West Highland White Terrier: dog breed appearance, character, training, care, health

Among the characteristics of the West Highland White terrier, also known as Westie or westy, they stand out that it is a small, muscular animal and always white in color. It has a friendly, cheerful and very brave character. At Petlifey, we explain everything about the West Highland White terrier breed.

Character of the West Highland White Terrier breed

The Westie’s character is brave, active, independent, fearless and with a high self-esteem. It is also a very affectionate, friendly and lively animal. It is always very cheerful and awake, with a mischievous look.

Regarding his temperament or behavior, the truth is that this dog has quickly gained a lot of fame because it is playful, cheerful and resistant, it adores its family, enjoys their company and is relatively easy to train .

On the other hand, despite the westy’s great sociability, it is a pet with an independent personality, so it likes to do things on its own from time to time. Or simply take a little distance to be alone, without the company of anyone, not even its master, and that is something that should be respected.

  • Energy: high level. You need to do a lot of exercise.
  • Temperament: active, independent and brave, it is cheerful and very affectionate. With a mischievous expression, it is fearless, self-assured and lively.
  • Adaptability: Live well in any environment. You need a strong leader so that no hierarchy or behaviour problems arise.
  • Sociability: Itloves family life and gets along very well with children and strangers. Tolerates other dogs or animals.
  • Health: Due to its white coat, it may suffer from allergies or eczema.
  • Longevity: very high. It can live more than 15 years.
  • Utility: versatile. Originated as a hunting dog, it is currently used more as a companion, therapy and sports competitor dog.
  • Use: hunting and company.

Can you have it in an apartment?

The West Highland White terrier is a canine pet that is perfectly adapted to living in a small apartment or flat, and living in the city.

However, it is recommended that every day you can walk and even run loose in a park, garden or place intended for dogs. This will make you completely happy, healthy and emotionally balanced.

If it is well behaved it will not cause problems, but if it is not, it is a dog that has a certain tendency to use barking. This could cause some inconvenience to your neighbours.

How do you behave with children?

The westy usually gets along wonderfully with all the members of its family and maintains a special complicity with children, with whom it shares games and “adventures”.

Even so, their relationship with them should always be supervised because the games of the little ones could sometimes trigger an unforeseen reaction from the dog.

How do you relate to other dogs?

Endowed with extraordinary self-confidence, unwavering courage and a will that often borders on stubbornness, the West Highland White Terrier can relate well to any type of dog as long as there are no problems of rivalry for the hierarchy or try to master it.

How do you interact with other pets?

Their relationship with other animals or pets is usually somewhat more problematic. If it is usually from puppyhood, you can reach and even live play with cats, birds, etc .

But we must never forget that the first criteria for selecting the breed were their great abilities and good hunting conditions, so it is possible that on some occasion you will try to dominate or hunt them, even if it is simply for fun.

How do you act with strangers?

However, there are usually no problems when relating it to other people, even strangers and strangers, which means that, despite its liveliness and showing a certain tendency to be somewhat noisy, this breed is not the best choice for anyone looking for a guard dog.

Can it be left alone at home?

It is not highly recommended for those who have to spend the whole day away from home and have to leave their dog alone, as the Westie loves human company, or almost needs it to be healthy and mentally balanced.

If you feel lonely or abandoned, some alterations in your temperament may occur, such as, for example, that your fondness for barking is enhanced, that you start to make holes in the garden or, even, that a destructive instinct is awakened that you take to break everything that is put in front of him.

Can you travel with it?

The best way to keep a Westie healthy and happy, physically and mentally balanced, is to fully integrate them into family life.This breed presents few problems when traveling with it.

If it gets used to spending a few hours in its carrier since it was a child, it can take it anywhere and facilitate its stay in hotels, on means of transport, etc., so there is no excuse not to integrate it into any activity that undertake the family.

West Highland White terrier characteristics

Of all the characteristics of the westy, it should be noted from its general appearance that it is a muscular, compact and strong dog , with short but robust legs, very muscular and agile.

The West Highland white terrier has an unmistakable appearance. Its figure is associated with some advertising stereotypes and almost everyone knows how to differentiate it from other races, even if its correct name is not known.

This easy identification is due, fundamentally, to their physical appearance and their image , together with the typical traditional arrangement of their hair.

The aesthetic appearance of the West Highland white terrier is something that every owner should try to maintain, as it is one of the characteristics that has made this breed the most famous throughout the world.

Westie specimens are subjected to a very characteristic arrangement in which the head stands out above all, which adopts a round shape very similar to a chrysanthemum. This is possibly the part of their body that best helps identify the breed.

However, we must never forget that under this adorable stuffed animal appearance , a real terrier hides, lively, determined, independent and with a hint of malice, but very happy and affectionate, which constitutes an irresistible mixture of cunning and energy, on the one hand, and affection and tenderness, on the other.

