West Highland White Terrier Dog Breed Information and Personality Traits


Like other terriers, the West Highland white terrier is smart, independent with a slight touch of stubbornness. It is a lively, fun dog that needs a firm hand during training.

West Highland White Terrier At a glance
The West Highland White Terrier Dog Breed

The Scottish, Cairn and West Highland white terriers came from common stock with different fanciers culling different colours.


Upright Ears (naturally)


Energy Level: Very energetic
Life Expectancy: 12 -14
Tendency to Drool: Low Tendency to Snore: Low
Tendency to Bark: High
Tendency to Dig: High Social/Attention Needs: High

Bred For:

Fox, badger, vermin hunting


Length: Short
Characteristics: Double coat, hard coat, straight
Colours: White
Overall Grooming Needs: High

Club Recognition:

AKC Classification: Terrier
UKC Classification: Terrier
Prevalence: Common

The "Westie" is one of the short-legged terriers, running 23-28cm tall and 6-9kg in weight.

They are stocky little dogs but quite fast and agile.

West Highland white terriers are immediately identifiable by their dense, harsh white coats. These are fairly short coats but tough enough to push through brambles and harsh enough to shed dirt easily. The coat needs to be clipped or hand stripped to work out the dead undercoat. The white colour helped their guardians to see them in the fields and distinguish them from the prey they were hunting. Despite the white coat colour, these dogs are not albinos. They should have dark pigment around the eyes, mouth and nose.

The ears are upright and the tail moderate in length and sturdy. 


Westies are typical terriers. They are smart, independent, and a little stubborn. Obviously they are tough, determined little dogs to be willing to go underground after a fox or badger. This can make them a handful to train, and much patience and firmness is in order. They are lively and fun dogs but do not always feel the need for human direction.

Again, showing the terrier temperament, Westies are not always good with other dogs that they have not been raised with and can be dangerous around other small house pets such as rabbits. As befits their heritage, they have a tendency to be nuisance barkers and serious diggers.

Living With:

Terriers in general are easy dogs to keep, bred to exist on scraps and their own hunting skills. Too much indulging in rich treats can lead to a very heavy dog. These are hardy little dogs, often living well into their teen years.

All Westies should be socialised early and continuously, especially to other dogs and other pets. These are dogs still close to their roots of hunting and do best with plenty of exercise. Left to their own devices, they will excavate your garden and bark while doing so. Westies are alert and will alarm bark to defend their homes and families.

Terriers in general should start training as soon as possible and with creative and positive methods, backed up by a firm hand. West Highland white terriers do well at many dog sports including obedience, agility and earth dog trials. They enjoy human company, but you must socialise them to children and insist they accept handling and grooming. Grooming can be as simple as having the dog clipped a couple of times a year or as time consuming as hand stripping a show dog's coat.


The West Highland white terrier has a variety of names from their place of origin in the British Isles. Back as far as King James I in the early 1600s, the tough little white dogs were known and admired as the dogs of Argyleshire. The breed had its type established by Colonel Malcom of Poltalloch in the 1800s and, in fact, the West Highland white terrier was called the Poltalloch for a while and then the Roseneath terriers after Colonel Pollatoch's farm.

It appears that the Scottish terrier, Cairn terrier and West Highland white terrier all came from common stock with different fanciers culling different colours. The white dogs were easier to spot in the fields, and this was their big advantage.

As with all the terrier breeds, the West Highland was bred as a vermin hunter. Everything from rats to foxes were fair game and that is still true today. While most Westies enjoy favoured status as family pets, they still compete in earth dog trials, and many still clear out moles or mice in their gardens. 

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