Owning a Westie: My Experiences With Sean and Cloudy
West Highland White Terriers
A passionate dog lover and writer. I think that phrase very much sums up who I am and my purpose in life. I have been a proud owner of dogs for a large part of my life. including two rambunctious little West Highland Terriers. My knowledge of the breed has increased since I adopted Cloudy, my six-month-old Westie, and she prompted me to share my experiences of owning (and cleaning up after, etc) one. I write this for anyone who might be considering adopting a dog; this is my assessment of the Westie as a furry companion.
Background of the breed
Heralding from Scotland and directly related to the Cairn terrier, these terriers were bred for their ability to hunt all manner of rodents and small game. They were famous for the burrowing and digging skills and brought out all manner of moles and vermin for their owners. Landowners used them to ferret out small animals and vermin so that they could be rid of these pests. Knowing their background, it came as no surprise to find Cloudy chasing the occasional cockroach (or, as I would like to think my apartment is very clean and has no cockroaches, chasing her own tail). Sean, my other Westie who passed away from old age, chased anything that moved; and that, of course, meant that I would have to chase him.
Fun facts about the Westie
- Westies, or West Highland Terriers, are short-bodied white bodied dogs with pointed ears.
- Heralding from Scotland, they were bred as hunters and ratters.
- They weigh between 15 and 21 pounds.
- Their height ranges between 10 to 11 inches
- They are also known as Poltalloch Terriers or Roseneath Terriers.
- They were first registered as pedigree dogs by the American Kennel Club in 1908
- The average cost of owning a medium sized dog like a Westie is $13 000
Features of the breed
The double layered white cloud
The Westie was originally bred for its famous white coat; double layered to give it warmth in the cold Scottish weather, the coat consists of a coarse top layer and a soft, fine-haired bottom one. Cloudy and Sean have taught me that this can be a challenge to groom. The two coats, if neglected and not combed for a day, can be terribly matted and unsightly. Sean was difficult to groom; I practically had to shave his hair off at one stage. Owning a Westie entails the sacrifice of time spent on grooming.
I have to mention that the Westie is a super fast runner, very much like the little Mexican mouse many of us know. I once had to run up 10 flights of stairs just to catch Sean, who had run out of the house in the excitement of greeting me. I finally caught and cornered him on a 10th floor corridor. It was good that I am petite and am a fast runner myself, or I might have lost him for good.
A super strong tail
A fun fact that is seldom mentioned about the Westie is that it has a super strong tail. Historically, this allowed owners to pull them out of burrows should they have gotten stuck while trying to catch that mole. There are those who claim that pulling on the tail does not cause the dog pain; whatever it is, I will definitely not try it on Cloudy.
An adorable Westie feature is its pointed ears. They simply make anyone go “aww.” They become especially pointed when the little dog is curious about something. When Cloudy tilts her head and her ears point upward, it is entirely lovable. They require a little grooming to keep them standing, though.
Benefits of owning a Westie
Owning a Westie reduces stress.
These dogs definitely lower blood pressure and stress levels. Going for a run with or playing with Cloudy helps me to forget the tribulations of the entire day. It is entirely relaxing to watch her go about her “doggy” ways. When she chews on her bone and it hangs from the side of her mouth, the laughter she generates does not fail to lower my blood pressure. Having a Westie means fewer trips to the doctor.
When you own a Westie, you make more friends.
The Westie never fails to attract attention. I noticed a couple as I went on runs with Cloudy and they giggled unstoppably at the sight of her. Cloudy never fails to make friends; whoever sees her usually just wants to get to know her a little better.
The Westie is a paragon of faithfulness.
This little dog is a faithful companion. It never fails to follow you wherever you go. Cloudy does, all the time, and I never feel like a lonely writer whenever she is around.
Westie's make excellent watchdogs.
Westies make excellent watchdogs. The doorbell outside my apartment does not work, but I never really had to bother repairing it because I have Cloudy to tell me whenever anyone is outside the door. Their sense of hearing can be especially sharp.
The Westie is an extremely intelligent breed.
The Westie learns really fast. Teaching Cloudy to learn the basic commands of sit, stay and come did not take long, supported by a little 'treat' reinforcement. As you can see from the video, they also complete agility courses with ease.
Cons of owning a Westie
The Westie is prone to hyperactivity.
This breed is extremely hyperactive and needs regular runs. This is a point to note especially if you prefer a more sedentary kind of lifestyle. Cloudy wakes me up early in the morning without fail; she needs her run in the morning to help her burn her excess energy.
Please do not get a dog of this breed if you like your morning peace.
The Westie requires discipline.
Being really frisky, a Westie can be destructive when it does not get proper attention and discipline. I had to establish boundaries so that Cloudy, for instance, would not chew my slippers. Sean had a similar problem; so I gradually learnt to set rules for them to let them understand the limits.
A Westie loves going to extremes. On the one hand, it is known for its independence, wanting its “alone” time. But it also craves your attention at others. Cloudy, for instance, simply loves her morning hugs. This little dog also loves to bark to tell you where it is, almost as if it is afraid that it will never be found.
This dog is a "ratter."
The Westie loves to dig....and dig. Sean was famous for digging and scratching on the sofa; I had to let him know that it was not appropriate for him to claim his territory and warmth by digging. Knowing that they were bred to dig, this is definitely not unusual.
The Westie has potential illnesses
Like any other breed, the Westie has illnesses it is prone to. These include:
- Addison's disease
- Atopic Dermatitis
- Blastomycosis Fungal Infection
- Hip Dysplasia
- Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca (CIKS)
- Lyme Disease
- Pyruvate Kinase Deficiency
- Westie Lung Disease
- White Shaker Disease
For more information, please consult your veterinarian.
If you want to own a Westie, be prepared to welcome a charming, albeit sometimes too lively little fellow into the home. He can be entertaining, but he requires a lot of an owner’s time and effort. One thing that a Westie is not - boring!