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Is a Westie a Good Family Dog? Behavior, Health & FAQ

Written by: Beth Crane

Last Updated on April 16, 2024 by Dogster Team

West Highland White Terrier - Westie, Westy Barking Outdoor

Is a Westie a Good Family Dog? Behavior, Health & FAQ

West Highland White Terriers (commonly referred to as Westies) are a distinctive Scottish breed that is well known for their beautiful white coat and bright Terrier personalities. Westies are small but sturdy, intelligent, and more independent than other small dogs. However, this doesn’t stop them from being loving and loyal! With these traits and a sunny and bright disposition, the Westie makes a good family dog.


What Are Westies Like?

West Highland White Terriers belong to the Terrier family and have rambunctious personalities to prove it! Westies are, first and foremost, independent, sturdy little dogs. They are intelligent and self-sufficient, but they thrive on the love of their families. They were initially bred for hunting and flushing out rodents in barns and homes. Because of that, the Westie has a high prey drive and will chase anything that runs from them.

Westies are great with children; they’re patient and tolerant of wild infants. They’re loving and loyal dogs, and watching their antics is never boring. Westies are one of the most popular dog breeds in the US for a reason, and they have been very close to the top ranking for over 40 years.

West Highland White Terrier sitting in the grass
Image Credit: Justgreatphotography, Shutterstock


Why Are Westies Good Family Dogs?

Westies make great family pets because of their intelligence, bright temperament, and affection for children. Of course, each Westie will be different when it comes to personality! However, they are known to be gentle with children if well-trained, making them an excellent choice for families who want a small dog.


Westies only grow to around 11 inches tall but are stocky and sturdy enough to play with children without getting hurt. They’re also very active dogs thanks to their ratting past and only need around an hour of exercise a day. This makes them ideal for families who need to get out into nature but don’t want a dog that requires hours of exercise a day.

Grooming Requirements

Westies need to be brushed and groomed, but their coats are relatively simple to maintain. You can brush them daily to keep their white hair looking its best, but their fast-growing coat must be trimmed every 6 to 8 weeks.

Brushing west highland terrier dog
Image Credit: Elena Sineglazova, Shutterstock

Independent Nature

Because they’re self-reliant, Westies are unlikely to suffer from separation anxiety when their owners are away from home. However, Westies still need love, attention, and exercise (like all dogs); making time for your Westie and playing with them will keep them happy and content.


Are Westies Vulnerable to Any Health Conditions?

Unfortunately, Westies can suffer from some health problems. The average Westie lifespan is around 13 years, but they are prone to skin conditions and a particularly nasty jaw bone condition. Craniomandibular Osteopathy is a disease that makes the bones in the skull grow excessively, particularly in the lower jaw.

This bone growth makes the jaw heavy, prevents proper movement, affects eating, and causes pain. Sometimes, the temporomandibular joint can fuse, causing the entire jaw to lock. Owners should be prepared to deal with the emotional and financial cost of such a disease if they get a Westie, but not all of them suffer from the condition.

Image By: BIGANDT.COM, Shutterstock

Do Westies Get Along With Other Pets?

Westies can get along with other dogs in the home. Other dogs generally don’t have a problem with Westies, and they’ll be more than happy to play with them if they’re well-socialized as puppies. Cats, however, are a different story since the Westie is highly prey-driven and has a strong chase instinct. If a cat runs from them, they’ll almost always chase them! Good socialization and training can help combat this, but cats that tolerate playful dogs are better housemates.

Rodents should not be kept in the same home as a West Highland White Terrier since they were originally bred for ratting. This gives them such a strong chase drive that a small and fast-moving pet like a rat or guinea pig may be too tempting even for well-socialized and trained Westies! It’s better to be safe and keep the pets separate, or there might be a tragic incident.

Are Westies Easy to Train?

Despite being independent and sometimes headstrong, the West Highland White Terrier is very intelligent. Their brightness means that training can be very successful if sessions are kept short and interesting. Keeping your Westie’s attention is the name of the game, and being assertive can keep them on the right path.

They’re faithful and attentive dogs when they need to be, so with time and patience, they can follow commands. Agility, obedience, and earth dog trials are a Westie’s forte, so consider training your Westie to enter competitive dog sports!

a westie sitting on grass outdoors
Image By: xkacha, Pixabay

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In Conclusion

Westies are loving but independent dogs that can make excellent family pets. They require training to curb their prey drive and have moderate grooming requirements, but their fur should be brushed every day. However, a Westie is a lovely and sturdy playmate for children despite their small stature, and they do well in a smaller home as long as they have access to the great outdoors for exercise for at least an hour a day.

See also:

Featured Image Credit: Grisha Bruev, Shutterstock

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