AKC Dog Breeds: West Highland White Terrier

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Terrier Group
Height: 9-12 inches   Weight: 13-22 pounds  Color: white

The hardy West Highland White Terrier, more commonly known as the "Westie," is known for its friendly, strong-willed personality and a remarkably bright white coat. Said to be "all terrier," this breed possesses a large amount of spunk, determination and devotion stuffed into a compact little body. The West Highland White Terrier is said to originate from Poltalloch, Scotland, and due to this, was originally known as the Poltalloch Terrier. He was also sometimes referred to as the Roseneath Terrier, after the Duke of Argyll’s estate. The Westie was first shown in the United States in 1906 under the Roseneath name, but this was changed in 1909 and he has been known as the West Highland White Terrier ever since.

General Appearance

This sturdy, hardy, compact little terrier has a two inch all white coat that is uncurled with a soft, dense undercoat. They have bright, dark, deep-set eyes with a penetrating gaze. The ears are small, pointed and erect, giving the animal an alert ready-for-anything look. The tail is carried jauntily, is about 5-6 inches (12½-15cm.) long and should not be docked. It has a deep chest and muscular limbs. The Westie has a short, closely fitted jaw with scissors bite, a pronounced stop, and slightly convex skull.


An adaptable, intelligent, and confident little dog, the West Highland White Terrier has become an enormously popular family pet over the years. These spirited creatures thrive on the affection, interaction, and companionship of their owners, and have bags of energy to burn up. This is not the right choice of pet for those with little time or inclination to be active, as they do need a fair amount of exercise, preferably interactive play and activity. The West Highland White Terrier is courageous, inquisitive, and loves to chase, which means that he must be supervised in a safe and secure area when he is not on a leash. These dogs can be a little arrogant, stubborn, and demanding, and are best suited to those with some experience of dog ownership and training. They are very intelligent, eager to please, and quick to learn, which makes training less of a challenge. They also have excellent problem solving skills. The West Highland White Terrier will bark to raise an alarm, which makes him an effective watchdog. They love to dig, and many are a little too fond of the sound of their own bark, so be prepared for anything but a quiet life. The West Highland White Terrier can have a possessive streak when it comes to his food and belongings. He tends to try to dominant same sex dogs. He does not get along well with cats at all. Because of his high prey instinct, he will avidly chase and probably catch smaller running creatures and should not be trusted around them. The Westie tends to get along with visitors, and is fine around older, gentle children. Younger kids may be too boisterous and rough for his liking.


The West Highland White Terrier 's double coat requires brushing twice weekly. They also require having their coat professionally stripped at least two times per year. They should only be bathed when necessary, as they are prone to dry skin.

Health Problems and Life Expectancy
The Westie may be susceptible to deafness, patella luxation, and allergies. The West Highland White Terrier has a few major health problems including  globoid cell leukodystrophy, along with Legg Perthes disease and CMO. The Globoid Cell Leukodystrophy disease is similar to Krabbe's disease in people. A storage disease, it is an accumulation of galactocerebroside, which is a component of myelin, leading to a progressive loss of the myelin. The breeds that are most affected by the disease are the Cairn and the Westie through an autosomal recessive disorder. The life expectancy of the West Highland White Terrier is around 11-14 years.

Activity Level

The West Highland White Terrier loves to run and explore. They are not suited for apartment living, as they are easily excitable. This high-energy breed needs at least an hour of exercise daily. The Westie must have ample yard space that is securely fenced as they have a propensity to dig. They love to engage in rough and tumble play with older children and have the stamina to do so for lengthy periods of time.


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