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About West Highland White Terriers

Westie Facts & Information

AKC and KCGB Terrier

Also Known As:

33 in AKC; 8 in KCGB (

The Cairn Terrier has been a contributor to many of Scotland's terriers. The Scottish, West Highland, and Cairn Terriers developed from the same stock, originating in the islands and highlands of western Scotland. The three often were found in the same litter, distinguished only by color. Eventually the white dogs were selectively bred to white dogs until all the offspring were white and that became the West Highland White Terrier.

History of the Breed:
The Westie was bred to hunt otter, fox and vermin in Scotland. The West Highland White shares its ancestry with the Scottish, Cairn and Dandie Dinmont Terriers. In the 19th century, selective breeding of all-white terriers occurred in Poltalloch in Argyll, which led to the development of the West Highland White. The Westie was initially called the Poltalloch Terrier and also the Roseneath Terrier after the estate of the Duke of Argyll. Initially registered by the AKC as the Roseneath Terrier the name was changed to the West Highland White Terrier in 1909. Today the Westie has left its hunting past behind and is a popular companion dog. The Welsh Terrier was ranked 32nd out of 154 dog breeds registered by the AKC in 2005.


A General Appearance of the Dog:
The West Highland White Terrier is a very shaggy-looking little white terrier whose face has a fox-like appearance. A very compact body type, the length of his back is only about 14 inches. The West Highland White's head is broad. His tufted ears are small, pointed and erect. He has a short but hairy tail. He has black eyes and nose and a 'ready to go do something' expression.

Coat Color:
The coat of the West Highland White is all white. The coat may have some wheaten tipping.

Coat Type:
The outer coat of the West Highland White Terrier is profuse, hard and weather-resistant. It should never be fluffy or soft, silky or curly. The inner coat is shorter and softer.


The West Highland White Terrier or Westie is a sturdy small terrier dog breed. The Westie has a compact and strong body with a deep chest, level back and short muscular legs. The feet are round with the forefeet being larger than the hind feet. The tail is set high and about 4.5 to 6 inches long. The Westie's ears are small, pointed and erect and covered in smooth hair. The head is thickly coated with hair that frames the face and the muzzle has a moderate stop with dark wide-set eyes. The harsh outer coat is about 2 inches long and straight to wavy, not curly, and the undercoat is short and soft. The Westie's coat is always pure white. Westies stand about 10 or 11 inches tall at shoulder height and weigh from 15 to 20 pounds.

The West Highland White is cheerful, bold, assertive, courageous, inquisitive and has a great deal of personality. The Westie needs to get involved in everything that is happening in the home. The Westie is easier to handle and friendlier than many other terriers but still needs his daily walks and play sessions. Westies will try and dominate dogs of the same sex but otherwise get along better with other dogs and cats than most terriers. However the Westie still has its hunting prey drive and will pursue any small animals and rodents. Therefore this breed shouldn't be let off leash except in a fenced enclosed area. The Westie does fine with older children but few will tolerate mauling by young children and they are very possessive of their toys and food. Westies are clever but somewhat stubborn like most terriers and can become demanding if spoiled. They also can become diggers and barkers unless controlled. Westies respond well to positive discipline and training that uses praise and food rewards. Westies are sociable toward strangers but will bark to announce their arrival. West Highland Whites make good watchdogs and do fine with first-time owners.

Less willful and combative than other terriers, the cheerful West Highland White Terrier has been a favorite for many years. He is a good choice for families as well as singles as the West Highland White Terrier likes to be involved in family activity as well as being devoted to a single owner.

Play serves their exercise needs, so a couple of daily walks for the necessities is all the Westie needs. The West Highland White Terrier can, therefore, be a happy apartment dweller. Your neighbors, however, will be happier if you teach him early when to stop barking.

West Highland Terriers simply love companionship. They travel well. Westies are easy to train and their training should start early and include obedience training and training concerning barking and digging.

West Highland Whites need more exercise than just playing games indoors and should be taken for a couple of walks each day along with some interactive play sessions. Westies should be kept on a leash and need a fenced yard so they don?t wander off in search of prey. Westies are terriers and they love to dig. Westies are intelligent and with the right approach can be trained to compete in sports such as agility and flyball.

Grooming requirements for this breed depend on whether it is a show or a companion dog. Show dogs will require hand plucking or 'stripping' of the dead hair every month or two. Pets can be clipped and the bottom trimmed for cleanliness. Most owners have their Westies professionally groomed every few months. The Westies coat is hard and therefore it shouldn't be washed too frequently otherwise it will become too flabby. A twice weekly brushing is usually all that is required to remove any dirt and debris. West Highland Whites are a low-shedding dog breed and are said to be hypoallergenic and good for people with allergies.

Health Issues:
West Highland Whites can be expected to live for 13 to 14 years and although fairly healthy they can have a number of common inherited diseases. These diseases include Craniomandibular osteopathy (Westie jaw), keratoconjunctivitis sicca (dry eye), seborrhea (flaky skin disorder), copper toxicosis, Legg-Calve-Perthes disease, diabetes, heart disease, cataracts, deafness, and luxated patella (dislocated kneecap). Information on many of these genetic diseases can be found in our article Hereditary Diseases in Dogs. Prospective buyers should ask for the breeding parents Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) test results and also the Canine Eye Registry (CERF) recent ophthalmologists report for eye disorders.

Males: 10 - 12 inches, but ideally 11 inches
Females: 9 - 11 inches, but ideally 10 inches Length of the body from the front of the chest to the back of the hindquarters should be 14.25 to 15 inches.

Males: 15 - 22 lbs
Females: 13 - 17 lbs



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