West Highland White Terrier: Small Dog with Big Personality

Written by: Bojana Radulovic
The West Highland White Terrier, or otherwise called Westie, is a small dog from Scotland with a strong personality and adventurous spirit. Read on to learn more.
Dog Breed Group:
Terrier Dogs
10 to 11 inches tall at the shoulder
13 to 22 pounds
Life Span:
12 to 16 years

Breed Characteristics:

Apartment Friendly


How well will this breed adapt to apartment living? Is the apartment size the most important factor when it comes to proper living conditions? Is the breed suitable for apartment living?

Good For First-Time Owners


Some dogs aren't suitable for first-time dog owners. Is this breed a good match for someone with no dog experience? Can training help them be on their best behavior with owners with no dog experience? Are they suitable to be handled by someone who is just entering the canine world?

Overall Sensitivity


Some dogs are sensitive. Certain breeds are rough on the outside, while having the softest heart on the inside. In other words, some dogs are 'thick-skinned' while some are 'easygoing.' Is this breed prone to sensitivity?

Tolerates Being Alone


Separation anxiety in dogs is a serious condition that can affect a dog's life quality. Is this breed prone to this condition? Can you leave him alone for hours? How destructive this breed can become when bored, neglected, or not loved enough?

Affectionate With Family


How affectionate this breed will be around his humans? Will he welcome new family friends easily or he will choose to be shy? Some breeds can be clingy with owners, while others don't attach a lot. Will this breed act as the family's best friend?



Some dogs will tolerate children, while others will adore well-behaved ones. Dogs and children should always be supervised, no matter how well trained the dog might be. Will this breed act as a nanny dog or he will stay away from children?

Friendly Toward Other Dogs


Some dog breeds cannot wait to run to the dog park and run with others. Others prefer to be with their humans, and not to be a part of a multi-pet household. Is this breed dog lover or not? How friendly this breed will be toward other dogs?

Friendly Toward Strangers


Some dog breeds tend to be reserved toward strangers and highly suspicious. Others are fast to walk away with them easily. How welcoming this breed is toward strangers?

Drooling Level


If you love to clean all the time drooling level in dogs is a trait that you should mind. Is this breed less likely to drool, or you will always need a towel on hand?

Easy To Groom


Heavier shedding during the shedding season is something that every dog needs to go through. However, some dogs shed just a bit all year round. Is this breed one of them? How often should you groom this dog?

Overall Health


What can you expect from this breed in terms of health? Are there any genetic conditions to vary about? Is obesity a major issue in this breed? By knowing more about the dog's health, you are learning how to help him live a longer and healthier life.

Prone To Obesity


Treats are a great addition to training sessions. Dogs love sweet bites of dog treats but they should be served in moderation. Treats can lead to obesity, next to poor nutrition. Can this breed gain extra weight from treats? How prone to obesity this breed actually is?

Trainability Level


Training some dogs is easier than others. How easy this dog will be to train? What can you expect? Some dogs are huge people pleasers and they will master commands easily, while others will try to outsmart you.

Intelligence Level


Dogs are smart beings. We do our best to train them, but they do still end up training us to adapt to their needs. How intelligent is this breed? Will he try to outsmart you? Or he will need multiple training sessions to master basic commands?

Prey Drive


Dogs were bred for a specific purpose. Those who were bred to hunt have natural instincts to hunt, even today. This is why many dogs, like Terriers, will chase other animals. They will also have a hard time concentrating on your commands when there is something small moving. Is this breed prone to following his prey instincts?

Barking Level


How vocal this breed is? Can you expect neighbors to ring you often to calm your dog? Or you can sleep without worries of hearing your Fido bark? Some breeds are highly vocal, others have unusual sounds, and some are silent. Is this breed prone to barking?

Energy Level


Low-energy dogs are happy with regular walks and indoor chill times. High-energy dogs are always ready for action. Is this breed a couch potato, energetic dog, or somewhere in between?

Exercise Needs


Some dogs are more than happy with a slow stroll down the street. Others need hours of active time to stay happy and fit. Is this breed demanding in terms of exercise? How much exercise this breed needs to stay happy and healthy?