How is the Westy physically?

The westie is a small dog. Its body is slightly rectangular in structure, since the length of its body is greater than its height at the withers.

The legs are short , straight and very muscular, and the body is compact and robust, with a deep chest and well-sprung and developed ribs.

Its head is covered with abundant long and silky hair, it has a slightly bulging skull, a very defined stop and a robust muzzle that is somewhat shorter than the skull, with a black nose.

The eyes are black or very dark, medium-sized and set well apart from each other. Its gaze is sharp, fearless, highly intelligent, and somewhat cunning. It has long and dense eyebrows.

Led well pricked ears , which are sharp, firm and covered with abundant hair short and velvety. They are not set too close together or too far apart.

Their feet are well proportioned, strong, and endowed with firm, black pads, like fingernails. The front feet are larger and longer than the rear feet.

The tail carried haughtily, as straight as possible, not the curve on the back. It is covered with coarse, short hair without fringes, and measures between 12 and 15 cm. It is not usually amputated.

As for its fur , the outer coat is dense, hard, rough and smooth, about 5 cm long. Instead, the undercoat forms a dense, soft and very short coat. It is white in color .

Let’s now see in more detail what the West Highland white terrier looks like and the breed standard:

West Highland White Terrier breed standard

  • General appearance : it has a strong structure, with powerful and muscular hind legs, perfectly combining strength and activity.
  • Size and size: small dog.
  • Height at the withers: between 27 and 28 cm for males and between 26 and 27 cm for females.
  • Weight: between 6 and 8 kg for males and between 5.5 and 7.5 kg for females.
  • Origin: United Kingdom.
  • Body: it is compact and long.
  • Head: with the skull a little longer than the muzzle, it is covered with abundant fur that gives it a rounded appearance.
  • Skull: slightly bulky, tapers slightly from ears to eyes.
  • Muzzle: thicker in the eye area than towards the nose, no concave cavity is formed under the eyes.
  • Nose: it does not project forward and is black and slightly elongated.
  • Eyes: Slightly sunken, of medium size and set well apart from each other. Very dark in color, his gaze is alert, sharp and intelligent, slightly mischievous, under thick eyebrows.
  • Ears: set well apart, they are small, firm and pointed. They are covered with short and soft hair, with a velvet touch, without fringes at the ends. The dog wears them upright.
  • Naso-frontal depression (stop): It is very marked because, in fact, it presents a bony protrusion just above the eyes and a slight slope between them.
  • Jaws: The jaws are strong and uniform, quite wide between the fangs, which gives the dog a mischievous image. With a scissor bite, the teeth are large in proportion to the size of the body.
  • Neck: it is long, muscular and quite thick at the base.
  • Chest: it is deep and has very arched ribs in the upper half.
  • Back: it is straight and has a broad and strong loin.
  • Forelimbs: they are straight and covered with dense, short and hard hair. The shoulders are tilted back, the shoulder blades are very close to the chest. The forearms and arms are short, straight and muscular. The elbows are positioned in such a way as to allow the limb to be endowed with free movement.
  • Hind limbs: short, powerful and muscular, they are broad in the upper part. The legs are well muscled and not too far apart. The hocks have good angulation, they are quite close to each other.
  • Feet: the forelegs are long, well proportioned in size, strong and endowed with thick pads and covered with short and rough hair. The hindquarters are shorter and smaller, and also have very thick pads. Both the bottom of the pads and the nails are usually black.
  • Tai : usually measures between 12 and 15 cm, is covered with rough hair and without fringes, and the dog wears it as straight and high as possible, without curling it on the back.
  • Hair: double-layered, the undercoat is short, soft and very dense. The outer coat is of hard, straight and tight hair. Always in an immaculate white color. COAT Hair: It is double-layered. The inner coat looks like a layer of skin with short, soft and dense hair, while the outer coat is made up of coarse, tight hair, about 5 cm long and straight, without undulations.
  • Color: it is always white.
  • Movement: The West Highland white terrier has a free, straight and agile movement. It extends the front legs freely forward, while the hind legs give them a free, strong and gathered movement.
  • FCI Classification: FCI No. 85. Group 3 – Terriers. Section 2 – Small-sized Terriers.

Westy Cubs

If you are looking for information about the Westie, it may be because you are considering the adoption or purchase of a West Highland White Terrier puppy. To help you, you must know a series of fundamental aspects before making the big decision.

It is a very brave and intrepid pet, something that makes them explore its environment from a very young age. For this reason, it is important in the first weeks to pay special attention that it cannot access places where it could be injured.

It is very important to start the process of socializing the pups from puppyhood. You must know different places, have contact with other people and dogs (under veterinary approval) and listen to all kinds of sounds and noises.

