She wants a small foo foo dog to love. He wants a scrappy and tough pooch to roughhouse with. She wants something that goes with the decor. He wants something that loves the outdoors.
For disagreements like this, the West Highland White Terrier is a great compromise. Westies look fabulous with their snow white fur, but have the sturdiness and attitude of a Cairn or Scottie (both of which are closely related). But most of all, the Westie is a terrific best friend and member of the family – at least, for those who can keep up with them.
Westies are busybodies that don’t have a lot of patience for lap-sitting. They’re also not particularly obedient, thanks to that trademark terrier hard-headedness. However, because of their intelligence and love of people, they can be trained with the right motivation (i.e. treats).
There are differing opinions on whether Westies are good with children. Some people like to point out that their assertive personalities don’t tolerate any sort of mistreatment such as tail or ear-pulling. Others note their energetic and playful nature, which seems perfectly in tune with kids. Check out this Westie going gaga for a baby:
Both opinions on Westies probably have some merit. Regardless of breed, dogs are individuals and vary a lot in personality. As always, it’s best to supervise any dog around young children.
Health Problems & Life Expectancy
The typical West Highland Terrier lives about 12-16 years. Of course, individual dogs can have a life span outside that range based on care and pure luck.
Like all dog breeds, Westies are prone to certain diseases, disorders, and behavioral problems. Some of the more common issues include allergies and other skin problems, hip problems, knee problems, aggression, and chronic hernias. A jaw problem known as craniomandibular osteopathy is also seen more often in Westies than any other breed.
So-called designer dog breeds have become increasingly popular in recent years, with people mixing purebred dogs of two different breeds to produce a unique combination. West Highland White Terriers aren’t mixed that often compared to other dog breeds – maybe because they already look so fabulous. When they are mixed, it’s often with a Maltese, Bichon, Poodle, or Miniature Schnauzer.
Owning a Westie
Like most terriers, Westies are small and can live in apartments and most other environments – provided they get regular exercise and human attention. Their feisty temperament can be challenging for many people, however. Here are a few points to consider before getting a Westie:
Barking. Westies are vocal and make good watch dogs, but on the flip side, have a tendency to annoy people with excessive barking. Keeping them away from any windows where they can spot people or other dogs helps tremendously.
Shedding. Westies don’t shed a lot, and may be tolerable for people with mild allergies or sensitivities (though whether they should be called hypoallergenic is debatable). To look their best, they need regular at-home brushing and trips to the groomer.
Cuddling. Like their close relative the Cairn Terrier, Westies generally resist anything they see as restraining. As much as people would love to turn these cute pups into lap dogs, Westies usually have different ideas about how to spend their time.
Still have your heart set on one of these little ivory pooches? As always, look for a reputable breeder who’s willing to give you a tour of his or her operation. Buying over the internet is a risky proposition.
Adopting an adult dog is another option – one that not only nets you a lovable pet, but also makes you feel good about yourself for doing a good deed. There are a number of West Highland White Terrier rescue organizations that can hook you up with a dog that’s right for your home.