How to Choose a West Highland White Terrier

Updated on April 30, 2017
Sharlee01 profile image

A Michigan native, I worked as a registered nurse for 22 years. I enjoyed nursing, but I decided to retire some years ago.

Westies Makes a Great Addition to Most Families

So, you have decided you are going to purchase a West Highland White terrier, also known as a "Westie". They are wonderful little lighthearted dogs that are quick to learn, and as a rule, very self-sufficient with wonderful personalities.

Westies are lovable, but don't mistake them for lap dogs. If you are looking for one, they may not be the right breed for you. They are notoriously independent and won't tolerate being held for very long periods. They like to be in close proximity to their human family, but they also need their own space. Generally, when a Westie chooses a sleeping area, it will seek out a private space — the space may be well away from the family. This sleeping area will most likely be somewhat protected on three sides; they like to "cover their backs" when they sleep. Naturally, there are exceptions to this rule. If the puppy is taught to be a lap dog, it will most likely become one. However, Westies are not natural lap dogs. They like to call the shots and can be a bit aloof.

Qualities to Look for in a West Highland White Terrier

Perky ears
Fluffy, happy face
Perky, short tail that comes to a natural point
Males should ideally be 11 inches in height; females should be 10 inches in height.
Coat should be pure white.
They should have a dual coat: undercoat being soft and fluffy and the top coat a bit coarse and wiry.

Characteristics to Look for When Choosing Your Westie

A Westie's ears stand up naturally on each side of its fluffy, happy face. At the opposite end is a perky, short tail, which, by nature's design, comes to a gradual point. As an adult, it is desirable for the male Westie to be 11 inches in height (the female 10 inches in height). A Westie's coat should be pure white.

They have a double coat — the undercoat being soft and fluffy and the top coat a bit coarse and wiry. This dual coat is natural to the Westie. The breed was developed and bred for a hard and dangerous job — that of hunting out and killing vermin. So the dual coat provides the Westie with a good, natural form of protection, not only from the elements, but also from the claws and teeth of its prey. The dry texture of the Westie's coat also works to cut down on doggy odor. Due to this dryer coat, they require fewer baths. They can be kept clean with frequent brushing and dry cleaning (this is done by adding a bit of cornstarch to the dog's coat and brushing it out after a few minutes).

Deciding Whether to Purchase a Male or Female?

In regard to temperament, there is little or no difference between the two, although it is said that Westie males are more affectionate than female Westies. Physically, the female is smaller and lighter, so easier to control on a walk or carry when necessary.


How to Pick the Right Puppy

Once you have found a trustworthy breeder, here are a few tips on choosing the right puppy.

  • Age is important. A puppy is usually ready to be taken to its new home at the age of eight to twelve weeks.
  • You may find that all Westie pups look alike, and they pretty much do all look alike. To choose a good one, look for a puppy with a sturdy build. The dog should feel firm, with good muscle tone. Its legs should also be straight.
  • The pup should be active when picked up, squirmy after a short time of relaxing, and willing to be petted and cuddled a bit.
  • Its coat should be thick and clean.
  • There should be no discharge from its eyes, nose, or ears, and no odor from the ears.
  • The eyes should be bright, with an alert look.
  • The gums should be moist and pink.
  • The dog should be active with the other pups.
  • It's a good idea to ask the breeder about the puppy's personality. They can help you pick a dog that will be suited to your needs and your personality.
  • It's always smart to observe the dam for her individual traits. Does she appear overly shy, aggressive, or stand-offish? Is she patient and watchful of the puppies, and not overly-aggressive of the liter? Do the parent dogs look like they are in good health? Are their coats healthy and do they appear active with good stamina? It is well-known that puppies can and do inherit traits from their parents.

Things to Consider Before Purchasing a Westie

When purchasing a West Highland White terrier, most pet owners prefer to buy a young puppy and train it themselves. This can be rewarding. Westies are easy to train, but make sure you are home regularly enough to train it properly. Remember, it can be a frustrating and time-consuming task. The other option is to purchase a dog that is a bit older and has already been trained by the breeder.


How to Choose a Breeder

It is impossible to know when picking out your particular puppy how it will turn out emotionally and physically. This is the best reason to find a good reputable breeder because they strive to breed healthy dogs that will exhibit traits that are natural to the particular breed. There are three choices when it comes to purchasing: pet shop breeders, backyard breeders, and serious hobby breeders.

Pet Shop Breeder: This is the worst possible choice you can make when buying a dog. The puppies are poorly bred and are thought of as merchandise to be sold for at a high profit. This form of breeding generally puts out sickly, unstable dogs, and I highly recommend you stay clear of pet shop breeders.

Backyard Breeder: This can also be a poor choice. This type of breeder may be a Westie owner who thought it would be "fun" to have puppies. They know little about puppies and the training that is required. Often times they are not well-acquainted with the stud dogs and can offer little information on his background. They are unaware of the history of the breed and any of its special needs. To sum it up, they are ill-equipped to breed dogs and lack the knowledge one needs to be a good breeder.

Hobby Breeder: Your best choice is to find a serious hobby breeder. They have done their homework on the breed they are selling. As a rule, they are dog fanciers and do not look at breeding as a profit-only venture. They are breeding for show dogs. They strive to produce and raise the best of their chosen breed. They will take responsibility for any and all pups produced and stand behind their dogs. You can be assured the dogs are healthy and have been given all the veterinary care they need as puppies, along with proper training. A good breeder of Westies will belong to the "West Highland White Terrier Club of America" and/or other well-known Westie clubs. They will most likely be involved in showing their dogs. A good breeder will ask you questions and be very discriminating on the homes their puppies go to. They will guarantee their puppies, with an agreement to take the puppy back if for some reason you find you are not compatible with it. They will give you time to have the puppy looked at by a veterinarian of your choice, just to ensure there are no health problems looming and that the puppy is in a good, healthy condition.

Signs of a Good Breeder

  • They will have numerous references in the way of other persons that have purchased dogs from them and their own veterinarians' references.
  • They should be able to answer questions on the breed and show a good knowledge of the breed's history.
  • They should provide written instructions with regard to the puppy's needs, including diet, exercise, and health care for puppy and adult stages of life.
  • They will never sell a puppy that is too young to leave its mother.
  • They should provide you with a record of the dates and types of vaccinations and worming that has been done on your puppy, along with any and all records on visits to the vet that the puppy may have required while in the breeder's care.
  • The kennels should be clean and provide the dogs with a healthy environment.
  • The dogs should be comfortable with the breeder and show a good rapport with them.
  • The dogs in the kennels should be of good temperament and healthy in appearance.
  • It is also desirable to ask questions on the health of the parent dogs. The breeder must provide you with A 3- to 5-generation pedigree and a "blue slip" to apply for registration of the Westie into the AKA.

If you do your homework, you are more likely to pick the right dog. The Westie is a wonderful breed. They are bright, happy-spirited dogs and will bring with them their own special outgoing personality, and will fast become your best friend.

Are you considering purchasing a West Highland White Terrier?

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      Rick 7 months ago

      I have 2 Westies, both going on 16 years old, had them since they were 8 weeks old.

      I have been so blessed to have them in my life. Some health issues, allergies, 3 torn ACL, 1 is diebetic, blind, 1 deaf, still act like puppies. Great dogs, love to dig up yard, chase squirrels, rabbits, birds, full of life