West Highland White Terrier Overview

Dog Breed:
West Highland White Terrier
Breed Group:
Independient, Stubborn, Curious, Social, Hardy
10-12 inches
15-20 lb
Life Span:
12-16 years
Coat Colors:
Area of Origin:
Best For:
People who want a small but active dog, families with allergies

West Highland White Terrier Characteristics

Good for First-Time Owners
Good with Children
Easy to Train
Exercise Requirements
Ease of Grooming
Amount of Shedding
Amount of Drooling
Tendency to Bark

About The West Highland White Terrier

  • Westies are stubborn, but their cuteness makes up for it

  • This dog might be fluffy, but it’s tough as nails

  • This breed can adapt to many different living situations

They’re beautiful little white dogs. They look like lap dogs, but they’re not. As terriers, they’re actually working dogs and do not do well when treated purely as companion dogs. Most of their body is covered by layers of thick fluffy hair, but not their ears. In fact, their ears can get sunburned!

The Westie can be easily spotted because of its distinctive white coat and pricked ears. Since the breed’s official recognition at the turn of the 20th century, it has remained popular, making a home both with families and in the media.

Despite looking like a fluffy companion dog, Westies are actually independent and stubborn dogs with moderate to high energy needs. They like their space and are not the most needy or affectionate breed. Because of this, small children don’t always get along with them.

West Highland White Terrier Breed History

  • They are one of the most popular Scottish terrier breeds today

  • There is a common myth that Westies developed strong tails to be pulled out of rat holes

  • They were bred selectively for their white coats


As the name suggests, the Westie hails from the highlands: Scotland.There were several white and tan terrier breeds that popped up before the modern establishment of the West Highland White Terrier. They all fell out of favor, until a man named Edward Donald Malcolm became frustrated that the reddish terriers used for hunting were commonly mistaken for foxes.

He started breeding a line of sandy terriers that eventually turned into the West Highland White Terrier breed. The were bred for their white coats so that hunters could spot them from a distance. They were used for hunting small animals like rats, their short powerful limbs built for digging and chasing vermin down holes and burrows. The breed was first recognized with this name in 1908. Since then, the breed has boomed in popularity both in Europe and the United States.

West Highland White Terrier Size & Weight

  • Despite looking like teddy bears, they’re strong!

  • Fluffy fur and short legs make this dog look almost like a giant white caterpillar

  • Despite being so low to the ground, they are a medium-size dog


This is a medium dog on short legs. Their coat can add a lot of imagined mass to their appearance when not trimmed, making them look like small white sheep trotting around on tiny little legs. Despite being a relatively small dog, they have high endurance and are quite hardy.

They rarely grow more than a foot in height, but are very strong with a deep chest and muscular limbs. The Westie has a distinctive “scissors” bite. This means that that the lower canines are locked in front of the upper, with the reverse being true with their incisors (upper locked over lower).

West Highland White Terrier Personality & Temperament

  • Westies are notoriously stubborn

  • They aren’t always popular with children due to not being overly affectionate

  • They’re not lap dogs: Westies like their independence


The Westie is a hardy, independent little fellow. This dog is happy to spend time alone patrolling the home and sniffing around for crumbs. They like to be near you, but do not starve for your affection. This makes them an excellent companion for busy individuals or families.

Despite this, they are the friendliest breed of the Scottish terriers. They don’t tolerate having their soft ears or fur pulled by curious children, but are less likely to nip than closely related breeds. They are best suited to homes without small children because of this.

Their thick white coat protects them from the cold weather, although their short legs mean that walking through heavy snow drifts is a struggle…although their natural digging instincts mean that you can easily lose them in a snowbank if they choose to start tunneling after a mouse. That white coat blends in perfectly with the snow!

They are hardy and adaptable, and are not easily rattled. As long as they are well-socialized, they can move between different living situations with ease. This potentially makes them an excellent companion for a traveler, or someone who moves often.

