The West Highland White Terrier is a robust and healthy terrier breed. These well coifed classic beauties with their white mane and compelling dark eyes exhibit elegance, grace and great showmanship at Kennel competitions. Their gait is free and gracefully as they walk with force and relative ease. Their hind legs show power and strength.
Their round head encases beautiful almond shaped and unique looking black-rimmed eyes. These dogs have bushy eyebrows. Their ears are small and point erect. Their muzzle is blunt and houses very powerful jaws tapering towards their black nose. This breed of terrier has six incisors wedged between the canines that give the dog the impression that it has too many teeth for the size of its mouth. This dog is very sturdy and powerfully built. They have a very deep chest and rib cage area, straight back, muscular legs, and strong hindquarters.
The standard color for a West Highland White Terrier is obviously white however, for dogs that are not showing, the dog can also be wheat color with darker paws. The dog has a thick harsh double coat; bred for endurance during the hunt. The fur can actually be either course or fine, hard or soft depending upon whether the dog has been trimmed or shaved.
There are several breeds of dogs with the West Highland White Terrier bloodlines. All of these breeds originated in the 1800’s, in the Scottish Highlands. Each specific breed obtained its actual name from the area where it was first bred. The Scottish, Skye, Cairn, Dandie Dinmont, and West Highland White Terriers are short-legged Scottish terriers originally bred as hunting dogs specializing in small prey (game). These dogs were raised with the specific purpose of controlling vermin in the Scottish mining communities, mills, villages, homes, fields, gardens, and farms. These little working dogs still present a problem for pet owners, as they tend to be diggers, a throw back from their hunting days.
Over the years the coloring of these little dogs changed from red to cream and finally to the solid white that we see today. In the beginning the white dogs were killed at birth, their color was not deemed to be desirable until one of the dogs owned by Colonel Edward Donald Malcom, of Poltlloch, Argyllshire, Scotland was killed on the hunt. After that unfortunate episode, he began breeding entirely white dogs. The first of these dogs were known as the Poltlloch White Terrier and eventually the West Highland White Terrier emerged.
The West Highland White Terrier gained popularity quickly in America and only two years after it was registered at the Crufts dog show in England, the American Kennel Club recognized the West Highland White Terrier club in 1909.
The West Highland White Terrier is bundle of pure energy and joy. These little guys are attention seekers but loveable companions. They strive on human attention but do not do well among other animals. If you are introducing your pet to a multiple pet household be sure to socialize your puppy from an early age. Introduce it to the other animals immediately but make sure you continue to show it lots of attention to avoid feelings of jealousy. These dogs are happy and energetic but demanding in their pursuit for recognition and love. They are known to be one of the most affectionate terrier breeds that love to be in the center of all household activity. They are curious dogs with a fierce loyalty and a strong desire to protect their beloved family.
These dogs are very energetic and do require exercise, they enjoy a brisk daily walk. They love to dig so be careful of your backyard and house furniture. They will also require leash training, as they may be a bit squeamish at first, resisting the leash and refusing to walk. They can be independent and stubborn. They need many toys to fetch, romp, play and chew. These little guys need to expend their energy to be healthy. When your little Westie finally sleeps, it has tired itself out to the point that it will need a full 13 hours to rejuvenate and continue onto another full and productive day. When awake these dogs are very vigilant, happy, and self-reliant.
Westies are rather vocal and tend to bark as much as they dig. Though very friendly, the dog can also be quite timid among strangers or strong personalities. While at the same time, they can be very aggressive or pugnacious.
West Highland White Terriers are prone to several hereditary diseases and therefore it is important to choose a reputable breeder when selecting your pet.
Globoid Cell Leukodystrophy (Krabbe's disease) is a brain disorder where the white matter of the brain breaks down. The disease can affect a puppy as young as four weeks of age and is a progressive disease eventually causing seizures and then death.
Craniomandibular Osteopathy (CMO) – A benign bone growth found on the surface of the jaws (mandibular). The disease can be treated with antibiotics to ease the inflammation and accompanying pain. West Highland White Terriers usually fully recover from this disorder and after a few years there is no evidence that the disease was ever present.
Legg-Perths, is an irregular fit between the ball and socket of the leg joints. The condition is painful causing degeneration of joint and cartilage. Dogs will feel immense pain, experience difficulty walking, and eventually become paralyzed if the condition is left untreated.
The Westie needs to become comfortable with grooming, as it can be stubborn and willful not wanting to be brushed. Begin the process from the first day you receive your pet into the home. Brush it down everyday and get it used to the feel of being touched. Gently brush and do not be too harsh with actions or words. You don’t want to scare your puppy and you want to make the grooming experience as pleasant as possible.
Gently clip the fur and remove any ear hair once a week. Gently coax the dog to lie still while you are doing it. Whether you clip or groom the coat will depend upon personal preference and if your dog is going to be entered into a showing. If you clip the hair, it will grow in softer and finer, if you shave or strip the hair it tends to grow in thicker and courser. Either look is acceptable but will give your dog a completely different appearance.
One good thing about exercising your West Highland White Terrier is that the experience can be stimulating and invigorating for the both of you. You can take long walks but make sure your terrier remains on a leash. It will run off chasing after other animals if not restrained. Or, you can play Frisbee and other fun things in the park. There are also doggie treadmills, doggie daycares, and doggie gyms to entertain your energetic pet.
The important thing is to get your Westie the exercise it needs to thrive and be happy. A bored West Highland White Terrier will take out its frustrations in several different ways. It will bark, chew up the furniture, soil the apartment or house, display stubbornness, and even become sick by vomiting and showing signs of depression.
The West Highland White Terrier is a very intelligent dog but can also be willful and stubborn. It is important that the trainer establish the pecking order and show this dog exactly who is the dominant one. If the pecking order has not been established, the Westie can bite and snap and retaliate when being trained. In order to prevent your pet from getting the upper hand, establish obedience training immediately, make sure your dog understands discipline but to not be too harsh on him. You must also consider his needs. Is he happy, well exercised, getting enough attention at home? If not he will bulk at training. Once your dog’s needs are met and you do not foresee any behavior issues, you can begin the training process.
Begin training with the basic commands; once your pet has mastered them you can proceed to more complicated commands. Make sure you positively reinforce your Westie when successfully completing a command and after every new training session end the session with a command your dog has already learned in order to boast his confidence and his cooperation.