You may be interested in
a West Highland White Terrier for a variety of reasons ... as a pet, a
show dog, an obedience competitor, a working dog, or a combination of
these things. Whatever your objective you, the dog’s owner, will be responsible
for the care and training that will enable your Westie to fulfill its
A Westie is an all white, compact, sturdy package of frolicsome energy,
looking for some fun. His ears stand up naturally. His tail is short by
nature’s design. As adults, males measure about 11 inches in height with
bitches being about 1 inch less. The breed was developed for the hard
and dangerous work of destroying vermin. The physical characteristics
of the Westie are described fully in the Breed
The Westie’s coat is double to protect him from the elements and from
the teeth and claws of his quarry in the hunt. The outer coat is hard
with softer undercoat for insulation. Puppies may have more of the softer
undercoat, but with proper hand stripping, the hard coat will emerge.
The adult coat sheds lightly, so he must be brushed to remove the dead
hair. This coat is a "dry" rather than oily coat so that it does
not absorb soil readily or have a marked "doggy" odor.
A Westie needs very few baths. The hard outer coat is easily kept clean
with a brush and occasional dry cleaning. This is done by brushing white
powdered chalk or corn starch into the coat. When the powder is brushed
out, the soil comes with it. A Westie kept as a pet requires grooming
every eight to twelve weeks for a tidy appearance. A weekly or bi-weekly
schedule is necessary for the dog appearing in the show ring.
If you want a cuddly lapdog, a Westie may not be the right breed for
you. Many are too independent to be held for long periods. While they
like to be in close proximity, most find a corner of the room or near
a heater vent to be ideal. However, there are some exceptions and it is
independent of the sex of the dog.
If someone in your household is an avid gardener, you may want to avoid
a Westie or any one of the other terrier breeds. They are "earth dogs"
and do like to dig. If your heart is otherwise set on the Westie, there
are ways to accommodate the family gardener and his enthusiastic Westie
"helper." A designated and/or restricted area should be designed
into your garden plans.
If you want a one-man dog, prefer cats to dogs, or aren’t home much,
you shouldn’t get a Westie. Westies are very people-oriented and like
being with you whenever possible. While they do not require a huge amount
of exercise, they can get bored and look for trouble when they do not
get enough attention and human companionship.
Most people prefer to get
a young puppy and raise it themselves. This can be very rewarding, but
also time consuming and sometimes frustrating. Other people prefer a dog
that is out of puppyhood and has already been "civilized." This
page will discuss the pros and cons of both, and how to select a Westie
of any age.
Additional helpful information can be found on our Westie
FAQs (Most Frequently Asked Questions) page.
A beautiful animal? A good family pet? A good obedience worker? A good
earth dog? There are Westies that fit each description, and some that
fit all of these descriptions. The West Highland White Terrier Club of
America has hundreds of members whose interest in the breed has led them
to develop the potential of the Westie in each of these areas. Westies
also work as hearing dogs, as therapy dogs, as tracking dogs, appear in
commercials and advertisements, and are preferred by people who want a
large dog in a small package. Westies are fun loving and spirited, and
have a sense of humor. They have "no small amount of self esteem,"
which is 90% endearing and 10% maddening. His hard, "dry" coat
sheds only a little, is easy to clean, and has no "doggy" odor.
There is no question that the West Highland White Terrier is a versatile
and remarkable breed.
Before you even start looking at litters of puppies, take time to learn
about the breed. Attend dog shows and earthdog tests, Westie Club meetings,
and local kennel club meetings, and talk with and question Westie owners.
They are proud of their dogs and are happy to share their enthusiasm.
Look around. It is much easier to find a "puppy mill" or "backyard
breeder" that knows and cares little about the welfare of the breed
than it is to find a reputable breeder. Have patience and never buy impulsively
... all puppies are cute. The West Highland White Terrier Club of America
and many of the regional clubs can supply you with a list of conscientious
breeders in your area who will help you in your search even though they
might not have anything for sale themselves.
You want a sound, healthy puppy who will grow up to be a sound, healthy
representative of the breed. Careful selection now will save heartache
and money later. Poor quality puppies are produced by people who breed
their pets just to have a litter, or by profit seekers who give little
thought to quality, looks or temperament in the puppies they produce.
