West Highland White Terrier: Is Your Bestie a Westie?

Feisty West Highland White Terrier barking outside

She wants a cute little 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 at a Glance

Size13-22 pounds
Life Expectancy12-16 years
Overall HealthGenerally good, but prone to nagging issues
Grooming RequirementsMedium
Exercise RequirementsHigh
Barking TendencyHigh
Digging TendencyHigh
Good With Children?Varies
Good With Other Dogs?Varies
Prey Drive/Tendency to ChaseHigh
Overall Terrier-tudeWhite Hot


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.

Adorable Westie tilting its head
Did somebody say TREAT-based training?

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.

Westies also need to be watched around other dogs. They can be overaggressive, and will not hesitate to take on dogs several times their size. In fact, they may be especially confrontational with bigger dogs.

Health Problems & Life Expectancy

The typical West Highland White 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 problems include allergies and other skin problems, hip problems, knee problems, and chronic hernias.

Closeup of a West Highland White Terrier dog
Westies are prone to a number of health issues that can result in higher vet bills.

A jaw problem known as craniomandibular osteopathy is also seen more often in Westies than in any other breed. It can cause pain and make it difficult for a young Westie to eat. Thankfully, this condition often resolves itself after the dog’s first year of life.

Westie Mixes

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. Here are the most popular Westie mixes, along with their cutesy designer dog breed names.

Breed Mixed With WestieResulting Designer Dog Breed
American Staffordshire TerrierWestie Staff
BeagleWest of Argyll Terrier
Bichon FriseWee-Chon
Boston TerrierBostie
Brussels GriffonGriffonland
Cavalier King Charles SpanielCavestie
Cocker SpanielCocker Westie
CorgiWest Highland Corgi
Coton de TulearWeston
DachshundWest Highland Doxie
Jack Russell TerrierJack Highland Terrier
Japanese ChinJaland
Lhasa ApsoWestie-Laso
MalteseHighland Maltie
Miniature SchnauzerWauzer
Scottish TerrierScoland Terrier
Shih TzuWestie Tzu
Silky TerrierSilkland Terrier
Yorkshire TerrierFourche Terrier

5 Terribly Interesting Facts About Westies

The West Highland White Terrier is well-known among dog people, especially terrier lovers. Here are some interesting facts that any Westie owner should know.


The Westie is a descendant of the vermin-hunting terriers of Scotland. Those so-called earthdogs came in a variety of colors, but white coloration was often seen as an undesirable trait. Colonel Edward Donald Malcolm (1837-1930) saw things differently, and is credited with developing the breed we today know as the West Highland White Terrier.


As the story goes, a reddish-brown terrier of Colonel Malcolm’s was mistaken for a fox or hare, and shot. He decided right then and there that he would breed all-white terriers that could be more easily recognized in the field.

Historical Photo of Westies
Picture of West Highland White Terriers from 1907.


In the early days, this breed was often referred to as the Poltalloch Terrier or Roseneath Terrier, both names coming from Scottish estates where the dogs were bred. By 1900, the more geographically general name of West Highland White Terrier seems to have stuck.


The breed is often simplistically referred to as a “white Cairn Terrier.” However, while the breeds bear a striking resemblance, they’ve taken separate (though occasionally crisscrossing) paths for over a hundred years. They’re probably best described as cousins.


Even those who don’t know the West Highland White Terrier by name have seen them in advertising, product branding, TV shows, and movies. To list just one example, a Westie appeared prominently on the movie poster for the 2018 film Game Night.

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.

West Highland White Terrier dog standing in confetti
Westies have a lot of personality, and aren’t shy about speaking their mind.

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. 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. That said, an older Westie may enjoy (or at least tolerate) being held more than a younger one.

Picture of a West Highland White Terrier laying down
He looks awfully cuddly, but he’d rather be chasing a varmint than sitting on your lap

Still have your heart set on one of these little ivory pooches? As with any breed, look for reputable breeders who guarantee the health of their dogs. Inquire about testing for common Westie health issues.

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.