West Highland White Terrier

West Highland White Terriers are a breed of dog known for their small size and white coat. Their fans often call them simply Westies. They are friendly, good with children, and thrive on lots of attention. Like most terriers, they have plenty of attitude (some might say "spirit") for a dog their size.

The Westie has a very steady disposition and fits well with family life. He gets along well with children and will accept strangers once he has had a chance to become acquainted. He is a cocky dog who may not go out and start a fight but he will surely stand his ground when pushed.

Common characteristics for all terriers are their desire to work with great enthusiasm and their courage. They all have large and powerful teeth for the size of their bodies; they have keen hearing and excellent eyesight.

The Westie is similar to his Scottish counterparts, the Scottish Terrier and the Cairn terrier. Of the three, the Scottie is the most substantial dog, the heaviest in weight, the largest in bone and the most dour in personality. The Cairn is the lightweight of the group. The Westie is nicely placed between these two breeds, in substance and personality. He has substantial bone, but weighs less than the Scottie.

Westies, as with other terriers, can be a challenge in the obedience ring. Terriers are not easy breeds to work with in obedience. Their intelligence and independent spirit can sometimes be more trying to train than most owners anticipate. The Terrier is easily distracted and busy but he is an intelligent dog, and he does respond to training.

West Highland White terrierPhoto courtesy of Bílá Amfora

There are health problems, too. Do remember to buy your puppy from a reputable breeder. Legg-Calve-Perthes Disease (LCP Disease) is a bone-related disease that affects short-legged terriers as well as humans. The disease appears between 4 and 10 months and is very painful. The dog will limp on one or both rear legs and eventually the leg muscles become wasted. There some treatments for this disease.

Craniomandibular osteopathy (CMO) is a fairly rare disease seen in Westies, Scotties and Cairns. It is apparently a hereditary disease although the exact pattern of inheritance is unknown. This is a calcification of the joint between the lower jaw and the skull, a multiplication in growth of bone cells. It usually occurs between 4 and 7 months and it must not be confused with a teething problem or with cancer. Puppies who have this disease have difficulty in opening their mouths.

Copper associated hepatitis is a serious problem in the Bedlington terrier and has been found in some bloodlines in Westies. Affected animals develop hepatitis and eventually liver cirrhosis. Reputable breeders will have their dogs tested and will not breed affected dogs.

Keratoconjunctivitis sicca (dry eye) is a problem that was noticed in Westies in the early 1980s and owners should be aware of it. It is a recurrent form of conjunctivitis that becomes chronic and very painful for the dog. The problem can be treated with drugs, but this is not a long-tern solution.

Although this list of health problems may look daunting, the Westie is still considered to be a healthy breed. The problems mentioned are present in the breed and a buyer should be aware of them. Do not be turned away from the breed but do be aware that if the breeder of your puppy is reputable, he will be doing his utmost to keep them out of his line.

West Highland White Terrier Breed Outline

Other Names: Westie

Country of Origin: Great Britain


FCI Classification: Group 3: Terriers. Section 2Small sized Terriers. Without working trial; AKC Classification: Terrier Group

Size: Small (10-11 inches at shoulders)

Colors: White

Litter Size: 3

Life Span: 12-14 years

Grooming Requirements: Brush three times a week. Professional clipping every 6-8 weeks.

Shedding: Little

Personality: Alert, courageous, self-confident, high-energy, playful and friendly. Good watchdog.

Social skills: Very sociable with other pets. Socialize early with cats.

Suitability for Children: Great companion for children of all ages.

Exercise Needs: Westies are high-energy dogs. Like all Terriers they like to dig and hunt. Exercise 60+ minutes every day.

Train Ability: Intelligent, but mischievous. Provide firm and consistent response to obedience training.

Health & Behavioral Issues: Craniomandibular osteopathy - Westie jaw; Keratoconjunctivitis sicca; Seborrhea; Atopy; Cataracts; Deafness; Diabetes mellitus; Epidermal dysplasia; Globoid cell leukodystrophy; Ichthyosis; Legg-Calvé-Perthes disease; Chronic hepatitis (copper associated hepatitis); Persistent pupillary membrane; Pulmonic stenosis; Pyruvate kinase deficiency; Shaker dog syndrome; Glaucoma; Hypoadrenocorticism; IgA deficiency; Malassezia dermatitis; Retinal dysplasia

Keywords: West Highland White Terrier, Westie

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