West Highland White Terrier breed information
|Average height||28 cm|
|Average weight||6-9 kg|
|Average lifespan||Over 12 years|
|Minimum exercise (per day)||1 hour|
|Minimum cost (per month)||£70|
Westies are loving and loyal little dogs who adapt easily to a variety of home environments. They have happy, fun-loving personalities and love family life which has made them popular pets.
Originally bred to hunt vermin, nowadays you’re more likely to see a Westie keeping their owner company than out hunting! They make very popular companion dogs as they love people so much.
Common health problems in West Highland White Terriers
Westies are clever and loving dogs who do really well in a family environment. Sadly they are prone to certain conditions relating to their breed.
If you are thinking of buying a Westie puppy, make sure the parents of your puppy have had the relevant health screening to reduce the chances of your puppy being affected by certain conditions. We’d recommend looking for a Kennel Club Assured Breeder as they meet extra requirements which will benefit your puppy’s health.
Some of the conditions Westies may develop include:
- Skin allergies.
- Inherited bone disorder of the jaw.
- Luxating patellas – where the kneecaps slip temporarily out of place.
- Ear conditions
- Eye problems, including dry eye – a condition that stops them producing tears which causes dry, painful eyes.
- Breathing problems known as Westie Lung (Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis)
- Legg-Perthes disease (Legg-Calvé-Perthes) – a painful condition which causes the hip joint to die and crumble.
If you want to minimise the risk of your dog getting problems, you can read our advice on choosing a pedigree dog.
Caring for your West Highland White Terrier
Westies are good-natured and loving family pets who adapt well to both countryside and city living as long as they get enough exercise. They’re clever and so can pick up on new things quickly. They’re eager to please which makes them a popular choice with first time owners.
Loveable as they are, Westies do tend to forget just how small they are. They can be extremely determined and strong-willed so socialisation and training is really important so they don’t feel the need to bark at larger dogs or grow into unmanageable adults.
Westies and barking
Even with training, your Westie is likely to bark and how much they do will depend on the individual dog. Westies like the sound of their own voice and have been known to bark for the sake of it when the mood takes them. If you’re having problems with excessive noise or barking, we recommend seeking the advice of an accredited behaviourist.
Training and socialisation
Westies are super eager to please and respond really well to positive, reward-based training which also makes them a good choice for first time owners. They’re clever little dogs, but can sometimes be wilful with training so a firm but fair attitude and consistency is a must. We’d recommend taking your dog to accredited training classes if you’re a first time owner or don’t have much experience of training dogs.
Westies are sociable and enjoy the company of people. It’s important to socialise your Westie from a young age with lots of different people, dogs and experiences. This will help their fun-loving personalities develop.
As they form such strong bonds with their owners, Westies often suffer with separation anxiety if left alone. Ideally, there should be someone around all day with your Westie. If they are alone for too long, they are likely to make a lot of noise and could start chewing things around the home.
Westies are surprisingly energetic and really enjoy lots of playtime with their owners. They can be very mischievous so enjoy anything that will keep their curious minds active. A secure fence is a must – Westies like to explore and if they find a weakness they’ll try their best to go beyond it.
Your Westie will need an hour exercise every day. This should be split into a couple of walks with lots of time for sniffing and exploring along the way. On top of this, your Westie will need plenty of time off-lead in a secure area to run around. They’ll also need training sessions to keep their minds active and plenty of playtime with you.
Westies have quite thick fur which can quickly get matted particularly around their face and legs. They’ll need brushing a few times a week to keep the coat in good condition. While they shed throughout the year, what makes them really high maintenance is definitely the grooming! Your Westie will likely need to see a professional groomer as often as every six weeks for a trim.
As their fur can get matted, you may need to bath your Westie if they’ve rolled in something while out walking. Westies are known to suffer from skin allergies, so speak to your vet before buying a shampoo.
Westies and children
Westies are affectionate and playful pets which makes them ideal for families with children of any age. This said, you should always supervise your dog with children and vulnerable adults and make sure to put a stop to playtime if it starts getting too boisterous.
Westies and other pets
If socialised with lots of other dogs from a young age, your Westie should get along fine. Try to take them along to puppy socialisation groups as often as possible to make sure they’re comfortable with dogs of all sizes.
