hunt as a pack. Westies are intelligent, independent, and determined. Their behavior is sometimes stubborn. With proper praise and treats, your West Highland White Terrier can be taught a variety of commands. Remember: training should always be kept positive and fun.

Step 1

Hold two 5- to 10-minute training sessions daily with your Westie. Begin with very brief sessions and one command at a time, but as your Westie learns and understands the training process you can lengthen the sessions and vary the commands and skills you work on during a session. Always stop working on a command on a successful note, give great praise, and move on to a quick game or a different part of the training. The change will be part of the reward.

Choose a quiet location with few distractions at first. Gradually, as your dog learns the commands, take your Westie outdoors to train with more distractions.

Step 2

Teach your West Highland White Terrier basic obedience commands such as "Sit," "Down," and "Come," using food rewards. Give the "Sit" command as you hold the treat in front of your Westie's questing nose, just beyond reach above the head. After trying out a few ways to obtain the treat, your Westie will sit to contemplate the situation. Immediately give the reward and praise. You can ask for a sit in this way whenever you are near the cookie bin, and before you place a meal in front of your Westie or hand your pet a wanted toy.

Step 3

Once your Westie has learned to "Sit," teach "Down" by holding a treat in front of the sitting dog, saying "Down." Bring the treat to the floor and pull your hand back just enough to give the dog room to go down to reach it. When the Westie is down, instantly give the treat and plenty of praise. Soon you will give the command and give the dog a moment to respond before you take the reward to the ground. Before long, you will celebrate with your Westie when the dog goes down on command without the help.

Step 4

Teach the "Come" command by giving your Westie a treat for coming when you call. Begin this work indoors, then move outdoors. Always have treats in your pocket, and always give one when your dog comes on command. Practice the command at intervals whenever you are outside with your Westie.

Step 5

Train your Westie to use a crate. These secure dog enclosures can be a cozy, safe retreat and resting place for your dog inside your home. Westies love to dig out holes to form dens. A crate in the home provides a ready-made den for your dog. Placed in your bedroom, it can be where your little pet sleeps at night and spends times at intervals during the day during housebreaking. Leave treats and a comfortable blanket in the crate to make it a desirable place to be. Decide on a word, such as "Crate" or "Sleep" to correspond with entering the crate. Praise and reward your dog in the crate to make going to the crate a positive thing. Never scold and imprison your Westie in the crate as punishment.

Step 6

Teach your Westie to go outdoors to potty, using the crate to prevent housebreaking accidents. Westies are small enough that it is difficult to monitor all of their actions in the house. That makes housebreaking more difficult unless you use the crate as an aid. Dogs will not soil their living space unless necessity compels them to do so.

Take your Westie outside to the same spot every two hours when you first start housebreaking training. You want to give your dog ample opportunities to get the training right, and little Westie pups have small bladders that need frequent emptying. Between potty breaks, either crate the dog or keep your Westie on a leash to prevent accidents in the house.

West Highland White Terriers are small enough that they can also be paper trained or trained to use a litter box. The training method is the same, but instead of taking your Westie outside, you can take your pet to an area of your home covered with dog potty pads.

Step 7

Teach your West Highland white terrier the "Quiet" command to curb excessive barking. Westies make good watch dogs. They are easily excitable, and tend to bark when someone comes to the door. Rather than allowing your Westie to be a guard dog, you may want to stop the barking as soon as it starts. Elicit your dog's bark response by ringing the doorbell or knocking on a wall. After your Westie barks a few times, wait for a pause and say "Quiet." Follow the command with a few treats to keep the dog silent. Repeat this procedure several times. Sprinkle such lessons between others during training sessions.

Tips & Warnings

  • Always end training sessions on a positive note and keep them fun for both you and your dog. If your Westie senses you're frustrated, the dog will be less willing to train.

  • Contact your regional chapter of the West Highland White Terrier Club of America or SPCA to find out about obedience training classes in your area. These classes provide a good way not only to reinforce training of your dog but to socialize your Westie with other people and animals. 

  • Westies don't respond well to negative training methods such as yelling or harsh leash corrections. These small dogs can easily be injured by such corrections. Instead, use rewards and praise for the behavior you want to encourage.

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West Highland White Terrier

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