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You and your family have decided to get a dog, and in this case, a West Highland White Terrier, a “Westie”. I’m going to assume (hopefully) you’ve done your homework and know that a Westie is the right dog for you and your family. So how do you find your Westie? It can be daunting. The best advice I can give you is, PATIENCE, PATIENCE, and more PATIENCE! I’ve been there myself, the decision is made; you, your spouse the kids are excited, you want a dog, and you want it, NOW! Getting a dog is like purchasing a home; you’ll probably have your dog longer than you will stay in your new home. Would you buy the first home you see when the realtor tells you it fits your needs? No. But once you see that Westie puppy, it’s done, going home, it’s the one, can’t resist, LOVE it!

 

RESCUE

My first recommendation for finding a Westie or any other breed would be to consider rescue. The best way to find a rescue network is to search the internet for the breed and the word “rescue”. Most breeds have a regional rescue organizations associated with the national breed club. Beware of a rescue that is not sanctioned with a national breed organization as they could be a “scam” rescue obtaining dogs from outside the US promoting puppy mills in foreign countries. In the case of Westies, National Westie Rescue is part of the national breed club West Highland White Terrier Club of America (“WHWTCA”). Our organization, Westie Rescue Network, (“WRN”), is found under the caption of “list of state coordinators by state” for Colorado. Of course, there are limitations to choosing a rescue dog. In general, WRN doesn’t have puppies, we don’t even have young (3-7 years old) dogs, and as of late we don’t have very many dogs! Most of the dogs in our program are age greater than 10 years old, may have continuing health problems, need extra care, or may not be the “perfect” Westie. However, we have received beautiful, well-balanced, happy Westies and placed over 900 dogs during our tenure. All rescues will reward you with eternal love, gratitude and satisfaction for giving a forever home. If you decide to go with rescue, patience will be needed to find the perfect match because we diligently try to make sure YOU, match our rescue dog’s life style, physical requirements and health needs.


REPUTABLE BREEDER

If rescue is out because you have other conditions, you will want to find a “reputable” breeder. How to find a reputable breeder can be challenging because puppy mills and back-yard breeders continue to find new ways to be “look-a-like” reputable breeders. A good place to start is again an internet search for a local breed club. Usually the breed club will have a listing of members who are breeders or a breeder “referral” designee. If not, feel free to call any officer listed as they will know who in their club are also breeders. If no local breed club, then try for a national breed club which may list breeders, but I would suggest contacting someone within a regional breed club first. Our local breed club is West Highland White Terrier of Greater Denver, or WHWTCGD (www.whwtcgd.com). Anyone listed on this website will talk endlessly about Westies!

Unfortunately, the AKC website is not a place to find a “reputable” breeder, because anyone can list their information, and most reputable breeders just don’t list there!

An excellent way to find a reputable breeder is to go to a dog show. Be sure to purchase the show catalogue because it has the contact information of the people that are showing each day. If possible, arrive early and go to the grooming area where you will find the “show” Westies getting ready. This is a more relaxed time for the breeder and they should be willing to talk with you than right before going into the show ring. If at the show ring only, please wait until everyone is finished with their showing. There are several local shows in our area over the next coming months, but for Westies, WHWTCGD usually has their Specialty Show on the first Friday in September at the Greely Island Grove fairgrounds. Check their website www.whwtcgd.com for information.

A reputable breeder will almost always invite you to their kennel, which is usually their home. Here, you will see all of the Westie clan in their possession. They will ask you numerous questions about your previous ownership of dogs, knowledge of the breed, set-up of house and yard, children and grand kids, etc., and will go to great lengths, including a possible home visit, to insure that their puppy will be in the best of home and is a recognized member of the family. All will require a written contract with specific performance requirements, certainly spay/neuter prerequisite, along with continued communication, pictures, and health information, or if you should consider a “show” dog, future breeding obligations. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. “Why do you do this?” is the most obvious, and if the answer is financial in any way, don’t walk, RUN! However, you will find that a reputable breeder will probably have a higher price than the puppy mill/back-yard breeder and here’s why…

Most reputable breeders will only breed dogs that have achieved their championship in an AKC sanction show ring, or at least have points from showing and well on their way to a championship. They have travelled across the county, paid show fees, and have time invested in their dogs. Most participate in regular testing and screenings for genetic disease to insure they have healthy breeding stock. All evaluate their soon-to-be-mother and pick a male that will complement or enhance her litter. Some travel across the US, Canada, or overseas to breed. Usually, the stud fee is very expensive. Most Westie breedings are done through artificial insemination requiring a veterinary. Whelpings are often C-sections done at the vet office. Both are expensive.  No expense will be spared to save a litter or the mother. In the case of Westies, most breeders are elated when they have a litter of 3 or more. For a reputable breeder, this is not a livelihood, but a labor of love to insure the preservation and conformation of the breed! Health and temperament are most important to the reputable breed, and breeding will be very selective to a chosen few that remain with a reputable breeder.


