The West Highland White Terrier, or Westie for short, has been popular in Germany for decades. His fluffy and pure white fur needs a lot of care, but he enjoys it to the fullest. In this country, the former hunting dog is kept almost exclusively as a companion dog. In order to keep the lively dog happy in the long term, you should challenge him with varied games and excursions in everyday life.
The West Highland White Terrier’s Appearance: Small, White, and Angular
Westies have brilliant white fur that needs regular trimming and shaping. The fluffy mustache, which sometimes sticks out quite wildly, is also striking. The cheeks, the ears, and the back of the head are also covered with medium-length curly hair, which makes the head appear much wider. The optimal height at the withers for males and females is given as 28 cm, whereby the gender difference is clearly visible. Bitches usually weigh between 6 and 7 kilograms, males can weigh up to 10 kilograms.
- To the FCI breed standard of the Westie
The West Highland White Terrier from the curly head to the vertical “index finger” tail
- The head is not stretched out but kept as straight as possible. Despite the rich coat of hair, the clearly pronounced nose stop is clearly recognizable.
- The black nose, which is slightly turned up and relatively large, is clearly visible. Most Westies also have black lips and palate.
- The dark almond eyes are framed by prominent eyebrows.
- The ears are wide and triangular and point forward.
- The body is compact and the head appears proportionally slightly enlarged due to its hair. The short-legged dogs are built straight and the ribs fill the entire middle of the body.
- The medium-length tail is usually carried straight up like a finger. She tapers slightly towards the top and she is covered with medium-length hair that doesn’t obscure her natural shape.
- The white coat is medium length on the back, head, and tail, growing long on the underside of the body and needs regular trimming.
History: Highly Visible Ground and Hedge Hunter
Genetically, the West Highland White Terrier is closely related to other English and Scottish wire-haired terriers. As early as the 16th century, the various terriers were used to hunt badgers, otters, foxes, and other animals living in dens. Since the beginning of the 20th century, the different breeds have been purebred and no longer crossed with each other. Where the British hunting dogs also come from is largely unknown. It is likely that the Celts already used small, rough-coated hounds and that the British terriers arose from crossing Spanish, Norwegian and indigenous hounds.
Close relatives of the Westie
- Skye Terrier (recognized since 1887)
- Dandie Dinmont Terrier (recognized since 1888)
- Scottish Terrier (recognized since 1897)
- Cairn Terrier (direct ancestor)
- Border Terrier (recognized since 1920)
- Norwich Terrier (recognized since 1932)
The origin of the West Highland White Terrier
There is a close relationship between the white Westies and the colorful Cairn Terriers from the Scottish highlands. The breed is rumored to have been bred by Colonel Edward Malcolm, who was then the Lord of Poltalloch in western Scotland and who started a breeding line in the 1900s targeting Cairn Terriers with a large proportion of whites. The reason for this was a tragic hunting accident: the Colonel mistook his light brown Cairn Terrier for a fox while hunting and accidentally shot him. Heartbroken by the tragic loss of his beloved dog, he made it his goal to breed white dogs that are easy to spot when hunting.
The Character of the West Highland White Terrier
There does not seem to be a “typical” Westie character – almost all sources and reports describe the dog breed differently. All sources agree on the terrier characteristics of the dogs: they can solve tasks independently, have a strong hunting instinct, and are very playful. Despite their friendly nature, they do not back down in dangerous situations. In addition to hunting, they can also be used as therapy and even rescue dogs.
This is what life with a Westie can be like
- Thanks to their dense undercoat, the dogs are resistant to wind and weather and enjoy spending time outdoors all year round.
- Some Westies are social and socialize easily with others, others are wary of strangers and do not accept competition in the pack.
- Bitches are more likely to behave aggressively towards other bitches. In general, however, the dogs are described as very social.
- They are crazy about toys and treats.
- Their need to communicate and their attentive nature is often expressed through barking, howling, and other gestures.
No Dog for Singles and Single People
The West Highland White Terrier needs a lot of company and loves living in large groups. He can occupy himself and remain alone for long periods of time; however, life with just one owner becomes too boring for him in the long run. He is well suited as a family dog, although he does not put up with everything. With a loving upbringing, he doesn’t take bad experiences seriously – if he comes into a new family or if there are children among the keepers in the course of his life, he can grow into the new situation together with the children.
Training and Keeping Westie Puppies: Playful Training is the Key to Success
West Highland White Terrier puppies are adaptable and can be used in a variety of work areas. They often serve as therapy dogs but are also used as sniffer and rescue dogs. They respond very positively to gaming sessions and snacks as reinforcers. Although the dogs have minds of their own, they are easy to train with rewards. Be careful not to over-indulge your dog or he will stop responding to commands if you don’t provide snacks.