In this way, when it grows up it will not be a fearful or nervous dog in new situations. It is the best way to achieve a balanced and calm adult dog.

Used by its origin to hunt in the open air, this dog enjoys walks and activities in the field. But it adapts without problem to apartment living.

Agility or flyball are two of the canine sports that the Westie can face successfully, since, in addition to having strong muscles and great flexibility, this dog is very obedient.

Adoption and purchase of a Westy

If you decide to adopt a West Highland white terrier, you can do so at an animal shelter or shelter. Normally, in these centers they take in animals that have been abandoned and wait for a family to adopt and care for them.

They are usually tremendously grateful pets and they are very affectionate and friendly animals with the whole family. A faithful friend for life.


If you decide to buy a Westy puppy, it is best to do so from a West Highland White Terrier breeder who specializes in this breed and who offers all the legal and health guarantees.

Visit it, talk to the owner and ask all the questions you deem appropriate. Ask for the puppy’s documentation and you can get some valuable advice. Likewise, it’s the right place to buy a pedigree westie, if you so desire.

Purchase and Prices

The price of a West Highland white terrier can vary greatly depending on who you buy it from or the country you are in. It is not the same to buy it in Spain , Mexico , Argentina , the United States , Chile, Colombia, Peru or Bolivia.

As a guideline if you buy it from an individual or online, prices usually range between 150 and 300 dollars.

On the other hand, in a breeder the price is usually a little higher, and they are usually between 350 to 600 dollars . Even some specimens with a great pedigree or descendants of champions can reach 1,000 dollars.

In any case, remember that it is a living being and you must flee from “suspiciously” cheap prices, from those people in whom you do not see their intentions clear, or who you see that the business prioritizes the well-being of the puppy.

Westy Education and Training

The West Highland white terrier does not usually present many behavioral or education problems if it is used from a very young age to certain rules or guidelines.

But it is true that alterations in its character can occur when it perceives that it can occupy a higher rank in the pack, especially if it realizes that its owner does not have the authority or the firmness necessary to be their leader.

If you are wondering how to train a Westy, you should know that, like almost all terriers, it needs a steady and steady hand in its education, and its owner must be willing to play the role of leader of the pack at all times .

A spoiled dog can easily suffer from the small dog syndrome and manifest it with tyrannical attitudes, becoming excessively combative with other dogs, enhancing their territoriality within the house and even biting family members.

In spite of everything, it is not a problem dog and it can be a good choice for novice owners, as long as they have a minimum knowledge of the canine temperament or seek the advice and services of a professional.

How to raise a Westy?

Regarding training or how to educate a Westie, the general perception of this dog has undergone a radical change over the years, since from being a basically hunting and working breed, it has come to be considered almost exclusively as a companion dog and, on many occasions, it has even been taken as a luxury dog.

However, this idea could not be further from reality, since it is really a very active and sporty dog ​​that loves to go out to the field and participate in all family activities.

If given the opportunity, it perfectly demonstrates its genetic predisposition for hunting, but if not, it can be enrolled in other sports, where it will find a perfect escape valve for its physical needs.

How to train a westie

In this sense, in many countries it competes with great notoriety in the versions for small dogs of agilityflyball or slalom, for example, and it can also be seen in obedience championships.

Due to its temperament and the excellent affinity it has with people, it is also an ideal breed to work as a therapy dog, both with children who have problems, as well as with autistic people, with the sick and with the elderly.

Likewise, in some countries it has been included in reintegration and re-education programs in prisons and drug addiction centers.

The reasons are that, while it is a sociable, optimistic and friendly dog, its aesthetic requirements imply a certain obligation and the establishment of constant daily routines, something very favorable for those who suffer from some type of addiction or who need to give a radical change to their own behavior habits.

West Highland White terrier diet

It is very important to control the weight of the West Highland white terrier, as obesity has become one of the most widespread evils among dogs, mainly due to the general sedentary lifestyle that prevails in modern society.

Like many dogs, and especially this one, they have stopped leading the kind of life that is proper to them due to their breed and now they no longer need to work to earn food, the exercise they do is less and less.

Therefore, as a general rule, owners tend to supply more food to their canine pets than they actually need.

The westie’s diet should be of the highest quality and balanced (balanced). Fortunately, the main manufacturers of dog food have food specially designed for these breeds on the market.

In general, the energy needs of the Westie are very high in relation to its size, since it is small but its work and activity capacities are high.

For this reason, the amount of proteins included in its diet must also be high, as well as the bioavailability and digestibility of its diet, so that all the dog’s needs can be covered without having to give it an excessive ration of food.

