What Are the Characteristics of Westie Dogs?

Updated November 21, 2016

The West Highland White Terrier, or Westie, as it is commonly referred to, is a small breed of dog that was first developed to hunt rats in underground burrows. This dog is a member of the terrier group and originated in Scotland. If you are planning on bringing a Westie into your home, find out about the breed's characteristics beforehand to ensure that this dog is well suited to your family and lifestyle.

Physical Appearance

The West Highland white Terrier was bred to be a small in size. This enable it to fit down small holes easily. It has a compact body and a strong well-boned tail, which means that the dog can be pulled from a hole by the base of its tail without being injured. The breed has a solid white, double-layered coat that is of a wiry consistency.


Despite its small size, the Westie is an extremely lively dog that requires a daily walk and active play session to provide an outlet for it to burn excess energy. The breed enjoys digging and should be provided with a digging pit in the backyard, where it can practice its natural behaviour without being destructive. This dog can also be trained to practice agility, according to the American Kennel Club. This is not a dog that enjoys sitting on your lap for a long period of time.

Big Personality

The West Highland has a reputation for having a confident, feisty personality, although it is also a generally friendly dog, according to the Dog Breed Info Center. You must shown this dog firm leadership to prevent it from becoming dominant. A Westie that sees itself as the alpha dog of the pack or family can develop behavioural problems, such as snapping. Become your Westie's pack leader by making the dog sit and wait before giving food or affection. Do not allow the dog to sleep on your bed or jump up on the furniture. Always position yourself slightly in front of the Westie on a walk to show it that you are in charge.

With Children and Other Pets

This breed loves companionship and enjoys being around its family as much as possible. The Westie will get along well with children, as long as it is given proper leadership by the entire family. Children must not be left alone with the Westie, as it could be injured due to its small build. This breed generally will be confident yet friendly around other dogs. It will, however, chase smaller pets, including cats, if it is given the chance. Protect any other small pets that you have by keeping them away from your Westie.

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