Westies have quite a high prey drive, so we wouldn’t recommend keeping them with smaller pets. If they have grown up with a cat in the home, they’ll be fine with that cat, but you should always supervise your dog around other pets.
Your vet will be able to tell you how much your Westie should be eating. You should feed them a good quality, commercially available, complete dog food. We usually recommend splitting their daily allowance into two meals. If you give your dog the occasional treat or use treats for training, remember to take this into account and reduce their daily allowance. Treats shouldn’t make up more than 10% of their daily calorie intake as this can unbalance their diet.
Try to feed your dog at similar times every day as they like routine. Remember to leave a gap between eating and exercising.
The cost of owning a West Highland White Terrier
Adopting an adult Westie from a rescue centre may be a more cost-effective option, with the added advantage of giving a home to a pet without one – check if the rehoming centre you’re looking at asks for a donation for rehoming.
If instead you’re buying a Westie puppy from a breeder, you’ll need to factor in this cost. Beware unusually cheap puppies as they could come from a puppy farm. If you’d like to buy a pedigree puppy, we recommend looking for a Kennel Club Assured breeder. These breeders must do extra health tests and meet higher standards.
- Puppy vaccines – if you rescue a dog, reputable centres will often vaccinate them for you. Remember that ongoing booster vaccinations will be needed to continue their immunity.
- Neutering – you should usually arrange for your dog to be neutered at around six months old, though your vet will be able to advise you exactly when is best. Check prices at your local practice as these will depend on your vet and where you live. Some rescue centres will neuter any dogs they rehome, saving you this cost.
- Equipment – including a collar and tags, lead, harness, dog beds, dog bowls, pet-safe toothpaste and toothbrushes, grooming brushes and toys. Keep in mind that all these will need to be replaced with wear or damage or if your dog outgrows or damages them!
- Grooming costs – potentially every six weeks!
- Preventive healthcare – budget for routine vet visits to help stop your dog getting ill and catch any problems early. They need annual check-ups, vaccinations and regular flea and worming treatments. Check if your vet offers a health care plan as this can help spread the cost throughout the year.
- Vet bills* or pet insurance – if you don’t have pet insurance and your dog needs veterinary treatment for an injury or illness, costs can rapidly mount up. Check what’s covered and what isn’t when comparing policies.
- Accessories – including lots of poo bags, replacing worn toys and grooming accessories, buying doggy toothpaste and any other extras they might need.
- Training – basic training is very important and dogs can benefit from formal classes. Some dogs may have, or develop, behavioural problems which might need professional management.
- Boarding – you may also need to budget for boarding or dog sitting costs if you are planning to go away from home on holiday.
- Dog walkers/day-care – you might consider a professional dog walker to keep your dog happy and healthy if you’re unable to get out with your dog enough yourself, or to look after them during the day if you need to be out for more than four hours.
* It’s always better to plan ahead and budget or get pet insurance in case your pet gets injured or unwell. If you are having difficulty with veterinary costs, you can check if you are eligible for treatment at PDSA here.
If you’re considering pet insurance, our PDSA Pet Insurance could be a great option for you and it’s quick and easy to get a quote online.
- Thanks to their small size, Westies are very skilled at squeezing themselves through the smallest of holes. A Westie-proof garden is a must!
- They weren’t always called West Highland White Terriers – they used to be known as Roseneath terriers.
- Westies are always white! Because of this, their ears can easily get sunburnt so make sure to protect them in the sun.
- They’re known for being mischievous dogs and love to keep their owners entertained.
Getting a West Highland White Terrier
Do plenty of research before getting a Westie. These fun-loving and affectionate dogs need lots of time and attention from their owners. They make the perfect companion for anyone looking for a best friend and form strong bonds with their owners.
There are plenty of rescue centres across the country where you may find a Westie. Breed-specific rescues that specialise in Westies are also out there. You’ll need to ask any rescue centre about the dog’s history to make sure they will be comfortable in your home. Good rescue centres should let you know of any health and behaviour problems.
If you buy from a breeder, make sure your puppy will be well socialised and have all necessary screening tests, health checks and vaccinations. It’s really important that Westie puppies from a breeder get the right early socialisation so always ask the breeder about how they go about this. We recommend looking for a Kennel Club Assured breeder as they meet higher standards. We’ve put together some advice to help you find a good breeder.