West Highland White Terriers: All you need to know about Westie dogs

Last Updated on April 25, 2023

Sweet and with snowy hair, West Highland White Terriers are wonderful household pets, not to mention small and cute.

Other than being called its nicknames, such as Westie, did you know that they were also named Roseneath Terrier?

West Highland White Terrier dog against a brick wall

If you want to learn more interesting facts about the West Highland White Terrier, from their origins, personality, care requirements, and health, just keep scrolling.

Where did the West Highland White Terrier originate?

Infestations of rodents that carried diseases and pillaged grain stores are common issues among poor farmers and noble, landed gentry of the British Isles.

The solution? Canines who are skilled to find and dispatch rats, also known as earth dogs. Still, their exact origin is unknown.

It is believed that Scotland’s terriers which include the Westie, Dandie Dinmont, Scottish Terrier, Skye Terrier, and Cairn Terrier, are all from the same family tree.

The only documented history of this purebred started around the 1700s when these little white exterminators were bred at the Poltalloch estate by the Malcolm clan.

Some say that these dogs’ lineage goes back to King James I’s time when he asked for some “earth-doggies” out of Argyleshire.

That’s where they were first named Poltalloch Terrier. They were also named after the other Scottish estate where early breedings happened, Roseneath.

It’s found in Dumbartonshire, Scotland, and the Duke of Argyll owns the place.

By 1896, the West Highland White Terrier was first shown at conformation events in Scotland. The name they’re called today is where they got rather famous.

And by 1906, they appeared at their first American Kennel Club (AKC) dog show.

The first show for the breed was held, it was in 1907, at Crufts in London.

By 1908, they were finally recognized by the AKC, and on May 31, 1909, their name was officially changed to West Highland White Terrier.

Does this dog seem familiar to you? Black & White Scotch whiskey and Juicy Couture are just two of the brands that used the Westie’s delightful images to attract customers.

You may also have seen West Highland White Terriers in several places in popular culture. The famous J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter novels, owns a Westie named Bronte.

They’re on the packaging of the Cesar brand of dog food, too. And a Westie also appears in the movie Game Night from 2018, starring Rachel McAdams.

West Highland White Terrier dog featured in a movie
The West Highland White Terrier dog featured in a Game Night movie

What does a West Highland White Terrier look like?

These doggos are well-balanced canines. You can see in their build how strong they are, so don’t let the charming and irresistible looks fool you.

It’s evident in their straight back, deep chest, and despite being small, powerful hindquarters on muscular legs.

Cute? That’s easy to say. Look longer, and you’ll notice their piercing dark brown eyes. Their ears are also small but wide-set, pointy, and erect, and a large nose that’s perfect for boops! 

You may also get distracted by a Westie’s lively wagging tail that’s carrot-shaped.

A portrait of a West Highland White Terrier dog
A smiling Westie dog

Size: How big does a West Highland White Terrier dog get?

Westies are small dogs where males reach a height of 11 inches (28 cm) when fully grown at 12 months of age, while females can get up to 10 inches (25 cm) from the shoulder.

Regardless of gender, they can weigh between 15 and 20 pounds (7 and 9 kg).

With their size, it’s easy to say that they make excellent apartment dogs.

But as with any dog, especially those bred to work, it’s best to consider things such as exercise and barking, which we’ll discuss more later.

What type of coat does a Westie have?

The Westie has a double coat that’s hard to the touch. Its short undercoat is soft and dense, while its outer coat should be two inches long, according to its AKC breed standard.

And this purebred should only have a white coat color. In fact, they were bred to be white-colored so that they can be easily identified in the field during hunts.

A West Highland White Terrier usually has light pink skin, but it can turn dark or even black due to sun exposure or a health problem.

Temperament: Are Westies good pets?

You can count on a Westie to be excellent family pets for those who live an active lifestyle. They’re playful, silly, and affectionate companions.

But the most important thing to consider about this breed is that it’s a terrier.

