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Breed Guide: West Highland White Terrier

By Christy True
April 18, 2022 • 5 min. read
West Highland white terrier

Introduction to West Highland white terriers

West Highland white terrier

If you’re looking for an entertaining and adorable small-size dog, a West Highland white terrier might make a great addition to your household. These charming canines are sturdy and have a long history as a breed. They almost look like a stuffed toy but don’t be fooled.

Affectionately referred to as the “Westie,” West Highland white terriers are courageous and hardworking dogs that know how to hunt and be self-reliant. These dogs love to chase small animals and have an independent streak that is perfectly matched with their high intelligence and loyalty. Pet parents will need to have enough time and patience to devote to these little white dogs, but in return, they’ll get an amazing companion that is a pure joy to be around.

Size of West Highland white terriers

At their adult size, a West Highland white terrier will be about 15 to 20 pounds in weight. Males are about 11 inches tall, while females are about 10 inches tall. Females tend to weigh a couple pounds less than males.

Here’s how big you can expect your West Highland white terrier to get when fully grown. It is important to keep your Westie within these weight ranges for optimal health, because feeding your pup too many treats could easily make him or her weigh twice the numbers on this chart.

Weight Chart3 months6 months9 Months12 months
Male and Female West Highland White Terriers6.8-9.6 pounds12.2-17.3 pounds14.8-20.9 pounds15.4-22 pounds

Characteristics of West Highland white terriers

West Highland white terrier

West Highland white terriers are very self-assured, to the point where some people will say they are totally full of themselves. They act like they are big dogs even though they are fairly small. These dogs love to entertain, are lively, and have a quizzical look that is absolutely adorable.

You can’t help but smile when you’re around a Westie because of this silly, social energy. They can be mischievous but have a happy disposition and very rarely pick a fight. This is no lazy lapdog, but rather a spunky and lively dog who loves a good adventure.

As you get to know a West Highland white terrier’s personality, here’s what you can expect based on his or her breed characteristics.

Breed CharacteristicLevel (High, Medium, Low)
Affectionate with PeopleHigh
Good with KidsMedium
Good with PetsHigh
Need for ExerciseMedium
Energy LevelMedium
Intelligence LevelMedium
Able to Be TrainedMedium
Amount of BarkingMedium
Amount of SheddingMedium

West Highland white terrier standard information

As an officially recognized breed, the West Highland white terrier has breed standard information available that is accepted by national and international dog organizations. In general, these dogs come across as hardy, confident, and neatly presented in dog shows.

Here is an overview of the breed standard information for West Highland white terriers:

West Highland white terrier

Head:

  • Round appearance from front
  • Piercing and inquisitive expression
  • Wide-set eyes that are almond-shaped
  • Small and tightly erect ears
  • Broad skull that tapers to eyes
  • Blunt and powerful muzzle
  • Tight scissors bite

Neck, Topline, Body:

  • Muscular and well-set neck
  • Flat and level topline
  • Compact body with ribs deep
  • Relatively short tail, shaped like a carrot

Forequarters:

  • Shoulder blades well laid back
  • Muscular, well-boned forelegs
  • Forefeet larger than hind ones
  • Dewclaws may be removed

Hindquarters:

  • Very muscular thighs
  • Short, sinewy rear legs

Coat:

  • Double-coated
  • Straight, hard, white hair for outer coat
  • Hard, straight, and white coat

Color:

  • Must be white

Gait:

  • Free, straight, and easy movement
  • Hocks freely flexed and close under body
  • Movement not stiff or stilted

Caring for West Highland white terriers

West Highland white terrier

One good thing about West Highland white terriers is that they are adaptable dogs that can do well in most environments and living situations. These dogs don’t need a ton of space to live and even thrive in apartments. However, it is important that they get a good amount of exercise and play sessions to keep them healthy and stimulated. They do slightly better in cold weather than hot weather. Westies also typically do well with dogs, cats, and children under supervision. First-time pet parents like Westies because of their easy-going natures and fun-loving personalities.

