About Westies

West Highland White Terriers, affectionately known as Westies are an adaptable, intelligent, and confident little dog and have become an enormously popular family pet over the years. Westies thrive on the affection, interaction, and companionship of their owners. They are very intelligent, eager to please, and quick to learn, which makes training less of a challenge. They also have excellent problem solving skills.

Groomed Westies are elegant looking dogs, yet they are small, sturdy, and hardy. They have a very appealing expression, with dark eyes and black button nose.

History of the Westie

The West Highland White Terrier or "Westie" as they are affectionately known, is a member of the small group of Scottish National Breeds which includes the Scottish Terrier and also the Cairn, from which the Westie originated.

Until the early years of the 19th Century Terriers tended to be dark in colour. It was not unknown for hunters to mistake a brown terrier for a fox and shoot it. This is exactly what happened early in the 19th century when Col. Malcolm of Poltalloch shot one of his favourite brown terriers and after this tragic accident started keeping the lightest coloured puppies in his litters.

These white terriers were used to control vermin, including foxes and hares. Early names for the breed were Poltalloch, Roseneath and White Scottish Terrier. They became known as the West Highland White Terrier in the first decade of the 20th century.

Westie Characteristics

Westies possess the classic terrier temperament; they are active, alert, game and full of self importance. They are not a dog that needs pampering, this hardy breed enjoys scampering in all weathers and will follow its owners just about anywhere. They are extremely faithful but do have a stubborn streak, early training is therefore essential. Barking is a natural behaviour for Terrier Breeds and the Westie is no exception. Of course not all dogs vocalise to the same degree. Generally Westies bark only when they must but when they do they make themselves heard.

As the Westie was bred to be an earth dog it can be a great digger if not taught at an early age that they must not dig in your favourite flower bed.

The Westie makes an ideal family pet as they are a people-pleasing dog and a great lover of human company. The Westie has a built-in sense of fun and adventure and enjoys exercise, whether it be a long country hike or a shorter trot around the block. Westies are an ideal companion for any individual or the family as a whole and is suited to either town or country living.

Please Take Note: Unlike most other breeds, Westies do not moult in the normal way i.e. they do not shed hair and therefore some asthma sufferers are able to live with a Westie when they have been unable to tolerate other breeds.

Westies generally live long lives, average being 12 - 15 years, however older dogs are not unusual.

Care requirements

Many people think that having a white dog means that they are difficult to keep clean. This is not the case with Westies as their harsh outer coat actually helps keep them clean. When they are wet and muddy, you can simply dry them off and brush them out. Chalk or powder can be used give them a dry bath, as the powder absorbs the dirt and helps keep them white.

When it comes to grooming, Westies can be either hand-stripped or clipped. Show dogs are hand-stripped by plucking the coat with finger and thumb. Westies as pets need to be trimmed at regular intervals (usually every 8 to 10 weeks) to keep their dogs looking presentable.

Because they do not shed they require regular brushing, preferably at least weekly. This brushing removes any dead hair and helps keep the coat clean and free of mats.

Westie Health Issues

Like most things in life, Westie health is mostly common sense. A balanced diet, regular exercise and plenty of love and companionship will ensure that your Westie is happy and healthy.
Westies can be susceptible to allergies. If your Westie is having skin problems it could be a contact allergy caused by a plant in your garden or a place you visit frequently. Alternatively it could be a food allergy. Westies have been known to be allergic to Wheat, Corn, Beef, Pork, Chicken, Dairy and Soy.

Westies, being small dogs, can easily cause themselves injuries to their knees and hips by jumping down from high places - whether it be from the car to a hard surface or off a table or wall.

Over weight westies are more susceptible to knee and ligament problems. Breeders should get their puppies assessed by the Veterinarian when they are having their medical checkup prior to the puppies being sold.

Other issues sometimes seen in Westies are Legge Perthe's disease (hip problems), inguinal and umbilical hernias, liver shunt disease and CMO jawbone calcification - very few cases have been recorded in the past 10 years in Australia.

If you have any concerns about your Westie's health, call a vet straight away. If there is a problem, the sooner it is attended to, the better.