West Highland White Terrier Dogs

They may look cute and cuddly, but West Highland Terriers would much rather be running around than sitting on a couch. Bursting with energy, curiosity and playfulness, Westies are always game for activity. This can involve playing games inside or out, chasing small animals or digging—or all of them at the same time! Though high-energy dogs, West Highland Terriers don’t require too many walks or jogs to stay mentally and physically healthy.

West Highland White Terrier

West Highland White Terrier Pictures

  • West Highland White Terrier dog named Brutus
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  • West Highland White Terrier dog named Xiaolung
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Quick Facts

  • 15 - 22 pounds
  • 10 - 11 inches

Ideal Human Companions

    • Singles
    • Active seniors
    • Families
    • City dwellers

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Trademark Traits

    • Shaggy and small
    • Peppy and fun
    • Tireless
    • Intelligent and proud
    • Crave attention

What They Are Like to Live With

West Highland Terriers are loyal and devoted pets—a great family dog for city or country living. They get along with children who are old enough to respect their space, and they are very friendly with strangers. However, they can be quite effective guard dogs, barking wholeheartedly if they sense danger.

Things You Should Know

These dogs have a self-confidence and self-reliance that can be good (resulting in resourceful play and solid companionship) or bad (resulting in destructiveness). Though independent, Westies need attention and activity or they can become restless. Left alone for too long, they could dig up a garden, chew things or get involved in other forms of mischief.

West Highland Terriers, descending from a breed of robust dogs that chased rats and foxes through the moors, are naturally curious and intelligent. Always keep them fenced-in or on a leash. If they see a small critter scurrying off somewhere, they will most likely follow them at lightning speed.

Not only do West Highland Terriers bark when a suspicious person approaches the house, they also bark when just about anyone pops by. With proper training and socialization, this barking can be minimized.

Westies are relatively clean and odorless, but they still need daily brushing to keep their coat under control. A healthy West Highland Terrier can live as long as 14 years. Common health problems include joint deterioration and skin allergies.

West Highland White Terrier History

West Highland Terriers—legend has it—were bred from the white offspring of Cairn and Scottish Terriers in order to create a hunting terrier that would not be mistaken for a fox. They debuted at a London dog show in 1907 and were registered by the AKC in 1908. Originally registered as Roseneath Terriers, their name was changed to the West Highland White in 1909. Over the years, they have become increasingly popular due to their talents as both hunting dogs and companions.

The Look of a West Highland White Terrier

West Highland Terriers have a small, balanced and tough frame covered in a 2-inch white coat. Their round heads are slightly longer than their muzzles. They have dark noses and almond-shaped, widely set eyes that—along with their small pointy ears—have an alert expression. Their muscular necks and sloping shoulders lead to a deep chest. Their short, carrot-shaped tails are carried high. Overall, West Highland Terriers have a warm and soft look that embodies strength and activity.

Talk About West Highland White Terriers 

Not a lap dog, but loves attention

My Westie is energetic, lovable, playful, curious, and independent. He is not a lap dog but does like loving attention from his family. Westies are very intelligent. Training can be fun but challenging since they are very strong-willed.

Westies love attention, and anyone who meets them will fall in love with their deep brown eyes and wagging tails.

I would recommend this breed to anyone but folks with very young children, as Westies can at times be temperamental. They also make wonderful watchdogs and will alert you to the slightest sound or sense of danger. If you enjoy a fun, playful, and energetic breed that is ready to run and play, then I would recommend the West Highland Terrier. Their unconditional love is well worth it.

~Jennifer Seitzer, owner of a West Highland White Terrier

Always in on the action

We have a male Westie who is around six years old. We have had him since he was around four years old. They are very strong and intelligent.

He has a lovely temperament and likes to be in on the action. He loves company and cuddles. To live with them is quite easy, not much dog hair is shed hence the grooming/trimming every eight weeks or so, plus with a daily brush.

He is happy having a bath and loves to run around shaking himself so everyone gets wet who happens to be near him. He loves small walks and long walks -- he especially likes to go under hedges and sniff!

They are a lovely companion and are a happy breed, good with children and older people. God forbid anything happens to him I would definitely get another Westie.