Many of these indiscriminately-bred puppies have health problems, poor
temperaments, and/or breed disqualifications. Remember, you are choosing
a companion for the next ten to fifteen years.
A poorly-bred six-week-old puppy selling for any price is no bargain!
Chances are that the parents were not tested free of hereditary defects,
that the puppies had little if any veterinary care, and that they were
not given the proper socialization and TLC needed to raise a healthy litter
of Westie puppies. Please check with several breeders or regional Westie
clubs to learn more about current prices for a sound, healthy, properly
raised pet from good parentage sold on a spay/neuter contract. Show and
breeding prospects will be more expensive, and prices vary depending on
the area of the country in which the breeder is located.
Temperamentally, there is very little difference between the sexes in
Westies. Each has its pros and cons. There is a cross-over and always
the exception to the rule. Spayed and neutered animals do not have many
of the negative characteristics of their sex. Males can be easily trained
to use a urination post in the garden, thus keeping the garden healthy
and odor free. Many fanciers find the males to be more affectionate. Stronger
urine odor can be reduced by adding 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar to
a male dog’s food. Females are slightly smaller, are not as strong, and
are therefore easier to walk and carry.
Choosing a reputable breeder is very important. Since it would be almost
impossible for you to know what the puppy you are buying will grow up
to be physically and emotionally, you must rely on your faith in the person
from whom you are purchasing your puppy. There are three options open
to you in choosing this person.
The worst possible choice. The puppies are poorly bred and raised. They
are thought of as merchandise to be sold for a high profit. The high profit
results because little has been put into the breeding or the care of the
puppies. Many are sickly. Pet shops rely heavily on impulse buying, which
is not the way to choose a dog as an addition to the family.
Also a poor choice. This is the person who owns a pet Westie and thinks
it would be "fun" to have puppies, that it would be a great experience
for the children, or that the bitch should be bred once before she is
spayed. Even worse, perhaps, it’s being done just to make money. Usually
this breeder knows little about the Breed Standard or history of the breed,
and still less about proper care. The casual breeder does not have annual
eye examinations done by a Board-certified veterinary ophthalmologist,
and does not send hip X-rays to the GDC or OFA for evaluation and registration.
The backyard breeder is not aware of breed problems, and doesn’t care.
Often the quality of the dogs being bred is poor. This person’s only goal
is to produce puppies and when the "fun" is over, sell them quickly.
The very best choice. The serious and dedicated hobby breeder regards
his/her dogs as even more than a hobby, although the true fancier does
not expect to make a profit. When someone is involved in dogs for the
enjoyment of each individual animal, for participating in any of the many
aspects of "dog sport," and for the challenge of producing the
finest animals possible, the result is superior. These breeders acknowledge
responsibility for each and every puppy produced, and stand behind every
dog they have bred.
Unequivocally, your choice should be from the ranks of the SERIOUS HOBBY
BREEDER. It is an interesting fact that poor quality puppies from pet
shops and backyard breeders are often sold for the same price and sometimes
even more than those purchased from the serious hobby breeder. The question
is: How does one recognize the serious hobby breeder? Following is a list
of requirements the breeder should meet before you consider purchasing
a puppy. Don’t be afraid to ask the breeder many questions. It is your
right, and you can rest assured that the dedicated breeder will respond
positively and with pride.
THE BREEDER SHOULD:
Belong to the West Highland
White Terrier Club of America, a regional Westie club, or an all-breed
club. Ideally, he/she should belong to all three; however, sometimes
this is impossible. The reason for this requirement is that this sort
of participation indicates depth of involvement. This breeder is exposed
to other points of view, learns more about the breed and modern breeding
practices, and is kept up-to-date on AKC rules and regulations.
Be involved in showing his/her
dogs in the breed ring, the obedience ring, earthdog tests, or in a
combination of all three. The reason for this requirement is that it
means that the breeder is not breeding in a vacuum. The breeder who
does not participate has no idea how good his/her dogs really are, and
is deprived of the opportunity to share information and ideas with others.
