San Francisco Bay West Highland White Terrier Club


Related Topics

Breeder Referral

Should You Acquire A Dog?

How To Select An Appropriate Breed

Is A Westie Right For You?

Pet Shops

What Is Dog Registration?

Reputable Breeders

Westie Breeder  Contact Info

Questions to Ask  Westie Breeders

Ten Commandments For Puppy Buyers

I Am Your Puppy

No Holiday Pups!

Holiday Safety

Westie Rescue

Stop the Cruelty -- Fight Puppy Mills


Is A Westie Right For You?

Please be aware that a Westie is not an appropriate breed for everyone.  Many people are captivated by the Westie’s appearance but few are prepared for the strong-willed terrier personality possessed by this breed.
What is a Westie?
The West Highland White Terrier or "Westie" is a small compact dog standing about 10-11 inches tall.  The weight of a Westie can range between 15-22 pounds with the average weight between 16-20 pounds.  The Westie has an average life span of 12-14 years, however, many live 15+ years.  A Westie's hair is always white, though, some may have a darker dorsal streak. Its coat is usually hard and straight, but it may also be soft, curly or wavy.  Grooming is a necessary part of your Westie's general health and hygiene routine.  It includes brushing, combing, bathing, hair trimming or clipping, ear care, dental care and nail clipping. Daily brushing will minimize shedding and prevent mats. The hair is generally clipped and groomed every 6-8 weeks.  More frequent bathing may be required if your Westie has skin allergies.  The Westie no doubt shares a common ancestry with the other terriers of Scotland, the Scottish, Skye, Cairn and Dandie Dinmont.
Westie Traits
Westies are very intelligent and definitely not "laid back". They are happy, playful and affectionate but they are also tough, hardy, independent and tenacious!  They are also possessed of no small amount of self-esteem.  They can be assertive and demanding. This makes them a wonderful companion for those who appreciate and are charmed by the terrier temperament but a disaster for the person who wants a gentle-natured little dog bred primarily for cuddling.  If you are not prepared to provide structure, leadership and training for your Westie, this is not the breed for you.
If you are drawn to Westies because "they are so cute" please be advised that their looks are deceiving.  West Highland White Terriers are high energy dogs originally bred to hunt and kill game and vermin in the rugged Scottish Highlands.  Westies were bred to go-to-ground in a hunt, therefore, digging and barking are natural instincts.
Westies are "pack" animals and need to be with their owners.  If your lifestyle is such that the Westie will be home alone for a large portion of each day, this is not the right time in your life to add a Westie to your family.  Westies that are routinely neglected, confined and ignored can become unmanageable.  Westies who are not sufficiently trained can become too difficult for an owner to handle.  Westies need owners with a willingness to provide patience, obedience training, socialization, understanding and plenty of quality time.

High Prey Drive
Canines, in general, and terriers, in particular, possess an instinctive behavior called "prey drive".  This instinct allows wild dogs to chase and kill animals for food.  Our domestic dogs no longer have the need to kill their own food, but, nonetheless, the instinct remains very much intact. 
Westies are definitely high prey drive terriers. Consequently, any small house pets such as cats, rabbits, birds, mice, rats or hamsters will be viewed as as "prey" and will be in serious peril from a Westie.  Even if the Westie and the other small pets are separated, there will be stress to both the animals and the family as the Westie will continually bark and attempt to hunt the smaller prey.

Westies and Children
Many of the popular breed books have unfortunately misrepresented Westies as unequivocally "good with children". This is not an accurate statement.  Many Westies will NOT TOLERATE even unintended mistreatment from a child.
They will not put up with typical child handling such as pulling of ears or tails nor will they tolerate taking or "sharing" of the dog's bones, food and toys.

Children are often the most disrespected members of a dog's "pack". A Westie may view himself as a much higher-ranking pack member than your children.
Additionally, the sight of a running child may trigger the Westie's high prey drive resulting in the Westie instinctively trying to bring the child to a stop anyway it can.

Responsible Westie Owner
To be a responsible pet owner you must fully understand the health, behavior and temperament traits of the Westie breed and what the puppy will be like as he matures into an adult dog.
Each pure breed of dogs has its own particular hereditary health issues. The Westie is no exception.  You should be familiar with the common health concerns that may be encountered in Westies.
Many dogs placed into Westie Rescue programs are unwanted simply for being Westies by nature and behavior.  Their owners found that they were unprepared to provide the care required for this feisty terrier.
If you have never owned a Westie, we highly recommend you read the excellent Dog World magazine article, "Fire and Ice".  This article accurately depicts the pros and cons of living with a Westie and includes a description of common personality traits and health concerns.
“Fire and Ice” from Dog World Magazine
"A Little White Spark" from Dog Fancy Magazine
"Good Dogs Wear White" from Dog & Kennel Magazine
The West Highland White Terrier Club of America's Westie Profiler will provide insight regarding the compatibility of this breed with your household and lifestyle.
Read and become knowledgeable with the traits, temperament and behavior characteristics of the Westie breed.   Attend local dog shows to talk with breeders and owners.
Before you make your final decision to add a Westie (or any breed) to your family, you should talk with your veterinarian, experienced breeders, trainers and rescue volunteers about the breed.
The SFBWHWTC holds a Specialty Show each year as well as two informal family picnics.  These are excellent opportunities for potential puppy buyers to meet and talk with Westie breeders, Westie owners and our Westie Rescue Coordinators.  Please mark your calendar with our upcoming events.

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Westie drawing generously donated to the SFBWHWTC by artist Robert Masch.
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