Playfulness Level


Some dogs never lose that puppy spirit, not even in their senior years. Others are more serious and prefer having a job to do. Is this breed demanding in terms of playfulness? Can you expect playfulness in their senior years as well?

The West Highland White Terrier, or otherwise called Westie, is a small dog breed from Scotland, with a white coat and amazing personality.

This breed can be described as happy, loyal, and entertaining.

Here is everything that you should know about this small, but extremely active, member of Terrier group.

Quick Facts

Real name: West Highland White Terrier
Other names: Poltalloch Terrier, Roseneath Terrier, White Roseneath Terrier
Common nickname: Westie (or Westy)
Origin: Scotland
Breed type: Terrier Group
Weight: 6.8–9.1 kg (15–20 lb)
Height: 25–28 cm (9.8–11.0 in)
Litter Size: Three to five
Lifespan: 12 to 17 years
Color: White
Coat: Double

West Highland White Terrier History

A long time ago, poor farmers of the long-ago British Isles had a massive problem with rodents. The infections of rodents were enormous, as they have spread diseases across the grain stores.

At the time, the only solution was to develop a line of terriers called eat dogs, who were capable of finding and dispatching rats.

The breed we know today as the West Highland White Terrier came into focus in the 1700s when the Malcolm clan began breeding the little white exterminators on their estate, called Poltalloch.

They were bred and maintained there for more than 100 years before their appearance at dog shows.

The breed was also known as the Poltalloch Terrier; an alternate name was the Roseneath Terrier, named for another Scottish estate where early breedings were done. The breed was first shown at Scottish dog shows in 1896.

Westies were first shown at AKC shows in 1906. So far, they have proven to be joyful, portable, and spunky. Overall, they have been of the most popular companions in the State for over a hundred years.

Fast fact: this breed was known as Roseneath Terries a long time ago. The name Roseneath was taken from the Duke of Argyll’s place in Dumbartonshire, Scotland.Terries a long time ago. The name Roseneath was taken from the Duke of Argyll’s home in Dumbartonshire, Scotland.

West Highland White Physical Appearance

The West Highland White Terrier is a small dog. This breed is well-balanced and compact for all-breed, which is surprisingly solidly built.

They have muscular and strong hindquarters on muscular legs, while the coat is around two inches long, always white in color, with plenty of soft undercoats.

The dog should always be healthy presented, with a longer coat on the back and sides, trimmed to blend into the shorter neck and shoulder coat.

Hear is usually left around the head to act as a frame for the face to yield a typical Westie expression. Head should always be in proportion to the body.

Eyes are widely set apart, medium in size, and almond-shaped, while eye rims are black. Ears are small m always erect and set wide apart. They terminate in a sharp point and must never be cropped. However, the hair on the hair is trimmed and is short and velvety.

The neck is muscular and well set on sloping shoulders. Dogs with too long or too short necks will always be disqualified. The body is always compact, while ribs are deep and well arched.

The chest is also deep, and they are extending to the elbows, with breadth in proportion to the size of the dog.

Forelegs are well boned and muscular, and relatively short, but with enough length to set the dog up so not to be too close to the ground. Also, the legs are reasonably straight and covered with short hard hair.

Some dog experts would say that this breed has a perfect coat – it’s double-coated, short, and soft.

The coat hair in this breed is always white, and the hair is straight. Any tendency to curl and any silkiness is considered to be a fault in dogs shows. The tail is always set high, short, and shaped like a carrot.

The tail is always covered with hard hair without feather, as straight as possible, and is never docked. Thighs are very muscular, well angulated, and not set wide apart.

Legs are also muscular and relatively short, while hind feet are smaller than front feet.

West Highland White Nutrition

To keep your Westie healthy and happy, you will have to feed him right.

Knowing the basics of dog nutrition can save you time in the long run and will keep your dog healthier.

Your Westie should do more than fine on high-quality dog food, both on commercially manufactured or home-prepared.

If you opt for the home-prepared food, otherwise known as the raw diet, make sure that you talk with your veterinarian first.

Any diet should be appropriate for the dog’s age. Some dogs are prone to obesity and various allergies, so watch your dog’s diet and don’t overdo with treats if you want to maintain a healthy weight level.

