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Please be aware that a Westie is not an appropriate breed for everyone. Many people are captivated by the Westie's appearance but few are prepared for the strong-willed terrier personality possessed by this breed, commonly referred to as "Westitude".  Still, you will not find a more loyal canine companion than a Westie.

Westie Traits

The West Highland White Terrier or "-Westie-" is a small compact dog standing about 10-11 inches tall. The weight can range between 15 and 25 pounds averaging between 16 and 20 pounds. The Westie no doubt shares a common ancestry with other terriers from Scotland, including the Scottish, Skye, Cairn and Dandie Dinmont Terriers.

Westies are very intelligent and definitely not "laid back". They are happy, playful and affectionate but also tough, hardy, independent and tenacious! Westies are possessed with no small amount of self-esteem and they can be assertive and demanding. These traits make them a wonderful companion for those who appreciate and are charmed by the terrier temperament but a disaster for the person who wants a gentle-natured little dog bred primarily for cuddling. If you are not prepared to provide structure, leadership and training for your Westie, this is not the breed for you.

If you are drawn to Westies because "they are so cute" please be advised that their looks are deceiving. West Highland White Terriers are high energy dogs originally bred to hunt and kill game and vermin in the rugged Scottish Highlands. Because they were bred to go-to-ground in a hunt, digging and barking are natural instincts.
Westies are "pack" animals and need to be with their owners. If your lifestyle is such that the Westie will be home alone for a large portion of each day, this is not the right time in your life to add a Westie to your family. Westies who are routinely neglected, confined and ignored can become unmanageable. Without sufficient training they can become too difficult for an owner to handle. Westies need owners who are willing to provide patience, obedience training, socialization, understanding and plenty of quality time.

High Prey Drive

Canines, in general, and terriers, in particular, possess an instinctive behavior called "prey drive". This instinct allows wild dogs to chase and kill animals for food. Our domestic dogs no longer have the need to kill their own food, but, nonetheless, the instinct remains very much intact.

Westies are definitely high prey drive terriers. Consequently, any small house pets such as cats, rabbits, birds, mice, rats or hamsters will be viewed as "prey" and will be in serious peril from a Westie. Even if the Westie and the other small pets are separated, there will be stress on both the animals and the family because the Westie will persist in barking and attempting to hunt the smaller prey.  It is possible for Westies, generally puppies, to be raised with and live well with cats.  But, this is the exception to the rule, particularly when it comes to  rescue Westies who are generally older and set in their ways and view most cats as "prey".

Westies and Children

Many of the popular breed books unfortunately misrepresent Westies as unequivocally "good with children". This is not an accurate statement. Many Westies will NOT TOLERATE even unintentional mistreatment by a child.

  • They will not put up with typical handling by a child (such as pulling of ears or tails), nor will they tolerate a child taking or "sharing" the dog's bones, food and toys.
  • Children are often the most disrespected members of a dog's "pack". A Westie may view himself as a much higher-ranking pack member than your children.
  • Additionally, the sight of a running child may trigger the Westie's high prey drive causing the Westie to instinctively try to bring the child to a stop anyway he can.  And, in situations where a Westie bites, nips or snaps at a child it is the Westie who is usually, (and most often unfairly), deemed guilty. 

A dog has one aim in life... to bestow his heart.

J. R. Ackerley

Responsible Westie Owner

To be a responsible pet owner you must fully understand the health, behavior and temperament traits of the Westie breed and what the puppy will be like as he matures into an adult dog.

Many dogs who end up in Westie Rescue programs are unwanted simply for being Westies by nature and behavior. Their owners found that they were unprepared to provide the care required for this feisty terrier.