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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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 years.