These short-legged terriers of Scotland are now one of the most recognized of Scottish dogs. All Scottish terriers undoubtedly descend from the same roots. Westies are valued as intrepid hunters of small game. They will keep you and your home save from Squirrels, Chipmunks, and the UPS man.
Originally, their coat colors ranged from black to red to cream or white. Colonel Edward Donald Malcolm, of Argyllshire, Scotland, is generally credited with breeding the white dogs. He had kept a pack of light colored working terriers for hunting. As the legend goes, a reddish dog of his, emerging from cover, was mistakenly shot for a fox. Malcolm is said to have decided on the spot to breed only white dogs that could be readily identified in the field.
The Westie today makes a GREAT pet for the home owner and the apartment dweller alike. With his easy manner, air of self importance, and a ready to go attitude the Westie is a bundle of pleasure. He will always come and tell you how grateful YOU should be to have him in your home. A Westie will not be ignored.
General Appearance The West Highland White Terrier 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, and 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 dog should be neatly presented, the longer coat on the back and sides, trimmed to blend into the shorter neck and shoulder coat. Considerable hair is left around the head to act as a frame for the face to yield a typical Westie expression.
Size, Proportion, Substance The ideal size is eleven inches at the withers for dogs and ten inches for bitches. A slight deviation is acceptable. The Westie is a compact dog, with good balance and substance. The body between the withers and the root of the tail is slightly shorter than the height at the withers. Short-coupled and well boned. Faults: Over or under height limits. Fine boned.
Head Shaped to present a round appearance from the front. Should be in proportion to the body.
Piercing, inquisitive, pert.
Eyes: Widely set apart, medium in size, almond shaped, dark brown in color, deep set, sharp and intelligent. Looking from under heavy eyebrows, they give a piercing look. Eye rims are black.
Faults: Small, full or light colored eyes.
Ears: Small, carried tightly erect, set wide apart, on the top outer edge of the skull. They terminate in a sharp point, and must never be cropped. The hair on the ears is trimmed short and is smooth and velvety, free of fringe at the tips. Black skin pigmentation is preferred.
Faults: Round-pointed, broad, large, ears set closely together, not held tightly erect, or placed too low on the side of the head.
Skull Broad, slightly longer than the muzzle, not flat on top but slightly domed between the ears. It gradually tapers to the eyes. There is a defined stop, eyebrows are heavy. Faults: Long or narrow skull.
Muzzle: Blunt, slightly shorter than the skull, powerful and gradually tapering to the nose, which is large and black. The jaws are level and powerful. Lip pigment is black.
Faults: Muzzle longer than skull. Nose color other than black.
Bite: The teeth are large for the size of the dog. There must be six incisor teeth between the canines of both lower and upper jaws. An occasional missing premolar is acceptable. A tight scissors bite with upper incisors slightly overlapping the lower incisors or level mouth is equally acceptable.
Faults: Teeth defective or misaligned. Any incisors missing or several premolars missing. Teeth overshot or undershot.
Neck, Topline, Body Neck: Muscular and well set on sloping shoulders. The length of neck should be in proportion to the remainder of the dog.
Fault: Neck too long or too short.
Topline: Flat and level, both standing and moving.
Fault: High rear, any deviation from above.
Body:Compact and of good substance. Ribs deep and well arched in the upper half of rib, extending at least to the elbows, and presenting a flattish side appearance. Back ribs of considerable depth, and distance from last rib to upper thigh as short as compatible with free movement of the body. Chest very deep and extending to the elbows, with breadth in proportion to the size of the dog. Loin short, broad and strong. Faults: Back weak, either too long or too short. Barrel ribs, ribs above elbows.
Relatively short, with good substance, and shaped like a carrot. When standing erect it is never extended above the top of the skull. It is covered with hard hair without feather, as straight as possible, carried gaily but not curled over the back. The tail is set on high enough to that the spine does not slope down to it. The tail is never docked.
Faults: Set too low, long, thin, carried at half-mast, or curled over back.
Shoulder blades are well laid back and well knit at the backbone. The shoulder blade should attach to an upper arm of moderate length, and sufficient angle to allow for definite body overhang.
Faults: Steep or loaded shoulders. Upper arm too short or too straight.
Forelegs are muscular and well boned, relatively short, but with sufficient length to set the dog up so as not to be too close to the ground. The legs are reasonably straight, and thickly covered with short hard hair. They are set in under the shoulder blades with definite body overhang before them. Height from elbow to withers and elbow to ground should be approximately the same.
Faults: Out at elbows. Light bone, fiddle-front.
Feet: Forefeet are larger than the hind ones, are round, proportionate in size, strong, thickly padded; they may properly be turned out slightly. Dewclaws may be removed. Black pigmentation is most desirable on pads of all feet and nails, although nails may lose coloration in older dogs.
