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How Much Do Westies Bark? Read Before You Bring One Home

Written by: Chris Dinesen Rogers

Last Updated on April 17, 2024 by Dogster Team

West Highland White Terrier

How Much Do Westies Bark? Read Before You Bring One Home

West Highland White Terriers are some of the most popular dogs, and it’s easy to see why. They are smart and entertaining, but they’re also so darn cute that you can’t help but fall in love with the breed. Many terriers have a reputation for being barkers. Their history and relationship with people significantly influence this trait for good and bad.

Westies can definitely bark a lot. However, every dog is different. The environment in which a pet is raised can lead even the quietest pups to bark since it invariably affects an animal’s behavior. Research has shown excessive barking is one of the most commonly identified issues.1 Nevertheless, much variability exists, with some apparent genetic components. Ironically, people are also a part of the problem.

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Why Dogs Bark

Barking is the primary way dogs communicate with us. They’ve had plenty of practice in learning our habits and emotions from being domesticated for between an estimated 20,000–40,000 years.2 Our pets have also figured out how barking fits into our relationship. Interestingly, adult wild canines don’t bark3 nearly as much as our pups.

The Westie and other dogs learned to bark for several reasons. If something excites them, they may yip and carry on with plenty of tail-wagging. Canines also bark out of fear, whether it’s a threat to them or their perceived territories. Our pets also bark to get our attention. And sometimes, it works, thus reinforcing this unwanted behavior. History and a breed’s intended job may have also played a role.

West Highland White Terrier - Westie, Westy Barking Outdoor
Image Credit: Grisha Bruev.Shutterstock

The History of the West Highland Terrier

The West Highland White Terrier began life as a hunting dog. The animal’s small size and speed made it a clear choice for hunting rats and other rodents. Undoubtedly, the excitement of the hunt encouraged barking. We can also speculate that the noise might have roused their prey to make getting rid of them easier for landowners.

Legend has it that enthusiasts selectively bred the Westie to be white to protect it from friendly fire in the field. However, we don’t know if this trait was encouraged through the ages. However, being courageous and alert is part of the breed’s official standard. Shyness is considered a fault.

The Genetics Behind Barking

Research has also shown a correlation between the growth factor gene and aggression. That may explain the tough-guy attitude present in many small dogs like the Westie. Many small dogs, such as the Chihuahua, also have a reputation for excessive barking. Their size may influence how we react to a pet’s demands, inadvertently encouraging the behavior if we don’t respond to their demands for attention.

The combination of genetics and the owner’s behavior could explain why some Westies are barkers. Environmental factors can also play a role because of the Westie’s intelligence. Remember this pup’s history as a hunting dog. It set the stage for a smart animal that needs mental stimulation. A bored pet will develop unwanted behaviors, like excessive barking. Therefore, it’s essential to control it.

Westie background wooden wall_
Image Credit: Bogdanovich Alexander, Shutterstock

Controlling Excessive Barking

Knowing your pet is a vocal breed can provide the necessary stimulus for early training and socialization. The sweet spot for puppies learning by exposure is between 16–20 weeks. It is the ideal time to hone your pet’s canine manners, which include controlling excessive barking and nippiness. However, if your Westies is already a barker, it’s imperative to determine what is triggering this bad behavior to stop it.

The critical factor is not to punish your dog for doing what comes naturally to them. After all, people likely caused it in the first place. You should also avoid encouraging it by rewarding it. If your pup is barking for attention, leave the room briefly. Your Westie will soon learn that barking doesn’t work. Instead, use positive reinforcement.

When your pup is quiet, give them a treat. You can also associate it with a verbal command, such as “No barking,” followed by the treat. Westies are easy to train. It won’t take long for your dog to catch on and stop barking, as food is a convincing motivator for many pets.

We strongly urge you to discuss the situation with your vet if your Westie isn’t getting the message. A behaviorist or trainer can work with you one-on-one to control the problem.

West highland terrier barking
Image By: Fotyma,Shutterstock


Westies are adorable pups that make excellent pets. However, it’s essential to start training your pouch from day one, especially if they are young. They’ll be more receptive to learning what’s expected of them as puppies. The breed is often vocal, given its history as a hunting dog. Therefore, you should make it a high priority to control it while your pet is young.

Featured Image Credit: anetapics, Shutterstock

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