Otherwise, you can expect a battle of losing weight. Treats are important when it comes to training, especially to puppy training, but giving too many can cause problems, so – less is more, in this case.

Also, learn which human foods are safe for dogs, and which are not. Have a bowl of freshwater easily accessible at all times.

West Highland White Temperament

The Westie is full of life, happiness, and devotion. They tend to be stubborn if they see that things could end their way, but they don’t look for a fight. However, they aren’t afraid to take a stand.

They are easy to train if they allow it, and they are into the mood. This breed is prone to boredom and can become destructive if left alone for an extended period of time.

They also love to dig and bark, so if you have a back yard, you can expect holes here and there. The Westie is a huge people-lover, but it doesn’t mean that this is a lap dog.

It’s highly unlikely for this breed to develop a small dog syndrome because they have a strong personality.

They love to be on the move and being busy. So, if you are an outdoor person, the Westie could be your perfect match. Moreover, this breed will be perfect for dog sports, such as agility, obedience, rally, and flyball.

They are not afraid to try by any means to climb into kitchen counters to reach food. Yes, they are huge foodies but limit them to dogs’ food only. Westies are sexually mature at six to 12 months, so start training your puppy early.

West Highland White Training

The Westie is open to any fun activity. They love being entertained and entertain. Like all terriers who were bred to work alone, they tend to be stubborn since they are wholly independent.

This trait can make training challenging, but thanks to their intelligence, they tend to be patient, as long as training lessons are exciting and short.

Because they are highly intelligent, they quickly get bored. They are no-nonsense dogs who require little pampering. Make sure that you start training from day one.

If you want a well-behaved dog, you must socialize your dog from an early age – expose him to various sounds, smells, areas, and people so he can explore the world.

Keep him on the leash when in the walks and make sure that you provide fun training lessons.

West Highland White Exercise

Westies are active dogs. They love to play, romp, and walk. Simply said, they love to be outdoors.

They are naturally drowning to chase anything smaller, so when in walk keeps your white terrier on the leash all the time.

They excel in a variety of canine sports, including agility, rally, and obedience. They are true to the breed’s original purpose, and they have the instinct to go ground making them perfect for earthdog events.

West Highland White Grooming

To keep your Westie looking his best, regular grooming is a must. You will have to invest some time in keeping your dog clean and healthy. Also, grooming is a nice way to connect with your dog and check the dog’s skin.

Stripping (or plucking) the old, dead hair is the traditional way of taking care of the terrier coat, and this is the main method if you are interested in participating in dog’s shows.

Most people find a professional groomer to help them maintain beautiful Westie look – you can take your Westy to the groomer once in 4-6 weeks.

Next to regular brushing sessions, or groomer visits, you should trim or grind dogs nails, check gums, and eyes on a weekly level.

Because the Westie has a hard coat, bathing too often can do more harm than good, so avoid bathing your Westie frequently or at all. Did you know that West Highland White Terrier is one of the most popular dog breeds that don’t smell?

West Highland White Health

West Highland White Terriers are generally healthy dogs, and responsible breeders will always screen them for health conditions. Therefore, they will always be a screen for patellar luxation and cardiac disease.

Regular visits to the vet for checkups and parasite control can help you prevent any medical condition and ensure a long and healthy life.

This breed is also prone to kidney disease. This small dog is at a higher risk of canine atopic dermatitis and yeast infection, which is why regular veterinarian visits are so important.

Recommended Health Tests for West Highland White Terriers:

The Bottom Line

The famous West Highland White Terrier is a small dog, with a vast amount of self-esteem, and you should treat him as an independent and confident dog.

They are bold, energetic, and spunky, making them perfect for outdoor time and sport. However, they can be bossy with other dogs of the same sex but otherwise coexist with other dogs and even cats more gladly than other terriers.

This dog is also one of the most popular dogs that don’t smell and don’t shed much.

This breed is for you if you want t a dog who is:

  • Small, but strong and sturdy
  • Needs moderate exercise
  • Makes a great watchdog
  • Doesn’t shed too much

A West Highland White Terrier may be right for you.

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