Thighs are very muscular, well angulated, not set wide apart, with hock well bent, short, and parallel when viewed from the rear.
Legs: Rear legs are muscular and relatively short and sinewy.
Faults: Weak hocks, long hocks, lack of angulation. Cowhocks.
Feet: Hind feet are smaller than front feet, and are thickly padded. Dewclaws may be removed.
Coat Very important and seldom seen to perfection. Must be double-coated. The head is shaped by plucking the hair, to present the round appearance. The outer coat consists of straight hard white hair, about two inches long, with shorter coat on neck and shoulders, properly blended and trimmed to blend shorter areas into furnishings, which are longer on stomach and legs. The ideal coat is hard, straight and white, but a hard straight coat which may have some wheaten tipping is preferable to a white fluffy or soft coat. Furnishings may be somewhat softer and longer but should never give the appearance of fluff.
Faults: soft coat. Any silkiness or tendency to curl. Any open or single coat, or one which is too short.
Color The color is white, as defined by the breed's name. Faults: Any coat color other than white. Heavy wheaten color.
Gait Free, straight and easy all around. It is a distinctive gait, not stilted, but powerful, with reach and drive. In front the leg is freely extended forward by the shoulder. When seen from the front the legs do not move square, but tend to move toward the center of gravity. The hind movement is free, strong and fairly close. The hocks are freely flexed and drawn close under the body, so that when moving off the foot the body is thrown or pushed forward with some force. Overall ability to move is usually best evaluated from the side, and topline remains level.
Faults: Lack of reach in front, and/or drive behind. Stiff, stilted or too wide movement.
Alert, gay, courageous and self-reliant, but friendly. Faults: Excess timidity or excess pugnacity.
The Westie is a compact, hardy, white coated, and people oriented terrier. People unfamiliar with the breed often will mistake the West Highland as a "Scottie." Although Scotties do appear in a medium cream color, they are never true white. If the terrier is solid white, it is a Westie.
The Westie is 10-11 inches at the shoulder and normally weighs 14-22 lbs. The breed attains an alert appearance from its dark rimmed eyes, prick (pointed) ears, and carrot shaped tail, which it carries straight up when spotting prey or a potential dog treat. The white coat is about two inches long when trimmed and consists of a somewhat wiry outer coat and a soft undercoat (pet dogs may lack this hard outer coat and just have straight, wavy, or slightly curly soft hair). They need brushing weekly and trimming at least quarterly to maintain a traditional "Westie" appearance.
An untrimmed, ungroomed Westie may not appear as depicted in photo books as its fur will get shaggy, tangled, and dingy. If, after bathing, the dog is white, has prick ears, erect tail, and meets the height and weight criteria, it is more than likely a Westie.
The breed adapts well to most climates with normal precautions taken for extremes in temperature and sunburn. A Westie does equally well in the city as in a more rural setting -- as long as the dog receives the amount of attention from its owner that it feels it deserves. Adult dogs have no problem residing in the house while the owner is away for an average 8-9 hour work day. However, the breed is very people oriented and tends to get into trouble (barking, chewing, etc.) when left alone in a yard too long or not receiving adequate attention or exercise upon the return of the owner. Westies are intelligent dogs and most are easily trained as they are good natured and eager to please. With kindness, consistency, and patience, Westies respond well to house and obedience training. Some dogs may get bored with repetitive work so training in short sessions and offering a variety of tasks is most effective.
The Westie was originally bred to hunt vermin such as mice, badger, and groundhogs in Scotland so any interaction with other house pets such as cats, hamsters, birds, etc. should be closely monitored as the dog may see the animal as prey not a companion pet. Westies raised as puppies with such animals tend to live more peacefully than adult dogs introduced into a household with existing non-dog pets.
Also, due to a history of going down holes into the ground to hunt prey, consideration must given to the possible need to place bricks or boards at the bottom of yard fencing in order to deter the dog from digging under the fence. A Westie must be on leash when not in a securely fenced area. No matter how well obedience trained, when the dog spots a squirrel across the street it will go after the furry fiend rather than hear (much less respond to) any owner commands or pleas not to run out in the street.
Westies are generally healthy dogs but can be affected by canine diseases such as distemper and rabies (thus the critical need for preventative vaccinations) and by diseases that affect both man and dogs such as cancer, diabetes, heart failure, etc. The most common problem seen in Westies is allergic reaction to certain foods, fleabites, and seasonal pollens, which result in itching skin, biting, and fur loss. A balanced diet and flea prevention can prevent the first two causes and administration of a simple antihistamine will relieve itchiness during periods of heavy pollen.
Puppies mature mentally and physically at about two years of age. Westies puppies are active and require extra exercise and owner interaction until they are mature. With good nutrition, preventative care, and exercise, the life span of a Westie can exceed 15 years, with recorded longevity of more than 20 years