PUPPY MILL/BACK-YARD BREEDER RED FLAGS

How can you tell a reputable breeder from a puppy mill or back-yard breeder? Here are some signs…

  • Names: Puppy mills/backyard breeders seem to have cutesy names like “Nancy’s Babies”, “Missy’s Pups”, etc. whereas reputable breeders go with strong names like “Camelot Westies”, “Plum Creek Westies”.
  • Location: No physical address, just a P.O. box or city; almost guaranteed, it’s a puppy mill. All reputable breeders give their physical location because they welcome your visit to their operation.
  • Numerous Breeds: Puppy mill/back-yard breeders have many different breeds. Most reputable breeders stick to one breed.
  • Advertise: Some reputable breeders will have a website, but most don’t have time nor the money to spend on an elaborate website. Likewise they do not advertise in magazines, newspapers or on the AKC website.
  • Deposit: Price comes up early in the conversation with a puppy mill/back-yard breeder, and a deposit on “your” puppy is necessary to secure your position. Reputable breeders rarely ask for a deposit as they are unsure if a puppy will be available from the next litter; all may be show quality and not available for sale. In addition, most reputable breeders have 1-2 breeding females, and will not breed the same female twice in the same year.
  • Ask questions: Puppy mills/back-yard breeders will sell to anyone who can make the deposit, sign the contract, and pay the fee. Reputable breeders will grill you on why you want their breed, your home situation, other dogs you’ve had, etc. and may even require a home visit to your house and references by friends and veterinary. And there’s no contract until you take a puppy home.
  • No return, no refund policy: Puppy mills/back-yard breeders have gotten clever and now offer a “health guarantee”. This usually means they will offer a “replacement” dog for a health issue only, which will be unlikely to occur immediately, and the unwillingness of an owner who is bonded with the dog. Reputable breeders require the return of a dog to them for any reason at any time, and often offer a refund within the first two weeks of ownership.
  • One dog: Puppy mills/back-yard breeders often show you one dog for your purchase, depending on your choice of sex. Most of the time, arrangements are made to meet the dog in a parking lot, or on a more sophisticated basis, at the home of a broker. Reputable breeders will allow you to see the mother, father if available, and all the puppies, shortly after eight(8) weeks. You probably won’t have the pick of the litter, but at least you’ll see them in an appropriate environment.
  • Age of puppy: Puppy mills/back-yard breeders will release a puppy at age eight(8) weeks which typically corresponds to the end of all necessary vaccinations. Reputable breeders rarely release a puppy before 12-15 weeks as they are still evaluating the conformation potential, i.e. show quality of the dog.

There are exceptions to every rule, and I’ve known of reputable breeders that violated one or more of these common practices and puppy mills/back-yard breeders who showed no red flags. Please talk with numerous, knowledgeable, if possible breed club members, and have some restraint! Patience is the best policy and working with ONE reputable breeder, although it may take more time than you want, will pay off in the end. As one reputable breeder said to me, “you can pay it to the breeder, or you can pay it to the veterinary.” Ugh!


OH, NO, I BOUGHT FROM A PUPPY MILL!

Most of my friends are reputable breeders and will give me continuous grief over this statement…”It’s not the end of the world if you bought your dog from a puppy mill!” The breeder gods will not descend on you, nor will your Westie turn black in color, nor will you be eliminated from purchasing from a reputable breeder in the future. However, the biggest “sin” you have done is to further promote the inhumane situation of a puppy mill. Their practices and treatment (take my word for it) of dogs is unacceptable to all of us who love and care about dogs. Plus, know that your dog has not been socialized, may have behavioral issues, has not been screened for problematic health issues, and although white in color, looks more like a bichon. You will need to go above and beyond with training, socialization, obedience, and monitoring of health. Having a puppy requires lots of time, tolerance, persistence, and discipline; having a puppy mill/back-yard breeder puppy adds to this requirement threefold! In the end, you could have the most beautiful, well-behaved, adorable, sweet and much loved Westie of your life from a puppy mill/back-yard breeder, so it’s not the end of the world! Just don’t do it again, be educated, do the research, and have PATIENCE.


MORE INFORMATION

I’ve been an owner of Westies for more than 30 years. I’ve had a puppy mill Westie, a rescue Westie and a show Westie (more than one of each). Love’m all! And like most of my Westie friends, I could talk endlessly about them. THIS ARTICLE REFLECTS MY OPIONION OF HOW TO PURCHASE A WESTIE AND IS NOT NECESSARILY AUTORIZED OR SCANTIONED BY ANY ORGANIZAITION INCLUDING WRN, WHWTCGD OR WHWTCA. Give me a shout, if you have questions, concerns, or want more information. My name is Hollie Hunter, you can contact me through the website.