Socialized and trained Westies can get along well with children, but they can snap when hurt or annoyed. To be safe, we recommend this fido to homes with kids that are seven years of age or older.

It’s also best to know that these dogs get defensive over their toys, so supervise interactions between your fido and little ones.

When it comes to multiple-pet households, a West Highland White Terrier can adapt to having fur buddies, even cats, especially if they grew up together.

You should know, though, that an intact Westie wouldn’t interact well with other male dogs regardless of breed.

They’re not inherently aggressive, but they may show aggression or dominance over dogs they don’t know.

If you have a hamster, rabbit, or bird, don’t expect these little dogs to adjust because they have a strong prey drive. Anything that decides to run away from them will get chased.

It can be a good thing if you have vermin or unwanted small animals in and around your house.

Do Westies bark a lot?

Taking into account their background, West Highland White Terriers aren’t going to behave like lap dogs because they’ll bark at everything.

They’re not overly yappy, but expect them to be moderately expressive and vocal. If you want to minimize any barking, it can be fixed with training.

This also means that they make good watchdogs. For the guests of their humans, though, they’ll welcome them sweetly.

And if you’re curious if Westies can be left alone, the answer to that is not for too long. Affable doggos like this purebred can act out once they feel bored or lonely, which often leads to separation anxiety.

It can either be by chewing your favorite slipper or peeing on your one-of-a-kind rug.

Other than terrier concerns, Westies are cuddly canines that are intelligent and easy to train. Watch out, though. Smart pups can be stubborn, but you just have to prove that you’re the alpha.

Don’t forget to be consistent and use positive reinforcement during training.

Westies thrive in a structured environment. As earth dogs, they love to dig, which can prove problematic if you have a garden.

You can train a Westie not to dig by re-directing him away from digging from an early age. Every time he starts digging, distract him with a toy or another activity.

How to take care of your West Highland White Terrier

A West Highland White Terrier dog playing a huge ball
Source: @westienamedhugo / IG

Many people consider this dog breed to be low maintenance, but we can say that in terms of exercise and diet. But with grooming that white coat, that’s a different story.

Another thing to think about before getting a Westie puppy is that they can live in cold or warm weather. But owners should keep in mind that extreme conditions on either side are not ideal.

Exercising your West Highland White Terrier

West Highland White Terriers are highly energetic dogs that only require moderate exercise. 20 to 40 minutes a day would suffice, but some tend to be more active than others.

Aside from daily walks, you can take your pooch on other activities like hiking.

Westies also excel at different canine sports such as flyball, obedience, and agility. While at home, they would also need some mental stimulation, even while staying indoors.

Interactive puzzles or a simple game of hide-and-seek using their favorite treat.

Grooming: Do Westies shed?

Though they’re not hypoallergenic, this double-coated dog breed is low-shedding. Using a comb or pin brush, a West Highland White Terrier puppy’s fur should be brushed weekly, while it’s daily for adults.

But some owners prefer brushing their pet 2 to 3 times a week.

Paw parents of terriers know that they require plucking or stripping to get rid of the old, dead hair. It’s usually done twice a year, but it’s a grooming method often used for show dog Westies.

Curious about how it’s done? Watch this video and see the tools used, too:

Speaking of conformation events, a Westie’s coat on the sides and back is longer and only trimmed to blend into the shorter coat on the shoulder and neck.

And if you noticed on the video, a considerable amount of hair around the head is left to serve as a frame for the face. It gives that typical Westie expression.

Combing also helps keep their fur from getting tangled or matted, but if you want to give your pooch a complete makeover or some pampering, you can take him to a groomer every 4 to 6 weeks.

Baths should only be done when necessary. The West Highland White Terrier’s coat stays fairly clean and overwashing it can reduce the natural oils and protection it gives your dog’s skin from elements such as dirt.

Good to know: This breed’s rough coat mainly repels dirt and keeps terrible smells from getting trapped in the fur, so generally, Westies don’t get that bad odor some dogs have.