~Marie, owner of a West Highland White Terrier

A word on Westies in general

This breed is awesome! If you're looking to find a dog who has personality, it's this breed! They are intelligent, loyal, and have loads of energy. My Westie is very pleasurable to live with due to her calm, protective manor. If she wants to run around, she just goes straight to the back door to let me know she wants to let out. This breed is great for just about everybody. If you want a good friend forever a Westie is the right breed.

~Eleni K., owner of a West Highland White Terrier

A fantastic choice

West Highland Terriers are the best dogs in the world. Our first Westie lived 18 long and loving years. When she left us, a part of us died with her. Our second Westie has a totally different personality, but is just as loyal and more of a comic. But she is as faithful as a wife. I love this breed, own one and you'll know why!

~Mike E., owner of a West Highland Terrier

I love my Westie

My dog is very playful, very intelligent, somewhat stubborn, but a very loyal friend and companion. I have a 6-year-old rescue named Nik I would not trade for anything. Keeps us all entertained and very much a part of the family!

~Foster M., owner of a Westie

Remind them that you're in charge

These dogs are fantastic companions. I started off with one after researching different breeds, and their high intelligence, low shedding, and companionship won me over. I recommend obedience training, as they are very strong-willed. They need to be reminded from time to time that they are NOT in charge.

My other two Westies are rescues -- one was a breeder surrender and the other was a 11-week puppy. Rescues are a wonderful place to find a good dog, and more times than not you get to skip the puppy phase. Please do not buy one from a puppy store or online -- 99 percent of them come from puppy mills.

~Lisa Baize, owner of three West Highland White Terriers

They capture your heart

I had the great joy of having two male Westies: one lived for 15 years and the other for 17 years. My first one came from an animal shelter and the other from a breeder. I never got tired of looking at their beautiful, alert, adorable faces. We were great friends and went on tons of hikes together.

They are full of life and so affectionate. They are absolutely beautiful, which is why you see them in so many advertisements on TV.

~Dede B., owner of two West Highland White Terriers

Don't forget -- they bark!

I have loved, owned, and bred Westies for 25 years. They are wonderful dogs for people who have time for them. They do not do well alone at home, because they become mischief-makers. I had a wonderful dog who destroyed the mini-blinds at my front door while he was tackling the mail that the mailman was putting through the door slot.

I have also heard from a distraught Westie owner who adopted the dog despite living in a condo and working full-time. The Westie would bark and annoy the neighbors by the hour. Their independence is legendary, which is why you see so few competing in obedience. That independence can be an endearing trait -- but it does call for an enclosed yard and walks on a leash.

~Barbara T, owner of several Westies

Recommendations from a longtime Westie owner

I had a wonderful Westie for over 16 years. She sadly passed away due to complications from diabetes, despite our best efforts.

Do not feed Westies canned dog food, no matter how "high quality" or "expensive" it might be. Ingredients in this food (corn and wheat) in such high amounts are NOT good for Westies (or any dogs). It causes spikes in their blood sugar and eventually may lead to diabetes.

My sweet Westie HATED her food -- she would push it around, put scraps of trash in it, try to push it down the stairs. How could she be any clearer? We started giving her a variety of foods in her last few years, but sadly she was already on the diabetes roller-coaster. I'm not even sure if she needed the insulin once we got her off the dog food, but I had to defer to the veterinarian. Please do your research and start cooking for your dog -- both you and your dog will be a lot happier.

If you are going to give your Westie canned/dry dog food (like your vet will tell you), try to balance it out with some fresh meat, rice, eggs, cottage cheese. There are loads of recipes and ideas for home-made dog food.

I had always squirted doggie mouthwash from the vet in our Westie's mouth before bed. However, dogs, like humans, need to have their teeth brushed regularly. Be gentle with their little gums. Her gums had receded quite a bit due to the negligence (even with the vet teeth cleaning we got for her), but we used one of those soft rubber dental things from CVS to gently stimulate her gums, and they regrew!

Do not get this breed if you are going to crate the dog all day long while you are at work. Your dog will become depressed and will probably bark all day. Even if you leave your dog in your bedroom or another "safe" room, they will pee or rip up stuff in anger. They need to be around humans most of the time. As they get older, they will not mind being left alone for a few hours if they can nap, but when they are young, they need to be around their "parents."

You also need to have a SAFELY gated yard and watch your Westie while he/she is outside. We had a very secure yard and our Westie managed to get away a few times. Be careful!

~Jake P., owner of a West Highland White Terrier