Showing provides the competition which encourages breeders to produce
better dogs. The breeder who competes wants to prove how good his/her
dogs are and is putting his/her breeding program on the line. This breeder
is not relying on just a pedigree to indicate quality. Even if you do
not want a competition animal, you deserve a pet that was the end result
of a carefully planned litter; a puppy which received the same care
as a potential champion. The breeder who competes in organized activities
is known by others and has a reputation to uphold. This breeder will
be as careful and honest in selling you your pet puppy as in selling
Ask you what kind of dogs
you have had in the past, and what happened to them; whether or not
you have a fenced yard; and whether or not the dog will be allowed to
be a house dog and member of the family. Sincere breeders will be a
bit hesitant to sell you a puppy until they know more about you, what
you are looking for in a dog, and what "life style" you have
in mind for your dog. Having the best interest of the puppy at heart,
to say nothing of yours and theirs, reputable breeders will take great
pains to place puppies properly the first time around. A returned puppy
is a traumatic experience for all concerned so the breeder who is always
willing to accept a puppy back will try to make certain that a West
Highland White Terrier is the breed for you.
Give you a period of time
in which to allow you to have the puppy examined by a veterinarian to
determine its state of health, so that both of you are assured as to
the condition of the puppy at the time of sale. If a problem should
arise, it can then be quickly resolved.
Be able to give you references:
the names of people who have purchased puppies in the past, the names
of other breeders, and the veterinarian who provides care for the breeder’s
Be willing to answer your
questions about any possible hereditary problems. They should be able
to explain the various screenings for the diseases which are most common
in Westies and why they do or do not participate in regular testing
and genetic disease registries such as GDC, OFA, CERF, and WatcH.
Be able to show you a clean
environment; healthy, well-socialized puppies; and a dam with a good
temperament. You should avoid:
shy, whimpering, fearful
puppies with dull coats,
crusty or running eyes, signs of diarrhea, rashes or sores on their
signs of neglect, such
as lack of water, pans of uneaten food, and dirty conditions;
a breeder who will sell
a puppy under eight weeks of age, as early separation from the dam
and litter mates can be very detrimental both psychologically and
a breeder who lets you
handle a very young puppy, as there is a real risk of transmitting
disease before puppies are vaccinated.
Provide you with a record
of the dates and types of vaccinations and worming done, feeding instructions,
a 3- to 5-generation pedigree, and a "blue slip" to apply for
registration of the puppy in your own name with the American Kennel
Club (AKC). Sometimes the "blue slips" are not available at
the time you take your puppy home. If this is the case, have the breeder
state on a dated, signed receipt of payment that the application will
be sent to you as soon as possible. The registered names and AKC numbers
of both parents, date of birth of the litter, and the puppy’s color
and sex should be indicated. You can then contact AKC with complete
information should there later be a problem with the registration papers.
Give you written instructions
on feeding, training, and care. There are many books that are useful;
some are listed elsewhere on this website.
some sort of written contract and/or conditions of sale. Any warranty
of quality or health of the dogs, and any warranty against development
of hereditary problems or show-ring disqualifications in an animal intended
for showing or breeding, should be in writing. The warranty should be
absolutely explicit, and a signed copy should be provided to each party.
Both pedigree and registration papers are provided by reputable breeders
at no extra charge. The practice of charging extra for "papers"
is forbidden by the AKC, and should be reported. This should not be
confused with withholding papers until the dog has been spayed or neutered,
which is how puppies not purchased for showing/breeding are sold by
most reputable breeders.
Make it clear that his/her
responsibility continues long after you have taken your puppy home,
and in fact as long as the dog is alive. Many dedicated breeders will
ask that the dog be returned to them or placed with new owners who meet
their approval, if ever for any reason you are unable to keep the dog.
They’ll cheerfully be available for advice whenever needed, and can
ease your way over many rough spots. If your breeder meets all of these
requirements you are in good hands. If you find yourself with a negative
response to any of these requirements, think twice and discuss the situation
with someone else. Don’t be impulsive and do ask questions.
(The West Highland
White Terrier Club of America does not recommend, guarantee, endorse,
nor rate breeders, their kennels, or their stock.)
Once you have found a breeder that you trust it’s time to think about
a puppy again. Take your time. You might have to wait weeks or even months
for the "right" litter to be whelped, and it can be well worth
the wait. If you are fortunate, and more than one good litter is available
at the same time in your area, you can compare puppies, pedigrees and
parents. You may be asked to put a deposit of $50 or more on the litter
of your choice if the puppies are not yet eight weeks old. Good litters
seldom go begging, and it is not uncommon for a choice litter to be completely
spoken for by the time the puppies are eight to twelve weeks of age and
ready to go to their new homes.