If your pet spent some time outdoors, a good wipe down with a clean cloth is enough.

To avoid ear infections, clean out your Westie’s ears about once a week. You can do this with damp gauze, cleaning out the ear canals. Then, take a dry cloth to get rid of any remaining moisture.

Feeding a West Highland White Terrier

Generally, this purebred requires 0.5 to 1.5 cups of high-quality dry kibbles divided into two meals daily.

You can also check out the packaging of the dog food you choose for your pet, but always use his age, weight, metabolism, and health when deciding the amount and type of food to give him.

While there is no catch-all approach to feeding a Westie, there are common factors one should take into consideration.

Westies are prone to skin allergies and often have sensitive stomachs. Avoid feeding them soy, wheat, corn, artificial preservatives, colors, or flavors, yeast, as well as meat or poultry by-products.

When choosing a dog food brand, make sure that the first listed ingredients should be protein such as fish, chicken, lamb, or beef. Ensure your dog always has clean, fresh drinking water, too.

What health problems do Westies have?

West Highland White Terrier dog wearing a cone collar
Source: @lola.lemon.terrierfic / IG

A West Highland White Terrier has an average lifespan of 13 to 15 years. But like other dogs, especially purebreds, they’re prone to many hereditary health conditions, too.

Some of those are Legg-Calves Perthes Disease and elbow & hip dysplasia.

There’s also Patellar Luxation, where the kneecap is dislocated, and Craniomandibular Osteopathy (CMO), also known as Lion’s Jaw, that affects the growth of the jaw and face in canines.

Other health issues to watch out for include:

  • Cardiac disease
  • Cataracts/ juvenile cataracts
  • Dry eye
  • Pulmonary fibrosis / Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis
  • Abdominal hernias
  • Skin disorders
  • Skin allergies
  • Atopic dermatitis
  • Hyperplastic dermatosis
  • Seborrhea
  • Epidermal dysplasia
  • Globoid Cell Leukodystrophy (GCL)
  • White Dog Shaker Syndrome
  • Hydroxyglutaric aciduria
  • Copper toxicosis
  • Copper hepatopathy
  • Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca (KCS)
  • Addison’s Disease (Hypoadrenocorticism)
  • Diabetes
  • Cushing’s disease
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Liver shunt
  • Colitis
  • Pancreatitis
  • Lymphoma
  • Blood-clotting disease
  • Degenerative brain disease
  • Urinary stones
  • Transitional Cell Carcinoma (TCC) of the urinary bladder
  • Bladder cancer
  • Von Willebrand’s disease
  • Thrombopathia
  • Deafness

It may seem a lot, but the best way to manage your Westie’s health is to take him for regular health screening and occasional tests with your veterinarian. That will include a platelet test for thrombopathia.

The Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) offers clearance for hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, hypothyroidism, and von Willebrand’s disease. They also conduct patella evaluations to check for patellar luxation. 

To check for dry eye and other eye conditions, you can go to the Canine Eye Registry Foundation (CERF) for an ophthalmologist evaluation for your pet. 

You can read the Official Breed Club Health Statement for Westies here.

How much is the average price for a West Highland Terrier?

Three lovely Westie puppies in a basket

A Westie puppy can cost anywhere from $500 to $1,500, where the average price is $1,000.

But some West Highland White Terrier puppies can be more expensive, depending on the gender you’re interested in, how many pups are in the litter, the kennel’s popularity, the breeder’s location, pedigree, and more.

Fun fact: The litter size of a West Highland White Terrier is between 3 to 5 puppies.

You should also consider the costs involved in owning a Westie, such as food, accessories, annual vaccinations, medications, and emergency trips to the vet.

West Highland White Terrier breeders

Want to browse the available Westie puppies for sale online? We recommend going through the AKC Marketplace as it only features breeders registered in the club. You’ll also be sure that it’s a purebred you’re getting.

For more options, the West Highland White Terrier Club of America (WHWTCA) also has a breeder list.