Fortunately, in the current market there is a wide variety of food for dogs, adapted in many cases to the age, size and even the breed of the animal, so it is not difficult to find high-end products that adapt to tastes and the requirements of this terrier.

homemade diet can also be provided , but this option is only recommended to those who have the necessary knowledge to prepare a menu for their pet that is complete, healthy and balanced at the same time .

In this sense, one of the unequivocal indicators when assessing whether the animal is being fed correctly are its stools, which must be small, uniform and not too soft or excessively hard and dry.

On the other hand, the Westie’s diet must meet all the characteristics of a healthy diet in order to keep its hair in optimal condition, with adequate texture and quality, as this is essential when it comes to understanding the breed.

The health of your skin and hair is guaranteed with the contribution of a series of essential fatty acids of known origin whose main source is fats of vegetable origin (oils) and others of animal origin, especially some very rich fish oils in Omega 3 and Omega 6 complexes.

Westy’s Health and Diseases

The West Highland White Terrier is a basically healthy and long-lived breed that reaches 15 years of age without problems , and even outperforms them in good condition more times than is usual for other dogs. Even so, you can suffer from some conditions, such as:

  • Hernias
  • Liver diseases
  • Joint problems.
  • Calcification of the jaw.
  • Skin problems

It is a dog prone to skin diseases, as its white coat makes the incidence of allergies and eczema higher in this breed than in others with other colored coats.

For the rest, its health must always be subject to the controls that the veterinarian deems appropriate through a program of periodic visits.

In which the established vaccinations must be completed routinely, and a good internal and external deworming must be done.

In the same way, you must implant a microchip under the skin to facilitate its recognition at all times and identify the dog in case of loss or theft, monitor the state of the skin, which is one of its weak points, and, of course, monitor the dog’s eyes, mouth and ears.

Specific care of the West Highland White terrier

Grooming a West Highland White Terrier with the typical image of the breed requires a lot of patience, some specific knowledge and having the right equipment.

But it is advisable for all owners to make the effort to have their Westie groomed in the traditional way.

Westy’s hair care


Before proceeding to fix the hair, it is necessary to do a good brushing to stimulate epidermal circulation, eliminate dead hair and undo any tangles or knots. This brushing should be done routinely at least twice a week.

In the areas of the body where the hair is shorter, the terrier mitten is used, but in the parts with fringes or where the hair is longer, such as the head, legs and flanks, it is better to use the card first and then the metal comb.


Regarding how often to bathe a Westie, it should be done only when the animal is really dirty. As a general rule, you should bathe every 5 or 6 months .

To do this, a neutral pH shampoo should be used and specially designed for bathing dogs. The animal should be rinsed with plenty of water, making sure not to leave traces of soap.

Grooming and haircut

Unlike other breeds, this one is always groomed before bathing, to prevent freshly washed hair from becoming slippery and difficult to work with the fingers, which is how it is traditionally done to keep it in perfect condition, without altering its nature or its texture.

It can also be fixed by machine, but in this case in the long run the hair loses texture and the coat becomes cottony and loose, far removed from its traditional appearance and shape.

This technique of pulling the hair with the fingers in the areas where it should be shorter in length (neck, chest, skull from occiput to nape, shoulders, body all over the back and up to the middle of the flanks, part back of the thighs and anal area), is called hand-stripping and requires some learning and practice.

To facilitate the work, in addition to rubber thimbles , you can use a trimming blade , and it is advisable to use white chalk, which allows the hair to come off much more easily.

The most important thing is that the end result is natural and that too much hair is not pulled out so that there are no bald spots.

The tail can also be groomed by hand, but it is quicker and less painful for the dog to do with the thinning shears, trimming it down to just enough hair to accentuate its ideal natural shape.

These scissors are the same ones used to give tubular shape to the hair on the legs, which are first combed well in the opposite direction to the hairline. And then they are retouched with the smooth scissors, which are also used to round the feet and hands, remove interdigital hair and cut the tips of the body fringes following the natural silhouette of the dog.

The most difficult part to fix is ​​the head, since the essence that morphologically defines the breed is concentrated in it, the one that gives it its typical expression and the one that gives the first impression of the dog as a whole.

First the hair in the ears is trimmed with the thinning scissors until it is as short as possible but with a uniform appearance, and then the longest hairs inside the ear canal are pulled with the fingers.

Afterwards, the skull hair is arranged between the ears, combing it first to stretch it and give it volume, and then trimming it with thinning scissors following an arc shape whose highest point is marked by the tips of the ears.

The hair on the cheeks is arranged in a similar way, giving continuity to that arch, and on the face, to accentuate the clear and clean appearance, the hair located on the bridge of the nose is trimmed to the maximum.

Finally, the hair on the muzzle and chin is fixed, completing the circle that began in the upper part, using the card and the comb. The work is finished with the smooth scissors. The final finish of the head should be as round as possible.

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