West Highland White Terrier Health & Grooming

  • Westies are hypoallergenic

  • They require regular grooming

  • This breed has many specific health concerns


The Westie’s most striking characteristic is its fluffy white coat. Not only is it painfully adorable, but also hypoallergenic. The whole package! However, even without allergens, that’s still a lot of fur. Westies have high grooming needs and their coats are prone to matting and staining.

You should either be prepared to have a regular relationship with a groomer, or learn how to safely bathe, trim, and brush your dog at home. The Westie’s short legs mean that its belly is low to the ground can collect dirt and debris. You might find that your dog will flop over for a belly-rub only to present you with a tummy covered in mud!

Because this breed does have high grooming needs, it is important to socialize your animal with grooming tools as a puppy when their coat is more manageable. They should see getting a bath or a brush just like we do: as getting pampered. Train them to associate the brush and the tub with treats and affection, and your pup will beg for a spa day!

West Highland White Terrier Training

  • Start training early

  • It is important that you'll be patient and consishttps://breedadvisor.com/wp-admin/post-new.phptent with training

  • Teach this breed good recall.


Westies are a stubborn and independent breed. Although they enjoy being near humans, they are content to sniff and explore instead of paying attention during training. Because of this, it is important that you be patient and consistent with training. Do not punish your Westie for being a Westie: you cannot expect it to be as desperate for your praise as a Golden Retriever or other affection-driven breed.

This breed is prone to resource guarding. If you see signs of this behavior, it is important to start training early to curb it. Like other terriers, the Westie likes to bark which makes it a decent watchdog…even if in the case of a robbery, it can’t do much damage above the ankles.

Because they are famously independent, it is important to teach this breed good recall. This dog was bred to hunt, and teaching it that your attention is more rewarding than a squirrel across the street isn’t an easy task.

West Highland White Terrier Exercise Requirements

  • Start training early

  • It is important that you'll be patient and consishttps://breedadvisor.com/wp-admin/post-new.phptent with training

  • Teach this breed good recall.


Don’t let your eyes deceive you! Westies look like cute cuddly lap dogs, but they weren’t bred to be companion dogs. As terriers bred to hunt rats, they have energy and want to work and play. They require regular exercise to keep their brains and bodies in good shape.

Westies have a natural instinct to dig. There are several wonderful ways you can channel this energy into enrichment instead of your flower beds. Consider training them to dig in a sandbox or other area by encouraging them and burying treats and toys where you want them to dig. Also consider using a snuffle mat or other toy that will turn their mealtime into a hunt.

They might have little legs, but those legs were made for walking! Your westie is happy to accompany you on walks or even jogs around the neighborhood.

West Highland White Terrier Diet & Feeding

  • The good fluff can hide the bad fluff!

  • Enrichment is a great way to channel your Westie’s energy

  • Always consult your vet about feeding concerns


Regardless of breed, it is always a good idea to consult a veterinarian or nutritionist about your dog’s diet. Even in a breed with very little variation, each individual dog will have its own needs. This is especially true as a dog progresses from one stage of life to another. For example, your cute little puppy won’t have the same dietary needs as a full grown adult.

Westies are hardy little dogs. Your dog’s needs will depend on how much exercise they get.The more active a dog is, the faster their metabolism is, the higher caloric intake they require. When it  comes to your westie’s weight, be careful! Those fluffy coats can camouflage extra pounds.

West Highland White Terrier Rescue Groups


One of the most rewarding things you can do is rescue a dog. If you have your heart set on a West Highland White Terrier, consider looking at breed-specific rescues. If you decide to get your puppy from a breeder, make sure that the breeder is reputable and can give you a full history of the parents’ health and lineage. If you decide to look at rescues, here are a few to get you started:


Westie Rescue USA https://westierescue.com/ 

Rescue Me! Westie Rescue https://www.facebook.com/westie.rescueme.org/ 

National Westie Rescue https://www.westieclubamerica.com/rescue/ 

You can also search rescue sites like www.Petfinder.com by breed, or reach out to local animal rescues and tell them to let you know if your breed of choice is ever available to foster or adopt.