Be sure that the breeder knows
if you want the dog for a particular purpose other than a companion (such
as show prospect, a competition obedience dog, and/or working dog), and
have the breeder help with the selection of the puppy. Very few litters
have more than a few real "show prospects" in them, but a "pet-quality"
puppy from a well-bred litter has all the potential of growing up to be
a sturdy, healthy Westie of proper size and temperament.
Almost all Westie puppies are
appealing, but you need to look for more than "cuteness." They
should be sturdy in build, with straight legs. They should feel firm and
muscular, and be squirmy and active at first when picked up, but be willing
to relax and accept being held and cuddled for a short time. Coats should
be clean and thick; eyes, nose and ears free of discharge or irritation;
and the puppies should not be pot-bellied. Gums should be pink, not pale.
See the Breed Standard for details
If the breeder offers you several
puppies to select from, take each puppy you are considering away from
the rest of its litter mates and observe its reactions to its environment
and to you. Puppies at seven to ten weeks should be willing to explore
their environment, and although perhaps a little bit cautious at first,
they should investigate new objects and be fairly self-assured. Speak
to the puppy and see if it will follow you as you move away. Roll a ball
or other toy to see if it has any instinct to watch, chase, carry, or
possibly even return to you with the ball. Most Westies do not have a
retrieving instinct, but you should be wary of the puppy who does not
show some interest in or awareness of a moving object. See if the puppy
exhibits the type of personality you would want to live with. Perhaps
the bold, brash puppy that never stops getting into things would be too
much for you, and the more easy-going fellow who’s agreeable and a bit
more receptive to your guidance would be a better choice. Again, the breeder
can advise you. Remember, they have observed the puppy’s personality over
a long period of time, while you may only have done so for an hour or
While observing the puppies,
observe the dam as well. Any excessive shyness or aggressiveness on her
part is indicative of a poor temperament, and the puppies might inherit
these undesirable traits. A Westie bitch should be watchful and patient
with her puppies, and should be happy to show them to you. If the sire
is available, ask to meet him too.
If you aren’t prepared to go
through the trials and training of a baby puppy, an older puppy or even
a mature dog can be a good alternative, especially in households in which
the family pet may have to spend much of the day unsupervised. The older
Westie who has been well socialized at the home of his breeder adapts
to a new family readily. This is not a "one man" dog. A Westie
spreads his affection around to all the family members. There are many
reasons that older dogs are available. Breeders often hold a puppy until
it is old enough to determine its show or breeding potential; a brood
bitch that has been bred once or twice is retired; or circumstances change
and the breeder is helping someone place a much-loved pet they have had
to part with. The reasons are myriad, but whatever they may be, the grown
dog is available. He may be housebroken, knows many commands, and has
formed many behavior patterns. If the dog has been loved and well taken
care of, he will continue to give love and devotion to his new family.
Never be hesitant to take an outgoing, good-natured older dog into your
home. Although it may be confused at first and cause a few problems, patience,
consistency, and reassurance are the key words. The dog’s self-confidence
will return, and it will adapt readily to your routine.
Try to find out all that you
can about the older dog that you are considering, so that you can determine
if his temperament is compatible with yours. Learn as much as possible
about his habits, daily routine, likes and dislikes, diet and past history.
Be sure to find out if he is housebroken. It is important that all family
members meet the dog before its adoption, and agree that this is the dog
It is best to acquire the dog
when the household member with primary responsibility for the dog’s care
and training will be at home full time for the first few days. Time must
be taken to make clear that the dog knows where it is to sleep, relieve
itself, where and when it will eat, and what it can and cannot do in the
house. In short, it has to learn the routine it will be following and
what is expected of it.
Give the dog a month or so
to settle in to its new environment and gain confidence in its new owners
before beginning formal obedience training. Even if the dog has had some
obedience training, attending class is an excellent way to brush up on
its training and help you understand its responses and personality more
completely. You’ll enjoy working together.
If you rescue a mistreated
or abandoned West Highland White Terrier through a Westie Club Referral/Westie
Rescue service or a humane society, and give it your affection, it
will reward you with eternal love and gratitude. These dogs may well be
of unknown background, and bring you a few more problems than those with
a more favorable history, but the rewards can be great.