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How to Choose a West Highland White Terrier

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I have a busy life, and that's the way I like it. I look at life as an adventure, and I intend to have as many adventures.

How to choose a Westie puppy.

How to choose a Westie puppy.

Westies Make 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 great 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.

How to Pick the Right Westie 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 with 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.

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.

An astute Westie

An astute Westie

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).

Westie at play

Westie at play

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 yours 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.

A gorgeous terrier

A gorgeous terrier

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.

Types of 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 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 their backgrounds. 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 about 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 the 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 have 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 about 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.


Sharlee (author) on May 19, 2019:

Animal lover, I am pleased to hear you are intending to purchase your westie from a breeder. The most common health problem westie can exhibit are skin problems due to allergies. When meeting with the breeder, ask questions about the parent dogs in regards to health problems. If possible it is wise to actually see the parent dogs. Check the dogs for any skin issues.

Animal lover on May 18, 2019:

I don't have a westie but we are going to buy one from a breeder, any things to look out for?

Samantha on March 23, 2019:

My Westie Sir Killian Jame of Scotland is beautiful with a lot of swagger and will be 2 in May. He is my first and healthy as a horse. He has a 3yr old rescue sister who is an Amercan Eskimo and 3 cats. Household is in constant motion. Pure joy

Snowpink on March 23, 2019:

My mother also purchased a Westie from Tully's Kennel, well I bought it for her for a Christmas gift and she also ended up having Addison's disease. Her dog also has to have expensive shots every month for the rest of her life.

Dan on March 09, 2019:

No mention was made of health problems. Westies are known for having serious skin problems that are difficult to control.

Toby on February 12, 2019:

I have a Westie. Wonderful dog. He is a totally happy dog. People should

Have his personality. Good with

People loves company. And definitely would rather sit next to me than on me.

Dave on February 09, 2019:

My wife and I have to sisters Sasha n Sadie May, I swear Sasha had to of been born first, Sadie acts like the bratty lil sister n looks for ways to torment her sis when she gets bored. Lol, been blessed with them for 10 yrs now an couldn't imagine life without them, and when we take them for walks, I swear they're actually smiling, couldn't find a dog that is more full of life than a westie!

Darlene on September 30, 2018:

Yawning as a big sign...I thought when I picked out my female westie that her original yawn upon being picked up was so cute! Well, in hindsight, although I would lay my life down for this sweet girl, I see it as not such a good sign. Two years ago, we almost lost her to Addison's disease which I did not uncover while researching this amazing breed. She recovered thankfully, but now I see it as a sign when choosing a new puppy. She simply cannot produce enough cortisol naturally to offset stressful situations. Unchecked, the disease goes into a "crisis" mode, which can be fatal if not caught in time. She receives a monthly Percortin shot for the rest of her life now. So, as a lover of this breed, please be aware of my personal experience. I will always own this breed to say the least! They have stolen my heart.

Sharlee (author) on August 15, 2018:

I think you hit their personality to a tee.. I don't think there is a better breed. I have not had the heart to bring another in yet. Just lost part of my heart when I lost Rose.

Terri Perkins on August 14, 2018:

I've been a Westie Mom for 31 yrs. I've had 3. Winston was tough stuff til he was almost 16 yrs old. Loveable Madison was 2 days short of her 15th birthday. Now I have McKenna. She is a 1 yr old puppy. Nothing in my life has brought me more joy than my Westies. They are so special. Smart, stubborn, loveable. I'd never be a mom to another breed.

Sharlee (author) on August 13, 2018:

My Rose lived to 17, she was like a pup almost until the day she died. They are a wonderful breed. Great personalities, smart, and loving.

karen on August 12, 2018:

l have had westies for over 35 years my current girl is 13 shes blind and diebetic but still acts like a puppy so full of life and love she sleeps with me and loves cuddling they r the only dogs l will ever own they have my heart

Tammy on May 21, 2018:

I grew up with 2 purebred westies and now have an 11-yr-old westie of my own. I have read elsewhere that they are not lap dogs and that they are aloof - I have found this to be far from the truth. All 3 have been lap dogs, very affectionate, and love to be held. They all preferred to sleep with us on a bed but will sleep wherever you want them to. They are playful, energetic, and high energy - but they will also nap a lot and a good game of indoor tug-of-war is sufficient exercise on a rainy day. LOVE LOVE them - they make the BEST family dogs!!

Sharlee (author) on May 20, 2018:

Bob, I know exactly what your feeling. I will never forget or stop missing my Rose. Westies just have a way of endearing themselves. They are great dogs with special personalities.

Bob Kandell on May 19, 2018:

I had a westie. Got him at 8 weeks, but lost him at 11 years old. Duncan was the best dog that any one could wish for. So lovable. Still miss him so much, even after 3 years.

Rick on August 04, 2017:

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