Here are some general tips for taking the best care of a West Highland white terrier

Best Living Environments:

  • Houses or apartments
  • City or country environments
  • Yard is nice but not required
  • Not a full-time outside dog
  • In homes with children at least seven years old
  • Does well in multi-dog homes

Type of Exercise:

  • Indoor time to relax and outdoor time to expend energy
  • Playing fetch indoors
  • Running around a fenced yard
  • Walks once or twice daily
  • Swimming is okay but should be supervised

Mental Enrichment:

  • Squeaky toys to play with
  • Kong stuffed with peanut butter
  • A cozy crate to feel comfortable

Training Strategies:

  • Quick learners and can be trained easily
  • Housetraining is particularly easy
  • Use positive reinforcement for training
  • Train early not to bark unnecessarily
  • Use crate training to prevent accidents/mischief in the house

Grooming Tips:

  • Generally low shedding
  • Regular brushing needed but easy to groom
  • Can hire a groomer but not necessary if you can keep up with brushing
  • Trim hair around the feet, ears, and eyes
  • Check ears for dirt and odor once per week

Common health problems of West Highland white terriers

West Highland white terrier

It is common for West Highland white terriers to live for about 13 to 15 years, on average. These are typically healthy dogs that lead fulfilling lives. However, accidents still happen, and these dogs are frequently diagnosed with illnesses, especially as they get older.

These are some of the most common health issues that arise with West Highland white terriers

  • Skin allergies
  • Orthopedic issues in the knees and hips
  • Dry eye syndrome
  • Addison’s disease (adrenal gland issue)
  • Mitral valve endocardiosis (heart valve issue)
  • Pulmonary fibrosis
  • Craniomandibular osteopathy (enlarged skull bones)
  • Legg-Calve-Perthes disease
  • Cataracts

Diet and nutrition for West Highland white terriers

Although every Westie’s dietary needs are unique, the general recommendation is to feed these dogs ½ to 1 ½ cups of dry dog food per day. Divide the food into morning and evening meals, and adjust the amount based upon your dog’s level of activity.

Some recommended dog foods for West Highland white terriers are Royal Canin West Highland White Terrier Dry Dog Food, Blue Buffalo Basics LID Grain-Free Salmon & Potato Small Breed Recipe, and Nature’s Variety Instinct Original Small Breed Grain-Free Real Beef Recipe Natural Wet Dog Food. It is also possible to prepare your own DIY dog food at home for your Westie with a veterinarian’s input. Just be sure to not feed too many treats to your pup to prevent the risk of obesity.

Where to adopt or purchase West Highland white terriers

If you want to purchase a purebred West Highland white terrier from a breeder, expect to pay between $650 and $1,700 on average. However, it is important to buy a puppy from a reputable breeder who tests dogs to ensure they do not have genetic diseases that are passed down to puppies.

The West Highland White Terrier Club of America offers resources for finding reputable breeders and also for rescue organizations where you can adopt a Westie. There are other organizations that you can contact too to help a dog in need, such as Westie Rescue USA, which operates in the Mid-Atlantic region of the U.S.

Related Breeds

There are numerous small, white dog breeds that have similar appearances and temperaments to the West Highland white terrier. In fact, there are lots of different kinds of terriers to choose from when you are ready to bring a new dog into your life.

Here are a few other types of breeds to learn about if this is the kind of dog you are interested in:

  • Cairn terrier
  • Norfolk terrier
  • Australian terrier
  • Scottish terrier
  • Skye terrier
  • Dandie Dinmont terrier

Pet insurance for West Highland white terriers

No matter your Westie’s age or where you live, pet insurance is a great investment if you have a West Highland white terrier. Westie puppies often get into mischief, while young dogs might overdo it and get injured during playtime, and senior dogs start to feel the effects of hereditary conditions and old age.

Healthy Paws offers West Highland white terrier insurance with no caps on annual or lifetime payouts and fast claim processing. Get your Westie insurance quote today and enjoy peace of mind that new accidents and illnesses will be covered whenever your little white pup is having a bad day.

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Christy True and Tomas
By Christy True

Christy has been writing about pets for Healthy Paws for 21 dog years. She previously worked in journalism, hence her penchant for writing about offbeat animal studies and the latest viral pet trends. She has been owned by several dogs, and right now, Tomas, a Mexican street dog rescue, is staring at her because he wants a walk. Outside of work, she can usually be found sliding down a mountain near her home in Bend, Ore.

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