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Dog Facts: West Highland Terriers

By Wendy Rose Gould
published: December 21, 2018 - updated: April 22, 2022 • 3 min. read

West Highland White Terriers, dubbed Westies for short, are wee doggos with energetic, vivacious, larger-than-life personalities. In fact, ask any current owner and they’ll probably confirm that this breed seems to think it’s way bigger than its actual size (in our opinion, that only makes them that much more endearing!).

Westies know they’re hot stuff, too, and proudly walk around the house with an, “I’m pretty cool!” attitude. Below we’ve provided more info on the Westie’s hard-to-resist personality, physical traits, history, noteworthy health issues, and a few fun facts.

Breed Personality and Physical Description

Westies are inherently curious and confident, which means they’re eager to courageously explore everything around them. Beyond their desire to learn about the world, they are also exceptional companions. Their intelligence and agility also make them an easy breed to train, which is one reason why they’re commonly chosen as therapy dogs.

Another reason why they make good companions and therapy dogs is because they’re exceptionally social. Westies get along well with strangers, children, and even other pets (excluding small rodents, which they were originally bred to hunt). Though this social nature prevents them from being “guard dogs,” they do make a wonderful best friend.

Because of their small size — they’re 13 to 22 pounds on average and clock in at about 10 inches tall — Westies do well in both tiny apartments and larger homes. As their formal name denotes, all Westies have white, slightly shaggy coats with a surprisingly muscular build underneath. They also have notably (and downright adorable) pointed, perky ears, deeply set eyes, and a black nose. Their average life span is 12 to 16 years.

westieBreed History

Let’s go back to the Westie’s full, proper name: The West Highland White Terrier. Based on that, you might be able to guess that this pup originates in Scotland. This wee breed come from the same family tree as other familiar Scottish dogs, including the Cairn Terriers, Scottish Terriers, Dandie Dinmont, and Skye.

As is the case with much canine history, we don’t know a lot about the Westie’s full background. What historians are confident of, though, is that it was bred specifically to hunt small rodents, as well as medium-sized prey like foxes and otters. There’s also an accepted theory that a man named Edward Donald Malcolm, the 16th Laird of Poltalloch, was hunting with his dog when it was mistaken for a fox and killed. He sought out to only breed white terriers — aptly dubbed “Poltalloch Terriers” — to prevent the same mistake from happening again.

A humble man, Poltalloch didn’t want the breed to be named after him, and so the name became what it is today. In 1906, the West Highland White Terrier was formally acknowledged by the Kennel Club of England.

Common Health Issues

west highland terrierWesties are generally healthy dogs, but like any breed they are susceptible to a few specific ailments. Those include Craniomandibular Osteopathy, an issue that causes cranial bones to be malformed; Legg-Calve-Perthes Disease, an issue that prevents adequate blood flow around the femur; Pulmonary Fibrosis, which also goes by the name Westie lung disease; cataracts, which commonly develop as the breed ages, and Patellar Luxation (kneecap dislocation), which tends to affect smaller breeds.

Consistent visits to the veterinarian are imperative to staying on top of your Westie’s health and ensuring they live a happy life. Enrolling in pet insurance means these congenital conditions are eligible for coverage, as well.

Fun Facts

  • Over the years, the Westie’s cute mug has been used in product marketing and branding to sell more products. Notable examples include White Scotch Whiskey and Juicy Couture.
  • Due to their fair coloring, Westies can actually get sunburnt — especially on their ears. It’s important to keep this in mind when playing with them outside.
  • A handful of celebrities have owned an adorable Westie, including Robert Pattinson (named Patty) and Rob Schneider (who he named Oscar).

Share a picture of your wild Westie with us on Instagram by tagging #gohealthypaws. And if you aren’t already a pet parent with us, look into getting a free quote to help safeguard not just your special pup, but your wallet too.

wendy gould
By Wendy Rose Gould

Wendy Rose Gould is a freelance lifestyle reporter based in Phoenix, Arizona. She has been in journalism for over a decade, and has been freelancing almost that entire time. In addition to lifestyle reporting, she also works with brands to create marketing content for their websites and blogs.

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