West Highland White Terrier

Temperament: Loyal, Happy, Entertaining

  • Height: 11 inches (male). 10 inches, female
  • Weight: 15-20 pounds
  • Life Expectancy: 13-15 years
  • Group: Terrier Group 

Smart, confident, and always entertaining at play, the adorable West Highland White Terrier (Westie, for short) has charmed owners for over 300 years. This diminutive but sturdy earthdog is among the most popular of the small terriers.


The West Highland White Terrier is a small, game, well-balanced hardy looking terrier, exhibiting good showmanship, possessed with no small amount of self-esteem, strongly built, deep in chest and back ribs, with a straight back and powerful hindquarters on muscular legs, and exhibiting in marked degree a great combination of strength and activity. The coat is about two inches long, white in color, hard, with plenty of soft undercoat. The dog should be neatly presented, the longer coat on the back and sides, trimmed to blend into the shorter neck and shoulder coat. Considerable hair is left around the head to act as a frame for the face to yield a typical Westie expression.

About the West Highland White Terrier

Standing 10 to 11 inches at the shoulder, with dark piercing eyes, compact body, and a carrot-shaped tail wagging with delight, the Westie’s looks are irresistible. Beneath the plush-toy exterior, though, is a true working terrier of gameness and courage. Bred to hunt rats and other underground rodents, Westies are surprisingly strong and tough. The all-white double coat is hard to the touch, not soft and fluffy.

Alert and active, Westies exhibit traits of a plucky and self-reliant ratting terrier: They require no pampering, they will chase after anything that moves, and their independence can make training a challenge. But, thanks to their faithfulness and keen intelligence, Westies will train nicely with time and patience.

NUTRITION The West Highland White Terrier should do well on a high-quality dog food, whether commercially manufactured or home-prepared with your veterinarian’s supervision and approval. Any diet should be appropriate to the dog’s age (puppy, adult, or senior). Some dogs are prone to getting overweight, so watch your dog’s calorie consumption and weight level. Treats can be an important aid in training, but giving too many can cause obesity. Learn about which human foods are safe for dogs, and which are not. Check with your vet if you have any concerns about your dog’s weight or diet. Clean, fresh water should be available at all times.

GROOMING To keep the Westie looking his best, regular grooming is a must. Stripping (or plucking) the old, dead hair is the traditional way of taking care of the terrier coat, and it is the grooming method that must be used if you’re interested in showing your dog. Pet owners often have their dogs’ coats clipped for neatness. Most people find a professional groomer who will help keep that beautiful Westie look. Usually a visit to the groomer every 4 to 6 weeks will work just fine. Daily brushing and combing are important. Because the Westie has a hard coat, bathing too often can do more harm than good.

EXERCISE Westies love to romp and play, and they enjoy a nice walk. Since by nature they will run after anything that moves, the breed does best in a fenced area or on a leash. With their intelligence, energy, and can-do attitude, Westies excel in a variety of canine sports and activities, including obedience, rally, and agility. True to the breed’s original purpose, they have the instinct to go to ground and are superstars at earthdog events.

TRAINING Smart, confident, adaptable, and endlessly entertaining at play, the adorable Westie has charmed owners for more than 300 years. Like all terriers, Westies were bred to work alone. This terrier independence can make training a challenge, but thanks to their keen intelligence Westies take to patient, consistent lessons that are kept upbeat and interesting. Despite their size, Westies are sturdy, no-nonsense dogs who require little pampering.

HEALTH West Highland White Terriers are generally healthy dogs, and responsible breeders screen their stock for health conditions such as cardiac disease and patellar luxation. A Westie’s teeth should be brushed often, using a toothpaste formulated for dogs. Regular visits to the vet for checkups and parasite control help to ensure the dog a long, healthy life.

Recommended Health Tests from the National Breed Club:

  • Hip Evaluation
  • Patella Evaluation
  • Ophthalmologist Evaluation

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