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Characteristics

Physical Appearance
Personality
Work
Escape Artists
Health
Longevity

Physical Appearance
The Westie is a compact, hardy, white coated, and people oriented terrier. People unfamiliar with the breed often will mistake the West Highland as a "Scottie." Although Scotties do appear in a medium cream color, they are never true white. If the terrier is solid white, it is a Westie.

The Westie is 10-11 inches at the shoulder and normally weighs 14-22 lbs. The breed attains an alert appearance from its dark rimmed eyes, prick (pointed) ears, and carrot shaped tail, which it carries straight up when spotting prey or a potential dog treat. The white coat is about two inches long when trimmed and consists of a somewhat wiry outer coat and a soft undercoat (pet dogs may lack this hard outer coat and just have straight, wavy, or slightly curly soft hair). They need brushing weekly and trimming at least quarterly to maintain a traditional "Westie" appearance.

An untrimmed, ungroomed Westie may not appear as depicted in photo books as its fur will get shaggy, tangled, and dingy. If, after bathing, the dog is white, has prick ears, erect tail, and meets the height and weight criteria, it is more than likely a Westie.
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Personality
The breed adapts well to most climates with normal precautions taken for extremes in temperature and sunburn. A Westie does equally well in the city as in a more rural setting -- as long as the dog receives the amount of attention from its owner that it feels it deserves. Adult dogs have no problem residing in the house while the owner is away for an average 8-9 hour work day. However, the breed is very people oriented and tends to get into trouble (barking, chewing, etc.) when left alone in a yard too long or not receiving adequate attention or exercise upon the return of the owner. Westies are intelligent dogs and most are easily trained as they are good natured and eager to please. With kindness, consistency, and patience, Westies respond well to house and obedience training. Some dogs may get bored with repetitive work so training in short sessions and offering a variety of tasks is most effective.
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Work
The Westie was originally bred to hunt vermin such as mice, badger, and groundhogs in Scotland so any interaction with other house pets such as cats, hamsters, birds, etc. should be closely monitored as the dog may see the animal as prey not a companion pet. Westies raised as puppies with such animals tend to live more peacefully than adult dogs introduced into a household with existing non-dog pets. Back to top

Escape Artists
Also, due to a history of going down holes into the ground to hunt prey, consideration must given to the possible need to place bricks or boards at the bottom of yard fencing in order to deter the dog from digging under the fence. A Westie must be on leash when not in a securely fenced area. No matter how well obedience trained, when the dog spots a squirrel across the street it will go after the furry fiend rather than hear (much less respond to) any owner commands or pleas not to run out in the street.

Health
Westies are generally healthy dogs but can be affected by canine diseases such as distemper and rabies (thus the critical need for preventative vaccinations) and by diseases that affect both man and dogs such as cancer, diabetes, heart failure, etc. The most common problem seen in Westies is allergic reaction to certain foods, fleabites, and seasonal pollens, which result in itching skin, biting, and fur loss. A balanced diet and flea prevention can prevent the first two causes and administration of a simple antihistamine will relieve itchiness during periods of heavy pollen.Back to top

Longevity
Puppies mature mentally and physically at about two years of age. Westies puppies are active and require extra exercise and owner interaction until they are mature. With good nutrition, preventative care, and exercise, the life span of a Westie can exceed 15 years, with recorded longevity of more than 20 yearsBack to top.


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