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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".  But, 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 of a Westie can range between 15-22 pounds with the average weight between 16-20 pounds. The Westie no doubt shares a common ancestry with other terriers from Scotland, the Scottie, Skye, Cairn and Dandie Dinmont.

Westies are very intelligent and definitely not "laid back". They are happy, playful and affectionate but they are also tough, hardy, independent and tenacious! They are also possessed with no small amount of self-esteem. They can be assertive and demanding. This makes 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. Westies were bred to go-to-ground in a hunt, therefore, 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 that are routinely neglected, confined and ignored can become unmanageable. Westies who are not sufficiently trained can become too difficult for an owner to handle. Westies need owners with a willingness 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 to both the animals and the family as the Westie will continually bark and attempt to hunt the smaller prey.  There are successful cases where Westies, generally puppies, are raised with and live well with cats.  But, this is the exception to the rule, particularly with 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 have unfortunately misrepresented Westies as unequivocally "good with children". This is not an accurate statement. Many Westies will NOT TOLERATE even unintended mistreatment from a child.

  • They will not put up with typical child handling such as pulling of ears or tails nor will they tolerate taking or "sharing" of 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 resulting in the Westie instinctively trying to bring the child to a stop anyway it can.  And, when situations arise where a Westie bites or nips a child it is the Westie who is usually, and most often unfairly, deemed guilty. 

Dogs are miracles with paws.

Susan Ariel Rainbow Kennedy

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 placed into 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.