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What Is a Westie?

West Highland White Terriers called, more familiarly, Westies are adorable, white, little balls of fluff, however this cute little dog can be misleading. These dogs were bred for hunting and protection. They show no lack of courage. Nothing stops a Westie in pursuit of prey (that means fence, owner, car, or leash). A Westie hunting prey can dig you a hole big enough for that backyard pool that your family has been wanting and can dig out from under a fence in a matter of minutes. They are known as great “escape artists” and “great white hunters”. For these reasons, Oklahoma Westie Rescue will NOT adopt to homes with invisible or electronic fencing. Preference is always given to homes with traditional fences versus homes without.

Westies have long been promoted as wonderful lap dogs and great with children. That is not always the case, usually a Westie has no desire to be a lap dog until they are at least 2 to 3 years old. They are high-energy and don’'t always want to be held or “sit still”. Being hunters Westies also have a tendency to stalk the family cat, small children, or other pets.  Many Westies have been released to rescue organizations due to them “nipping”, “growling” or acting aggressive toward small children. Due to these traits, Oklahoma Westie Rescue does not recommend adoption to a home with children under 10 years of age, but each situation will be considered individually. 

Westies have few health problems if they receive proper nutrition and care from the family vet. They can be prone to skin problems, which is usually an allergic reaction to certain food, pollens, or fleabites. A balanced diet,  flea prevention, and simple antihistamines can usually relieve most skin problems that affect Westies.  A Westie, whose owner has taken care of them and provided them with adequate medical attention and proper diet, can live up to 15 years or longer.

At the 2004 Westminster Dog Show, the West Highland White Terrier was announced as a small dog that says “I will not be ignored!”  This short statement provides a brief but totally correct description of the Westie’s personality. They are intelligent, good natured and eager to please, they are very people oriented however and can get into trouble if left alone too long. Barking and chewing are a result of a bored dog that has not received adequate attention. They are high energy and demand the attention of their owners when they feel the need to play or run. They will also let you know if you are not providing enough love and affection.

Among the more popular, attractive, and admired “products of Scotland”, Westies are one of a clan of hardy little workmen whose distinctive appearance separates them from the remainder of dog breeds, although they share many of the traits and personalities of the terrier clan.

West Highland White Terriers were the 12th terrier breed to gain admittance to the Stud Book of the American Kennel Club. The Westie is a small, game, well-balanced, hardy looking terrier, exhibiting good showmanship, possessed with no small amount of self-esteem, strongly built, deep in chest and back ribs, with a straight back and powerful hindquarters on muscular legs, exhibiting in marked degree a great combination of strength and activity. The coat is about two inches long, white in color, hard, with plenty of soft undercoat. The Westie comes with no other color. The average height is 11 inches and the weight ranges from 14 to 22 lbs. Westies can have pink skin, or skin with a black pigment.  Ears should be pointed and never cropped. Eyes are widely set apart, deep set, sharp and intelligent. Eye rims are black.

The West Highland White Terrier is a very special dog, the ownership of which can bring a tremendous amount of pleasure to a dog-loving individual or to an entire family of canine enthusiasts. He is a small, truly “handy home size” but at the same time never could possibly be thought of as less than a very well-rounded, hardy personality who is ready for anything. He is a distinctive-looking fellow, tremendously eye catching, and appealing, a fact attested to by the number of artists and photographers who constantly choose him for paintings, photos, figurines, jewelry, etc.

Westies love to play, to take walks, and go for car rides. A Westie loves nothing better than wind in his face and a million smells flying past his nose. Westies also love to “Zoom”, (for non-Westie people) this consists of running as fast as their little legs will allow them in whatever space they have available. Zooming can be done alone or with a friend.  A Westie really loves it when their owner Zooms with them. We know a Westie is happy when they are Zooming.


Most importantly, Westie owners say that owning a Westie is like eating potato chips, you can’t have just one!!

Thanks to Westie Rescue of Missouri for the use of this information!

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