Things To Know Before Buying A West Highland Terrier or Westie
The West Highland Terrier is a small white dog, commonly referred to as a Westie, or Westy depending on where you are from. Although a small dog, don’t let that fool you, as they are very active, alert, friendly, and have a mind of their own. They are probably the most well known of the terriers, and many would say, the cutest. But the Westie is not without its problems either. So let us take a closer look at this delightful pooch and weigh up the pros and cons, to see if this dog really is for you, before you rush out and buy one.
The West Highland Terrier originates from Scotland, and was used many years ago for hunting, specifically rodents. However, although they are not used for hunting so much anymore, they still have that hunting instinct and need lots of exercise. Additionally, the Westie does surprisingly well at obedience and advance obedience, and is even popular as a show dog too. The West Highland Terrier has won Crufts at least twice, and has been seen in many movies as well as commercials. Although a small dog, it is classed as a medium sized terrier, and has a double coat, making them look bigger than they actually are.
The temperament of the Westie varies widely from dog to dog, but overall they are independent and self-confident, and do well if they are socialised a lot. Having said that, some dogs love to play with children, while others prefer a more quiet, solitude type surrounding – but they won’t tolerate rough play, so are not recommended for young children who may be too rough for them. Even with training they love to chase things that move, like squirrels, mice, and other small creatures, and are prone to run off while caught up in the moment, which is why a leash is recommended at all times.
Westies are more than willing to learn many tricks and you should not hold back in training; it’s almost as if they need or crave it, as they are very loyal dogs and are willing to please. Having said that, you do need to be patient when training as this can take some time, but if you start them as early as possible, you will end up with a very well trained Westie. Bear in mind that a great place to introduce them to training is of course an obedience school, to socialise them early on and get them started on the right track.
There are some health issues with the Westie as with all purebreds, so it is highly recommended to purchase one from a well-known, professional breeder who can give you the history of any problems in the lineage. Moreover, by purchasing from a reputable breeder, you can avoid the disease called “Westie Jaw” or “Lion Jaw”, the medical term for which is Craniomandibular osteopathy, and a Westie can only be affected if both parents have the faulty gene. However, purchasing from a good breeder who can show you the history of health problems, and the lineage for this breed, should help to avoid facing such problems.
Other health conditions that the West Highland Terrier can develop are skin problems, like the chronic allergic skin condition called “Atopic Dermatitis”, which seems to affect more males than females. There is a more severe skin condition, although rare, called “Hyperplastic Dermatosis”, where the dog can suffer with red hyperpigmentation and hair loss. However, this condition can be misdiagnosed early on as an allergy problem, or a lesser form of dermatitis, so it is recommended to keep regular appointments with your vet. Westies can also suffer from joint problems, cataracts and liver disease, which is why it is best to buy from a reputable breeder who can put your mind at rest regarding hereditary conditions.
The West Highland Terrier does shed, but is on the low side of average. However, they do need brushing regularly or they will become a matted mess, due to their double coat. When it comes to the Westie, you tend to hear the same descriptive words repeatedly, for instance: likes to bark, likes to chase, lively, impulsive, scrappy, clever and independent. However, these traits can be in your favour or work against you, depending on whether you have the time to dedicate some much needed exercise and training. Therefore, with plenty of training early on, your fun loving Westie will be a great addition to any family, and is as much suited to an apartment as they are to a mansion! Finally, by taking the time to get to know this breed’s nature, it can easily lead to many years of enjoyment for both your Westie, and yourself.