But before you sign any contract or spend any money on that adorable Westie pup, we highly advise you to do your research and prepare a questionnaire.

You still want to make sure that you’re bringing home a healthy puppy that can spend a lot of years with you.

One that was taken care of by a reputable breeder who prioritizes the health and sound temperament of its breeding stock and its litter.

It’s also best that you request to visit the kennel, see the dog’s health records, and take some time to observe them before you make a final decision of purchase.

West Highland White Terrier dogs for adoption

WHWTCA also has a list of rescue coordinators you can contact that’s organized by state. If that’s not enough, you can check out these websites for more Westies that are longing for a new home:

  1. Westie Rescue of California (El Cajon, CA)
  2. Maryland Westie Rescue (Spencerville, MD)
  3. Lone Star Westie Rescue (Plano, TX)

For Westie rescues in the United Kingdom, you can contact Westie Rescue UK.

Curious about West Highland White Terrier mixes?

For those looking for a crossbreed to have the best of their favorite breeds together, you may consider buying or adopting a Westie mix.

Here are some of the darling West Highland White Terrier hybrids.

Poodle Westie mix (AKA Westiepoo)

A Poodle Westie mix dog playing a ball outside
Source: @vinnie.the.westiepoo / IG

A combination of the miniature or toy Poodle and the West Highland White Terrier, this mixed breed dog is active, clever, and super cute.

Also called Westiedoodle or Wee-poo, the Westiepoo form strong bonds with their owners and love human interaction.

Jack Russell Terrier Westie mix (AKA Jack Highland Terrier)

Jack Russell Terrier Westie mix dog playing on the wild flowers
Source: @phoebethejackwestie / IG

The Westie-Jack Russell cross inherited its parents’ intelligence, friendliness, courage, and independence. That includes their high energy level, so this designer dog is perfect for anyone who loves to stay active.

Corgi Westie mix (AKA West Highland Corgi)

Corgi Westie mix dog with fiona flower outfit
Source: @oliversheepadoodle / IG

Westie-Corgis are loyal, playful, and small in size. They are also easy to train, though they can be stubborn, much like their Westie ancestors. These are social pups, and they get along well with other dogs.

Schnauzer Westie mix (AKA Wauzer)

Schnauzer Westie mix dog sitting from a morning walk
Source: @coco.the.wauzer / IG

This hybrid offspring of the Miniature Schnauzer and West Highland White Terrier is a small dog with a shaggy coat. They’re low-shedding pups that are excellent pets for allergy sufferers, and they’re clever and loving doggos, too!

Scottie Westie mix (AKA Scoland Terrier)

Scottie Westie mix dog looking to the owner for a walk
Source: @fergusthewestscott / IG

Scottish Terrier and Westie mixes are also playful and energetic canines. They may have the same tendency to dig, but they’re less prone to barking than their earthdog parents.

Who should get a West Highland White Terrier?

Are you a first-time pet owner, and you’re wondering if the Westie is the breed for you? That will depend on how much time you have because they require companionship and thrive being on the move.

But this is one of the purebreds we’ll recommend for novice owners. You can have other family members take your pooch for daily walks, or you can hire a dog sitter or walker.

Four beautiful West Highland White Terrier dogs
Source: @westieroxy_ / IG

Some may see the cons of owning this furball – very energetic, has a high prey drive, has to be kept on a leash at all times, love to dig and chase, and can be quite stubborn.

And who can forget its extensive list of genetic illnesses?

Let’s not forget that the West Highland White Terrier is such a great dog to own. They’re adaptable to live in apartments, have low-to-non-shedding coats, great with older kids, small, and highly trainable.

If you want to join dog shows and want to compete in canine sports, the charming Westie will be a stunner that’s worth everyone’s time.

Do you own a West Highland White Terrier? Leave a comment for us below if you think we’ve missed anything, or if you have an interesting anecdote to share about your Westie!

We love hearing from dog owners about their experiences with different breeds.

Further reading: Similar breeds to the West Highland White Terrier


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